Archive | June, 2013

Technology Leadership Series: Introduction

Today I’m beginning a multiple part series on what makes a successful CIO. I’m hoping to explore, in dpeth, the individual personality factors and job responsibilities required to succeed in technology leadership. Whether you find yourself in the role of CIO or CTO, or not, these traits can also be applied to successful leadership within your organization and especially on your team.

At no point in history have organizations so greatly relied on technology to connect them, make themselves more efficient, manage information systems and warehouse data like they do now. With this in mind, the role of the CIO is arguably more important now, than it has ever been. These decisions of a CIO will impact just about every department within an organization. CIO’s have to demonstrate business acumen, leadership and teambuilding skills; traits that extend beyond a keen understanding of technical systems and operations.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.


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Leadership, Technology

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My InfoComm Disappointments

Last week, I wrote about the best things I saw at InfoComm 2013. Today, the subject are a few duds, for me at least. These products aren’t necessarily poor products, but products that either are not fully ready for market, or not quite ready for any application of mine. It’s a short list, but it represents multiple manufacturers and vendors.

1. Enterprise level wireless display streaming

There are more than a few companies, AV or otherwise, offering solutions for “enterprise level” wireless desktop display. Some of the true AV heavyweights all the way to 802.11 wireless companies are offering software and hardware designed to allow users to wirelessly display their device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc) to projectors and flat panel displays. Obviously this represents a huge need in the AV market, specifically for me in Higher Education. Wireless display would be a huge boost for my conference rooms and boardrooms, since often these rooms don’t have any technology built into the existing tables. Unfortunately, the downside is these devices aren’t capable of handling high frame rate. Static content looks great, simple PowerPoint, SpreadSheets, word documents are exceptional. However, animation in powerpoint, youtube videos etc are all lacking at this time.

Exception: Barco Clickshare– Barco’s solution is great, it works well, handles higher frame rate than competitors; the only downside is for me it’s cost prohibited at an advertised price of $4900.00 per location.

2. Lampless Projectors

Managing technology in 100+ rooms across three campuses isn’t incredibly easy. Especially when dealing with projectors that are unmonitored, meaning they aren’t capable of reporting status or information back. I was really excited to see the evolution of lampless projection, this year, in hopes I could ditch my supply of extra lamps in favor of quality laser projectors. However, while there were more manufacturers and options this year for lampless projection, I was still incredibly underwhelmed. Great strides are being made in projectors to accommodate more ANSI lumen capabilities in a small chassis, however, the lampless projectors all seemed dim dull and lacking color profiles necessary to be useful in my applications. I’m really hoping to be able to migrate to lampless projectors one day, I’m just waiting for them to have more robust color, higher brightness and contrast and have crisper images.

What did you think? Were there any products or ideas that stood out at this year’s InfoComm that might not be “completely ready?”

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My Take: InfoComm’s Big Winners

InfoComm this year was a blur. Last year I did UBTech and InfoComm and felt like I had way too much free time. This year, to correct this, I decided to load up on meetings and stay as busy as possible to make the most of the InfoComm experience. I wrote a little, last week  about my time in the CTS prep class and subsequent test; and the inherent value of continuing education. I feel the best approach to the InfoComm experience is to balance a little better between the Show Floor Only mentality, and the Load Up on Meetings stance. This year’s InfoComm was the largest show on the east coast, and it was massive. Here are my top winners from this years’ show.

  1. 4K
    We all remember the incredible consumer demand centered around the introduction of 3d displays and projectors a few years back; this year’s big staple for all manufacturers was 4k. Unlike 3d, I think 4K/8K will enjoy far more stable demand in both the consumer and professional AV markets, especially once content beyond digital signage and computer generated signals become more prevalent. The caveat is, if this content doesn’t become readily available, 4k/8k will wind up serving a very niche market. In my opinion, the two winners for 4K at this years’ show was LG’s 84″ 4K monitor, and Christie’s 4k 60hz projector. I would love to own both these pieces, but have to wait until the cost comes down.
  2. MS Lync Integration
    Shortly before last year’s show in Las Vegas we began implementing Microsoft Lync; and I went to InfoComm looking for all the AV I could possibly integrate with Lync to enable it to be a full UCS for our campus. I was incredibly disappointed, and almost frustrated to find out there were no real AV appliances ready to integrate with Lync. Around that time, Vaddio released the Easy USB line of professional USB peripherals for computer based web conferencing: Webex, Skype, Google +, MS Lync etc. This product line represented a solution to a few of our problems at an affordable price point. This year, however, I was blown out of the water by Vaddio’s Huddle Station and Group Station integrated approach to computer based Web Meetings. I look forward to implementing this product line to address a number of needs we have in conference room video conferencing capabilities.Additionally, Crestron was a big winner in this space. They debuted the Crestron RL system designed to integrate Lync for professional Video conferencing. With solutions for single and multiple displays, and system control and automation, Crestron as made incredible strides to reaching the those using Lync. I’m really interested in seeing this product in action in a live demo.
  3. Cloud Conferencing
    Two years ago I was hopping on an elevator in my hotel to head to my room after a long day at the show; I noticed the group standing next to me all had red badge holders (exhibitors) and saw them eyeing my green badge holder (education customer) and my heart sank. I really didn’t know if I could handle another sales pitch, especially on an elevator with no escape or distraction. As it turned out these fine people were from a startup called Blue Jeans Networks, allowing users of different VTC systems to meet seamlessly in the cloud. Cloud Interoperability Providers represent a tremendous benefit for organizations with different methods of VTC to be able to connect with each other. This year there were several other key companies in this market. I look forward to seeing how cloud interoperability grows and becomes more affordable.

