In the first half of this feature we outlined areas of opportunity for integrators as well as the challenges of trying to gain market share in the most competitive sector in AV. Here Ian McMurray looks at the principals of good project management and the importance of strong supplier relationships and partner networks.
AV User Group chairman Owen Ellis is also a firm believer that an integrator’s process skills are at least as important as his technical skills – and Terry Wilson, commercial director at integrator AVMI, sees things the same way.
“Sound project management practices to effectively manage the engagement are fundamental,” he says. “Projects rarely run exactly as initially planned. The flexibility to make changes during the project is vital, but likewise the capability to manage and communicate these changes throughout the project is essential.”
He identifies the key elements of a good project management regime as including the principles on which decisions will be made, the tools that monitor the status of a project – and the processes that are applied.
“Projects succeed or fail by the skill and experience of the people and the processes and methodology that they follow,” he continues. “It is critical to have a clear end-to-end process for project delivery.”
And, despite the reservations previously stated by Jim Harwood, managing director at integrator Focus 21, about pricing agreements, having the right supplier relationships in place can also make a substantial contribution to a project’s profitability.
“A strong, visible and trusted supply chain and partner network is so important in successfully delivering an on-cost, on-budget deployment with an integrator,” says Matt Keen, corporate sales manager at Maverick UK. “A case in point is Maverick’s 801-room magistrates’ court project rollout that AVMI successfully won and deployed. Because of the close working relationship we were able to develop with them, we helped to create logistical and technical savings to make the project more profitable.”
That understanding of the requirement is no less applicable to manufacturers. “The ability for any brand to be able to demonstrate clear understanding of the customers’ needs is key,” notes Lewis Clifford, senior account manager at iiyama UK. “iiyama recognises this through continually listening to our customers’ needs and making the products they want.”
Bryan Edwards, head of technical sales at integrator Reflex, sees many reasons that having those relationships is critical to success in a crowded market. “Having good distributor/manufacturer working relationships allows integrators to get the best pricing structures in place on big projects,” he says. “This helps keep margins healthy and maximises profit. Product demonstration support early on in the process is a great help. Corporate clients like to remove as much risk as possible and the manufacturer/distributor is invaluable when underwriting a new technology. Certifications and accreditations always give confidence to the corporate sector: they show that integrators have been trained and have a good level of knowledge.”
The latter point is reinforced by Harwood. “We believe strongly in education at all stages of a person’s career, as this is an industry that is moving so quickly,” he explains. “We encourage everyone to take the InfoComm ANSI-accredited career track qualifications. It takes a lot of investment but 26 of our 82 people currently hold at least one.”
“Securing project pricing through great manufacturer relationships can really make a difference,” adds Paul Childerhouse, managing director of integrator Pioneer Digital. “We always aim to bring our key manufacturers in right from the start of a project so they bid alongside us and we win the work together.”
“We work alongside manufacturers to get them involved in projects right from the beginning and our transparency with them has helped us secure great pricing over the years, the benefits of which we pass on to our clients,” says Harwood. “Distributors can also add value to this chain by being solution-focused, helping us to buy all elements from them which equates to great value.”
As ever, though, much comes down to the fact that the customer is looking for a solution to a business problem – and that’s something of which InfoComm is very aware.
“In the coming years, InfoComm will support our entire industry with investments in realigning our programmes to focus on solutions, experiences and outcomes,” says David Labuskes, executive director and CEO, InfoComm International. “We’ll also develop more research and market intelligence, including about the corporate market, and we plan to raise enterprise decision makers’ awareness of AV’s business value.”
For those looking to enter the corporate market, advice from the industry is plentiful. “Do your research,” says Toni Barnett, managing director of integrator CDEC. “Focus on what you’re good at,” believes Wilson. “Understand the vertical sector, and understand its challenges,” adds Edwards. “Focus on the value-add,” says Harwood.
The last word goes to Maverick’s Keen. “The corporate AV market is vibrant, and growing, so it presents really exciting opportunities to integrators who are ready for a challenge,” he smiles.
The corporate AV market is, indeed, a big space. It may not be for the agoraphobic – but for many integrators, it continues to represent the prospect of profitable business.
Case study: Reflex undertakes significant installation
TWI is an independent international research and technology organisation, delivering advice and advances in materials and joining technologies. Based at Granta Park, Cambridge, TWI turned to Reflex to handle the audiovisual requirements for 20 new training rooms, nine meeting rooms, two lecture theatres and a boardroom within the complex. Equipment deployed by Reflex included Sony large-format displays and laser projectors, a DNP Supernova One screen, Extron switching, and lecture recording via a Diamond HD PTZ camera and Matrox Monarch HD streaming device.