I am an “in-house integrator” in the university sector. This means that my small team and I focus on all aspects of delivering a complete, turnkey audiovisual system: needs analysis and estimation, procurement, deployment, installation, control system programming and ongoing support. I also have a trusted external integration partner that we speak to every week and who works on campus almost non-stop. Being an internal integrator and at the same time having and using an integration partner may seem contradictory, but turns out to be what most higher education institutions need.
In higher education there are three types of schools and they Everyone need a trusted integrator:
- Schools that do not have internal integration capacity; Obviously, they rely on outside contractors to complete all of their projects.
- Schools with growing internal integration capacity: These schools can handle the simpler projects but need an external integrator for everything else.
- Schools with a well-established internal integration capacity: These schools too need a trusted integrator. While the in-house team will handle the majority of audiovisual needs on campus, hiring an in-house integration team to handle large capital projects and the summer rush is simply not practical.
I am in a unique situation where I am very comfortable with this reality because I have worked on both sides. I spent the first 18 years of my commercial AV career at a commercial integration company. We have carried out unique and complex projects all over the world. It was a great experience going from functionally zero AV knowledge to a CTS-D/CTS-I dual certified professional.
Now, for the last four years of my career, I have worked as a technology manager and in-house integrator for Iowa State University. Let me share some of what I’ve learned through my transition from commercial integrator to technology manager.
Advice for technology managers
To my technology manager friends, here are some things your integrator partners would appreciate:
First, help make connections; Don’t be a blocker. It is very important that the integrator has direct links to the facility team, site managers and IT staff. Help set up an interview with them indeed end users and project stakeholders. Yes, you probably want to stay involved, but you shouldn’t demand that the communication be routed and filtered through you. It’s much better for the integrator to hear it first hand.
Second, be honest and acknowledge your limitations. The fact is, there are times when an internal integrator is just beyond their reach. The project may be too large, have special requirements that you are inexperienced with, or a commitment of time or effort that you simply cannot meet. We’ve recently done a couple of outdoor projects that were outside of our normal expertise. They went well but were very demanding on our team and raised some concerns from the customer. In hindsight, we should have handed these unique projects to someone else with more specific outdoor installation experience.
Third, remember that third-party integrators may offer insurance and warranties that you may not be able to offer. If your internal team accidentally breaks an 85″ display, who pays for it? If you’re a fee-for-service business, you don’t have any profit or overhead to cover it, and the customer certainly doesn’t like paying twice. So if you’re serving risk-averse customers, using an external integrator to help with insurance and a full system warranty can give them added peace of mind.
Advice for commercial integrators
To my integrator friends, here are some things your technology manager partners would appreciate:
First, build a partnership—and, more importantly, a relationship. Try to go beyond a simple transactional approach. Here it is important to understand that small change orders mean an administrative burden on the part of the technology manager; Managing this process for small amounts can become tedious. If you take care of the little things, technology managers are more likely to get more work done with you.
Second, don’t sell any products; sell solutions instead. Don’t just deploy systems with hardware installed; More importantly, they help make work easier, faster, safer and cheaper. For example, become an expert in resource management tools like Global Viewer Enterprise or Fusion, then help set up and configure the instance to be productive for manager needs. Help maximize the IT security of the AV systems and work with the internal IT security team. Be the expert in ADA compliance and ensure systems meet all current requirements. Again, these are just examples to consider. The bottom line is that managers need to be asked where the pain points are and then offer the solution to alleviate them.
Third, consider priorities. Technology managers may well have established brand standards; Ask ahead of time and don’t keep pushing for another solution. Ask managers what their priorities are reliability over features. For some spaces, like classrooms, reliability can be far more important than the latest and greatest “wow factor”. For other rooms, such as B. special donor-funded projects, the delivery of a never-before-seen, unique solution may be exactly what everyone is looking for.
Another priority for managers may be to focus on designing and programming the control system in-house, but outsourcing the physical installation and wiring to an outside integrator. So find out what’s important, and then do whatever it takes to meet the needs of your technology manager partners.
Fourth, remember that managers can also be integrators. Now, don’t blame yourself, but sometimes we really do are the smartest person in the room. Don’t be defensive or intimidated, just work with us. Ask us how we like it; Questions us for help when you face a challenge or question. Let’s work together as two experts.
An incredible learning experience
My journey from integrator to technology manager has been an incredible learning experience. I can now look back on so many interactions as an integrator and see how I should have done things differently with my client’s technology manager. I’ve also been able to work with peers here in Iowa State and at other schools to help them understand how to improve their partnerships with integrator partners.
As someone in higher education, my bottom line is simple: Always learn!
Mike Pedersen, CTS-D, CTS-I, EAVA, is an audiovisual experience manager at Iowa State University.