Group technical director, Visavvi, Colin Etchells provides an update on the business over the past year, trends and changes its seeing in the industry and the importance of high-quality AV in business.
Hi Colin. Tell us about Saville Group.
The Saville Group has been a leading specialist integrator in the industry for over fifty years and the recent brand transformation in late 2018 was the culmination of new business strategies over the last three years. The creation of the Visavvi brand alongside its sister live event brand Sparq, under the corporate banner of Saville Group, allows us to be totally specific on delivering solutions for client needs drawn from unparalleled industry experience and heritage.
What is your geographic reach?
With an impressive, long-standing corporate, Higher education, public sector and military client base, we have had access to far-flung corners of the globe. To help service this global reach we have an international portfolio of approved integration partners who can help deliver projects to our very high Visavvi standard. Today we find our reputation attracts clients who require deployment of integrated collaborative solutions on a huge geographic scale and our capability to provide solutions and services whenever and wherever they are needed drives our business growth. Since our recent brand transformation, we have seen our overseas operations increase dramatically. Over the last two years, the business has seen an increase of 600 per cent and continues to expand. 2019 will kick off with another major global deployment of collaboration spaces already confirmed.
How is business?
I’m really pleased to be able to say – fantastic! Over the past few years the business has continued to grow dramatically year on year and 2017 saw our largest trading year in the company’s history with turnover hitting in excess of £40 million. Even better news is that we are on target to surpass that achievement for 2018. Whilst these impressive figures reflect the financial growth of the business, they don’t highlight the high level of engagement and close relationships we enjoy with our clients, colleagues and partners.
In an industry dominated by technology, Visavvi is a people business. We work with people on behalf of people, using technology to deliver their aspirations and business needs. We focus on developing relationships with clients, technology partners and our own colleagues that will last the test of time. Technology comes and goes but the trust placed on us as a result of these relationships is something that continues to get stronger each year. Visavvi is that dependable business that clients love to work with, manufacturers trust with their most valuable assets and where our colleagues feel part of a family. For these very reasons we are in a fabulous position as we enter 2019.
What trends are you seeing in the current market?
That’s a wide-ranging question. It really depends what the application is. We are seeing more and more informal meeting spaces or huddle rooms being specified across all vertical markets. Typically suited to a more agile way of working, which sees teams come together to discuss a specific task or problem, they have to be highly capable and extremely easy to use by a diverse range of users with specific needs. This is where our role as a specialist integrator really comes to the fore.
Interactive touch screens with integrated collaboration capabilities such as Microsoft Hub, NEC InfinityBoard and now the Avocor WCD, are fast emerging as the product of choice for many organisations, as business leaders look to equip their teams. The ability for multiple users to interact collaboratively with content on the fly is greatly accelerating business agility and improving business outcomes for organisations. With geographically dispersed teams rapidly becoming the norm, virtual engagement and collaboration is a core requirement for business success.
Technology hardware continues to evolve but increasingly these days much of the intelligence is found within the software of a product, enabling greater scope for rapid upgrades to match current demands, thus extending the life of the host hardware.
A key feature that many of these new products that embrace a software environment, is the ability to allow users to install their chosen set of approved applications, allowing them to tailor their workflows as required, whilst facilitating easy upgrades and configuration meaning they are always at the forefront of the market. AV over IP is also a rapidly expanding are of the market, an area where having the correct IT skills within our team is as equally important than having AV skills.
What’s hot in AV right now?
AV over IP, without doubt, brings massive opportunity for clients and the AV industry. It brings unprecedented levels of scale, flexibility and functionality never previously achievable in the AV industry. In the last year, we’ve completed one of the largest deployments of Crestron NVX in Europe and are about to complete what will be the largest single AMX SVSI deployment for Higher Education in Europe. Two of the largest AV over IP projects in Europe in a six month period is astonishing and shows how hungry clients are for this capability. The convergence of IT and AV within the industry isn’t really a surprise as it has been coming for a long time and we’ve prepared for it. Our engineers have AV, CTS and IT networking experience and qualifications unmatched within the industry and that has really positioned Visavvi as the leader in this field.
This expansion into IP based technologies means security is also a key concern for many enterprises, especially as the industry becomes more focused on IP centric solutions. Understanding exactly how a technology solution will work on a client network and the identification of potential conflicts and compromises is a new pressure for integrators. With our commitment to training, especially in this field, we are perfectly placed to cope with these new challenges.
Any personal favourites when it comes to AV equipment?
To be honest, there are far too many to mention and each addresses a particular application but if I had to choose one area of the industry that excites me it would be AV over IP and the obvious solutions would be from Crestron and AMX!
What are the biggest obstacles/frustrations you’re seeing in the industry?
Frustratingly more and more consumer grade products promoted as “easy to install”, are entering the market, by-passing the deep understanding, experience, knowledge and ability of professional integrators like ourselves and undermining our role. Of course, anybody can “Google” the specifications of a piece of hardware and can perhaps understand the basics of how one device connects to another, but without the technical expertise and industry understanding to engage with the “bigger picture” this can rapidly become a recipe for disaster. With more solutions becoming IP dependant this approach can have devastating results.
Why should end users go through an integrator rather than simply buy and install themselves?
Our long-standing experience for blending technologies from multiple manufacturers enables us to deliver inventive collaborative audio-visual environments for clients. We possess the depth of knowledge across many brands and products, taking the best of what’s on offer to build them the correct, cohesive solution, whilst being able to spot potential problems in advance. Integrators also hold the key to successful deployment. Some just design systems, but for us it is all about delivering an integrated end to end solution from design and concept through to installation, deployment and on-going support and maintenance. Our heritage as the UK’s longest established integrator combined with the deep relationships formed with all the key technology brands, means we can provide uncompromising support to end users that would be impossible for them to attain on their own.
Finally, how important is it for a business – of any kind – to have/use good quality AV?
AV has become a strategic business asset in organisations, which is a substantial shift from a few years ago. Today most organisations place a high importance on creating environments where employees are empowered by technology rather than hindered by it. Smart organisations realise their users have access to unprecedented levels of domestic technology outside of work, such as smart phones, tablets, smart TV’s, voice control devices, video calling and therefore to keep them engaged, motivated and empowered, need to offer functional business grade equivalents. A few years ago, it was a case of users wanting technology in meeting rooms, now it’s a case of demanding it. Today people make important career decisions based on the type of environment they will be working in and the access to appropriate tools to empower and develop their progression.
Business leaders understand that they need to equip their teams in order to compete effectively in today’s markets and that technology can have a significant and direct impact on productivity and therefore profitability. Technology is no longer a “nice to have” it is a “must have.”