Why project catch ups are so fundamental in technology projects?

Written by: Fae Sarshoghi

One of the best parts of my job is sitting with our customers and getting them to talk about what they’re experiencing during and after an AV Technology project. Although this can be challenging from time to time. In the professional world, we all tend to be polite and care for each other. I know you might be witnessing an argument in your office right when you’re reading these lines, but even the two parties who’re injecting some unwanted excitement to your afternoon tend to respect each other in a less rough day, don’t they?

There have been situations when I’ve sat across the table from a client who’s been overly frustrated by what’s been going on in their project, and I’ve still been told that everything is going well. They prefer not to talk about their real concerns since they’re worried it ruins someone’s reputation, or causes someone trouble, or simply because they don’t want to make a bad impression.

What I usually do in these situations, is to give them the peace of mind that what they are sharing with us, would be treated with privacy. But what is even more important, is the fact that by these project catch ups we are actually looking for the potential issues with the procedures, not with the people. If a person is not delivering what they are expected to do, there is nothing wrong with that person and their capabilities, the issue actually lies somewhere within the process, either it’s the project planning and resourcing, inaccuracies in documentation, gaps in the requirements, or just basically lack of communication.

Some people see these catch ups as a waste of time. I’m talking about people who are going through early mornings, late nights, and a considerable amount of stress to finish a job as per the program. That short session they have with me, might mean a 30 minutes distraction they can’t afford to have. In this person’s view it certainly doesn’t make sense to sit for half an hour with a marketing chick, to talk about the project. “The job doesn’t get done by talking about it”. This is when I start badgering them to meet with me. After doing something for a while, we get a sense for it, and now I think I have a sense for these meetings. I know for sure, that the person who hesitates to talk about a project the most, is actually the one who really needs to talk about it.

What I keep telling our customers is that we’re not after a nice pleasant feedback. I know I always look classy, but I come to these meetings ready to be punched in the face. konnectus is not the type of company that needs ratings. We’re not desperate for more and more reviews. Word of mouth and social proof is a matter of priority only in our Marketing discussions. When we are working on a customer project, our one and only priority is to make sure that the customer is taking what they expect out of that project. For us, this is the whole point of having a feedback gathering catch up during a project with key people in the project team.

Another reason why we are very strict about these catch ups, is that with technology, things are not as obvious as they are with other aspects of a construction project. To the project manager and rest of the project team which happen to be a not very technical majority, technology at the time of construction is just a bunch of cables, plates, and outlets. With technology, you don’t know if the instalment is being done properly and if it is going to work flawless, unless you have a technology expert overseeing your project and constantly being in communication with you.

When a project starts, clients, contractors, and consultants they all start with high hopes and want to make that project one of their best. No one starts a project thinking that “okay, I am going to ruin this one like no one’s ever messed up a project before”. We all start by high expectations from ourselves and from everyone else. But when the engines start and wheels get rolling, the priorities change, the unforeseen gets seen, the planning might get affected, and the high hopes get sacrificed for realistic acceptable outcomes. What gets neglected is the fact that the amount of communication among the project team becomes less and less as the project moves from the early stages towards the middle; and well no wonder why near the project completion, people hear themselves saying things like “do I really need to say it? Isn’t it obvious enough? I thought we talked about this?”

It’s like my friend who takes me for motor bike rides and knows how overly scared I am, suddenly decides to stop sharing with me where we are heading, what speed we’re going to ride at, or that we’re approaching a speed bump. The same goes true with the project work. There is no such thing as enough communication. We are not Donald Trump, we won’t cause any harm to the world if we talk. So, let’s keep talking!

Leisure and politics aside, we see these project catch ups as a way to  ensure we haven’t lost track of the ideal outcome. We might not hit the stars, but we definitely shoot higher than just closing a project and rushing to the next one. We start a project with everything being about our customer, and this is just one of the ways we make sure that our customer is receiving the care and attention they deserve.

