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Category Archives: AV Industry

AVaaS = Audio/Video as a Service

By now, most readers have heard the term SaaS, or Software as a Service, a new trend in the business of software.  Instead of investing large sums every time you upgrade, you pay as you go, by the month. Some common examples include Dropbox or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Some readers may have heard of XaaS, which stands for everything as a service.  So what about AVaaS? Audio/Video or Audiovisual as a Service, delivering software (DSP, videoconferencing, collaboration, and control code), professional services, monitoring, for a monthly fee. That’s right, I said a monthly fee for AV.

I am not the first blogger to write about AV as a Service.  My online colleague Nermina Miller attacked the subject way back in July 2015 when she worked for Infocomm, in her article Redefining AV as a Service.  More recently, rAVepubs blog squad writer Mark Coxon defined three areas to start selling AV as a Service: video conferencing, engineering, and digital signage.  Gary Kayye suggested audiovisual integrators start selling digital signage content years ago.  Some followed his advice, and the money, while others stuck with the traditional model, sell the equipment and installation, and then watched their flat panel margins shrink as the displays got thinner and thinner.

rAVepubs also recently interviewed the CEO of ZOOM, who has quietly snuck into the AV industry under the guise of videoconferencing Software as a Service.  But ZOOM is more than just SaaS, ZOOM has a professional services department, providing engineering and installation services.  If you are worried about ZOOM taking your business clients, Gary Kayye of rAVepubs asked the CEO directly about their policy:

If an AV integrator has an existing client relationship, all they need to do is register that client and ZOOM will not go or talk directly to the client without the integrator’s assistance. But, if ZOOM establishes the relationship directly, they will potentially sell the ZOOM system directly….But customers will purchase hardware by themselves […]

But customers will purchase hardware by themselves?  You heard right, the leading collaboration software company will sell them the AV system, but minus the hardware. The clients purchase the hardware directly from CDW,  or Amazon, and ZOOM does the installation, commissioning, training, and then charges a monthly fee for the ZOOM software.  Boom, ZOOM! That is how AVaaS is done, people.  Readers, take notes.

AVaaS is the OPPOSITE of what most AV companies call “Service”.  Say the word “service” to most integrators, and they will think “some old client called, they must have broke something, or they are otherwise unhappy, now someone has to drive over there and see what needs to be repaired, replaced, or just rebooted”

I try to explain AV as a Service using the cell phone model.  The average American cell phone user often spends a few hundred dollars on their phone, plus a monthly fee for service. Ok, I know, they mean cell service, aka coverage, but it’s the same model.

You need cell service or wifi to use your mobile devices, right?  You need the calling or chatting software, plus the other apps, to run on your phone, or it is worthless, right?  Some of those apps are free, some are a one time fee, others you might pay monthly.  Some SaaS sales models will offer the first month free, then a monthly fee, or a discount if you pay annually.  This is how you need to structure you AVaaS business.

OLD WAY: Integrator sells client conference room hardware, installation, and one time programming fee for the DSP and Control System.  Annual service plan is optional.

NEW WAY: Integrator sells the client the hardware once, or leases it to them. For the hardware to work, the client pays the integrator a monthly fee, which includes all service calls and software upgrades.  The client pay a monthly fee per room, just like you pay a monthly fee for your cell phone.  In return, they get free reports because you are now monitoring their AV systems for bulb life, energy usage, and downtime.

Savvy programmers will figure out a way to lock the AV systems if the client misses payment, just imagine the touchscreen and wall-mounted flat panel display saying…

PLEASE ENTER YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION TO ENABLE AV SYSTEM

But most importantly, please remember that AV as a Service, is just that, a service! We are now in a service industry, not a sales industry. Customers can buy AV gear with a click of a mouse; what we offer our clients is our professional services. Keep that in mind the next time you get a “service call”. Instead of being annoyed, be glad your services are still needed. -pk

Like this post?  You also may enjoy “We Used To Be Heroes” by Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

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PCD Hires “@PKaudiovisual” As New Engineering Manager

The following press release was originally posted on the PCD blog http://www.pcdinc.net/blog/

SANTA ROSA, CA – PCD, Inc. (http://www.pcdinc.net) is pleased to announce that Paul Konikowski, CTS-D has joined the NorCal firm as the new Design Engineering Manager.  Paul brings a wealth of knowledge of the AV integration industry, as well as real world experience in live event production and information technology.

