How AV Teams Can Benefit From Fewer People Being In The Office Right Now

Use this time wisely.

During this time when all are concerned about keeping our families and colleagues safe , the current situation creates an unexpected opportunity. With many teams working remotely, it is much easier to complete onsite tasks that are ordinarily difficult to schedule.

For organizations that in normal times use conference rooms, collaborative meeting spaces, or large-scale visualization systems all day, every day, now is the ideal time to consider upgrades and reconfiguration of both software and hardware assets. It’s also a time to consider training and troubleshooting so that when people return to the office, everyone will be immediately productive.

Here are three recommended activities to consider pursuing during this imposed down-time.

1.     Standardization

audio visual systems in a training room

Some companies are using the break in everyday onsite activities to standardize their AV set-ups and simplify the systems used. Over time, it is easy to add AV equipment piecemeal and end up with an odd mixture of configurations and equipment. Whether it is speaker phones, projectors, or fully integrated videoconferencing systems, standardizing makes teams more efficient when it comes to use and maintenance.

It means that employees know what to expect when they are setting up for a meeting, and when maintenance is required, it can be efficiently performed across all systems. Standardization eliminates last minute surprises and nerve-wracking situations when a meeting is about to start, and the equipment is unfamiliar.

A major energy company is using the time during the pandemic to standardize its AV equipment and set Zoom as its regular videoconferencing application. It is standardizing video conferencing equipment so that each room is consistent with the others. While the equipment is less frequently used, the company is also using the time to create documentation and training materials to help first time or infrequent users with starting Zoom calls or accessing projectors and displays.

2.     Upgrades

For organizations with advanced AV systems or visualization laboratories, now is a great time to refresh and upgrade equipment. In ordinary times it can be very disruptive for installers to get access to video walls and control centers that are critical to designers, researchers and managers. So now is a unique opportunity and a good time to review the status of AV system components including displays, projectors, speaker and microphone systems, controllers, motion trackers and more.

A university had an upgrade scheduled before the pandemic began, but having the facility shut down gave the integrator two months straight without interruption to get the job done right. The team ran into some unexpected challenges, which would have caused difficulty in normal times when scheduled events could have been impacted.

Displays

Older LCD Panel Arrays and rear projection cube wall displays are typically being upgraded with Direct View LEDs. LEDs improve brightness, color accuracy, and provide continuous, seamless imagery. They have a very shallow profile that enables a broad range of mounting options and they are ideal for areas with significant ambient light because of their brightness and their less reflective surface.

For organizations considering total cost of ownership, LED displays are robust, reliable, and their long lifespan contributes to better value. It is a good time to consider upgrading to LED display systems while rooms are in disuse and now, because they are becoming more widely adopted, cost for high-end Direct View LEDs is coming down.

Projectors

Projector technology also continues to advance with more lumens, higher resolutions, and faster frame rates. Now is a good time to evaluate current projector performance and consider how an upgrade might enable more dramatic presentations and better decision making. For immersive display systems, the latest projectors are fast enough to enable multiple tracked viewpoints within a virtual environment.

3.     Preventive Maintenance

For companies that don’t have dedicated AV support, sometimes conference rooms and visualization spaces are left alone for long periods of time without any regular maintenance. It’s a good time for fine tuning things like color balancing and alignment. With fewer people working onsite, less busy IT teams can run AV equipment through its paces and troubleshoot issues before they disrupt business as employees return to the office. The functionality verification process reveals if there are faults or problems and they can be resolved while the rooms are not in demand so that when teams return to the office AV systems are at their best and downtime is reduced.

Organizations that move forward with standardization, upgrades, or preventive maintenance projects during slowdowns or shutdowns will reap the benefits when collaborative spaces are once again in demand.. Having the latest equipment tested and up and running will improve productivity and bring long term value to the organizations that have the insight to use this time wisely.

If your AV equipment needs a checkup or the AV system could use an upgrade, contact our team now.

