Why McDonald’s is not the best model for AV integrators

A proposal that integrators treat hardware like low-margin burgers, and make money from extras, misses the value displays can offer across the workplace, says Mark Tildesley of Clevertouch.

A recent workshop for AV integrators suggested McDonalds as a model for workplace technology integrators.

Just as McDonalds’ franchisees make little to nothing from burgers while earning higher margins from other items, so integrators who provide the hardware to enable a well-known meeting platform must turn to services to earn their worth.

This model, and a dependence solely on selling equipment to service a particular meeting platform provider, is not what was recommended when AV Magazine met with Mark Tildesley, enterprise sales director, EMEA at Clevertouch recently.

We met at the Clevertouch Technologies Gallery in London, a space where integrators and end users can see Clevertouch screens in action, together with complementary equipment, including solutions from Logitech, Jabra and Video Window.

The gallery, which includes boardroom, huddle room, and more informal workspaces, also shows what is possible with the Clevertouch Live platform; users can for instance switch between displaying content from a meeting platform provider on screen to digital signage or other content via Clevertouch Live.

Here are some questions we posed to Tildesley afterwards.

Q: Do AV integrators serving the enterprise market now need to operate like branded hamburger restaurants, selling hardware for the same margins as burgers, and making money from extras like services?

A: I think that is potentially a by-product of the move to platform-based, out-of-the-box solutions in the meeting room. Integrators need to continue to evolve their proposition and look at the additional value that can be added beyond these commoditised plug-and-play solutions.

The ‘modern workplace’ is so much more than just the meeting space and this is where there is the opportunity to add real value to the ultimate end customer experience. The platform-based, plug-and-play solutions work extremely well in a structured, if potentially limited, way but the opportunity is for the integrator to understand the end customer behavioural and experiential outcomes required and deliver all-round technology solutions that suit the ‘people requirements’, as opposed to just plug-and-play boxes that the actual user has to change their behaviour to use.

Q: If the McDonalds analogy has some merit in drawing attention to the value of services, does it still undervalue what hardware can do with the right software?

A: Absolutely. The development of the platform-based, plug-and-play solutions has driven tremendous success with the end-user experience in breaking down the barriers traditionally around the AV/UC experience in the enterprise environment.

However, the challenge for the market is that the very structured, plug-and-play, out-of-the-box solutions – that have proved so easy to use and comfortable to engage with initially – keep pace with end-user requirements that will rapidly change when we have all been back in the office for a little while.

Adding the right hardware and software solutions (such as Clevertouch and Clevertouch Live) initially complements the platform-based solution but then gives the integrator the opportunity to evolve and develop the user experience easily as the end user’s requirements evolve.

Do you see there being a divergence between the AV systems required for traditional-style boardrooms and the wider range of spaces we will see? Do we even know what these spaces will need?

I think there will be more opportunity for integrators going forward. Currently, the majority of technology is being installed in workspaces that are actually very similar to what they might have looked like 10+ years ago – putting a screen on the wall with an MTR system in each meeting room and a ping pong table in communal areas is probably not the modern workplace we will all be using in five years from now.

The opportunity is for the integrator to talk with the C-level or HR/People and Culture teams at the end user and truly understand the ultimate user experience required and then deliver technology throughout the workplace – not just in the meeting spaces – that is flexible enough to deliver exactly the experience required. Clevertouch solutions are flexible enough to deliver solutions that deliver unique experiences across the workplace, recognising the differing requirements of different departments and locations but are still easily managed and supported with consistent user outcomes.

What does an end user actually miss out on if they simply start by ordering an MTR online for their more basic rooms?

In this scenario, the end user will get an outstanding meeting experience when having meetings. However what about when the room is not being used for meetings, investing in technology that is only used for 25% of the day but otherwise lays dormant?

An integrator that ‘goes the extra mile’ and offers a solution that for example offers a panel solution that when not being used for the MTR experience can seamlessly deliver a signage solution gives a far better overall experience for 100% of the day at no extra cost. That integrator is adding real value.

We met in the Clevertouch Technologies Gallery in London. How can a space like this help end users and integrators?

We have tried to develop an environment that is full of the latest technology that can deliver the best customer outcomes but is also fun to be in. We have invited complementary manufacturers to showcase solutions in our showroom (Logitech, Video Window, Jabra for example) as we recognise that although our own portfolio includes everything from interactive panels, room booking solutions, multiple content sharing solutions, media players and cameras to non touch signage panels, all containing and powered by Clevertouch Live, the ultimate end user environments will involve multiple manufacturer solutions.

We are particularly proud of our partnership with Logitech where we absolutely recognise the importance of an outstanding platform-based meeting room solution as the core of your meeting room experience (MTR, Zoom, Google etc) and have these all on show so the integrator can easily demonstrate the complementary advantages that are delivered by the Clevertouch portfolio.

We do not try and recommend specific, bundled solutions; we encourage our integrator partners to bring their end-user partners in, enjoy the hospitality (yes we have multiple beer fridges that are filled daily) and brainstorm around the ultimate end-user experience – what is their ultimate wish for an outcome?

Then, and only then, do we work together with our technology hardware solutions to deliver. Using Clevertouch Live often means an integrator will deliver multiple solutions with similar Clevertouch hardware but with totally different outcomes for the end user.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

We also have showrooms in Leeds and Livingstone, with more to follow across the EU and the US in the coming months – watch this space.

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Published by AV Magazine on 22 June 2022