September 9, 2017 by Steve Greenblatt

Technology MeetingEnd of summer is quickly approaching, which means so are those big, annual project deadlines. Whether in the education or corporate sector, the day after Labor Day tends to be the “go live” date for many AV-centric projects.

And while the last few weeks leading up to any project can be hectic, large-scale AV projects that span multiple rooms, buildings, or even geographies, can face their own unique set of issues. While these problems, which can include anything from construction delays to installation challenges to scheduling conflicts, are relatively common, they can lead to disaster if you don’t anticipate and plan for them.

So, how can a technology team within an organization better equip themselves to tackle the challenges of project coordination and scheduling delays while still meeting their final goal of a fully functional room or facility by their “go live” date?

One way is to take matters into their own hands and do it all themselves by hiring an internal team of AV professionals. The advantage being that they have more control over the schedules of the people involved, can dictate how they focus their time and efforts, and know that they are dedicated to their project.  While this may provide more confidence and address concerns, it is also a big investment that might only deliver return during heightened times of the year.

Another option is to invest in relationships with AV service providers such as consultants, AV integrators, and independent programmers that can be strategic, flexible, and resourceful partners. Such partners can bring to the table strong skills and varied experience in planning, managing, and executing projects, and could be a valuable resource from both a planning and implementation perspective.

On the programming side, there are advantages in hiring an independent firm who specializes in planning and implementing large AV-centric projects.  First off, engaging an external team on a project basis, versus bringing on permanent employees is likely to be more cost effective in the end. It is unlikely an organization will need programmers on staff full time, year-round. A firm can be brought in to plan and implement a project, and then remain accessible to support or troubleshoot future issues as well as provide adjustments and upgrades as needed.

Also, independent programmers have the skills, experience, and outside perspectives that can help identify needs and make recommendations for a consistent, reliable, and personalized solution that will best serve the organization. As experts, they focus on creating system functionality and automation, and using technology to support organizations’ communication and business operations. They know the latest and greatest technologies, and work closely with a team to help educate and guide them toward a successful AV operation.

Below are five ways that a qualified and reputable independent programmer can help a technology team meet their AV-project goals and go live in time for the new school year, office relocation, or building ribbon cutting.

  • They establish expectations upfront. Whether it is defining a good scope of work, division of responsibilities and schedule, or having a tool like a Control Functionality Specification to document the user interface, functionality, and operation, having an agreed-upon process that promotes a thorough understanding and alignment across the entire project team is key.
  • They program and test as much of the control system programming as possible in advance. Whenever possible, system staging is recommended to allow programming, equipment set up, and wiring to be tested in-house prior to onsite installation. A system that is well-staged cuts down on a lot of variables and time during onsite installation.
  • They contribute to a comprehensive punch list of open items, responsibility, and status that all parties can reference. This can be easily accomplished with a Google Doc or Google Sheet that all parties can access and edit in real time. This is a very critical step to help everyone understand what needs to be done and who is tasked with doing it, and within what timeframe.
  • They are in regular communication with the project team to discuss status of the installation and system testing to effectively ensure that time is well spent when programmers are onsite to do troubleshooting and debugging of code. A site readiness checklist can help with this process.
  • They prioritize the field commissioning efforts by identifying the rooms closest to being done, so they can be completed first. They also evaluate the rooms and system features that need to be ready first to ensure they are high on the priority list as well.

In the end, the value of building a relationship with an external AV service provider can be demonstrated through their commitment to helping their clients achieve success. This often comes through when they are called upon late in the game – common in large AV operations – to the bring the project to the finish line and make the technology team shine, despite inevitable challenges.

First, however, identifying the best partner – the firm that has the skills, experience, and values that will complement and enhance the technology team – is key. Requesting a complementary consultation, or perhaps investing in a small initial project engagement are a few ways that a team can get to know a firm better and decide if they are the right partner for a longer engagement.

About Steve Greenblatt

Steve Greenblatt, CTS®, is President of Control Concepts, Inc., a leading provider of audiovisual control system solutions, software development, and engineering services based in Fair Lawn, NJ. Steve is currently a member of the AVIXA Leadership Search Committee and has served on the AVIXA Independent Programmers Council, the Audiovisual Systems Energy Management Performance Task Force and the AV Systems Implementation Best Practices Task Force. He is also a regular contributor to AV industry publications and hosts a podcast called A State of Control on AV Nation