What big players are showcasing at Infocomm 2019

Written by: Fae Sarshoghi

With the news coming out and #infocomm2019 trending, we had a look at the displays launched or highlighted this year by big players in commercial AV and here’s what we found:

(Please note this is not a konnectus product review, and that konnectus strongly advises seeking expert advice from your trusted AV consultants, if you were to consider using any of the products introduced here).

Samsung MagicINFO 7 with AI-Based Analytics Solution

Samsung claims this product being a powerful content and device management solution, which allows businesses to conveniently create, schedule and play content across a signage network while delivering informative business insights through real-time integrated data collection and analysis. The Analytics feature on MagicINFO, is supposed to help the marketers to analyse big data and in-store customer behaviour to display the most relevant content customized for customers’ needs. The performance reports generated through the Analytics will allow the marketers and business owners to better understand promotion results, and therefore better plan future marketing campaigns. I tend to stay pessimistic and say “yeah! Good luck with that!” but I know and you know how fast technology is moving, so why not!

Samsung New Flip 65-inch and QLED 8K signage

Another digital flipchart by Samsung, offering greater collaboration capabilities in an easy to navigate display.

This is said to be the world’s fastest interactive touch display. Does this mean faster and more efficient collaboration experience for your team, Samsung’s answer to that question is “yes”.

The 65-inch screen seems to be designed with larger meeting rooms and classrooms in mind. For this model, Samsung introduced the No Gap Wall Mount, to reduce the gap behind the display once mounted.

Elo 65″ Touch Screen

The 65-inch touchscreen features thin borders and built-in, high-powered speakers that are down-firing to enhance aesthetics and audio quality.

Use cases include presentations, whiteboarding, device connection, conferencing and meeting management, and anywhere a wall tablet enhances the aesthetic and experience.

LG Micro LED

“LG MicroLED technology relies on arrays of microscopic LEDs that form individual pixels that work independently to express image detail”, this line alone is taking our expectations to a next level. There is no colour distortion at any angle and, with no bezel, images are more immersive. At less than 50 micrometres, each LED is about the size of a speck of dust or half the width of a human hair.

 

Leyard Group and Planar Systems Transparent OLED Display

Another product that has been trending, which seem to have amazed the visitors is the 1.2 pixel pitch curved LED video wall.

It is said to be delivering clear, crisp image at every angle and viewing distance. Similar to other Leyard TVG Series products, this product offers front serviceability and a stackable design that eliminates cabinet to cabinet cabling and reduces installation and alignment complexity.

Photo Credit: Google/Twitter

AV systems of note – Downstream’s Vmware

Written by: Adrian Magno

It was 11:30pm on a Friday night as my girlfriend (now wife) messaged me for the 6th time asking when I’d finish work.

2014, I was a lowly Technical Support Engineer working on the biggest AV project I’d ever laid eyes on and the lead designer from Portland Oregon, was personally overseeing the integration of it. I didn’t want to miss a second of being able to pick his brain as we did firmware upgrades in the darkness of the night. Whilst my phone continued to vibrate in my pocket, and my head throbbed as I was rounding out hour 16 of the last day of the week, I wouldn’t dare leave. Nothing bonds engineers quite like a graveyard shift.

I remember watching Trent in awe as he moved through the server rooms with such haste, his laptop lay open in his arm balancing it like a waiter holding too many plates at once.

Ever since I’ve always been a fan of his work, looking up his LinkedIn profile and website every couple of weeks to see what next piece of art he was conjuring up on the other side of the planet.

Downstream’s project with Vmware in Silicon Valley is another stone in the infinity gauntlet of projects continuing to raise the bar for the sometimes unimaginative AV industry. Signage solutions are increasingly becoming “how big a video wall do you want it to be?” or rather mode dictated by the newest tech that has come to market ie. transparent displays or curved video walls. The AV systems that downstream consistently put out into the world however, use a mix of old and new techniques to integrate with architecture and produce bespoke content in a way many of us have never fathomed to venture. One such example is the projection mapped globe to display real time data of Vmware feeds mapped to regions on the globe.