 

 

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Planning Technology-Enabled Collaboration Rooms

Collaboration is, essentially, a group of people coming together to get the most from their combined analytical and creative energies. Time and again collaboration proves to be one of the most significant ways to solve business challenges.  Today, the meetings themselves can be a challenge given the increase in remote workers and changes necessary for others returning to offices.  The balance of live and remote engagement must be considered even more. Meeting and collaborationroom with projection and flat panel and seating in a large U shape

Often collaboration occurs in teams within individual departments during design reviews, production analysis, and planning, or presentation planning. When collaboration involves two or more departments, the value realized can increase exponentially. Diverse teams can bring very diverse types of content that need to be effectively shared. For example, sharing CAD design concepts between engineering and manufacturing teams can optimize a product for smooth production and after-sale service. Reviewing end-to-end workflows in large spreadsheets or visual diagrams provides insight on the impact one group’s work has on another’s. Cross-functional collaboration such as this not only improves workflow and time and cost savings, it also boosts satisfaction of engaged participants.

Designing Collaborative Spaces for Users’ Workflow

Enabling effective collaboration requires an investment in meeting spaces and technology appropriate to the tasks. Given the shift to remote workforces, more meetings require technology to facilitate discussion.  Most organizations are overwhelmed with digital communications, data, and images. The use of printed handouts or huddling around one computer never was ideal for a collaborative environment, and they are definitely not effective tools now that so many people are working remotely or even separated in meeting spaces. Connecting remote teammates is especially difficult without thoughtfully designed distance collaboration tools, including both hardware and software.

As many people do return to work, there needs to be an effective balance with in-office and remote meetings. Ultimately, the displays and collaboration tools in the room should suit the user content and objectives. The type or number of large-screen displays in a meeting room is only one of many technology decisions to be made. Audio, connectivity, software, and other tools are key to enabling productive sessions and remote connections. A review of sample use cases, workflows, and user profiles could lead to the standardization of room designs based on recurring work, teams, and their data requirements.

Define Success Up Front

Start your planning with the end in mind to guide design. How will you know the investment in collaboration technology was successful? Will you be measuring space utilization rates? Are you trying to increase the number of cross-functional meetings? Do you need to support a growing, globally dispersed workforce? Do you want more engaged users who are building a culture of collaboration?  How to measure success is a topic unto itself, but knowing what success looks like will guide space design and technology choices.

Questions and Considerations in Design:

With so many component options and platforms available, ensuring seamless integration of all equipment is critical. Involve an AV design specialist as early in the process as possible. This is especially important with new construction to ensure the interplay of space, sound, visuals, and structure is considered up front to avoid costly rework later. An experienced designer should be asking questions such as:

  • Are you planning spaces for new construction or renovating an existing space?
    • If existing, does the layout or structure create any limitations for running network cables necessary or added electrical connections?
    • If new construction of multiple spaces, is there an opportunity to standardize room sizes and technology based upon the work being conducted in them?
  • Is user content mostly spreadsheets, documents, and PowerPoint slides, or is it more complex 2D/3D data and photo-realistic rendering?
    • If the content is complex, at what scale should it be viewed to enable effective review and reduce time-to-insight?
  • How many different user applications/software packages must be open at one time?
  • Will users want to share content from their devices? If so, will the sources be a mix of laptops and hand-held devices?
  • What codec (Cisco, Polycom etc) is in place or required for remote participants?
  • Will there need to be a primary presenter and podium in the space?
  • How is the seating arranged as this will affect microphone placements.
  • How many and what types of audio sources will be in the space?
  • Will multi-point remote collaboration be necessary and, if so, between how many locations?
  • What network bandwidth is available for sharing complex data remotely?
  • What interaction capabilities do remote participants expect?
  • What level of security is required?
  • What technical support plan is necessary to ensure systems are maintained and available to expectations?
  • When users experience a problem or have a question, what support structure is in place to minimize meeting delays?
  • How long does the technology need to last?
    • Does your company have a regular refresh cycle or do you need systems to last as long as possible?

Regardless of how long collaboration technology needs to last, understanding workflow and expected use cases is a critical first step.  Effectively designed spaces and appropriate, simplified tools will be highly utilized and generate measurable return.  Establishing metrics to gauge success also needs to be done at the beginning, though measures and benchmarks can be updated as experience increases.  Regular monitoring of use and performance data will provide timely insight into needed system modifications or user training. When the time comes to plan the next set of technology upgrades, justification for investment is much easier with data that proves the payoff.

Read the follow up post Measuring the ROI of Technology-Enabled Meeting Rooms

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Pentegra Systems began the audiovisual infrastructure installation for the new flexible theater at “The Yard at Navy Pier” for Chicago Shakespeare Theater in Spring of 2016. This system included video distribution equipment, a technical intercom and paging sound systems and socket outlet panels. Additionally, Pentegra Systems provided the necessary audiovisual equipment racks, connections and cabling to bring the Shakespeare Theater’s AV infrastructure to life. Take a look at this time-lapse video of The Yard’s construction at Navy Pier courtesy of Bulley & Andrews’ YouTube channel. “The Yard” has officially opened for its first week of shows just this week.

