Graham Fry, managing director at London-based integrator avsnet, gives us a rundown on the company's expanding portfolio and explains how AV technology has become increasingly fundamental to more and more business functions.
Tell us about the business.
I founded the business in 2005 and now we're over 70 people strong. As you would expect, our headquarters and operational footprint have grown a lot in that time, as have the services we offer and the type of customer we work with.
We focus on so much more than just AV - from collaboration and visual communications to secure reliable networks and managed services.
Our team are exceptionally talented and passionate about what they do. Our customer experience is something that I'm personally very proud of as well.
Another strength of ours is the extremely close partnerships we have with industry leading manufacturers.
What is your geographic reach?
We're UK focused though in recent years we've worked all over the world. This is because our customers have grown in size and therefore have a greater need for global installations and management.
"Our portfolio is expanding constantly too and this is helping us to meet more of our customers' challenges"
How is business?
Great! We started life as an AV provider and it's still one of our core services to this day.
We have a lot of loyal customers who return to us again and again. What's more, as we have grown many of our customers have handed more of their collaboration estates to us to manage. Our portfolio is expanding constantly too and this is helping us to meet more of our customers' challenges.
This has been really encouraging to witness and it's a really exciting time to be working in our industry and at avsnet!
What trends are you seeing in the current market?
AV has gone from being a fairly basic technology to a utilitarian platform that underpins a large number of business functions and solutions.
A lot of companies don't even think “I need some AV” any more, they simply tell us the business outcomes they want and AV happens to be the application to deliver their requirements.
What's hot in AV right now?
Simple systems designed for smaller spaces and tightly integrated solutions leveraging the cloud are driving considerable investment.
Any personal favourites when it comes to AV equipment?
I cut my teeth back in the PictureTel days. Also, I really do not miss Windows 95 or BT turning ISDN lines off...
First generation plasma screens that sold at list price and needed an army to lift also bring a smile to my face!
What are the biggest obstacles/frustrations you're seeing in the industry?
Despite the progress made, some companies still see AV as an isolated technology rather than a valuable component of a broader collaboration estate.
The ways in which employees work together have changed dramatically in recent years and we believe AV should be positioned as a key communications platform for businesses, whether that be the impression a prospective client has of your company when visiting your office for the first time, to designing an exciting digital breakout room that boosts employee morale and productivity, or simply as a means of allowing flexible working.
"Businesses have realised that in the long run, it's better to work with an experienced integrator rather than doing everything on the cheap"
Has the attitude towards professional and high quality AV changed for businesses in recent years?
Yes, the need has always been there though investment has definitely increased over the years. Businesses have realised that in the long run, it's better to work with an experienced integrator rather than doing everything on the cheap and then paying more over the years because of higher maintenance costs, poor reliability, increased downtime, no ROI and a despondent user experience.
Why should end users go through an integrator rather than simply buy and install themselves?
The reasons are many - expertise, speed of delivery, an integrator's familiarity with a solution's quirks, a smooth installation process and the professional service that comes with a quality integrator.
We also play a key role in ensuring workflows are enhanced and deliver the desired ROI. This is achieved by helping drive utilisation, ensuring simplicity and making sure solutions are intuitive to use.
What are the most common mistakes from businesses when it comes to AV?
Always going for the cheapest solution. The AV industry itself has seen heavy commoditisation and a race from the bottom, but this doesn't actually help end-users in the long run as the quality of service can suffer.
For example, a PC with a webcam can have a low initial cost but it's not right for most meeting areas or scenarios and it can become a massive cost in the long term.
User adoption is another consideration. People need appropriate on-boarding and education to drive excellent ROI. User experience and effective workflows are vital.
Investment in the network is also crucial. It's the backbone of everything!
Finally, how important is it for a business - of any kind - to have/use good quality AV?
It's imperative. Many of our customers have come to us because they've grown tired of poor AV and want solutions fixed, improved or refreshed to a higher standard and with a better service.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Take time to find a true partner, one who is willing to invest in making sure they understand your business challenges and goals, and then maps the appropriate solutions.