I know many consultants, myself included, who when provided the outlandish request from the client would simply revert to the safe, “video wall.” Despite the understanding that the first rule of “beautiful AV” is to do everything to make the AV invisible. Vivid Sydney is a showcase of such misdirect having the projectors for the opera house on the other side of Circular Quay.

THE FIRST RULE OF “BEAUTIFUL AV” IS TO DO EVERYTHING TO MAKE THE AV INVISIBLE

Here we have technology that makes the art work look like its moving. It’s a subtle optical illusion that makes you double take as you walk past, stopping in your tracks to turn your head to make sure you had seen correctly. Isn’t that what effective signage is? AV that doesn’t scream like you’ve entered an arcade, powerful because it is different.

Next up we have the possibility wall. I know, the name sounds like your standard corporate directive like ‘the journey room’ or ‘konnecthub.’ Despite it’s cringe name what makes it compelling AV is what makes most of downstream’s designs world class. Their unique content creation that goes hand in hand with the AV. The possibility wall initiates the content the minute you walk by, not in a tacky way like the many museums we visited as kids, but in a way that matches VMware’s culture, branding and themes whilst also making you stop and want to do more. There’s a storytelling to the AV here. Much of it starts without you doing anything, but proceeds to get you to want to continue through the content simply because it looks, for lack of a better term, so damn cool. We always harp on about why AV needs to work hand in hand with the interior architecture design, yet we fail to realise it also needs to do the same with the content

WE ALWAYS HARP ON ABOUT WHY AV NEEDS TO WORK HAND IN HAND WITH THE INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE DESIGN, YET WE FAIL TO REALISE IT ALSO NEEDS TO DO THE SAME WITH THE CONTENT ON THE SCREENS

Downstream boast an internal team that create the content going onto the AV so that the solution works together seamlessly. Both team get a say in how it should look.

In our day and age, social media continues to make us constantly see the successes of others; and whilst it can be the cause of sadness and depression when looking at the disparity in skill in comparison, for me it only ignites me to work harder.

There is another level to AV than the standard “video wall”

That at a certain point, this isn’t AV anymore. This is art.

Please note: All images do not belong to me, this is strictly the work of others in which I am fortunate enough to provide comment on.

Media: rAVe Publications – Interview with David Allara

Earlier this year, konnectus’ Managing Directro, David Allara, was interviewed by rAVe publications to share his insights and experience working in the AV industry:

1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?

I actually did not seek out a career in the AV industry when I got started. In 2005 I had just returned to Sydney, Australia after having lived in New York City for 5 years. I needed a job and didn’t really have much of a network so options were quite limited. There was a sales role with a digital signage start up that caught my attention because I had observed a growth trend in New York in that sector. I figured the Australian market would follow the U.S. and that this niche sector could be quite interesting to be a part of.

Unfortunately that digital signage start-up was many years too early for the market in Australia and it never got off the ground. However, that little business gave me a taste for AV, and in 2006 I quickly moved into a sales role with one of the largest commercial AV integration companies in Australia. Whilst in that role I was able to get a feel for how the AV Industry was structured, as well as, gain clarity on a career path that I wanted to pursue. It seemed to me that AV consultants had enormous opportunity to work with all types of organisations on a wide array of AV projects. It was also obvious that AV consultants had access to tremendous amounts of knowledge through their close interactions with Vendors and AV integration companies. The combination of these things was highly attractive to me.

In late 2007 I landed my first AV consultancy role with a mid-size MEP firm based in Sydney. They wanted to grow their AV division and gave me the opportunity to help them do that. I stayed with them for 5 years and really enjoyed the work, as well as, the opportunities to meet and learn from so many brilliant people in the AV industry. In this period I was like a sponge absorbing knowledge and creating many strong professional connections.