There were lots of other great things that I would love to buy and use, but aren’t great fits for my particular application requirements: Projection/Display mapping technologies, waterproof speakers, speakers that looked more like art than actual speakers and a host of fantastic other products. Sometimes I wish I could win some sort of AV lottery and just have all this great technology.

What were the three best things you saw at InfoComm?

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The Value of Continued Learning

I’ve worked in the audiovisual industry for the better part of a decade. Being experienced in higher education classroom A/V, pro sound, video editing and studio recording I thought I had a great grasp on all things A/V. After this week, however, I’ve come to find my grasp isn’t as tight as previously thought. Don’t get me wrong, my knowledge didn’t deteriorate, nor did everything I know become obsolete, methods and standards didn’t change over night either. Rather, I took a three day class on all things audio video in preparation for a certification exam. For three days I sat in a room with 40 or so people from various portions of the a/v industry in a multitude of vertical markets; for three days we shared stories, and complications that are both universal and also specific to certain verticals. 

My point is, though the information discussed wasn’t groundbreaking, or unfamiliar to me; the value in the experience is two fold- first, networking with fellow industry professionals, especially those from other vertical markets is invaluable. The second point is learning, and pursuing new ideas and information is absolutely vital to being successful. As I said previously, I didn’t lose any knowledge, but rather had my eyes opened to a lot of other opportunities for growth and learning that I had not previously considered. 

What do you think?

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Personal Development

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Five Tips to Delivering Outstanding Customer Service

Whether you’re in the rental/staging markets, home theater, enterprise level integrator or and IT Manager; offering superior customer service is imperative to the success of your organization. Customer Service is more than just responding to negative feedback, following up on customers’ needs and satisfying requests. Consistently excellent customer service is creating experiences for clients that cause them to become cheerleaders and advertisers for your business. There are five easy ways to create excellent customer service experiences, position your company to have repeat high dollar transactions and leave your organization well poised to be recommended by your clients.

1. Do What the Customer Doesn’t Expect

It’s common sense, and simple business etiquette to completely satisfy customers’ requests. Exceeding Customer expectations is what makes the difference. Having worked in higher-ed I’ve worked with multiple integrators and resellers, what stood out for me, are the little things. I hired an integrator to implement an AV design for an 11-classroom building, I created a detailed scope of work with highly specific requirements, I expected it to be filled. This integrator fulfilled each requirement and they also provided me with substantial information I didn’t request such as all pieces of equipment’s serial numbers, warranty date and estimated end of life date in a convenient, easy-to-read spreadsheet, and applied the asset tags I was going to have to add to each piece of equipment. This small, unrequested, task saved me a good number (20+) of hours in recording and inventory management. Though I didn’t specifically ask for this information the provision of it was incredibly valuable to me as a customer.

2. Be Honest with Your Customer, But Respectful

Joshua Stackhouse wrote an article recently with this as the first point; but it bears repeating. Customers and clients often have a vague or broad idea of what they want in their project. Clients may want the latest and greatest, while not knowing exactly how that will impact their environment. While I love to give my clients everything they ask for, especially if they have the budget to afford it; I can’t, in good conscious, recommend they move forward with anything that doesn’t fit in their existing environment. Exceeding customer expectations can mean considering the whole of the existing environment.

It’s also imperative to be honest with your clients when communicating expectations regarding timeframe. A few years ago, I designed a system, sent it out to bid and asked the integrators to provide a detailed timeframe for completion. The vendor I selected timeframe was XX days. Imagine my surprise when two weeks after XX days had passed and we were still going back on forth on systems not functioning as they were described in the scope of work. It is imperative, in order to deliver exceptional customer service, to complete projects on time, and to be honest about timeframes.

3. Communicate Quickly

In my experience, as a consultant and as a customer, returning correspondence or phone calls is best done promptly. Whether I’m fielding requests from a client or waiting on information from an integrator, communication needs to be quick. I’ve learned something as simple as returning a phone call or email with “I got your email, I’m working on another site today, but I’ll touch base with you first thing tomorrow.” Simple communication allows the customer to know their request was received, and provides them with a timeframe to hear back from you. Good communication skills and practices can cement a culture of exceptional customer service experiences

4. Support Your Existing Projects

One of the more interesting challenges I’ve had as a consultant is how to budget my time between new projects and supporting existing projects. The decision to support existing projects with an equal priority as bidding on new projects really helped me grow my business. At the time it seemed counterintuitive to make this decision, but it turned my existing customers into my best advertisers by providing service “above and beyond” what my customers expected.

5. Offer Your Client a “Test Drive”

As an integrator, if you’re designing a system for a client, offer to connect them with someone who has a similar system. Give your customers the options to connect with existing users and find out what they like and don’t like about their systems. This is a simple step, which goes a long way. The more information placed in the end-user’s hands the better. Equip your customers to make informed decisions, and they’ll become cheerleaders and advertisers for your business.

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Customer Service

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