Audio and visual systems integration is more relevant than ever before, as businesses, schools and government institutions turn to AV experts for modern communication solutions. This was the subject of Commercial Integrator’s 2019 State of the Industry Report, which projects a nearly 10 percent growth rate for the AV industry in 2019, so integrators are busy all over the country.
The industry is thriving, in part, because AV technology functions best when it is properly integrated into the organization’s network, workflow and mission. Integration is a challenging process, and one that only AV integrators are equipped to handle. AV integration is well worth it because it ensures the system works as intended, every time it is used, no matter who is using it.
What does audio and visual systems integration look like?
What immediately sets AV integration apart is how holistic it is. The integration process brings various technologies and teams together in the pursuit of a single goal – designing and implementing an AV solution that solves the client’s needs. This is how AV integrators accomplish that goal:
1. Needs analysis – The first step in developing an AV solution is detailing the client’s needs. Every client has a different set of goals, whether it’s to bring in additional customers, passively sell or upsell products, strengthen a brand, provide for more responsive internal communications or communicate better with other campuses or partners.
The integrator will consult with their client during the needs analysis, and will use the client’s input to better design the solution. A needs analysis is also helpful for ensuring the integrator and client are looking at the project from the same angle. By the time the consultation is over, both the integrator and client should know the project’s milestones, scope, budget, potential obstacles and expected completion date.
2. Site survey – The site survey is often done in conjunction with the needs analysis consultation. Site surveys should be considered mandatory, as they reveal any lurking or potential obstacles. For example, if existing network cabling has deteriorated over the years, the integrator will need to pull it before installing anything. If complications like these are spotted early, they can be addressed without delaying the project.
3. System design – Once a solution is proposed by the integrator and accepted by the client, the integrator will go to work designing the system. AV designers will assess and select all technology before it is purposed, prioritizing elements like intercompatibility. The designer will also diagram equipment placement so that installers know exactly where everything belongs.
4. Collaborate with build teams – Not all AV projects involve new construction, but many do, and when construction is present, that means AV integrators must be willing to work with multiple build teams. Integrators will work with electricians to ensure the system gets the power it needs, with IT to ensure the system is properly networked, and with the general contractor for any aesthetic or structural concerns. The integrator may collaborate with the furniture manufacturer for the purposes of integrating AV equipment.
An integrator needs communication skills, professionalism and a cooperative mindset to make the solution seamless, so all are valuable traits to look for in an AV expert.
5. Install and program – The integrator’s installers will take over from the design team once the system has been planned out. During installation, the integrator’s install team will position the equipment according to the designer’s layout. If additional challenges emerge during integration, the installers will work with the project manager to devise a solution.
The equipment is programmed after it is installed, and it is programmed to the client’s needs. When programming a control system, for example, the integrator can set up useful presets and define privileges for different departments. This minimizes the chances of someone accidentally reconfiguring the system.
What happens after integration?
After the system has been designed, installed and configured, there is still room for the integrator to make an impact. In fact, many organizations are retaining their AV integrator as a long-term technology partner, as they can provide training and system maintenance, along with valuable insight and strategic planning.
Training is something every reputable integrator should offer following installation. Early system adoption is critical to ensuring an AV solution is successful, and training helps get employees accustomed to handling the technology. Training can be tweaked for audiences of all skill levels, so no one is left in the dark.
AV integrators may offer a maintenance agreement with their AV solutions, and this is a valuable thing for organizations to have. With a maintenance agreement, the integrator will respond to any technical issues, either remotely or on-site, depending on the nature of the problem. Integrators can add preventative maintenance to service agreements too, which means the integrator will send a technician to the client’s facilities once a quarter or once a month. While there, the technician will evaluate the system’s performance and correct any issues. If additional support is needed to deal with something the technician finds, it will be provided to the client so that their system experiences little to no downtime.
Audio and visual systems integration is an involved process that requires an impressive array of skills, including communication, creativity and organization. It’s worth it, though, because a properly planned, installed and configured AV system can transform the way an organization operates and presents itself.