Deep down I am an entrepreneur and businessman and as the years went by I had a stronger and stronger desire to create my own business in the AV industry. Ultimately I am very passionate about helping customers, and having the complete freedom to do this is very important to me. In early 2013 my business partner Jonathan and I created konnectus, which is now our vehicle to create customised AV solutions that truly help our diverse range of customers. Over the past 6 years we have built a small and growing team of fantastic AV professionals, and I couldn’t be happier.

2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry? 

The answer to this question will vary from country to country and also depend on the type of role. In the Australian market there is actually a shortage of labour supply. I speak to business owners in all sectors of the AV industry and whether they are Vendors, Contractors, Consultants or other Service Providers they all have a common frustration……finding good people.

The barriers to entry into this industry are actually quite low. I think the biggest challenge is probably that not enough people really know about it. The AV industry really needs a big marketing boost to be honest. I am convinced that if more people knew what the industry was, and the different career opportunities on offer, we would see more people joining us and boosting both size and quality.

If you love technology then the AV industry is a great place to be.

3. What are the positives of working in this industry?

I think one great thing about this industry is that it is ever evolving. There are best practices and guiding principles which hold true over time. However, apart from those, the technology is constantly changing. New products, new solutions, new ways of doing things. This is very exciting to be a part of.

Our industry requires us to continually learn new things and keep up with the latest trends and technologies. The AV professionals and companies that commit to this ongoing learning are those that will be able to flourish and deliver the best outcomes for customers. 

4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?

I mentioned earlier that the barriers to entry for someone getting started in the AV industry are very low. Now that was definitely a blessing for me when I got started in AV. I had zero experience or background in the field and had not studied anything similar at school or university. I fumbled along in the beginning and my interest and intrigue kept me going. In order to move forward in the industry I had to acquire knowledge continually through self-study and by making friends with people with experience who could teach me. That is still how I learn with the most effect even today.

There are organisations like AVIXA that provide an ever expanding offering of courses, and many of the manufacturers are also great sources of education. I definitely want to congratulate these organisations on what they are doing and encourage them to continue to grow this focus on education. However, on average, when I compare this industry to others I feel that the level of overall professionalism across all types of companies in the AV industry could definitely be higher. Unfortunately there is no industry requirement that is enforceable that requires people in different roles and positions to be specifically qualified.

In my line of work, which is AV consulting, we do take the time to evaluate the skills and experience and accreditation levels of the teams of contractors that work on our projects. However, we can only provide recommendations in the end and an absence of accreditations does not legally mean anything. Other industries and professions have formal qualifications that are required to practice. It would be great to see this introduced somehow in the AV industry. I think it would do wonders for the industry as a whole because overall levels of quality and professionalism would rise. This would be a huge benefit for the customers we all serve.

5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you? 

This is pretty simple really. Goal number one for myself and the team with all of our potential clients is to build trust. We do this very early on in the process when getting to know prospective clients and spend quite a bit of time making an effort to truly understand needs. Some organisations come to us and immediately jump into technology conversations. Some even go as far as telling us what they want as if we were a waiter in a restaurant taking their order. That approach is back to front and almost always leads to sub optimal outcomes.

Irrespective of the industry or vertical market that a prospective client is in, the organisation is essentially a business that has issues to solve or aspirations they want to achieve. Getting to the truth and clearly understanding these issues is so important in every piece of work we do. You see the AV technology solutions that eventually get designed and implemented are actually just the medium to enable the organisation to solve its issues or achieve its aspirations.

Most successful businesses I know do not invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology just for fun. They do it to achieve specific outcomes and measurable returns. So my ideal client is the one that is prepared to work with us with the understanding that our core focus is not the technology itself, but instead to solve their business issues and help them achieve their stated aspirations.

6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently? 

In a word: nothing. I have really enjoyed my career in the AV industry thus far and I still look forward to every day. I am a very optimistic guy with a focus on the present and future. I do reflect on the past as a process for learning but have no regrets or desire to change anything.

7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?

