Our Clients Expect a Lot More
From Us, But Can We Deliver?
Based on my 20-plus years of observation,
our industry has been relatively
unsuccessful at delivering on the promise
of simplifying technology for our clients.
By “promise” I mean the idea that if our
clients decide to include one or more of
the technology solutions we offer, their
lives will not only be easier and less stressful,
but somehow amazingly transformed
with new levels of comfort, convenience,
Here are three reasons why our industry
has not been able to reliably and consistently
deliver the integrated technology
nirvana that we promise:
1. No Manufacturer Standards. The
first, and arguably most important, reason
is that manufacturers that focus on
creating products aimed at our industry have no universally recognized
and supported standards we can count on. Every automaton system has
its own “language” and specific protocols. Every sub-system we offer, including
lighting control, distributed audio, home cinema, security, and so
on, all have widely varying levels of capability in terms of responding to
control commands and even reporting their current status. Even within
these disciplines, the individual devices are all over the map in how they
can be controlled (dry contact, IR, RS232, IP), if they offer any level of
control/feedback at all.
2. Too Much Focus on the Gear. There is far too much attention paid
to how the systems will be designed and installed and not enough attention
given to the experience of the people who will use them. To our clients,
the interface is the experience. What they will always care about is that
the systems they paid for can be operated and controlled simply, easily
and reliably, every time.
3. Lack of Repeatable Business Processes. Many ESCs have yet to
standardize their own business operations, resulting in less-than-predictable
results for their clients. It’s simple; if you don’t run a business based
on doing the same thing the same way every time, how can you expect to
provide consistent and predictable results for your clients?
Our Competition has Changed
Our customers can now purchase a far better user
experience in the form of an iPod Touch, iPad, or iPhone4
than anything we can deliver.
We need to start standardizing our operations and creating better user interfaces
because our clients’ expectations already have begun to change.
Instead of competing with each other, we are all now competing with
companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Android, BMW, and Mercedes.
These brands, and many others, are setting new standards for delivering
simple, intuitive user interfaces that we, as an industry, cannot currently
Our customers can now purchase a far better user experience in the
form of an iPod Touch,
iPad, or iPhone4 than anything
we can deliver with
the solutions we have traditionally
offered. It seems
to me somewhere between
quaint and sad that traditional
still promote the
idea that it is amazing and
valuable to our clients to
be able to access current
weather, stocks, traffic etc.
on their touchpanels, when
anyone can now get this information
and much more,
in higher resolution, on
their mobile device from
anywhere in the world, for
Our Clients Expect More
Our clients’ standards for how simple, easy, and intuitive technology can
be, is changing rapidly. As a result, the kinds of “integrated systems” that
we have delivered in the past are very quickly going to appear antiquated
and inferior to our customers. In addition, their expectations for how
much a completely integrated and elegant technology solution should cost
is also being redefined.
Faced with these realities, manufacturers and ESCs need to do everything
they can to remain competitive and relevant. Apple’s latest rise
to prominence began with the introduction of the iPod and an almost
religious focus on the customers’ experience of technology through the
user interface. The bottom line is that they made the experience of using
their technology simple,
intuitive, reliable, and ultimately
comfortable. If you are
a manufacturer or ESC
serving this industry, I
strongly suggest you consider
doing the same.