Lessons Learned From infoComm 2017

Last week in Orlando, just one day before one of the largest commercial shows in the world, we had the privilege of being invited by Matt D. Scott to the ANVation studio and record ResiWeek podcast Episode 71. The topic of discussion surrounded the content we, the residential guys, could obtain from infoComm albeit a commercially-centered congregation.

After the podcast recorded we went down to the show floor and instantly detected an unfamiliar atmosphere: Both exhibitors and attendees were quite solemn. They did not seem to have as much fun as we do in our residential industry shows. One reason was the immense pressure bearing down on them being a great deal more burdensome than what we have felt. In the residential industry, if Mr. Smith is unable watch TV for one entire week, he does not have grounds to sue you and, save for the fact that he is pissed off, there is no tangible prejudice. In the commercial industry, if a sports bar goes without a TV signal for straight 2 days, your customer's prejudice is clear: You just lost him tons of money.

Let's see some forms of best practice set up in order to maximize the way they work: 1) They do their best to use only one brand and one particular set of gear. Even if it is a little boring to install, even if sometimes the gears could seem a little outdated - as long as it works and it is reliable - they complete all jobs the same way. As everything is as standardized as possible, they can replicate it quickly, efficiently, and pretty much with their eyes closed. They don't need a big inventory of spare parts and they don't need 100 different manufacturers training. And, of course, as every job is documented any team members can go to any job if there is need for an intervention. In our residential industry, we find it fun to jump from one vendor to another simply for the pleasure of getting our hands on every single new toy.

2) Because of the level of responsibility and the potential prejudice in case of a problem, they will never overstep their bounds in regard to categories they have not trained, certified people and mastered completely. If they do not know how to handle network they will form a partnership with a specialist.

3) They can't take any risk to wait until something breaks, so they schedule a set of yearly interventions to preemptively check the system. Remote supervision is utilized and every job comes with a maintenance contract. The definition of a maintenance contract is to “maintain” the job operational and up-to-date, even if everything works properly. In addition, there is a service contract just in case something suddenly stops working in between two scheduled interventions.

4) They take time to get certifications and engage as much training as possible. Of course, a commercial integrator has more employees, so they can send one or two guys for 3 days to a manufacturer training without great disruption to the job's delivery schedule. (We'll see just in a few seconds what the secret is to grow their company)

The incredible benefit of those best practices is when they mix up standardization and maintenance, the commercial industry can play into a whole different level of fun that we cannot even touch (for the moment) in residential. Certain system integrator can sort of sell their maintenance contract to other companies. In fact, some companies specialize in doing the job, some specialize in service and maintenance, while others just focus on remote support using call centers. Can we imagine what this could mean for our residential industry if we start to work this way? But this can only happen if you reach a level of standardization and documentation of all jobs completed; something CEDIA tried to teach us for decades and yet we still struggle to follow. The commercial industry seems to have fun making money, meanwhile in the residential industry, we have fun playing with new gears. Two very different but very respectable concepts, indeed.

In our residential industry, we know a few companies (if you are aware of others, please let us know) that try to help Home Technologists reach the same level as commercial jobs. OneVision Resources will help you with standardization, service, and maintenance, as well as handle all of your support remotely. Access Network and WhyReboot are dedicated to delivering a solid network infrastructure to Home Technologists. It isn't difficult to see hundreds of companies like these sprouting up all over.

One of the reasons we, the residential guys, should be wary of the best practices in used in the commercial market is the fact that we are about to (it's already in use) share the same pressures with our own clients. We deliver a connected house that needs internet not only for browsing on the web, but for TV, security, home automation, gaming, self-hosting services, and health, along with a myriad of other uses. Giving older adults the opportunity to stay in their homes rather than a nursing home, is just one example. If we do not do our job correctly, the whole house stops working - resulting in consequences that can take the prejudice to a whole different level.