Posted by Gabe Solomon on Sep 27, 2016 7:30:00 AM
AV companies face an interesting dilemma in 2016: companies in industries all around them are adopting SaaS tools to optimize their projects and workloads while gaining better efficiency, while AV companies themselves struggle to find a SaaS solution that can fit their processes well enough to merit a switch from the disjointed project management tools they’ve used for decades.
As AV-specific project management tools, like Mertzcrew, emerge, AV companies must decide whether a switch is the best strategy for their company or if sticking with emails, spreadsheets, and phone calls to schedule and manage AV projects is worth holding onto.
Wallace Johnson, 15 year veteran to the AV space gives us his professional insights on the question on top of every AV company’s mind: Will SaaS tools really help my AV company save time and money, or are they just another cookie-cutter solution that won’t meet our needs and will take more time to learn than they save?
1. Between scheduling and managing crews, AV teams have a lot of deliverables to stay on top of. What are some of the biggest time-suckers involved in coordinating AV projects?
The time suckers are the collection of details and constant communication of those details. Since most of the coordination is happening via email and text operations, teams are constantly transferring data from one system to another to keep all involved up to date.
2. Are there any particular areas of an AV project that tend to be the most bogged down by inefficiencies?
The communication process is one area that tends to get bogged down by inefficiencies just because most are still using isolated solutions like emails, text and phone calls and having to update others involved in the project with those details.
3. How much time do you think is eaten up by jumping around between emails, calls, and project management tools?
The time consumption really depends on the type of project and the size of the project. In regards to types Install projects are probably the most time consuming when it comes to the use of communication and planning tools mainly because the time span those projects run.
4. What opportunities or solutions can AV teams use to address these inefficiencies?
Adding a cloud based tool to an organization is the best way to maximize productivity. Everyone that’s involved in projects no longer sits in the same office or works the same schedules, so you have to have tools and systems in place that maximize collaboration and keeps everyone on the same page as instantaneously as possible.
5. Has the AV industry been slow to adopt SaaS tools for AV project and crew management? Why do you think that is?
I think yes but it has mainly been because the right tools have not been out there and the good tools don’t have the right resources to support companies on the best practices of implementation.
6. Without a project management tool to centralize crew schedules, conversations, project details and more, how challenging is it for AV companies to keep their teams and crews in-the-loop?
It’s extremely challenging. Many companies hire coordinators who spend their entire workdays collecting and updating multiple systems to make this happen.
7. That’s a lot of resources devoted to one process. What other coordination process improvements do AV companies realize after implementing an online project management tool that emails, spreadsheets, couldn’t give them?
Companies become better communicators, they understand workload management, they become better organized and most build standard practices around the platforms to make their organization more consistent in how they deliver. The data they can get from these systems also makes them smarter about how their managing projects.
8. When a SaaS product is introduced, what areas of the AV crew and project management process typically stand out as having realized the biggest time reductions?
Communication sees a big impact of time reductions. Less has to be regurgitated or translated and so in the end it should reduce the need for the number of meetings that may otherwise be happening. The other area of significance is reporting. The data you can consolidate and get from using a central cloud based system can save hundreds if not thousands of hours depending on the size of your organization.
9. Do most AV companies you talk to think the tradeoff of all of this reclaimed time is worth the learning curve of adjusting to a new tool?
Yes, if it is the right tool. Most are struggling to find the right tool for their workflow to replace the existing tools tools in their process.
10. Do you think there’s a middle ground where AV companies can find a SaaS tool that doesn’t take long to learn and addresses some of their biggest crew management issues?
To reach a middle ground there has to be a certain element of sacrifice. While they may not always be efficient, most companies view their current process as working. So if they're looking to make a switch to a SaaS solution they have to gain a benefit/value they don’t currently have or can easily attain with their existing tools while not losing functionality that’s critical to their workflow.
11. What does the ROI of introducing a SaaS product to an AV operation look like?
Time, benefits and information are the 3 key ROI factors that only the company can answer.
How much time did the product save them in their existing workflow? What benefits do they gain from the time savings and how important are these benefits to the organization? Lastly what new information can they learn and how can they use that information to improve the organization?
12. What would you say is the most important thing to remember when selecting a SaaS product to introduce into an AV crew management process?
Be open minded. Most view their process as not being broken and are very comfortable in how they currently do things. So when they look at SaaS product they go in trying to make things the exact same way they currently do things. At the end of the day, the product should be able to make your existing process more efficient and be able to give you additional features that you currently don’t have that, in result, will make you more knowledgeable about what you're doing.
13. SaaS has already revolutionized a variety of industries -- we’ve seen it in apps, tech, marketing and more. Do you think it will eventually become the norm in the AV industry as well?
We're getting there. Outside of the uniqueness of how an AV company can use technology (which involves a lot of smart people), process is probably the next biggest unique identifier of an organization. Since companies generally build their process around the tools and resources they have to implement and manage it, it becomes even more important that the SaaS product (and the company behind it) understands that and have the ability to adapt to various process environments. We’re not a cookie cutter industry when it comes to how we do what we do and that has been the biggest challenge for SaaS providers in AV.