Standards of Excellence. The Gold Standard. Industry Standard. These are terms that we are all familiar with, having heard them a million times over. But, what does it really mean to be referred to as a “standard”? The definition of standard, when used as a noun is, "a level of quality or attainment," as in quality of work, or "an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations." In a nutshell, standards help us to understand our level of performance, and for integrators, help you consistently deliver the best experience possible for your customers.
An application, product, or effort that is used by the majority in a particular industry or trade becomes an established standard. They are the result of many interconnected data-points, which can include time, experience, quantity, and quality. As such, every industry has established standards and the AV industry is no exception. To be more professional, competitive, and successful, it is imperative that you understand and utilize the standards that exist for the type of work your company is involved in.
To keep it relative, within the AV industry there are standards for design, applications, pricing, labor rates, and more. For architectural design, drawing, and drafting, AutoCAD is the industry standard, whereas for 2D drawing the standard is Visio. Why? Because standards-based drawing processes provide clear and effective communication to all involved and are far more efficient than utilizing proprietary drawing engines and disparate design processes.
There are also standards for labor, the amount of time it takes for the installation of specific equipment that electrical contractors and other trades have utilized for years. Standards developed by organizations such as NEiS (National Electrical Installation Standards) or NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) help determine the appropriate installation time for many electrical devices, which can help an integrator determine how much time they should estimate for completion of their client engagements.
For technology integrators to better understand what they should be charging for labor associated with the integration and installation of low-voltage systems, it would be wise to reference accepted labor calculation standards for the particular equipment being installed. While this information can be obtained online and brought into various systems and subsystems for use, it is a tedious and redundant workflow that will cost your firm valuable time and resources. To counteract this, look to time-tested, commonly used software platforms that effectively consolidate information and deliver it in a manner than can be accessed and utilized across teams, in both desktop and mobile environments for utmost efficiency.
In addition, adhering to established standards for labor costs can help integrators ensure that their estimates will be both accurate and appropriate for a particular region or skill-set required to complete the required tasks. Veering too far a-field (either too high or too low) can impact both the percentage of an estimate being accepted or worse for the integrator, severe under-bidding that can lead to dramatic drop in profitability. Keeping to established standards helps companies remain competitive, profitable, and ultimately viable for the long term.
Understanding, keeping to, or exceeding established standards can help a company effectively measure their success, deliver a higher level of customer service, and establish consistency—enabling the bar to be raised and then cleared with ease. As you look to ways you can optimize your firm’s offerings in 2015, this is definitely an area to which you should consider applying resources. When implemented properly, the benefits are significant and your growth opportunities are potentially unlimited.
Has your firm implemented any industry standards? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share them in the comments section below.
Author’s Note: To learn more about implementing standards into your firm’s activities, look to, D-Tools System Integrator, a data-driven application that harnesses the power of AutoCAD and Visio, incorporating these powerful drawing tools and their associated functionalities with D-Tools’ J-Standard, SIA, and NECA standardized shapes and blocks to optimize system estimation, design, and installation practices.
Tim Bigoness, VP of sales and marketing for D-Tools, has more than 20 years experience in the television, publishing, multimedia and internet industries, having been involved in all aspects of sales, marketing, public relations, business development, and product management.