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In the Spring of 2016, Pentegra Systems began installation of the Audio and Video infrastructure for the new flexible theater at “The Yard at Navy Pier” for Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Pentegra Systems provided video distribution equipment, a technical intercom and paging sound systems and socket outlet panels. Additionally, Pentegra Systems provided the necessary AV equipment racks, connections and cabling to bring the Shakespeare Theater’s AV infrastructure to life. Preparing to open in the Fall of 2017, “The Yard” is indeed taking shape as explained in the article below recently featured in the Chicago Tribune by the Tribune’s Chris Jones.

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The Yard is Taking Shape

Chicago Shakespeare’s new space will offer seating flexibility

AV Infrastructure The Yard at Navy Pier Shakespeare Theater

Criss Henderson, left, executive director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, artistic director Barbara Gaines and production director Chris Plevin tour The Yard on Navy Pier. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune photos) The new indoor theater, under construction in the former Skyline Stage space, is scheduled to open this fall.

AV Infrastructure The Yard at Navy Pier Shakespeare Theater

If you measure a theater by the size, scope and versatility of its physical buildings, then there can be no reasonable doubt that Chicago Shakespeare Theater has just vaulted to the summit of Chicago theater companies.

The game-changer for CST, a long-established company that first took up residence on Navy Pier in 1999, is the impending opening of The Yard, a new, flexible, indoor theater built for about $35 million in the guts of the defunct Skyline Stage, a brutalist, wind-swept, ill-sized outdoor venue that found popular programming increasingly elusive as competition grew, and that no one will miss.

The only thing that worked about Skyline Stage was its white, tentlike roof, which has been retained for The Yard, even though the canvas now will sit atop an indoor theater, not rows of seats exposed on a promontory. That decision served several useful functions: it saved time and money; it dealt with the challenge of building a theater atop a parking garage (Navy Pier was not about to give up its parking revenue); it allowed for some visual continuity; and it forestalled any arguments of the effect of a new exterior on the oft-vociferous residents of Lake Point Tower, who overlook The Yard. CST was able to tell them that what they see from their windows was not going to change — at least until the theater adds to the color of the view by using the roof as a surface for artistic projection.

The first production in The Yard (the Chicago firm of Adrian Smith +Gordon Gill is the architect of record) won’t actually be until the fall, and the programming therein is light for the first season, but some 500 supporters and benefactors of Chicago Shakespeare will get their first look inside the new theater June 9 when they watch Jessie Mueller and Heather Headley, both Broadway stars with strong connections to Chicago, shake the dust off the construction site.

Executive Director Criss Henderson said that $35 million already has been raised (Navy Pier kicked in $15 million), though the theater still has about $7 million to go as part of a $55 million campaign, also designed to ramp up programming. The Yard, Henderson said, will become the new home of the theater’s extensive educational and family programing, and, of course, for a variety of other work. Interestingly, he said he still sees the existing Courtyard Theater as the flagship venue on this growing campus.

For years, arts professionals in Chicago have been bemoaning the lack of a venue with roughly 1,000 seats, a capacity that falls below Broadway in Chicago’s major touring houses downtown (and the 1,525-seat Harris Theater for Music and Dance) but that still is large enough to offer meaningful capacity and box-office returns to a producing agency of national stature. The Yard would be that space — although don’t look for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a vociferous and competitive producer of international work, to open it up for rent anytime soon.

As a new addition to Chicago’s portfolio of performance spaces built without a traditional fly tower, The Yard will succeed or fail based on the efficacy of its dominant feature — nine independent towers of seating that can be moved into a dozen configurations, depending on the needs of the production.

These multilevel towers — an invention of the British theater design firm Charcoalblue and that can be merged or pulled apart to create proscenium, thrust, alley and arena-style seating — are imposing structures with HVAC hookups, speakers, sprinkler systems and the usual audience padding. They’ll be accessed from three levels, depending, of course, on where you are seated. And each configuration will change the capacity, and thus the level of intimacy, of the theater. The area with the towers is welded onto a renovated version of the old Skyline Stage stage house (which was always indoors, of course, and includes dressing rooms). But you cannot easily discern the joint.

