When working with both a consultant and a design/build integrator, you can’t take a hands-off approach. The more involved you are the better. It is up to you to manage how the two work together and how you work with them. Demand premier customer service. Here are six ways to get that.
1. Demand a close relationship with your consultant. Some consultants communicate better than others, says John Pfleiderer, an A/V designer and project coordinator for Cornell University.
“I naturally enjoy working with the ones that are keeping you in the loop as to what decisions are being made and what equipment choices are being considered.”
Pfleiderer likes a process where the consultant comes up with ideas and then bounces them off of him as the business owner’s representative.
“Typically they get it right, but there are certain equipment choices that we favor. We have certain brands that we have on board that have proved to be reliable,” he says.
2. Investigate the boilerplate room offered by the integrator—but be specific if it doesn’t meet your needs. Rod Andrewson, manager of Engineering at CCS Presentations, a design/build integrator, says his company found, especially with large clients, that it helps to present a standard for a room—a standard solution for a conference room, a standard solution for a cafeteria, etc. But he admits that clients should be proactive when it comes to their design.
There can be a tendency for an integrator to come into a situation and immediately start plugging in those boilerplates, Andrewson says.
“I’ve caught myself doing that and I’ve had my sales reps say, hey, listen to what they are saying,” he says.
3. Make sure you have the time budgeted if you are using a consultant, so you don’t have to rush through the process, leading to missed steps. “The length of the process, using a design consultant, takes much longer because they have to be involved in the project much sooner,” says Jay McArdle, lead engineer for Zeller Digital Innovations, a design/build integration company.
“As a design/builder I would love to be involved from the time that a design consultant is involved, but it takes a lot of time to do the needs assessment, send out a bid package and have people respond to the package. Then you have to send out addendums and review the bid documents to make sure that what you sent out on the bid documents is what you received on the proposal. This takes a lot of time,” he says.
4. Listen to the integrator about products. There is a difference between those products that are for home theater or for consumer use. “It relates to the CEO walking through Sam’s Club or Costco and seeing a 70-inch Sharp display for $900 and not understanding why we wouldn’t use that display over the $1,400 NEC professional monitor. [How are their capabilities different? Does it have all the latest connection ports, for example?] Why wouldn’t we use the cheapest one? It is a huge barrier for us,” says Andrewson.
When you chose an integrator with a good reputation, you should listen to the reasons for their recommendations.
5. Design for the long-term and not around a particular product. Often a product will catch your eye and you’ll want to create a solution around it. However, remember you are looking at refreshing that room in five or six years, says Randy Tritz, managing partner and branch manager for Shen Milsom, and Wilke, a consulting company.
“If they do that, they’ll probably have to do a forklift upgrade to the facility, put in new infrastructure and change the locations of things, because new products coming in require different cable paths, different cabling and different locations in the room,” he says.
6. Monitor the relationship between the consultant and the design/build integrator. If it becomes too adversarial, the chances of a positive outcome for your project may be endangered.