POV: Unifying Systems Integrators
Jun 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Matt Rubenstein
For more than a decade, there has been confusion over tracking the pricing of the large range of products commonly used by low-voltage systems integrators. Each integrator typically creates up to hundreds of spreadsheets in order to keep this critical information organized. Each document has its own format, and many hours are often lost in an attempt to reformat documents while collaborating with manufacturers and other AV companies.
Several years ago, InfoComm's Manufacturers Council decided to develop a Standard Pricing Format. Such a format would allow seamless import of product pricing and centralization of all products into a single spreadsheet. This would eliminate tedious and redundant formatting at thousands of companies and allow users to maintain, sort, and normalize data across all products in a single spreadsheet, instead of the multitude that are used today.
The project began as a formal action item at InfoComm's 2004 Fall Leadership Conference. Meetings were held throughout 2005 to discuss the details of the initiative and the elements that would be tracked in the standard pricing format. I volunteered to head up the subcommittee for this initiative, and created the first version of the Standard Pricing Format shortly thereafter. At InfoComm 05, we presented a draft format to the Manufacturers Council, which reviewed it and provided feedback at our next scheduled conference call. The next step was to present the format to InfoComm's Sound, AudioVisual and Video Integrators (SAVVI) Council as well as other member councils at the Fall Leadership Conference later in 2005, and it has been in beta testing ever since.
The Standard Pricing Format is a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Column headers identify the fields of information that most commonly describe the products used by low-voltage systems integrators. The format's goal is to identify and put in a logical order such basic descriptors as manufacturer, model number, part number, long and short product descriptions, cost levels, price levels, and other fields of information commonly used by the majority of manufacturers on their price sheets. Since the format is representative of what most manufacturers use on their individually created price sheets, an integrator can import and combine the many disparate price sheets into one master spreadsheet.
It is not the intent of the Standard Pricing Format to require manufacturers to replace their existing proprietary spreadsheets, but rather to add it to what they are already distributing as an additional sheet, populating it with their information as appropriate. They are invited to switch to this format and use it exclusively if they so choose. It is limited to information that is typically found on a price sheet, and intentionally excludes product specifications and other engineering information typically found on specification documents or “cut sheets.”
The Standard Pricing Format is designed to address all products used by low-voltage contractors. In developing it, we understood that some products require descriptions or group pricing that falls outside of this structure, but we believe this format will accommodate more than 80 percent of commonly used products.
Those of us who serve on the committee and others who have been involved are of the opinion that AV system integrators, low-voltage contractors, manufacturers, distributors, consultants, and anyone else that distributes, receives, or has to organize equipment price sheets will benefit from this organizational tool.
Planned for an InfoComm 06 release, the format is currently in early testing by a select group of SAVVI members. These top AV integrators include Advanced AV, AVI Midwest, Clark Powell, HB Communications, Integrated Media Systems, Mission Electronics, PSNI, Spinitar, and Sytex. The Standard Pricing Format is a glowing example of the intra-council collaboration that is made possible through InfoComm membership.
Once released, the Standard Pricing Format is expected to streamline existing business processes and provide a more efficient working environment for all electronic systems integrators. For more information on this project, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Rubenstein currently serves on InfoComm's Manufacturing Council, and is chair of its Subcommittee on Standard Pricing Format.
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