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Are you a good integrator?

Earning a reputation in the A/V system installation and integration industry is not easy. However, some experts give their advice, which if followed carefully can be key success factors.

By: Julián Arcila

In Latin America you will find everything. Just go down any big avenue of the major cities to see that it is definitely a Persian market. One of the things you see with ease is the business of installing "televisions", "home theater", repairing "sound equipment" and any other number of allusions to our beloved audio and video industry.

It would not be surprising that if someone goes and asks those who serve these businesses, that if they are integrators of A / V they say without joke that yes "and that they mount boss anything you need". However, there is no doubt that these people who work under these parameters are far from the ideal of the integrator that we all have and that is mentioned in the corridors of how many exhibitions are visited.

But the truth is that the market for integration or offer of A/V services has many not so positive nuances and in some cases there is talk of unfair competition between the same integrators, as well as between the same brands that manufacture electronics.

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Then AVI LATINOAMÉRICA consulted three companies related to the segment and that are recognized in their countries for the quality of the projects they integrate or the events they provide with their solutions. The invited companies were Planeadores Vision, from Mexico; Phase Audio, from Venezuela, and Congress Rental, from Argentina.


The first point on which the editor focused was to know the fundamental elements in which an integrator or offeror of A/V services must consolidate in order to face a tender, whether public or private, in the best way.

Consequently, this media spoke with Luis Fernando Hinojosa, general director of Planeadores Visión; Feliciano Salerno, commercial director at Phase Audio, and Diego de Elías, director of Congress Rental, a company that is dedicated to the rental of A/V equipment for congresses and that eventually must design facilities for this type of event.

When asked about this issue, the answers were very broad.

Hinojosa explained, for example, that companies that are going to participate in a bidding process must make sure they know the requirements of the bidding process to prepare and avoid improvisations. He explained that: "Among the elements that I would highlight are having the support of the manufacturer, having written guarantees, being able to offer technical support to the solutions used, as well as having specialized personnel in IT and AV to offer complete solutions."

On the other hand, Feliciano Salerno, from Phase Audio, referred to planning and organization as the essential elements that every integrator must have before getting involved in one of these processes.

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He explained that "participating in a tender is not easy, you have to be well prepared. I see two main problems, one is the lack of planning; we are always leaving everything for the last and we have not learned from the developed markets the subject of organization. To this is added the unfair competition throughout the business chain, in which in some cases it is not possible to guarantee the exclusivity of distribution of a brand; in this sense one as a company specifies a project with brands and references, passes it on to the client and he ends up buying the equipment on his own and doing the project".

A good A/V integrator?

And precisely as if to begin to establish the guidelines of what can be considered a good integrator of A /V, this publication approached the experts to consult them on this topic. The idea is to provide some elements that serve to improve daily in the professional work of integrators.

If a summary of the respondents' approaches is made, the key to standing out as an integrator lies in maintaining good communication with the client, because in this way they will ensure that they fully know the needs they have and a corresponding solution can be designed. Similarly, this will ensure the establishment of a relationship of trust between supplier and buyer.

In this sense, Luis Fernando Hinojosa explained that the fundamental thing for the good integrator is to know, even before the announcement of the project, the needs of the client, because otherwise, if he enters the bidding process, everything will be a matter of a price war. Another factor that speaks well of an integrator is knowing how to identify business opportunities, creating the needs in their customers and converting them appropriately into tenders. The integrator who complies with the above will always be one step ahead of the others.

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Here also comes the part of promotion and communication. If you as an integrator have developed good projects, developing a good portfolio of projects gives you a competitive advantage.

Like Luis Fernando, Feliciano is inclined to recommend communication as the distinctive element of the professional A/V integrator, although he adds more elements to it. "An integrator is a company that manages discipline globally. So what an integrator should do is talk to their customer to determine the real needs and uses that will be given to the system at a certain time. It is important to have a very good communication with all the participants of the work and of course to have access to all the technology and know-how to be able to install all that is being offered".

For his part, Diego de Elías, director of Congress Rental, said that a good name in the segment of integration or offer of A/V services is made with an important trajectory. However, he added that the most important value that distinguishes a company, regardless of the branch, is human resources. "For one, the most important thing is not the equipment; the quality of the technicians and salespeople, the support staff at the events and other factors such as the fulfillment of the time, the accompaniment of the client: all that makes people continue to call you and that you continue to lead a market and gain recognition, "he noted.

