Still Holding A Grudge?
Animosity between consultants and integrators used to be a stereotype. Times have changed, but the change isn't yet universal.
One thing that perpetuates what amounts to prejudice on the integrators' part is this seemingly obvious, but often unacknowledged, reality: Integrators may not need consultants, but consultants need integrators. By definition, independent consultants don't sell and integrate systems, so an integrator will get the job eventually. Yet this isn't always acknowledged or understood, and is even disputed in the industry.
I recently witnessed a presentation directed at integrators that stated “If the consultant gets there first, you've lost the job.” Say what? The irony there is that quite the opposite is true: If the integrator “gets there first,” the consultant has definitely lost the job. As for the integrator losing out, that would only be true if the integrator wasn't qualified to do the work, or perhaps chose not to do consultant bid projects. Otherwise, the integrator still has a shot at it.
It's one thing to create a competitive atmosphere based on facts and comparable AV providers (i.e., integrators competing with integrators or independent consultants competing with independent consultants). It's another to create competition and adversity based on misconceptions (i.e., integrators “losing” to consultants, or integrator-based consultants marketing as “independent”). Hence the best practice recommendation: The owner or architect first determines the appropriate method to use for an AV system implementation (design-bid-build or design-build), and then finds an appropriate, qualified AV provider to begin the process.
Bottom line? Consultants aren't the enemy, and neither are integrators. Consultants have good work for integrators to do. Sometimes these are more mundane long-term projects, but often they're interesting and challenging projects that stretch the technology to the limit. Consultants often have big jobs that include multimillion-dollar projects. And, if we're all doing things right, consultants have work that's — believe it or not — profitable for both consultants and integrators. And consultants need good integrators. It's that simple.
Integrators get good design-build work on their own, too. And it's certainly irrational to believe that integrators shouldn't do design-build work at all. The key is that both integrators and consultants should be doing good work, both in the project process and in the technical implementation of pro AV. That makes for good relationships between consultants and integrators, as well as between AV providers and AV owners. In the good relationships that I know of, consultants and integrators work together and pass project referrals back and forth. This is the way it should be.
Are there still grudges in today's pro AV industry? Yes, but hopefully fewer than in the past. And where there's resentment, at least let's hope that it's based on facts rather than fiction.
Tim Cape is a contributing editor for Pro AV, the principal consultant for Atlanta-based technology consulting firm Technitect LLC, and co-author of “AV Best Practices,” published by InfoComm International. He's the current chairman of InfoComm's ICAT consultant's council, and an instructor and presenter in AV technology design and management. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.