The selling point of the towers is their ease of movement. At a recent hard-hat tour of the new theater (which you will reach down a linear lobby lined, like a Boeing 787, with electrochromic glass), I watched a couple of workers demonstrate how to lift one of them via a portable hydraulic system that sends the edifice scooting with ease across the floor, not unlike a hovercraft. Artistic director Barbara Gaines was watching too. “It’s priceless,” she said, “for an artist to have such flexibility.”

It’s hardly unusual for a theater to build a flexible space — the Owen Theatre at the Goodman and the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf are examples of venues that can be used in a plethora of configurations. But the devil tends to be in the ease (or lack thereof) of transformation, especially in houses that use union labor to shift hefty risers, platforming and seating units. Flexibility typically comes at such a cost that budgets often mean such spaces get stuck in one use for an entire season or more.

At The Yard, CST director of production Chris Plevin explained, the towers that define the perimeter of the artistic space will be more akin to scenic elements (the large structures that you often see used as part of the morphing setting for a big musical or a Shakespearean extravaganza).

Those structures are always built to be no more hefty than needed and must be designed to make fast entrances and exits. Plevin argues that if a similar mindset and vocabulary is assigned to where the audience sits, and if a theater can change its shape and identity in a matter of minutes, then the creative possibilities vastly are increased.

“It will be in the spirit of a found space,” Henderson said, referencing a common performance buzzword that suggests the work is in charge of the space, rather than vice versa.

In some ways then, The Yard will be a pop-up theater for our new gig economy — or, perhaps more accurately, a huge black-box shell in which any number of different kinds of playing spaces will be able to pop up, and then pop back down again, cheaply and quickly.

 

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For more about “The Yard at Navy Pier,” check out this short illustration video showcasing what this exciting project will look like upon completion.

Please visit www.pentegrasystems.com for all of your audio and video needs or give us a call at (630) 941-6000 for more information.

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5 Top Audio and Video Technology Trends In The Enterprise

The enterprise has seen a tremendous rise in the use of audiovisual and video technology in recent years. Today, there are some common trends popular with many commercial organizations that want to maximize their use of AV technology to achieve important business goals. The top AV and video technology trends are the ones that are being used the most often and have the most widespread impact on the enterprise.

1. AV Technology To Facilitate Remote Working
Forrester Research projects that by 2016, 43% of the United States workforce will work from home. The development of AV solutions that can make it easier for employees to work from home is an important trend in the enterprise for companies that want to conserve their budgets and improve worker satisfaction.

2. Opening Up Training Opportunities For Employees With AV
The next trend pertains to the way that organizations train their team members. Training has been made much easier since the popularization of audiovisual technology. It is possible for companies to hold seminars and even bring in guest speakers by using audiovisual systems that they have in place at their organization. An added benefit of using AV systems for training is that many platforms allow this training to be recorded so that the company can refer back to it in the future.

3. AV Systems In Huddle Rooms
In the past, companies often focused on establishing a single large conference room where many people came together at once to collaborate. Because of changes to collaboration methods in the enterprise and reluctance to spend money on the equipment needed for elaborate conference areas, huddle rooms have become one of the top AV and video technology trends. These huddle rooms are usually equipped with a central table, a few chairs, and a display that allows for video and audio conferencing. They make the perfect environment for small teams to get together and collaborate, even if some team members are not physically present.

4. Integrating Digital Signage Into AV Systems
Digital signs are commonly used in the healthcare, education, and transportation industries. Increasingly, these signs are being integrated into AV systems so that they can be updated with information in real-time. Digital signs are helpful for assisting people that need to find the right place to go and giving them news about happenings that matter to them.

5. Cloud Solutions For AV
The rise in popularity of cloud computing has eased the on-site burden faced by companies that want a dependable solution for audiovisual systems. Cloud service providers are very desirable for enterprise users of AV systems because they allow these users to scale their AV without having to stress about managing the hardware needed for communication.
These are just a few of the top AV and video technology trends that are impacting the enterprise today. Only time will tell which of these trends will last and which ones will be replaced for newer, more efficient methods of using audiovisual systems.

At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, low voltage and collaboration technologies that support their business goals. Serving customers throughout Chicagoland, Pentegra aspires to be the first company you call for your system integration needs. Ready to learn more, connect with us here. We are happy to help!