As a small business owner I can say there is no such thing as a typical work day. There are many different responsibilities and my time is dedicated to a variety of things that include: working on projects and with clients, managing the team, relationship building and sales, financial management, and strategic building of the business.

I am a very organised person with my work and over the years have found a few formulas that seem to work well for me and keep me productive. Firstly, I always aim to achieve 3 key things every day. I prioritise these 3 things and always tackle the hardest one first. The hardest one is generally the one that requires the deepest levels of thinking and concentration. Secondly, I try to plan my calendar so that each day has a specific overall focus e.g. mainly project work, or mainly sales, or mainly working on strategy etc.

8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive? 

Our business is completely cloud based, and all of our systems can be accessed from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. We are using some great individual applications and software platforms, but the overall cloud based set up is the biggest key to enabling myself and the entire konnectus team to be highly productive. It gives us so much flexibility. As consultants we need to be in many different places throughout a typical day, and we also need to be able to maximise time spent working on client projects.

One tool I will say we rely on heavily is Microsoft Skype for Business. Communications is so simple and effective. The whole team uses it on a daily basis – even to communicate and collaborate with external project team members and clients.

9. How do you stay relevant in this industry? 

I have to say that I do not have a specific goal of trying to stay relevant in the AV industry. My focus is more on our Customers and Partners, and the most common ways I have of staying relevant to them is through doing great work, catching up with them regularly one on one or in small groups, and attending various events.

As an organisation konnectus definitely has a proactive approach when it comes to building strong relationships with AV industry vendors and AV integrators. We believe that the best outcomes can only be delivered for our customers when the collective teams from konnectus, vendors, and integrations companies work together as one. All the staff invest their time building the relationships through regular one on one catch ups and attending training and events.

Link to the original article:

https://www.ravepubs.com/spotlight-david-allara-managing-director-konnectus/

 

 

 

3 Mistakes to Avoid when you next invest in AV Technology

Written by: David Allara

If you are considering an investment in new Audio Visual Technology for your organisation, and you are not working with an Independent AV Expert, then you are making a big mistake. I guarantee you will be setting yourself up to waste tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the project. You will also be wasting a lot of your precious time.

By not working with an independent AV expert, you will end up with sub-optimal technology solutions that do not meet your true needs. I guarantee you will be disappointed!

Allow me to outline the “Recipe for Failure” that I have seen all too often in my 15 years’ experience in the professional Audio visual industry.

  • You start by doing some research on the Internet. You don’t really know what you need, or why, so you try and learn about current and future trends. From there you try to figure out what products and solutions might be right for you. The problem is you are not an AV expert, and don’t know what you don’t know. Educating yourself is always a good idea, but you are essentially wasting a lot of time.
  • In some cases you might speak to a colleague in your industry that has undertaken a similar AV technology investment. Learning from their experience is useful, but given your requirements will be unique in more ways than you realise, again, you are wasting your time.
  • Finally, and this is what most people do, you reach out to Vendors or Contractors in the AV industry and speak to them about your options. You may even get some quotes from them. The big problem with relying on vendors and contractors too early on in the process is their underlying conflict of interest. It’s not in their best interest to understand you, your organisation, or what your true needs are. Their focus is on selling you products and solutions, whether they are the perfect fit for you or not.

Relying solely on vendors or contractors early on, before getting expert independent advice, is the number 1 reason I see organisations getting themselves into trouble.

Every successful AV project must start with a proper Needs Analysis. Work with an independent AV expert to get clear on your true requirements, and why they are important to your organisation; Irrespective of the size of your project, and irrespective of type. There might be meeting spaces, teaching spaces, entertainment venues, retail stores, hotels, courtrooms, a command and control centre, a museum, a customer experience centre, or even a large stadium. It doesn’t matter.

Don’t make the mistake of rushing into anything.

– Get clear on your needs first,
– Then get clear on the best AV technology options for you, and,
– Lastly get clear on the potential investment options as well.

