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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Infocomm Certified Technology Specialists

Five Alternative Uses For Your Infocomm CTS, CTS-D, and/or CTS-I Certification Pins

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

CTS-DEarlier this week, CEPro reported that Infocomm was changing the CTS, CTS-D, and CTS-I certification tests as of July 1, 2013 “to reflect changes in the AV Industry”.  I am not surprised they are changing the tests; not that there was anything particularly wrong with the old tests.  But I saw it coming…

About a year ago, Infocomm asked me and a dozen other CTS-D holders to attend a one day round table discussion about the current CTS-D test, and what could be improved.  The biggest topic of the day seemed to be LAN infrastructure, and how more and more AV devices need to be on public or private data networks.  There was also a larger need for trade coordination that should be evident in the new tests.

Well, all this talk of CTS, CTS-I and CTS-D tests got me thinking about the whole process, including the lovely gold lapel pins that Infocomm sends you when you pass one of the tests.

I wore my CTS pin to at least one interview.  I wear the CTS-D pin to trade shows sometimes, but I think I am in the minority because I rarely see them.  Yet Infocomm still sends them out every 3 years, assuming you have earned the proper RUs and renewed your certification.

So I started to wonder what everyone does with their “unused” pins; and I came up with the following Five alternate uses for your Infocomm CTS, CTS-D, or CTS-I pins:

1. Infocomm Certified Golf Ball Marker

CTS-D Ball Marker
Account managers: impress your clients with your AV knowledge while they finish their putt

2. Infocomm Certified Miniature Belt Buckle

CTS Belt Buckle
“By the power of Infocomm; I HAVE THE POWER!”

3. Infocomm Certified Bottle Opener

CTS-D Church Key
What every good AV toolbox needs

4. Infocomm Certified Ear Piercing

CTS_D_Pin_Earring
Don’t try this at home (unless you live in Seattle or Portland)

5. Infocomm Certified Letters With Wax Seal

CTS Pin Wax Seal
Get rid of those boring inter-office envelopes.
CTS Wax Seal
Send your audiovisual specifications IN STYLE!

What alternative ways have you used your CTS, CTS-D, or CTS-I certification pin? Any crazy ideas? Send them to pkav.info@gmail.com.  

ps- One reader wrote me an email and said “I have always used my pins as a tie tack behind the tie to hold the tail in place. That way you see nothing on the front of the tie.” Another reader suggestions included using their CTS-D pins as tacks on their corkboard.  Keep the suggestions coming!

(Smart)Phone Etiquette

Have a P.A.I.R. and Kill Phone Zombies

Guest blogger Dan Wojenski is an I.T. Technician at Geller & Company in New York, NY.  His previous employers include A&E Networks, and Apple, and UBS AG.  Dan is also a 20+ year musician (drums).Dan Wojenski

“To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is unacceptable.” Wisdom I first heard from a teacher I didn’t like and barely listened to. But when I hit the working world, it was etched in my memory, and therefore I was seldom late.  Etiquette comes from strange places.  We hear it, see it, and sometimes, we ignore it.  But you can not ignore etiquette if you want to succeed in the business world.

I remember having extensive customer service training when I was employed by an insurance company. The instructor said, “It doesn’t really matter what you say, if you say it with genuine tones of respect.” He was right.  I began to see the power in negotiation, conversation, and even just casual speaking. You can look someone in the eye and tell them a monkey just farted in his or her soup, did a backflip, and laughed away from the table. While ridiculous, if said with genuine confidence, there’s not much to argue.  Obviously a dramatic example, but the point is clear.  The same can be said about my topic today: (Smart)Phone Etiquette.

Patience. Attention. Intelligence. Responsiveness. =  P.A.I.R.  (I’ve always wanted to do that.) These are a few of the traits required to have a conversation on a professional level. Whether a person is a CEO or the building maintenance crew, proper etiquette is essential to building trust and earning respect. The world is evolving into a social media frenzy that #occupies a large percentage of our daily conversations. It is very easy to allow the technology to control our manners or even our attitudes.  It creates what is known as the “Phone Zombie.”  A plain traditional Zombie appears lifeless, apathetic, or completely unaware of his or her surroundings.  Now add a phone to that picture you have a Phone Zombie.

For example: You are talking to your manager and they suddenly start typing fiendishly on a Blackberry.  All it took was a vibration or beep.  They stop listening to you and begin paying attention to the text flying in from some other virtual source. There is no issue with that; except you and your manager were just mid-conversation, talking about company business, at the same company in which you are currently standing! Even if it were an emergency, there is no excuse for not politely removing themselves from the conversation they are currently in with you. No excuse, none.  It takes five seconds to say, “Excuse me I have an emergency that I need to attend to, can we please pick this up when I get back?”  Courtesy is still relevant, and will not cost you anything, except maybe an angry employee or coworker.

For my next point we can venture out of the workplace.  The old saying was, “[so-and-so] can’t walk and chew gum at the same time” or something like that.  Nowadays, it’s all too common to see people texting,  mp3-ing, streaming, drinking, eating, and all while doing something that can seriously hurt someone: driving.  No text or song is worth twenty years in prison, or the guilt you will suffer for the rest of your life if you accidentally take another’s.  We all have our vices but, in my opinion, vehicular homicide should not be on the top of your list!

By no means am I saying never text, never email, or never surf on my devices. I’m doing it right now! This article was drafted during my commute (subway), at home, and on my lunch breaks at work.  I was not typing this post in the middle of a meeting, typing away at my smartphone under the table, while supporting my false arm with the other hand.  Today’s companies want employees who can multitask, without ignoring their superiors. In-person conversations and meetings have a point, and your superiors will judge you based on how you act during them.  You can see reactions, feel the tone, and feed off each other’s ideas.  Brainstorming anyone?  Even bad news is better in person.  Would you really want to hear about your job loss in an email or an accidental post in the termination mailbox?  If you do, just stop reading now, as it probably has already happened.

There is one business thriving off this behavior: Social engineering. They will have your credentials before you even look up to see the stairs you’re about to trip on.  The money will be gone faster than you can swipe L-A-R-C-E-N-Y on your touchscreen. The amount of information released into the open air due to phones and other connected devices is staggering. I was on an hour-long commute the other day and within minutes had this woman’s name, social security number, credit card numbers, security codes, pin, and I was not the only one that could hear her! I hope she was lucky, but some part of me is saying, “Get her some nice new credit and debt she never wanted.”

Life teaches us lessons.  Listening to them is my lesson for you today. Try not to end up here: http://textface.com/