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Globally Connected Education

GEMS World Academy Chicago

Through the use of technology, the world has become much smaller. Computers, cell phones and internet connection have made possible the communication with someone across the globe. The business world has been cognizant of this for quite some time and duly takes full advantage.

As this technology becomes more readily available, it seems only fitting to begin to educate our population at an early age of this technology and what can ultimately be accomplished through new methods of communication.

GEMS World Academy, an international private education company, has been at the forefront of high-tech education and is expanding its global network to Chicago this fall. GEMS currently educates students from JK-12th grade worldwide on four continents with over 150,000 students. Historically, education has always been built upon standard communication. GEMS World Academy is rewriting the script when it comes to communicating knowledge onto the youth of today. Past and current education has revolved around a lesson instructed by a teacher while students listen and perhaps take notes. GEMS is amplifying the environment in which the students are learning through global communication.

Each classroom within GEMS World Academy Chicago will be fully equipped with large interactive touch screens for video conferencing installed by Pentegra Systems to function as a portal of communication, not just with any other classroom within the facility, but to other GEMS classrooms across the globe. Through this enhancement of technology, students now have the opportunity to expand their knowledge even further, from a few feet away to across oceans without having to leave the classroom.

The world plays host to countless cultures, offering invaluable opportunities to grow and learn. Students who enroll at GEMS World Academy are given the chance to experience these cultures interactively. Whether it be using Skype to learn about desalination plants in Dubai, or writing a limerick in English class and sending it to fellow GEMS students in Singapore, technology opened the door to endless possibilities of learning on a global scale.

For a further look into GEMS World Academy Chicago, click here!

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Every School Needs a Systems Integrator

If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.

 

Consultation

 

Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration.  Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.

 

Healthy Business Relationship

 

Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students.  The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue

 

Changing The Culture

 

Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.

 

 Management All In One Place

 

Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.

 

 

Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.

 

Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.

Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!

 

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Are you using Video Conferencing yet?

It is almost 2017. The internet has allowed us to achieve levels of communication and collaboration we would have never dreamed about. You can communicate with someone halfway across the globe instantly and effortlessly. This has improved not only our personal lives, but these possibilities have also had a lasting impact on the world of business. Basically, unless you have been living under a rock, video conferencing is here to stay. It goes without saying that nothing beats a real face-to-face conversation, but what do you do when that’s not available? Sure you can have your emails, instant messaging, telephones, etc. but the next best thing to an actual face-to-face conversation is indeed video conferencing. Can you believe there are still people out there NOT utilizing this technology? There is nothing wrong with being a late-adopter, but if you ARE a late-adopter you’ve most likely heard time and time again how beneficial video conferencing from others that have used it. Here are some major advantages and reasons to start using video conferencing:

Productivity:

Whether your employees work out of the office or at home, the luxury of attending a meeting whenever wherever is a blessing for businesses. The world of video conferencing negates any travel whatsoever. You don’t have to drive across town, hop on a plane or even just walk to the meeting room upstairs. Taking traveling out of the equation leaves employees more time to get work done which increases productivity for any business.

Money Saver:

In most cases business meetings are local, but in other cases you’d need to catch a flight to wherever. In either case it costs the company money. Traveling not only costs you productivity (AND TIME), but it also hits you financially. Got a meeting and it takes an hour to get there and an hour back? That’s gas money. Need to attend a meeting in Phoenix next week? You’ll need to pay airfare, accommodations, rental car, food, etc. Imagine the money you’d save by just clicking an application on your computer or mobile device and remote in through video conferencing? No muss, no fuss.

Employee Satisfaction:

Let’s be real, traveling can be a hassle to varying degrees. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days. Who wouldn’t want to remain at their desk opposed to spending time on the road or in the air just to attend a meeting? You don’t need to pack your suitcase, you don’t need to dread the road trip, don’t need to go through TSA, don’t need to be away from your family, etc. Instead of boarding a flight, your employees will be onboard with this.

Improved Communication:

You get all the benefits of a face-to-face conversation with video conferencing. Much of communication is determined by body language and facial expressions. It is difficult to read a person over a conference call or e-mail. This helps build your relationships with your customers and also your fellow employees. You get the effect of being there…without literally being there. It is much easier to become engaged in a meeting when you can see the people you’re speaking with.

Sharing:

Most meetings have visual aids, something to compliment the speaker. With video conferencing, not only can you see the people you’re speaking to you can also share files effortlessly online. Need to show an informative video? Need to display a PowerPoint? The members of your meeting can view these files through screen sharing and easily keep up with the topics on the agenda.