Paul’s career started in information technology with a co-op position at Critikon, a medical device manufacturing company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Performing a mix of help desk functions and network wide system upgrades, Paul learned the value of good customer experience (CX).  Paul supported about 200 users in everything from Microsoft Windows and Office migrations to printer maintenance to mainframe server data backups.

After graduating from Georgia Tech in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering, Paul shelfed his computer skills for few years, and decided to become a “sound guy”.  Starting at the bottom, pushing brooms, driving trucks and stacking speakers, he quickly learned the technical ins and outs of live audio reinforcement from veteran sound engineers at Snow Sound and other live sound companies.

Since 2004, Paul has worked in audiovisual integration and unified communications. At North American Theatrix, he built equipment racks and installed loudspeakers, PTZ cameras, video projectors, flat panel displays, and other AV components for theaters, casinos, hotels, schools, aquariums, and museums.  He obtained his Infocomm CTS certification and went to work for HB Communications as an Associate Engineer, learning AutoCAD and AV system design, and then obtained his Infocomm CTS-D certification.

In 2007, Paul decided to relocate from Connecticut to California and became the Senior Consultant at Rosen Goldberg Der & Lewitz, a smaller consulting firm who specializes in architectural and environmental acoustics in addition to traditional AV design and engineering.  As the local market shifted from consultant-driven construction to design-builds in existing buildings, Paul decided to move from consulting back to integration, joining Snader as a Systems Design Engineer.

In 2011, Paul began freelancing, doing business as PK Audiovisual.  He continued to do AV design and engineering, but also moved into social media, technical marketing, blogging, advertorials, whitepapers for consumer electronics, wireless home theater speakers and mobile devices. By becoming a blogger and online content writer (oftentimes ghostwriting), Paul helped to bridge the gap between audiovisual technology providers, AV consultants, equipment distributors, systems integrators, and end-users.   Over the next 5 years, Paul took on a number of clients including Stichfix.com, Arcata High School, HDMI, MHL and WiSA, and then worked full time as a Technical Marketing Engineer with Starin, an AV distributor, hosting online training and visiting consultants and integrators.  It was during this time that Paul started working a lot of industry trade shows like CES, ISE, NAMM, and CEDIA.  In recent years, Paul has worked full time as a Multimedia Solutions Architect for Strategic Products and Services, and part time for RGD Acoustics, Zoom, and Creation Networks.

As the new leader of the PCD engineering department, Paul will work as a “player-manager”, delegating projects, while taking on his own large scale projects. By leveraging his engineering background with his consulting experience, he leads the PCD engineering team, implementing large scale audio-visual systems, initially awarded through the “Design-Bid” and “Design-Assist” processes. PCD is also a full service “Design-Build” integrator; recent projects include performing arts centers, universities, schools, sports stadiums, corporate telepresence, houses of worship and more. Paul’s main goal at PCD is to maximize efficiencies in the engineering department, delivering quality drawings and products, meeting all time commitments, and building long term relationships with audiovisual consultants and other business leaders in the San Francisco Bay area.

Bill Graham, PCD Director of Operations, is working with Paul to build up his team of engineers.  If you or someone you know is looking for work in wine country, please check out the Careers page on the PCD website (http://www.pcdinc.net/about/careers/) for more information about these exciting openings.

Just Say No To Bad Swag

I recently received a letter from a well-known “automobile association”, thanking me for being a member for the past twenty years.  Just to be clear, the only reason I continue to be a member is this: about once a year, I need a jump-start, or I lock my keys in my car and need a locksmith, or I need a tow, or a friend needs a jump-start, locksmith or a tow. (Pro tip: you can utilize your membership benefits, even if its not your car, as long as you are a passenger in the vehicle.)  The membership pays for itself with the money that I save.

