I’ve been around AV for the last 15 years and have worked for residential and commercial integrators as well as AV manufacturers. There has been a lot of change in that time, and most agree that the days of selling little black mystery boxes for 60 points margin are all but gone. In fact, many end users don’t even want to discuss the technology at all, they just want to know what the User Experience (UX) will be like.
Most large companies are making their technology decisions, not on tech specs and manufacturer history and credibility, but rather on workflow and user experience. You can’t really blame them, as their end goal is to make doing business easier, more efficient and more profitable. They just want to work, they don’t want to learn how to use and manage technology. There is a great opportunity there for the integrator community and some are adapting to it better than others.
With that, it seems that UX may be the new Holy Grail that King Arthur the End User is searching for, enlisting the Knights of Integration along the way to help him find it. However, Arthur and his noble Knights encounter several archetypes in the AV hardware and software landscape as they traverse across Mercia.
Arthur comes in announcing his quest for an easy user experience and equates what he is looking for to something like an iPad. Then the logicians go to work!
“What also floats in water? A duck! So if she weighs the same as a duck then she’s a witch!”
They immediately go about creating an app for the iPad to provide a “new” user experience. Never mind that the ‘app” looks exactly the same as the interface on the old touch panels. It’s on an iPad so it’s new right?
Here’s a secret, putting a version of your old software on an iPad doesn’t change or enhance the user experience. Arthur doesn’t want an iPad for the sake of an iPad, he wants an intuitive out of the box user experience that is universally understood, easily learned and customizable (not custom).
Beware the logicians. They are on the wrong witch hunt.
The Knights Who Say Ni!
These Knights intimidate Arthur and his Knights by denying them passage into their land, yelling at them in a language they don’t understand but somehow fear and demanding they go on a wild goose chase to fetch items that seem irrelevant.
“Bring me a shrubbery! “
Arthur tries to appease them and even tries to intimidate others with their same language to no avail. He comes back and ends up beating them with a single word.
If you are a control company that says “Ni” and asks end users for information that only serves your purposes of pushing legacy hardware and software but does not aid them on their own quest to find the Holy UX, then you may also find yourself defeated by the same word some day. “IT.”
The Black Knight
The Black Knight is the most well known and respected warrior in the kingdom. Arthur and his Knights approach him humbly singing his praises and recounting his victories and then ask him to join them in the quest for the Holy UX.
The Black Knight is stoic. He wants no part of their quest, nor will he let them go around him to continue.
“None shall pass.”
The Black Knight believes “I’m Invincible!” and forces Arthur into a duel. Arthur systematically dissects his foe, begging him to forfeit at each turn, but the knight will not concede he is being hurt. Arthur finally cuts off all of his limbs, leaving him without a leg to stand on and continuing his quest.
At the end of the day, Arthur ends up at the wall of a fortress, being taunted by a French knight atop the wall. Every time he asks about the Holy UX, he is told that his “mother was a hamster” and his “father smelt of elderberries.” No one in the KIngdom was interested in helping him at all. It was as if he was running around inside an insane asylum…
Are there holes in my analogies between an end users quest for a great UX and Monty Python’s classic comedy? Sure there are. But there are a lot of truths buried in there too.
The job of an integrator is to champion their king, the customer, to deliver the technology user experience they desire. Many times in the past, due to connectivity issues, wiring limitations, etc., that experience was just not possible. However, in today’s world of programming, graphics, wireless connectivity and digital signals, it is no longer the technology that is holding integrators back.
So, what type of companies should integrators look to for help in their quest?
The companies that deliver the next level UX end users are looking for will listen to end users needs and their concerns and be willing to look at solutions to these problems, not through the legacy of products from the past, but with fresh eyes. Too many times companies let their past investments define their investment in the future.
Henry Ford arrived in a horse drawn carriage and left in a Model T.
New control companies are emerging but don’t have the presence or experience of the established players. Established companies should be asking themselves this question:
“If I was to start this company all over again today from scratch, what product would I develop?”
That decision should have everything to do with the current problem that needs to be solved and gap in the market, and not on what patents line their file cabinets or inventory sits on their shelves.
It will be interesting to see who breaks out and delivers the UX end users are begging for. Will it be a familiar name or will it be a new player in the market?