Not long ago I was reviewing files on past projects. I realized I have spent almost 30 years designing, building and managing projects in the AV, Broadcast and Media-Centric IT world. I did the math and that translates into roughly 700 projects in that time period. And while the technologies have consistantly evolved, some things have remained the same, particularly the lessons about what makes a successful project.

When I first got in this business, I thought the success of a project depended mostly on the equipment I chose. If I chose the right mix of gear and software, then I and my clients would feel the system was a rave success.

But I was young then. And mostly wrong.

For the past couple of decades, I have done post-mortem meetings with almost everyone I have done a project for. Whether it’s a single conference or edit room, or a huge multi-million dollar complex, I make a point to sit down after a project and pick my client’s brain about what they think made a project a success or failure.

And over that time, the answers have been remarkably similar. And they have a great deal more to do with process, people and promises, than products. Here are a few of the most important lessons I have learned.

  • Explain your organization’s culture. If a vendor understands your corporate culture, what expectations are, how decisions are made, what time and money pressures you have, how you work, what makes life easy for you, they can plan for those things, build them into their bid and their process, and you will end up happier. But if you don’t tell them, they won’t know.
  • Good, consistent communication is the single most important factor in how well a project goes. Ask your integrator how and on what they communicate. Let them know how to best communicate with you. Let them know how you communicate. Set expectations early and set expectations clearly, and you will be happier with your project, and your integrator.
  • Make sure you understand what your responsibilities are, and what the consequences of not meeting those responsibilities are. Generally, the integrator’s responsibility is clearly laid out in your RFP or contract. But they come to a price based on certain expectations of what you, their customer, is going to do. Some vendors spell that out clearly in their bid. Others don’t. But you need to know how they handle changes and unexpected delays, because on most projects they are going to happen, and you don’t want to be surprised.
  • Set clear lines of authority on both sides. Make sure you have a single project manager the integrator can go to, and make sure the integrator has a single project manager. This will save you an incredible amount of time and frustration. How imporant is it? It’s very close to comminication as an indicator of satisfaction on a project.

Ideally a media project is a collaboration, which means both the client and the vendor have a great deal to do with how well and smoothly your project goes. By doing a few things deliberately and well, like focusing on communication, culture and clarity, you can make a huge difference in your own satisfaction, cut down on your frustration, and save your organization a LOT of money.

Over the next few weeks we will take each of these four topics and expand on them. Since I have worked both as on the vendor/integrator side of things, and as a client, I will give you solid, proven advice that will help you as you plan your next AV, Broadcast, or Media Centric project.

By Tom Atkins for Advanced AV