Build the Best Staff:

As a business owner or decision maker for you company, you want to do what is best for business. A crucial aspect of any good business is employing the right people. Through the use of video conferencing you don’t necessarily have to limit your personnel search to just locally. Let’s say you find a prime candidate for a position that is more qualified than any of the local applicants however this person is in the next state. No problem. Video conferencing enables you to bring this person onboard because you can work from home and never miss a meeting or suffer from a lack of communication. Also this enables your business to cover more ground if your employees are working out of different locations.

 

Technology has come a long way and is becoming more easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are several different options to choose from when it comes to video conferencing and they are all so incredibly user-friendly. Even the most out of touch late-adopters would find it easy to use should definitely take advantage of this communication tool. Let one of our engineers steer you in the right direction and help determine what video conferencing system is best for you today.

 

Call us today at (630) 941-6000

Or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com

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Picking the Right Integrator

Time flies. We have all heard that expression. You can’t stop the clock. Everyone and everything gets older, including your technology. Well, especially your technology. It seems like every day you look at your once “state-of-the art” presentation system complete with projector, ceiling speaker system and all of the bells and whistles that would and did impress people about 10 years ago. Now? Well you are looking for an upgrade. This goes for all sorts of technology. You want something completely brand new, but most of all you want it designed, engineered and installed by professionals. So, what do you do? You need to pick the right integrator.

Here are 5 things to look for when choosing the right integrator:

Compile a List of Integrators

Picking the right integrator is easy if you have the right options. Finding said options is a little tougher of a task. Give a general contractor or a consultant a call and ask some questions. These are the companies and individuals that work with integrators often and would have a solid knowledge base on the matter and can definitely point you in the right direction. Also, it goes without saying, the internet is your best friend. A simple Google search of local integrators should turn up some results. Pick some accurate keywords when searching online. For example: “CCTV” and “Access Control” when searching for potential security integrators, “sound masking” or “digital signage” if you are trying to find an AV specialist. Some names could be very familiar to you and some you may never have heard of and that’s okay.

Competency

By now you have a short list of a few integrators you’d like to explore working with. You now need to find out if these firms can even do the work and do the work properly. The firm you ultimately choose will need to be certified in the specific field. The target firm not only needs qualified individuals, but industry leaders when it comes to all facets of your potential project such as sales, engineering, project management, etc.) The firms’ websites are a primary destination to find out most of your answers and are a decent indicator of the firms’ abilities. The more information on a company’s website the better your perception of them will most likely be. Give each integrator on your list a call and let them help you find out what it is you really want and really need. There is nothing better than interacting with a potential future integrator early in the planning process. You can feel them out, ask questions, and test their knowledge. Have them help you identify your issues and aid you in finding the perfect solution. That is what an integrator does, identifies a problem and devises a solution. Have multiple conversations or have a representative come out to your site so they really get a good grasp of the situation. This will give you a much needed and accurate perception of the integrator and give you a pretty solid base to select the perfect one for you.

Firm Size

Dig deeper into the firm, more than the basic information. Is this firm the size of a firm that can make your project a reality? What is their annual revenue? You have already spoken to these companies and have a pretty good perception of how qualified their staff is (or not), but do they have a reasonably sized staff to execute such a project as yours? Is this firm too small to be taking on your project? Or is this firm actually too big to be taking on your project? For example: You’re a small business looking for a small telephone system for your office. The one firm you have an eye has contracts with companies that makes $50 Million dollars per year or higher. Will they even take time to work with you? Will they exhibit the same care they show for their high-end clients? These are just some things to think about.

Reputation & References

Being capable of doing something and actually having done something are two different things. You have a good idea that a couple firms can get the job done, but now you want to know their track record. To really get a good idea of what working with a certain firm is like you need to talk directly to some of their clients. Many firms have some of their notable clients listed on their websites that you can get in contact with and some firms will actually give you a client list with the proper information of who to contact, which is a very good and telling sign of how they go about their business. When making any decision, the more information you know the better off you’ll be.

Post Installation Support

When you are doing research about an integrator please do not forget to also look further into their post-installation methodologies. This includes their ability and reliability of servicing and maintaining your system to ensure it operates to its full potential. For more information about what to look for in a great service department, check out our previous blog here.

