MD of Cordless Consultants, Nigel Miller, is interviewed by Clive Couldwell, Editor of AV Magazine on the Challenges facing AV Consultants
Clive Couldwell - What are the challenges facing AV consultancies?
Nigel Miller - The challenge for any consultancy and particularly those from the AV side is the breadth of knowledge that now needs to be dealt with. Many AV Consultants came what was a cottage industry and in the early stages it was more straightforward. AV fitted mainly under FM and involved some AV technology being put into meeting rooms. That has morphed in a short period of time into something that is running over IT networks and has a dependency on IT – which has really changed the dynamic. It has also started moving to smart building technology, such as controls for buildings, meeting room booking systems, IP TV, digital signage and the human interface into what a building is doing and how buildings are reacting. That means you have to consult on a much broader base and get a lot more information up front. So from being ‘bang and hang’ AV that was confined to fairly basic technology in meeting spaces, it is suddenly all things: it is taking in business process, an element of HR and a heap of change management. It is enormous! For what are a lot of the time fairly small companies, to keep up with the technology and the change is a massive undertaking.
Clive Couldwell – How are Consultants managing this – working with likeminded Consultants? Hiring new staff? Training up existing staff?
Nigel Miller - It is all of the above, but it is difficult to get the right people. The industry has come from predominantly an engineering background, they have the design skills, but they are not necessarily consultant-led for either workplace technology or management consultancy. Suddenly they now have to extract information from a whole plethora of areas across a business to find the necessary data and thinking to inform the design to establish what the AV technology needs to deliver.
Clive Couldwell – Traditional IT Consultants assessed the executive requirements and then helped provide solutions, training the business on how to use the technology. Coming at it now also from an AV point of view – has there been any conflict?
Nigel Miller – With IT Strategy there is a lot of development around core applications – i.e. what does your business need to achieve as its core level and then turning that into a technology output to help increase efficiency and competitive edge. A lot of the AV side is an adjunct to that. It is not necessarily core to what a company is doing, but it will be absolutely supporting that and increasing communication and efficiency. So AV Consultancy now needs a vital level of interaction and engagement to find out what the company is looking to do and what its aspirations are. Particularly now that it may be starting to impact the staff experience, the client or visitor journey in the building and specifically attracting new talent.
Clive Couldwell – Is it awkward to match accommodation and experiential requirements to create intelligent environments that interact and respond to you, making sure you have the infrastructure underneath that will deliver that?
Nigel Miller – It is a broad range of skills. In the past, not only did IT have to identify those requirements, IT has also had many accreditations, frameworks and industry bodies to adhere to. The AV side hasn’t really had any of that yet. Even now, there is a limit to what supports AV and there are a lot of things for AV Consultants to deal with. Suddenly the AV Consultant has to interview the C-Suite, see what the business aspirations and hiring policies are - engaging with the IT, FM, HR function. They must then turn that into some meaningful output that fits the culture of the company and also turn this into a design that goes way beyond the meeting rooms – so that’s a lot to do!
Whilst at the same time, Consultants need to be knowledgeable about all of the available technologies, some of them really on the perimeter of what was previously AV – for example, intelligent BMS systems, people finding and wayfinding systems. They go way beyond traditional AV as they use beaconing and wireless technologies. Keeping up to date with such things is a major task in itself.
Clive Couldwell – Will we therefore see more integrated consultancies in future, rather than standalone AV Consultants?
Nigel Miller - It is hard to tell as once you start building goliath consultancies, a lot of that passion disappears and the whole thing can become a bit vanilla. In the industry today, there are many consultancies that still have that passion for what they do. The issue for any business is getting the right skills on board to keep up. Who do you hire? You still need good Designers, but they have to be able to engage at an Executive level with the business and understand end user requirements. You need a certain level of experience and confidence to talk about outcomes and business benefits. Yes, you need a technical knowledge, but a lot of it comes down to personality and soft skills – as well as the ability to ask the right questions to extract information. So the challenge to overcome is to get that mix of soft and hard skills and be able to take that to market.
To watch Nigel's full video interview on the challenges in AV, go to:
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2017 16:17:40 +0100 GMT