If you’ve ever had to sit at a conference room table with a group of military Captains all getting irritated as the audio in a conference call goes from bad to worse, you know the high expectations placed on Audio Visual (AV) equipment in government.  In the October 2011 InfoComm International Economic Snapshot Survey, the biggest “wish list” AV item for the government sector is “Conferencing Systems Equipment and Services (audio, video and teleconferencing).”  Forty-five percent of respondents chose conferencing systems equipment over projectors, digital signage, control systems and signal management, among other choices.

AV solutions are in high demand, and government buyers have to walk a fine line between security and innovation, with security being the top priority.

Recently I met with some of our largest integrator partners who primarily handle government facilities to discuss what’s working and what’s not.  So as GovComm 2011 gets ready to open today, I thought I would share some of that insight.

What They Want
Security is the one word that comes up time and time again.  While they are open to hearing about new solutions, customers in the government sector can have an understandably cautious attitude about AV technologies. The government buyer ultimately wants the best solution for the job, provided it fits their security needs. So it must be clear that any product being specified has the appropriate level of security.  The integrator or consultant must also do a thorough job of demonstrating their expertise on security features and their understanding of the customer’s security needs.

Time is of the essence in every facet of the government, so a solution must show how it can improve efficiency. I’ve seen firsthand the need for multiple mics over single mic conferencing, more so than single mic conferencing, because quite frequently, high-level government meetings will include a number of department heads. An AV system must be able to accommodate every meeting member and still provide superior intelligibility.  In these instances, high quality echo cancelling is key.

How They Work
Efficiency is also key when meeting with the government decision maker.  Just like in the private sector, the government customer will tell you their time is limited and is the most important asset they need to protect. Being able to understand every element of AV technology is daunting and requires more time then they have.  We as manufacturers and integrators or consultants need to be ready to efficiently explain the benefits of a new system and how that system is going to solve their problems. For instance, I have a single mic demo to show how inefficient single mic systems can be. Once an end-user has seen that demo in action, they almost immediately realize what a benefit a multiple microphone system can be.

At the same time, we should not interpret a reaction other than “Sign off, move on” as antagonistic. Quite the opposite. They’re cautious because they have to be and time sensitive because their job demands it. It will take time to get everyone on the same page with regard to benefits and until that happens, the process will move incrementally.

Where We Come In
At Biamp we insist on taking the extra steps to ensure that our integrators are educated, knowledgeable and well prepared to deal with the technology element of government facilities, regardless of what the system does or where it’s being implemented.  We train our partners to be more IT-savvy: how to work with IT staff, but also how to think like them, to see their AV needs through IT glasses. We think of Biamp as an IT company now, because we’re no longer just an AV manufacturer.  We encourage our dealers to be IT integrators with a good focus on AV.

My hope is that our government customers can wrap their heads around this concept and embrace it. Our integrators partners understand that government facilities have security concerns, and we are well versed in ways to install AV on the network with safety considerations accounted for.

What are other best practices your business follows when working with government agencies/entities?