 

Much like a consumer buying a new car, businesses and organizations do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing new technology for their space. This is not a task that should be rushed. A worthwhile investment such as a new phone system or sound system requires investment from a financial standpoint, but also a time standpoint. Rome was not built in a day. If you follow the steps above and get serious about searching for the perfect integrator, you will find one and hopefully build a lasting business relationship with for several years.

 

Pentegra Systems is a low-voltage integrator specializing in audio, video, data, security and telecom solutions. Are you in the market to upgrade the technology in your business or organization? Visit our website for more information at www.pentegrasystems.com or give us a call at (630) 941-6000.

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The Difference Between Consultants and Integrators

Imagine this scenario. You are the owner of a medium sized business whose sales have been on the upswing for the past several years. Due to this increase in business, your company is in the process of expanding into a brand new facility to support the increased operational demands that accompany your business success.  Your new facility has ample office space to house your growing workforce, and includes huddle rooms for ad hoc collaboration and a large conference room for formal presentations. Even your warehouse space is drastically larger than your previous location. You are now faced with a dilemma and you need answers. What technology systems will you need to best support the way you do business? What are your options for audio and video systems, telephones, internet connection, security, etc? Where do you start? These are decisions that need to be made not only in a timely fashion, but they need to be made correctly for the overall well-being of your business. At this fork in the road, there are two directions you can go: seeking out the help from an independent consultant or enlisting the services of a design-build systems integrator.

Independent Consultant:

Whenever someone is faced with an issue in life, they tend to seek out help or advice. They tend to consult someone on what they should do next. That is where independent consultants come into play in the technology field. A consultant is there to steer you in the right direction when you have very little to no knowledge of what steps to take. These consultants are skilled at strategically evaluating current and future needs. They have no particular affiliation to a product line or relationship with a contracting company and as a request will provide an unbiased opinion. Independent consultants can conduct a feasibility study after visiting to your site or start with a “blank slate” when designing for a new facility, and in either case formulate the design direction. Independent consultants are typically part of a larger architectural and engineering team charged with designing a new facility or renovating an existing facility, and will ensure the technology systems are integrated within and coordinated with other elements of the facility design. Independent consultants act as the Owner’s advocate, refining the technology systems’ design to best balance the Owner’s concerns, including technology scope, system complexity and level of user expertise, and costs. The design process typically culminates in a set of documents – drawings and specifications – that are used to solicit bid proposals for each trade division that are required to construct the facility, and consultants often have the opportunity to recommend a list of prequalified  systems integrators that  can best execute the scope of work.  The independent consultant method serves best to establish a defined scope of work on which multiple systems integrators may bid, resulting in bid proposals that may be compared directly to each other in an apples-to-apples way.

Design-Build Systems Integrator:

When Owners are looking for a more cost-effective option, they seek out the alternative.  Known as a Design-Build process, it utilizes the design knowledge and expertise of the systems integrator, themselves.  For the Owner, the initial process of selecting a systems integrator is the most difficult, and requires a targeted effort on their part to be successful.  How do I find the right integrator?  What integrator has the appropriate expertise?  Can the integrator design multiple types of systems for my facility? All of these are important questions to ask, and the Owner must ask these and other questions in order to receive answers that establish a level of comfort and trust in choosing an integrator that will deliver success on every aspect of the project scope. So, what exactly are the answers an Owner should expect from such an integrator?  Owners should ask for – and contact – an integrator’s references for similar projects, which is likely the best indicator of how successful they will be on your project. A systems integrator should have a detailed process for assessing the Owner’s systems needs and should compile those needs in a written narrative describing the design of each system in conceptual form, and then review and refine the design and associated costs with the Owner toward arriving at a final design and cost that best meets all of the Owner’s needs and concerns.  Integrators should be capable of working with multiple applications and system types that interoperate with one another, typically through the data network, of which the integrator must also have design expertise. They should also have a good track record of working with other vendors and trades on a project in a harmonious way.  Integrators must have the personnel and internal resources to make the project a reality from concept to completion, including industry certified design engineers, standards-based CAD departments, certified project managers and highly trained shop and field technicians. A systems integrator designs and builds systems for Owners by combining both hardware and software from multiple vendors to assemble multiple systems in a custom way, which when performed correctly can lower the overall cost of the design and installation of these systems by achieving an economy-of-scale typical of a single integrator approach.

As you can see, both independent consultants and systems integrators more than serve their own respective purposes in the world of technology. Which method would you choose when making decisions about the technology in your new space?

 

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Chicago Teachers Union

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