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AV in the Government and Military Markets

Aug 27, 2010 10:30 AM, Provided By InfoComm International


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AV consultants and integrators who are familiar with business practices in the corporate, education, or house of worship markets may find themselves adrift when it comes to working with the U.S. government market. Working with the government or any branches of the U.S. military requires a significant commitment by the AV practitioner to learn the cultural differences and technical hurdles presented by this vertical market.

While sharing attributes similar to the corporate and education markets, government and military clients may seem very difficult to understand. AV consultants and integrators who serve this specialized client base do so after careful study, intensive investment in staff and expertise, and partnering with prime contractors who handle much of the government’s technology projects.

LEARN THE MARKET

“The biggest mistake that new integrators make when dealing with the government is that they fail to understand the government agency’s mission,” says Michele Ferreira, vice president of sales and marketing for Audio Video Systems (AVS) in Chantilly, Va. She explains that a military client may have an educational focus similar to the higher education market, may need a command and control system similar to a corporate boardroom, or may need new technology in their secure broadcast network facility.

“I would have to say an integrator’s biggest mistake is misunderstanding the military culture,” says Gary Hall, CTS-D, CTS-I, strategic account manager for the National Programs Operation at Cisco Systems. “It is pretty easy for military acquisitions people to spot someone who has no idea what their mission is or how their contracting operations work. It is best to spend a lot of time learning about the specific mission requirements, particulars of military contracting, and understanding hierarchies and relationships before attempting to win business.”

Government and military requirements are very specific, and for good reason. AV technology plays an important role in mission critical communications, so the firms chosen to design and install these systems must demonstrate knowledge of the environment, as well as knowledge of the technology. “You must convey that you understand the purpose; not the technology,” says Barry Goldin, vice president of operations at AVS. “The differentiator is experience in secure environments, and knowledge of how the government’s procurement process operates.”

Ferreira explains that the government purchases equipment via the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and vendors, such as AV integrators and manufacturers, must establish pricing that is more competitive than commercial pricing, which is then listed on the GSA site. “There is price and margin erosion in the government market because some manufacturers list directly, which sets a very low price point,” she says.

Another difference in the government and military markets is that the end-user and the procurement officer aren’t always the same person. “Sometimes you are dealing with a specific office or organization within the government agency for procurement,” says Edwin Morman, CTS-D, CTS-I, audiovisual design engineer for General Dynamics IT and an embedded consultant with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “The biggest mistake is not identifying the key players and decision makers in the organization.”

GET THE RIGHT CERTIFICATIONS

As unified communications and Web 2.0 begin to push more AV requirements into the military community, Hall believes that AV certifications will rise in importance over the next several years. “Military contracting officers, program managers, and acquisitions professionals are putting an increased emphasis on technical qualifications which has the potential to drive up demand for AV certifications,” he says.

And while there is no direct correlation to a technical certification and federal government security clearance, certifications like the Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) from InfoComm are large parts of the procurement conversation when it comes to the level of people specified to work on a project. “We must continue to drive the development of AV standards and increase certification adoption within the AV community,” Goldin adds.

This is excerpted from InfoComm International’s special report, AV in the Government and Military Markets. To read the report in its entirety, please visit www.infocomm.org/specialreports.



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