Why do AV projects take so long?
This is a question we are asked rather frequently. “You just need to order the stuff and hook it up, right? How long could that possibly take?”
In a world where we can purchase most anything online and either pick it up in the store in an hour or have it delivered tomorrow, we have begun to expect that level of speed in many areas of business and life. But, just because we have that expectation doesn’t mean that it is realistic.
Professional AV projects take time to be planned and executed properly. And, if you want, or need, the project completed during a busy time of year for the industry (summertime, and specifically, August), it is best to start early. Many of our clients with an August installation requirement kick off their projects no later than January. Waiting until spring to kick-off a summer installation does compress the typical project timeline, but not to a point that jeopardizes the overall quality of the project. If you are waiting until May or June to start work on a project that you would like completed this summer, it may be difficult to source the professional equipment and partner you need. A shorter timeline will also usually mean compromises in budget (higher) or functionality (less) may need to be made to meet a tight delivery schedule.
Back to the original question (“just order it and hook it up, right?”), yes, eventually we will place an order and hook it up, but there are other steps in the process too:
When you look at the time allocated to each step of the process, the timeline math adds up fairly quickly into weeks and months.
Professional AV firms know that building quality systems takes time and we allow for this time in all of our project timelines. From equipment delays and backorders, to component shortages and inclement weather, we ensure that project plans are taking all possible risks into account during each phase. We also build in adequate notice and time for spec reviews and approvals in which your team is involved to allow everyone to work proactively rather than reactively.
A proper timeline is also an important factor when it comes to the project budget. Projects with compressed timelines typically see higher budgets because of equipment expediting fees, additional labor fees for overtime or weekend work, and doubling up on tech resources to complete the engineering and commissioning work. When we are engaged in a project early to complete the engineering and design, we can identify products with longer lead times and complete the purchasing in stages. As an example, if your current fiscal year budget supports the design and engineering of a system but we need to wait until your next fiscal year begins to actually purchase the equipment, we can build that into the timeline. If there is a particular product that may take longer and does need to be ordered in this fiscal year, we can identify that early enough in the process so that we have adequate time to identify a solution. We also continually monitor external factors including changes in tax law or tariff schedules, recalls, and supply chain issues to determine if we need to adjust forecasted equipment purchasing dates.
Honestly, it depends on the project. While 10-12 weeks may be perfectly fine for a conference room renovation, it would not be realistic for the systems build-out of a new corporate headquarters that will have dozens of state-of-the-art meeting rooms.
In broad terms, allowing for a 12-16 week timeline is typically a comfortable timeline for many AV integration projects. Keep in mind that the timeline starts AFTER an agreement is signed, so your timeline should start earlier to allow the appropriate time you need for vendor research, meetings, vendor selection, and contract negotiation and approval.
For projects that need to be completed in the summer (the most popular time of year for AV projects), you should be finalizing your vendor selection and signing agreements in the first quarter of the year to allow for equipment delays or backorders, adequate time for system design and testing, and a reasonable installation schedule. In order to finalize those agreements in Q1, planning should begin in Q3 or Q4 of the previous year, and, for many clients, this also coincides with when budgets are being developed.