“We’re not some specialist, solo, standalone, cosseted industry anymore. We’re very much part of the day-to-day fabric.”
Peter Swanson is Head of Sales & Marketing for avt (née AMX Australia) and has seen a seismic shift in who is buying AMX gear. The channel partners might be the same (Rutledge AV, ProAV, Telstra etc) but the purchasing decisions are increasingly coming out of the the IT department. As a consequence, AMX looked into what matters to the CTO and CIO. What they found may not have been a surprise but it does, nonetheless, change everything: it needs to be on the network; it needs to be secure; and it needs to be flexibly scalable.
We’ve been talking about ‘convergence’ for years, but we’re now way beyond reading the portents; the writing is on the wall.
“Either we get on board with it or you rigidly stick to the belief that we’re a specialist AV company.”
Nicolette Minnie, is Strategic Marketing Manager of avt (née AMX Australia) and she’s helping avt to evolve from a first-class AV business to a first-class technology business. There’s a lot of change and change is painful, especially when you could argue that ‘it ain’t broke’.
It’s hard to think of too many equipment distributors that attract as much love and loyalty as avt. From the General Manager Graham Evans down, the focus is on providing superior customer service. Every business knows customer service is important, but avt lives and breathes it — and the AMX partners and integrators respond. Saying that, when you know just about every one of your customers by name (and probably know their wife’s name as well as how the mother-in-law’s hip operation is going), then disarmingly-good customer service remains an ambitious goal, but at least it’s possible.
“AV has been a niche market for a long time, where everyone knows everyone else and no one wants to change. We have to change,” notes Nicolette Minnie.
Brave stuff. Certainly not out of the usual playbook of a regional distributor, which would normally consider it prudent to follow the market rather than lead the way, but Nicolette makes a compelling case for ‘adapt or perish’.
“The people who are now making the decisions to buy our gear haven’t always been part of our circle, so we need to broaden it. And we need to change the language we use to speak to them. We need to help them realise AV is part of their every day whether they realise it or not. The truth is, people want to embrace AV and we need to help bridge the gap.”
avt’s new website reflects the company’s new pivot. Not your standard AV catalogue site, the focus is on key Enterprise verticals — Health, Government, Education, Defence and Commercial — and heavy on case studies and inspiration. Peter Swanson explains: “The application-specific case studies are designed such that partners can use the site and share those with a client: the message is ‘here’s what’s possible’. But it’s also a site for partners. We give them an online portal packed with resources that formerly would have been emailed or on an ftp site. We’ve made that more accessible.”
The other thing you’ll notice about the new avt site is it talks about a whole lot more than just AMX.
If half the impetus of this story of radical change is driven by AV/IT convergence then the other half is all about Harman. Harman’s tectonic plates are moving and the landscape has changed markedly.
As a brief recap: Harman has traditionally been a pro audio company. A few years ago it determined it would need to provide more comprehensive audiovisual technology packages — audio, video, lighting, control — and acquired AMX and Martin to join JBL, AKG, dbx, Soundcraft, Digitech, Crown, BSS, Lexicon and Studer.
Last year Harman took the ‘nuclear’ option and globally consolidated its distribution channels — the ramifications are still rippling around the globe.
In Australia, although the implications are significant, they’re not necessarily as disruptive as other markets. Largely this is down to the fact that most of the Harman brands have long been held by another established, class-act distributor in Jands.
But it does mean so-called Enterprise customers can buy any Harman SKUs from avt and Entertainment customers can buy AMX video and control products from Jands.
Hence the AMX Australia/AMX NZ name change — as a Harman Enterprise distributor in Australia it was no longer appropriate — to avt, itself a comforting back-to-the-future return to the company’s AV Technology roots.
‘But as a channel partner who traditionally deals with Jands and AMX/avt, who do I now buy from?’ Surely this will get messy?’
Peter Swanson would like to take AV procurement beyond tribalism and the old binary world of AMX versus Crestron.
“Who you buy from will be about the application, the relationship, and the right equipment. But it’s the height of hubris to suggest that avt and Jands are the only distributors who are having to adapt to large-scale change.
“We’re moving away from that binary perspective of the last few years.
“As audiovisual equipment becomes more standards based, there will be more choice as to how people mix and match product in a system. If you think, for example, our microphones are the bee’s knees but you’re not sold on our switching or amplifiers then, that’s okay, you’re still our customer. It’s our job to make it as positive as we can for our partners who are going through this AV-over-IP shift.”