InfoComm CTS is Nothing Like a Driver’s License or a PhD

Cable MenuMy last day of InfoComm was Friday June 15th, and on that day I sat down to do an InfoComm PodCast for RedBand Radio with industry consultant Chris Neto, industry veteran George Tucker, and industry tech manager Mike Brandes.

We talked about everything from show standouts, to questionable content, to Rock ‘em Sock’em Robots outside the local Denny’s in Orlando.  We also talked about CTS and industry education.

Anyone who knows my thoughts on InfoComm and the CTS program knows that I have some issues.  In fact, the second I started to interject my thoughts that day, Chris quickly said, “I know here this is going!”  In case you didn’t hear it, or know my stance, here is the brief summation:



According to InfoComm:

Certification is not a guarantee for performance by certified individuals. Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) holders at all levels of certification have demonstrated audiovisual knowledge and/or skills. Certified individuals adhere to the CTS Code of Ethics and Conduct and maintain their status through continued education.  

I have a problem with the first line, and this is where I think there is a TON of room for improvement.  I have been advocating for a client report card system where CTS firms are given a grade by clients, and a minimum grade is required to keep and promote CTS certification.

Chris and George disagreed somewhat, and gave me the following two analogies.  In the moment of the show, I didn’t have a good answer to combat their analogies.  However, on the flight home, in true Seinfeld fashion, the answer suddenly hit me, so I’m turning the car around to give my retort.

Sorry Chris and George, CTS is NOT like a Driver’s License or a PhD, and this is why.

The Driver’s License Analogy

Chris Neto offered that CTS was like a driver’s license.  It says you know how to drive, but doesn’t make you a good driver.  He also offered up that you wouldn’t want to retest for your license continually.

Let’s explore that a little.  A driver’s license is an actual requirement for driving.  It’s not just a knowledge base.  It is issued by the state and can be revoked or suspended as easy as it was given.  How does it get suspended or revoked?  When people prove repeatedly they don’t know how to drive.  For minor infractions you have a point system.  Too many minor infractions result in a suspended license.  Major violations can mean many points or immediate suspension or revocation.  Now if you get caught driving, you pay fines or go to jail.

Maybe CTS SHOULD BE like a driver’s license.  An issuing organization has the right to revoke anything that they give, and CTS could create a program that does exactly the same.  Cumulative or major performance issues would mean that you are no longer CTS certified.  They could keep a database and searchable website for customers to verify the current status of their potential integrator before hiring them.  This wouldn’t stop firms from doing AV work altogether, but it would allow CTS to have some reasonable guarantee of performance over time.

The PhD Analogy

George Tucker went on to say that CTS was a lot like a PhD.  A doctor may have a PhD, which says he graduated from college with the knowledge to be a doctor, but still go out and be a huckster selling snake oil.  It doesn’t mean that he still isn’t a PhD.  He added that the AMA may revoke their license to practice medicine, but the PhD would still stand.

Again, the major flaw here is that the AMA is the association that is issuing the license to practice medicine.  They are the “InfoComm” in this analogy, not the university issuing the PhD.  InfoComm promotes CTS to consultants and specifiers as a quality control mechanism and then sells CTS to integrators as an education and marketing tool to meet those qualifications, but then doesn’t offer a mechanism to control quality at all.  This is a cop out.  Instead they just put a line on the website that says:

Certification is not a guarantee for performance by certified individual.

Sure the initials would still stand, but my question is, “What good is a PhD if you are not permitted to practice medicine?”  People researching you would find you are not licensed to practice medicine, because you have proven that you are unable to do so reliably.  Sure you can keep the initials on your business card, but if you are caught giving medical advice or treatment, there will be some major repercussions.

If InfoComm is issuing CTS, then they have the right to revoke it, just like the AMA can pull a Doctor’s license.  Again a database of firms and their current InfoComm CTS status would cure much of what ails us.

At the end of the day, CTS is not a requirement to do business as an AV integrator and it never will be.  So the question becomes “What is InfoComm’s goal as an educational organization?”  There are really only two choices.

Is the goal to provide fee based education for a set of initials like CTS that vary in meaning from firm to firm and individual to individual?

Or is it to provide education that is valuable to the industry as a whole, by maintaining a standard of quality that gives those same CTS initials some real weight and marketable value for those who choose to spend their time, efforts, and money to achieve them?

If you think I’m crazy, ask why people at Cisco, Kramer, and many other are supporting the Association for Quality in AV (AQAV) initiatives that are out there.  Could it be that CTS needs a facelift and they don’t see InfoComm as interested in providing it?  Time will tell.

I’d love your thoughts in the comments below!