You can’t find a trade magazine that doesn’t have an article supporting the idea that IT either has, or will become, a big part of your technical expertise. Many leading industry experts all agree that the seamless integration of AV, security, life safety, signage, building automation and other systems will become an application on the network.
But should this discussion only be a technical debate? I don’t think so. I wrote an article last year where I challenged our members to envision how they can control the account if they don’t control the network. I think that equally as important to the technical expertise is asking ourselves if we are really doing the customer a favor by providing more of the network, or if we should focus on being the best at these applications.
Here’s the big question…by providing the servers, network security, firewalls, routers, etc., do you add more value, or do you add more confusion and conflict within the companies IT department. This is a split decision when I go out and speak with our members. I also ask who knows that they make money by supplying the servers. So far no one, but I get why they do it.
I bet we end up in a few years with a bunch of very savvy IT folks in our industry and precious few pure electronic security experts, few video and/or pure audio experts. Going digital has a way of taking the art and science out of the value proposition. Our challenge is to not let this happen to us, but instead apply a strategic plan that evaluates what customers want and need from us to the integration of IT within our system offerings.
I generally believe that if your customers can buy something at the same price as you can that you should let them. It removes the liability of warranty repair, shipping, disposal, etc. So we may be faced with more low/no margin sales when becoming a complete IT enabled company. In that case, you can’t give away any labor, nor can you keep the rates the same as if the product transaction included your standard mark up.
Taking this all into consideration then, I would encourage you to really think through the business aspects of being a full IT integration provider and have the financial model determine the priority. This isn’t just a matter of technical expertise. CW