Is outsourcing valid in A/V?

In a business segment as vast as A/V, many companies must seek to specialize, which does not always mean leaving business aside. Some companies choose to diversify their structure, adding new variables to their product and service offerings. Other companies decide to outsource some elements in order to be able to reach a bidding process more robustly.

However, outsourcing, or outsourcing as it is called in some regions of Latin America, has its risks and the most important thing is that the company that is going to provide the services that you are going to sell to your client must work within the same quality parameters in which you do it. Otherwise, the risk to your organization's image could be quite large.

Hinojosa is one of those who agrees with the approach that special attention should be paid to subcontracting and do so only when the quality of the contracted company is tested and follows the quality parameters of your company. "The most relevant thing is to provide service to the customer, not to the supplier of the equipment we sell. We live from the client and the optimal thing is to give him a better solution for his delight. Now we are in a concept of delight that completely replaces that of satisfaction for more than 15 years," he said.

For his part, Salerno is one of those who believes that outsourcing is a direct consequence of the changing times of technology. He assured that outsourcing in a project is an option that every day gains more strength, because although conceptually the integrator should cover a series of disciplines and know-how, this is not easy, so it is increasingly common to reach these outsourcing agreements, joint venture and more.

Another vision of the subject is provided by Diego de Elías, who approaches it from his field of management: the rental of equipment for events and congresses. In his opinion, there are certain types of clients with whom it should be considered that not all the resources are available and that subcontracting will be chosen, referring particularly to the OPCs (Professional Organizers of Contests). But one recommendation he offered in order to avoid outsourcing is to participate in events or projects that are within his area of expertise. "It's not logical to provide cathering services if audio and video are your thing."

Time, a key success factor

If a client is asked what are those elements that he considers fundamental when hiring a project, he will surely say that the delivery time, the quality of the installation, the price and above all the scalability, that is, that allows him to expand the technological benefits of the solution when required.

But among all the elements mentioned above, there is one that perhaps worries and is to have the project just in time or in the case of events to have the installation and rehearsals with a good period before the beginning of the show for which she was hired.

On this subject AVI LATINOAMÉRICA consulted the experts and found that achieving the best execution times is a task that first of all requires planning and programming.

On this factor Hinojosa said the following: "Many people get into times that they can not meet to grab the project and then stop to think to see how they comply. Another very common practice is to commit without ever reviewing the times so it is highly recommended to take into account the manufacturing times and deliveries of the equipment before talking to the customer. In this sense it is important to know how to sell the project to the client and then fulfill what was promised, because in some tenders if it is not fulfilled it can be drastically penalized. "

And here the planning comes back into the picture. Feliciano said that although it is a topic that is always mentioned, it is rarely fulfilled. He added that "the important thing here is to correctly structure the times for each stage and the times that will be assigned to each function, because you can not mix areas because they would generate shocks. Another thing that happens is the incompatibility of the equipment; many times a computer is not compatible with others or intermediate elements are missing and this has happened many times. Therefore it is very useful, before moving on to the execution stage, to make a review of what was designed; that is, to do an execution simulation to see if what is there is susceptible to being configured as a system."

Diego de Elías suggests that to avoid delays in the assembly of an event you can resort to several strategies, such as knowing well the spaces in which the show, congress or activity is going to be held. "There are events that have presentations one after another, with very tight times. These have to be rehearsed as a play for everything to go well." Additionally, he proposed to work with a time back up to avoid delays, in addition to always informing the client of the situation or panorama in which they are working.

After installation, what?

Another important aspect and perhaps the one that will mark the relationship you establish with your client is the support you give after the assembly of the project.

In this regard, the experts gave some indications that can really help if what you are looking for is to build a solid relationship with your customers.

For Feliciano Salerno, the key may lie in the support. He explained that during the first three to six months the client is given an accompaniment to make sure he knows the guarantee of the equipment, but also the operation of it, since this is one of the frequent causes of failures. "What there is is a little follow-up, plus a staff training is very important; sometimes this training does not require high technological levels but can be very specific to the project that is being executed at that time," he said.

Finally, Hinojosa commented that once the projects are finished, the client must sign a receipt that indicates satisfaction with the connected equipment and in full operation. As subsequent activities are the programming of a training in the operation of the system, carrying out visits to verify the operation of the same and evaluate if new trainings are required. According to Luis Fernando, the after-sales accompaniment process ends when the customer buys again. That is the real sign of satisfaction.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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