Here at konnectus, we offer a range of Needs Analysis packages that guarantee results. We also offer tailored solutions if you require something more bespoke.

We’re here to help.

What my toughest AV project taught me about communication

Written by: Adrian Magno

First time at bat

It was around about 10pm on a Wednesday, I remember vividly having to reread the email a few times before drafting different versions of a response I was happy with. I put a more somber Spotify playlist on to make sure I could get the tone right. Breathed in and sent it off before packing my bag to head home.

I was a fresh faced, starry eyed young engineer with my first year of AV Consulting tucked under my belt, Konnectus had just come off another big year. With all the project we had won, being a small company my name was being called out to step up to the plate. Much to my delight, I was given my first project as design lead.

The Client and konnectus had already worked through several projects together, having one last one to design before our contract had been fully complete. “Just letting you know, I think this one is going to be a tough one”, the director had forewarned me. I was confused, I was under the impression this one would be a cinch given we had other sites I could base the design off with a very responsive AV point of contact at the Client. Attending one construction meeting, it had become abundantly clear why this one was going to be tricky.

The builder had priced the project lower than cost to win it and was charging every variation under the sun to make his money back. I was taught certain etiquette when responding to emails, ensuring we always CC in the project manager and Client; address all points raised, even if we doing have an immediate answer, to say we’ll get back to them; and to always provide at least a response within 24 hours. After some correspondence, the builder quickly grew aware of this and buried me in emails. Me, not wanting to look incompetent on my first project would burn hours outside of work to respond on them, complete with graphs and drawings to assist the points raised. After a few weeks of the barrage, I began to slip and the responses were coming back slower than they were coming in.

Strike One

In retrospect I should’ve thrown my hand up and called for a meeting to address all the points raised by the builder in one hit, with all the decision makers in one room; or at least asked for help internally instead of staying silent and consistently ploughing on it alone. I suppose that’s what the difference is between your first project and a few years of experience. The builder consistently stopped works invoking they were awaiting a response from the AV Consultant, allowing the delivery date to consistently push. Suffice to say the complaints from the builder had mounted and the project handover date slipping had eventuated in a threat to terminate contract from the Project Manager.

I was devastated.

All the hours burned, all the energy spent on this project. I was being outdone by this builder and he was winning. It was here that I learnt that regardless of my best efforts, the reason the builder was looked on favourably by the Project Manager despite consistently attempting to ween the Client out of more money was because at every juncture he was communicating better than me. It was here at 10pm on another arbitrary Wednesday that I sent an email to everyone to organise a meeting to sort the outstanding items.

Lessons learned

I think it’s easy when face with adversity to want to just work harder, oftentimes I’ve found it’s communication that will often be the best way to mitigate issues. That the single biggest problem with communication is the unfounded belief that it has already taken place. Additionally, whilst every engineering discipline requires a great deal of communication, one could argue that the technology related discipline require a higher than average amount of co-ordination with the Client than the other disciplines.

The expectations of a mechanical engineer is to ensure the room temperature is 21 degrees Celsius, how they do that is somewhat moot to the en user. Contrastingly, the expectation of an AV Engineer is to make sure the AV design integrates seamlessly with the corporate fleet of devices, touch panels are easy to use, audio quality of video calls are optimised, speaker coverages are uniform etc. And even when all of those things are done right, we need to find a way consistently determine what the Client actually needs. You get that wrong and you’ve wasted the Client’s money.

(See my previous article on finding a consultant who understands people and not technology.)

What does any of this have to do with AV? In high co-ordination disciplines like AV, it’s important to find a consultant that communicates well not only to project managers and other disciplines, but to the Clients too.

Communication is essentially in any construction project. Successful communication can turn a bad situation into a good one, much like the builder on my first project scratching tooth and nail to turn his build into a profitable one. More importantly though, it can turn good outcomes into great ones; such as creating interactive and collaborative environments that staff enjoy using, or connect different departments separately geographically to utilise each other’s resources for innovative outcomes.