Integration firms looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis need to strategize for a corporate client base with re-prioritized technology demands.
As integration companies battle through a COVID-19-depleted market, there is much uncertainty about what the future of the integration industry holds. One feeling, however, has been consistent throughout NSCA’s countless conversations with integration firm leaders: Even when the integration market enters its reboot and recovery phase, the “new normal,” as it’s often called, will be different. Integration firm leaders must prepare to lead a different type of company under different work circumstances and address their customers’ changing needs.
NSCA’s “Future of the Integration Business” series offers insight from NSCA members and industry professionals to shed light on what the future holds.
Future of Corporate Market Solutions
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, every grandma and grandpa now knows what a Zoom call is. The ordeal has dramatically altered perceptions of videoconferencing, video collaboration and remote working for everyone. It has also transformed what customers will demand in terms of technology for their work environments as they return to them.
Those new customer priorities could help integrators fill their pipelines. “I think pent-up demand will create a rush of projects to get completed that were funded and slated for 2020 room builds,” says Tim Hennen, CTO at IVCi. “General contractors and customers will be on an expedited schedule to get projects back on track and make up for lost time.”
There will likely be an adjustment period as demand for corporate solutions change and perhaps slowly transition back to normal, according to the internal solutions team at Mechdyne Corporation. Even when the economy bounces back, perhaps driven by COVID-19 vaccine or treatment advances, customers are likely to move forward cautiously. In some ways, the market will be forever changed since organizations will want to be prepared for another health issue (which could include a recurrence of coronavirus).
At least in the short term, and as the corporate integration market recovers and reboots its way out of the COVID-19 crisis, several changes are expected. The following educated guesses come from representatives of NSCA’s Emerging Technologies Committee, including IVCi’s Hennen and VP of Business Development Daniel Abrams, as well as Mechdyne’s internal solutions team.
Take these predictions with a grain of salt; the COVID-19 crisis and recovery are always fluid.
Meeting Room Usage
Over the past several years, many corporate customers were focused on creating small-group collaboration spaces or huddle rooms. That, in many ways, fueled a strong corporate integration market. Going forward, however, corporate customers are likely to emphasize social distancing and may scale back on these spaces. Meeting rooms may become limited-use spaces if they’re used at all. Some former huddle rooms or even traditional meeting rooms will be converted to individual office spaces or “limited scrum rooms.” Other meeting rooms might even be converted to storage.
Rethinking Touch Control
Whether driven by fear, confusion, or genuine health concerns, shared spaces and the use of touchpanels are expected to be de-emphasized. Integration companies should explore contactless technologies, including occupancy sensors, voice control, wireless, and personal device (phone) control. It’s possible that corporate clients won’t even want their employees to touch light switches.
In-Demand Digital Signage
Companies will have a lot to communicate to employees and on-premise visitors. There will be instructions and reminders about how to maintain social distancing. As a result, corporate customers are likely to implement a digital signage communications strategy, which could lead to opportunities for integration companies.
There will be a new focus on real estate technologies with concentrations on air quality, density, contact tracing, sanitation enforcement, crowd control, and more. Integration companies should position themselves to provide these solutions.
Human and Activity Tracking
Corporate customers are entering a realm where it’s important to track the location of individuals, where they have been, and who have they come in contact with – as well as monitoring computer activity to ensure employees are on task and being productive. This has been done in the past, leveraging access control and keycard information to measure productivity – but it will now take on a mission-critical nature.
There will be a substantial increase in regular remote workforces and, one way or another, corporate customers will need technology in their offices to facilitate that communication. There will be much greater attention to resilient infrastructure for supporting remote users. That may even include in-home soundmasking or sound curtains to support remote employees who might not want to rely on headphones throughout the day. Even though meeting rooms will be reimagined, there will be an increase in the use of videoconferencing – punctuated by an expected decrease in corporate travel.