Five Questions Every Integrator Should Be Asking

For those of you who don’t know me well, I am pretty active in networking with other AV professionals, technology managers, designers, content producers, etc  If there is one thing most of them agree on, it’s that doing a proper needs analysis is the only way to assure that our systems meet all of our clients objectives and deliver a superior customer experience.

In my experience, most people ask a lot of questions about the space, the building, the construction schedule, and the types of technology that the client may need to buy in order to build a system.  The answers to these questions are then almost instantly translated internally into a list of parts and pieces from their preferred manufacturers, topped with a full scoop of labor hours and and smothered in some custom programming sauce.

Questions like what size display do you want? Do you need wireless microphones to go with your table microphones are questions supplementary to a needs analysis, and really should be asked later once the customers needs are communicated and established.  However, establishing those needs means entering into a deeper discovery with the customer about what they’re trying to accomplish, what they’re trying to overcome, and how they’re going to get there.

Here’s a secret.  No one buys technology They buy the benefit of what technology can do for them.

Given that, here are five major questions I think every Integrator should be asking early on in the discovery phase, as well as a quick reason that each one is important.

What is the financial impact of this room/space to your company if it doesn’t work well?

This question makes the client think about the importance of the space, it’s true purpose to the company, and the total investment they’re making in the space in general, creating a value proposition for technology as a small investment to realize that potential. (I just covered this in Selling AV #97 in more depth as well)

What has historically been your biggest challenge in communicating with each other?

This opens the door to all sorts of potential conversations around meetings, office vs. remote workers, training, communicating goals, internal communication on a production floor, noise levels, office layouts, etc.

How do you train your staff on how to use new spaces and technologies within your business?

If you want insight into where user adoption training, system handover, managed services, remote support, etc. may play a role in the solution for the client, this is a great place to start.

Has the increasing rate of change in business and technology had an impact on the way you do business in the last 5 years?

This answer can vary, but for most businesses it will be yes in some way. This allows you to develop a solution with the customer that not only fits today’s needs, but sets the stage for an ongoing partnership between your businesses to navigate the certain changes that will happen over the next few years as well.

What’s the average tenure of your current employees?

Inertia is one of the most underestimated things in business transformation.  A younger employee base may be more open to change or new ways of working in general but there are many progressive thinking employees across all demographics. The average tenure may tell you more than the age, as it will give some insight as to how long employees have worked in their current role/methodology. Habits can be hard to break, and the longer the habits have been in place, the more cadence the employee has built around them, the more we need to honor that inertia in any proposed solution and technology adoption plan.

Now these of course are not the only five questions someone needs to ask, and each one may beget several follow up questions or uncover other important ones that need to be answered as well.

However, adopting the mindset needed to ask these type of questions in the first place puts us in the head space needed to develop solutions and not design systems by reaching blindly into our grab bag of predestined parts and pieces.