There are questions any organization undertaking a new A/V project must face: How do we compress a timeline? How do we reduce fees? How do we get the most for our money?
Major changes are afoot to answer these questions. Those changes require a reinvention of the traditional ways of doing A/V business. One that is less adversarial and one that you need to make sure is beneficial to you.
“What we’re seeing in the industry now is something different. What we’re seeing is that some [consultants] are actually pairing with design/build firms and approaching the client as a team,” says Randy Tritz, managing partner and branch manager of the Shem, Milsom and Wilke consulting firm.
This trend is something larger integrators are eager to take part in.
“We really needed to reach out and have direct relationships with consultants. We’re not the only audio/visual company doing this,” says Rod Andrewson, manager of Engineering for CCS Presentations.
“It wasn’t that way [before this trend]. Consultants didn’t want to seem biased toward one integrator, because typically you might have three or more integrators bidding on a project. They also didn’t want to seem biased toward a vendor, because one integrator might only use one type of control system product or one type of display product,” he says
One of the things that have changed in the last five years is that a lot of the barriers about conflicts of interest have been pushed away. It really does benefit when consultants and design/build integrators put their heads together and come up the same conclusions about the direction a project should take rather than bumping heads, Andrewson says.
This new paradigm is called “design for build” rather than “design for bid,” according to Tritz.
The new approach changes the way design documents are created and improves the way relationships are managed, but it should not change the contracting process, says Tritz.
The client issues contracts to both firms independently. The separate contracts assure the independence of the consultant, he says.
“We do not, cannot, will not have a connection, physical or financial, to the [integrator], because that places in jeopardy our role, which is to protect the client,” Tritz says.
The consultant firm still develops the documents, manages the project, and makes sure the project is completed the way it was conceived, he says.
The consultant develops documents that are not carried through to the level of being bidable.
“They are carried through to the level of what we call ‘bridging documents’ so the design is developed to the point where it is handed off to the integrator who then continues to build the system,” says Tritz.
This is done rather than developing a fully developed package, putting it on the street for bidding for several weeks, discerning which package is actually the best result and then awarding the project.
Will this new model pave the way towards smoother, speedier installs? That remains to be seen. But a new way of working can help, says Andrewson.
“There is nothing worse than having a rotten relationship with a consultant on a really important project. Because in those kinds of circumstances what makes perfect sense just gets thrown out the window just because one side or the other doesn’t like somebody,” he says.