Why Does It Cost So Much?
Why does it cost so much? That is a statement I am sure we all have heard. We take the time to design an AV system, based around our standards, and the client replies with those words. Then they start to pick apart our work saying things like ‘I can go to the big box store and get a display way cheaper than this’, ‘do we really need this device?’, etc.. Lately I have been thinking about why this is. Why do users reach out to SMEs and then are not happy with what is suggested? I may never have the answer to the why but I do have some theories.
I am sure we all have been in project meetings where cost is being reviewed and valued engineering is being done. One area that does not seem to get questioned is the cost of the infrastructure. Just like there is consumer and enterprise AV equipment there is also consumer and enterprise infrastructure equipment. The cost between the consumer and enterprise range just like our AV equipment. For example an enterprise 48-port Cisco switch can cost about $2,500 but a 48-port switch found at one of the big box stores could cost $200. Beside the hardware some of the equipment also require additional software cost and then we need to add in the cost of running the cables. All of these costs can quickly add up on a simple infrastructure project but no one seems to question the cost when it comes to infrastructure. So why don’t clients ask ‘why does it cost so much?' or say ‘I can get that cheaper somewhere else” like they do without AV equipment?
I have three theory for why our clients do not question the cost of the infrastructure:
Infrastructure has become a part of our everyday lives. We are on the network all the time. We use share drives to share files, we use chat services to talk with team members, we even have email that we are checking every moment of the day. If the network goes down business seems to stop. This has led our clients to rely on the network to be up at all costs.
Security is another part that leads to our clients just accepting the cost. Everyday we are reminded of the importance of security. The news is talking about hacks, phisers, spammers, and cyber crimes. TV shows and movies are full of these situations as well. We can’t go one day without seeing something related to the network and security. This keeps the importance of the network and high quality equipment in the back of our minds every day. Even if the client isn’t consciously aware of it, this information plays in their decision when it comes to pricing equipment. We all know that the more the equipment cost, the better the security must be; yes I am being sarcastic.
- Education is the last aspect of my theory. What I mean by this is our users are not educated on the network equipment but they just know it's important to their lives. They don't even have the limited knowledge of setting up a network in their homes. Most of our users just have their ISP equipment installed and that is it.
How to apply this to AV?
How can we get our clients to understand the importance of using the proper equipment just like they do when it comes to the infrastructure? Taking the three theories from above here is how we can have our clients see the importance.
We need to show our clients that AV is everywhere and just as important as the infrastructure. It is our phones, our computer monitors, the displays in conference rooms, etc.. AV is already part of our daily lives but our clients do not register it like they do the network. Also most of the AV we deal with is limited to personal use. For example, say if the conference room goes down we can still communicate by using our phone or continue their meeting without the AV. Let's even look at a classroom. If the equipment, in a classroom, goes down the professor can still provide their information. Maybe they can’t show pictures or slides but they can still talk outloud. With that alone the user does not realize how important the AV is to our lives as business does not come to a stop like if the network goes down.
Security is an aspect of AV that is just starting to be taken seriously in the field. This means that it has not gotten to our clients just yet. When they hear about security they don’t understand why anyone would want to attack the AV system. We need to educate our clients that our AV equipment is just another endpoint device on the network. Just like we need good security on our network equipment, we need good security on our AV equipment. Right now AV equipment is becoming the low-hanging fruit when it comes to security.
- Education on AV equipment is something our users have a little knowledge on. I am not saying they understand fully what it takes to design an AV system. What I am saying is they take time to do research on what TV they want in their homes, what camera they want to take pictures/videos with, what video/streaming player they want to use, etc... Now this education they have is limited as it comes down to personal preference. They have bias for brand name, bias on what looks good to them, and what works for them. They don’t connect that our design is not set for one person but for the masses. They just know ‘well my TV at home didn’t cost this much and works just fine for me’.
We will never get to a point that our designs and suggested equipment are not questioned but we can educate our users how it is important just like all other aspects of IT. We first need to get everyone on the same page. As long as our clients are using their personal bias about AV we can not move the discussion in the right direction. We need to have them step out of their personal preference and personal bias to understand where we are coming from. We need to help them understand that we have the same goal as they do. We also need to show them that we are being good stewards for the business.