No matter where you live within the AV ecosystem, chances are a big part of your job is studying up on the latest technology. After all, if you’re going to offer your customers a compelling solution, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of technical innovation that’s continuously happening throughout our industry.
Traditionally, this burden to self-educate falls disproportionately on systems integrators and other technical consultants — these are the wizards whose job it is to know precisely the right mix of hardware and software to weave together to deliver on what customers are asking for. In fact, much of their value is derived from their wealth of industry knowledge earned over the course of many years of successful research and execution. This model worked well for many years, but I believe hardware manufacturers and CMS providers should take a more active role in providing educational opportunities to integrators and technical consultants.
Sharing the educational burden more equally means all of us across the industry need to change the way we bring products to market. It’s no longer adequate to develop a new solution and release it into the wild with little to no educational support. The market is too crowded, and the competition is too fierce. We need a more collaborative approach. But where to start?
True collaboration starts months (if not years) before a new product ever sees the light of day. Developing new products in an internally focused vacuum runs the risk of learning key insights after it’s too late. To glean insight early enough in the process to course-correct and perfect your offering, invite trusted industry partners into the product development process. For example, we routinely survey many of our closest CMS partners throughout the design and engineering process to validate feature sets and understand functionality that’s most important to them. This practice has become an increasingly important part of our product development cycle. Not only does it ensure we bring the very best products to market, but we bring those products to market with much greater confidence that the hardware we build will be embraced by the CMS community at large.
Still, the most significant educational hurdles exist after a product ships — which is why we feel it’s important to offer a range of opportunities to educate our industry partners. (For example, our BrightSign Academy is a longstanding curriculum we’ve offered to existing and prospective reseller partners. It’s a rigorous set of courses that, once completed, pave the way for participants to become authorized BrightSign resellers. We’ve also started something called BrightSign Live, a growing library of one-hour instructional videos we host on Vimeo.)
To bring this back to my original idea, we — the companies that build the hardware and software that underpin the AV ecosystem — need to do more to proactively educate our partners across the industry. We’re more interconnected than ever before, and in many ways, our collective success hinges on our ability to find new ways to collaborate and share best practices with one another.