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Consultant Role Becomes Clearer

Recent data helps confirm how much consultants specify in the AV marketplace. The impact is clear, but the details are still a bit fuzzy.

The ICAT bid surveys

Now let's look at what the ICAT survey from the same time period found. In both the 2003 and 2004 ICAT surveys, the median output per consulting firm per year was around $7 million in integrated systems. Because this is the median rather than the average, the impact of a few larger firms is minimized.

The math I'm about to use is the fuzziest because we don't have a detailed and verified total count of independent AV consulting firms and their sizes, and the bid survey respondents may be less than random because they're InfoComm ICAT members. Nonetheless, based on the estimated 300 consulting firms, the amount specified by consultants around the time of the larger 2004 market study comes to around $2.1 billion.

This is somewhat lower, but still in line with the numbers from the market study figures. Based on the larger market study totals, this brings the low end of the range for consultant-specified AV down to 26 percent of the market, if it's a valid number.

In the 2006 ICAT bid survey, the median output per year from the respondent pool was $5 million per company, which would calculate out to around $1.5 billion in specified systems using the logic above. This figure tends to confirm the channel breakdown from the larger 2004 study, with the big question remaining of the actual integrated, non-box-sale market size. We should get some more specific data on this in the study's next update, which is due by early next year.

The ICAT surveys also offer more detailed information, and one promising trend is clearly indicated. It shows a move away from low-bid project awards and toward qualified bid awards from 2003 to 2006 — at least for consultant projects.

In 2003, less than a third of the bids reported were awarded in a qualified bid environment where integrators were pre-qualified and limited to a few, or awards were based on qualifications alone. In the 2006 survey, it's more than half. This is good news for consultants and integrators alike.

Clarity with a fuzzy edge

Whatever the bid method, it appears that with the available data we can safely say that consultants are probably specifying about a quarter of the North American integration market. This also jives with the perceptions of a few of the mainstream AV manufacturers. The planned update to the 2004 market study will hopefully help pin down the range a bit more.

It's interesting that some consultants feel like this is old news. My thought is that confirming our place in the market among both manufacturers and integrators — if not our own bankers — is important, and it may still be news to some of them, if not to us.

With more pro AV education and best practices available in the past few years, consultants' roles and their impact on the market (and everyone else's) are becoming clearer. These numbers further confirm our place in the market, but not yet with complete clarity.

“Knowledge…with clarity, it is beneficence,” wrote Austin Farrar. And more of both are on the way.

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

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