What the papers say

With economic uncertainty continuing, is this affecting the AV market at all? We talked to Daniel Borg, Director of Electrosonic Sweden for his view from the north, and he described the impact, or lack of it, it’s having on his particular piece of the AV pie.

First things first, much of the news media over recent weeks, and indeed months, has concerned itself with what is seen as a deepening crisis in the money markets and it’s possible effects on the world economy. However there is a huge difference between the property market, consumer finance concerns and the Pro AV market. I started out by asking Daniel if he saw any impact of these events at the present time, or indeed further down the line.

“I don’t see any spill over right now. The kind of customers we are dealing with are unaffected by this issue. I think in general the AV market is quite good. There are lots of things to do and also a lot of new recruitment going on. People don’t buy AV solutions for fun, they do it because they need them, and they will continue to need them whether people keep shopping or not.

“Unless there’s some kind of long-term economic downtown I don’t think we’ll be affected in any great way. I see a decent future for our business in particular because apart from the big solutions, there are a lot of smaller set-ups that need to work more efficiently than they do now, finding new ways to work and co-operate.”

Overall Borg is in fact pretty up beat about the current business climate and the prospects for the next 18 months or so.

“Things have picked up this year at the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2. The market we are in is really larger companies and government agencies so they have big budgets but they really weren’t allocated until the end of the first quarter. That’s quite normal for us, we have some rather large projects ongoing. It’s absolutely moving in the right direction for us.”

Although Electrosonic is heavily focused in the control room and monitoring markets, they are exposed to the AV business by virtue of the fact that they outsource most of the installation work to partners.

“We work with integration firms to give us the man-power to realise our projects, but the thing we maintain in-house is all the system design, the commissioning and the programming,” said Borg. “We also do the support and maintenance ourselves – It’s the cabling and screwdriver guys who we end up renting as we need them.”

“I would say that getting General AV people is quite easy - if you’re fixing projectors and doing sound systems. But if you look ahead a little bit, like we’re having to, we’re more and more looking into getting people from the IT world and especially network people. We see that everything is moving quite rapidly into being networked. We’re looking to switch into the IP realm actually much faster than we thought we were one year ago.

“We are want have the skills in house, especially when it comes to advanced networking – routing, switching and so on. This is because we are normally faced with a customer’s IT department trying to get something into their existing networks. We have to be able to argue about bandwidth usage or about which subnet we want to use and we need to make this argument from a position of understanding of the subjects ourselves.”

Another reason for the need for this increased IT competence is that Borg more often than finds himself in a co-ordinating role. He needs to be able to understand all the services in a control room from Air conditioning to networking, in order to oversee the project effectively.

But it’s not just one market where this transformation is occurring – “Everyone else is also taking notice of this – the guys in Video Conferencing particularly, everything is moving to IP and I think all companies are facing the same challenges. The most commonly used cable type that we are delivering these days is network cable. It’s not DVI anymore. It isn’t RGB or audio cables, it’s actually Cat5 type cable.”

So what qualifications are companies seeking from candidates? “We prefer to look for skilled, project-based IT guys that have been involved in roll-outs of extensive networks,” explained Daniel. “What’s also important is to have someone who is certified in some way – probably via Cisco or similar.”

And how easy are such people to find in Sweden? Well according to Borg, they are available, but expensive. However, here in lies an opportunity for AV companies to add some value to what they do.

“If we are providing IT services, then we should charge like an IT company. I think generally that AV companies do a lot of things for free, or a lot cheaper than IT companies would do. There’s an opportunity there to add value to a business, provided we can win the discussion with the client. Things need to be fair, if we work on a project at the moment there is a big difference between what we charge and what the IT company charges.”

So should we expect to see some parity in pricing between AV and IT services as the two disciplines continue to converge? “Yes, I think so, IT costs more money. If you want someone with experience of big expensive and complicated IT networks you have to pay them appropriately.”

By the nature of his business a decent portion of what Borg is involved in, he estimated about 20%, comes through the public tender process. I therefore took the opportunity to ask him about his views on the OJEU system.

“It’s easy if you know the customer, but it’s kind of hard if the customer has already initiated contact with another supplier. Then the job is normally very specified and aimed towards that supplier. It’s ok if the customer knows what they need, instead of being told what they need. Despite being all published on the website and whatever, the process can still be quite closed.”

The issue of transparency is an ongoing discussion in Sweden as it is throughout Europe. Borg believes that there are still too few bidders on each project: “I think that the authorities are looking closely at this at the moment to see how they are being handled. This will extend to the existing framework supply agreements. Customers are even afraid to buy through these agreements in case they are seen to be doing something wrong, which in many cases they are!”

So no real worries on the horizon for now then, at least for Daniel Borg, despite what the papers may be telling us. Adoption of AV technology is not being driven by extravagance or a need for shiny toys, but by good honest technological imperative - long may it continue.

Article Categories

Most Viewed