The letter also informed me that, in appreciation for my 20 years of loyalty, I should stop by the nearest office and pick up my free license plate frame, informing every driver that is behind me that I was a 20 year+ member of the association. Ummmm, no thank you.  What good does this license plate frame do for me? Is an attractive woman going to ask me out me on a date when they see it?  Will it get me out of a speeding ticket?   No, its just more marketing for the company. Consider this my first example of “bad swag”.

Swag“can mean a lot of things; in this blog post, it means promotional merchandise.

Second example: I received junk mail from an automobile insurance company (notice a trend here?) looking for me to switch my current automobile coverage to theirs.  The envelope included a bumper sticker that plainly stated “PLEASE DON’T HIT ME! I am not 100% sure about my coverage”.  To their credit, I was amused by the bumper sticker campaign, but did this company really expect me to put this ugly sticker on my bumper?

Many people in the AV industry think of trade shows when they hear the word “swag”. Most booths offer some form of it: pens, reusable grocery bags, magnets, t-shirts, candy, paperweights, key chains, flashlights, headlamps, miniature screwdrivers, and plenty of those little foam things that you are supposed to squeeze when you are stressed.  I remember one booth had flying monkey toys that you could launch across the room. 99%  of these promotional items have a company logo and/or marketing tagline printed on them.  Some items become “gifts” for the kids once the attendee gets home from the trip.

Aside from the pens and reusable grocery bags, most of the swag you get is garbage.  I keep a few of the foam-stress-relief-thingees around my desk, and squeeze them periodically to exercise my hands and fingers, helping to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  I don’t ever remember being stressed out, squeezing one for a minute, and then feeling less stressed.

What blows my mind is how much money is wasted on this bad swag!  Not to mention the hours spent by marketing departments and/or company owners to “design” this crap: the t-shirts in awful colors chosen to match the company’s logo, covered in industry-related marketing taglines, or sometimes even images of the products.  Who on earth would wear these outside of mowing the lawn, changing your oil, or sealing the driveway?  There is one group who is happy to get these shirts: homeless people.  I love it when I see a homeless person wearing a promotional t-shirt, because it means the shirt is being used, not just thrown away.  Probably not what the marketing team had in mind, but hey, at least the catchy tagline created by the marketing guru is actually being read by someone, right?

hobos

Original image courtesy of Rapgenius on Amazon Web Services

As much as I am a sucker for free stuff, I do my best to avoid accepting this bad swag; although sometimes, I can’t say no, because its mailed directly to me (“Enjoy your lapel pin…”.) As a waste-conscious citizen, I seriously don’t know if I should toss it, recycle it, donate it, or spend the money to ship it back to them, with a note saying, “WTF were you thinking?  You just wasted time and money on something no one will ever use!”

Occasionally, someone gets it right.  For example, one manufacturer’s rep I know quietly hands out $10 Starbucks gift cards to people who engage her at the trade show booth.  These gift cards have no tag lines, no logos (other than the Starbucks logo).  I have not seen her in years, only because I have not attended those same trade shows.  And yet I specifically remember her giving me that gift card, as well as the company she represents.

Other companies have sponsored outings like dinner cruises, baseball games, even paintball.  Those were very fun, very memorable times, and I was able to share the experience with coworkers and loved ones.  And just like the Starbucks card, I remember exactly what company sponsored those events, as well as the people representing them.

So please, marketing gurus, take note:  the next time you are about to “pull the trigger” on your latest sky-blue or lime-green t-shirt, the one with your latest tagline on the front and your logo on the sleeve, think to yourself:  Would I actually wear this?  Would anyone I know actually wear this?  What is this costing my company?  And would we be better off just handing out gift cards, or even the cash equivalent?  Now THAT would be memorable!