Survey Analysis: In-house Systems Install

More than 120 technology managers and directors responded to our questions about prevailing issues that affect the choices we make when planning to bring new learning spaces online. All respondents were directly involved in some aspect of learning space development (i.e. planning, design, procurement, project management, quality control, installation). As evidence of AV-1’s commitment to keeping surveys brief, the majority completed the survey in less than ten minutes.

What follows is our analysis of five key elements explored in the survey.

NUMBER OF ROOMS for each range of per-room equipment costs

The second question asked how many room-projects each of us is involved in this year (2011) as a function of their total equipment value.

I was surprised by the sheer volume of projects. For 2011 survey respondents will be involved in projects that include more than 2500 rooms cumulatively, with greater than $50M in total equipment value. That’s an average of 89 rooms a year. We are clearly part of a very prolific little corner of the audiovisual world.

Our work, however, does skew a bit towards smaller projects. About 60% of the rooms have a total value of $25K or less. Just over a quarter of our room-projects were valued at $10K or less.

Meanwhile, projects over $50K in value will only make up a paltry 16% of our involvement.

I know here at UCLA a high percentage of my projects end up in these lower categories also, doing quite a few incremental upgrades in the typical year. We choose more frequent small upgrade over fewer big upgrades. We find that it helps keep our systems a bit more uniform across campus. The smaller projects are also easier to schedule in between the classes that we typically dodge for all but a few weeks throughout the year.

The high number of small projects, however, raises some questions….

  • Do you also reside in this world of incremental upgrades? (At UCLA, we call it “bridge painting.”)
  • Are you regularly building out complete, new systems for those smaller dollar amounts?
  • Do you use one of the many “packaged” systems out there where many of the core AV system components come pre-kitted and ready to “drop in”?
  • Is it possible that the proliferation of these turn-key packages that we’ve seen in the last few years may be facilitating many of these smaller projects?

What PERCENTAGE are these projects of ALL learning space projects at your institution’s location?

With 80% of us being involved in all – or the majority – of classroom technology projects, we are clearly the go-to folks for learning technology at our respective institutions.

How has the QUANTITY of project-rooms that you have been directly involved in (i.e. your project workload) been trending from year to year?

This question revealed a surprising trend: almost 50% of the respondents are seeing our project workload increase, despite many of our budgets getting cut. This is good news certainly, but still perhaps a bit surprising given the state of the economy.
What could be behind this trend?

  • Is our workload going up as we are roll out technology to additional, previously untouched spaces?
  • Is our refit activity just catching up with us our systems age?
  • Are we actually moving work in-house that was previously farmed out to integration firms and consultants?

What do you see as the SINGLE BIGGEST OBSTACLE for increasing your involvement in learning space projects at your institution’s location?

To no one’s surprise, more than 50% of us said that budgetary issues are our biggest obstacle to getting involved in more projects.

While there is no magic formula to bringing in more money or people, would it be beneficial to explore ways to leverage our existing dollars and personnel?  I’m wondering, given the state of the economy and the various budget histrionics many of us have had to endure, if some of us have had to learn some new tricks to eke out the most bang for our limited buck. These were the choices:

  1. Budgetary. My department has insufficient resources (funds or personnel) to contribute these in-house services more broadly.
  2. Knowledge. Our skill set is insufficient to do the work.
  3. Competition. Other in-house service units dominate this market. [no one selected this cause]
  4. Political. There are dark forces plotting against us, thwarting our every move.
  5. Choice. Why bother when we can farm it out to contractors.
  6. The “other” option included some interesting comments….
    • “Educating folks on campus that our department can assist them and make the project better than if they try to do it on their own, or trust that it is just going to work right.”
    • “Properly managing outsourced suppliers.”
    • “Time: Since we don’t do installs every day we are not as fast as the contractors we use.”
    • “[Campus] ignorance of what we do.”
    • “[None.] We are totally involved.”
    • “Unwillingness of administration to see that installed technology requires staff to support it.”
    • “Staff preparedness to embrace.”
    • “[Lack of] knowledge of contemporary learning space design.”
    • “Budgetary but not our budget — those of the different departments we service.”

Chime in now!

Again, thank you for participating in this effort by sharing your thoughtful survey responses. I think that, when a larger number of people participate in AV-1 surveys, we can infer with greater confidence the commonality of experience across our community.  Now it’s your turn, once again: Tell us what you think. Chime in below and on the AV-1 list…

    • Do these results reflect what you have experienced?
    • Are there additional points that have been overlooked?

Greg Brown, CTS-D

One thought on “Survey Analysis: In-house Systems Install”

  1. The major difference we see in designing, installing and programming in house is the quality of the programming work. For instance, outside integrators quote a programming hourly rate per job normally and they do the minimal work to get the system running. They rely on us to make sure we can catch all of the punch items and errors, then we those problems fixed remotely. If our programmer is working on it, he might spend 3 or 4 days ensuring that all errors and glitches are removed, ensures all connectivity to RoomView is working, and adds in additional error checking, such as sync checks and auto off at midnight. Our programmer is not rushed and he is able to finalize a project without worrying about coming under budget.

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