Pro AV Logo Originally published as a Consultant's Connection
column in Pro AV Magazine
  June 2004

Embracing AV System Owners

Both system owners and AV providers need to recognize the increasingly important role of the owner in the AV design and implementation process.

By Tim Cape, CTS-D

Because pro AV systems are simply more complex than they used to be, consultants and integrators have continued to expand their minds and staffs to keep up with trends at the office and at trade shows. This challenge not only meant grasping new breakthrough technologies but also learning about industries we might have preferred to leave at a distance. Nevertheless, we learned from each other, from peripheral industries that have grown so much closer to our own, and from each project we tackled.

We weren't just the students, though. We were the teachers — and not just of our peers, but of those in formerly unfamiliar industries. To ensure modern AV system installation and functionality, architects were learning they needed us to help them design buildings. AV system providers were learning about the architectural design and building construction process from the building design team. In the midst of all this, building and system owners and operators were learning too, although they were underclassmen during those early years.

Owners are AV People, Too

As pro AV projects in new buildings grew from the $100,000 to $1 million-plus range, owners began their education. They learned a one-person AV staff couldn't operate, maintain, and support a $2 million AV installation alone — more internal AV staff or a service/operation contract was required. Once they got their heads above water operating the system, owners found out not all consultants and integrators were created equal. They began to tell the difference between a good and bad installation, design, and project process. Owners also learned that an AV design and installation project wasn't just about the consultant and integrator. It was also about the design team for the building, the general contractor and subs, and even the owner's own role in implementing the technology.

There’s Work to be Done

When AV was just AV, it was simple. The owner's AV people figured out what they needed and bought it. Once we started integrating systems, AV people needed to involve the owner's facilities people to allow for base building infrastructure: rear projection room space, additional ceiling heights, beefed up wall constructions, additional electrical systems and the like. beefed up wall constructions, additional electrical systems, and the like.

As other technologies came into play, starting with communications and moving on into information systems, we needed to get the owner's IT staff involved. Telephone, ISDN, and T1 services had to be budgeted, ordered, and tested. We also needed bandwidth, data outlets, servers, and IP addresses from the IT department — all on a schedule tied to the AV system installation. The result was that the AV system owner became part of the building design team, much like the AV systems providers. During this AV project implementation, owners realized they and their staffs had a new schedule, new milestones, and essentially a new job.

At the Table, Under the Tent

What does this mean for us now? It means that the technology managers and end-users need to be (and in many cases already are) closer to the AV project process than ever before. System owners and operators are part of the project team, and AV system providers are part of their support team. This calls for system owners and operators to be more educated about the systems, the participants, and the processes involved in implementing, operating, maintaining, and supporting large and/or multiple pro AV systems.

Essentially, much of what AV system owners and operators need to know is the same as AV system providers — technologies, products, project management, and people. The only place for them to get this knowledge is on-the-job training (the painful way for all involved) or from associations and manufacturers that already provide education for the pro AV industry. As an industry, we need to make room at the table for system owners, particularly the technology managers, facility managers, and the "real" end-users who use AV systems to communicate with audiences every day. To this end, InfoComm, held in Atlanta this month, has opened the "Big Tent" for pro AV providers as well as system owners and end-users. I applaud ICIA for providing a place for all of these parties to educate themselves and grow together in this exciting and unique industry.



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