Embracing Configurable Control
By Andrew Edwards
Sometimes it’s hard to listen to your customers. Especially if what they have to say is at odds with your business model. I’ve always preferred to “hear it straight”. I like to know where I stand. I like it when people get their true feelings out in the open. After 28 years, you know that I do!
When it comes to control systems, there are some resellers and consultants that aren’t listening to their customers, and in some cases it’s costing them business. Here’s the situation: End-user customers are embracing Extron configurable control systems and they are requesting Extron configurable control systems from our resellers. The demand is incredible, yet some resellers and consultants are trying to switch them to other products that require programming.
Our configurable control products were embraced by the end-user right from the start. First it was the universities. Next, came corporate and government customers and finally K-12 schools. All can easily recognize and understand the benefits of a control platform that an installer or project manager can install and doesn’t lock them into only one company or one person for support. To a reseller who sells programming, this can threaten his hold on the customer.
Let’s say that a university needs to change out a projector. We are told it is frustrating for the school to call the integrator and learn that, because the projector they are removing is no longer available, they have to pay to have their system re-programmed, at $125/hour.
I’ve had some experience with this myself. I recently purchased a home with a previously installed Crestron control system. What an ordeal it turned out to be to try and get a few changes made to the home theater system! The company who originally installed the system didn’t have the programming code on file. They told me that the programmer no longer worked for them, but they suspected he might have the code on file. I tried, but couldn’t track him down. Every other programmer I talked to assured me that even if I located the code, unless I worked with the original programmer, they would be better off starting from scratch, rather than modifying someone else’s code. Do you know what it costs to have a system reprogrammed? I am in the process of installing our new TouchLink configurable touchpanel control system now.
Now, I’m not bashing programming, and I’m certainly not bashing programmers. These guys are some of the sharpest minds in our industry. It takes a high level of expertise to design and install control systems in larger, more complicated applications, whether you configure or program them. It’s for this reason that our new Global Configurator Professional software will only be available to individuals who demonstrate previous programming expertise. GC Pro is a powerful tool. It’s not programming, but it provides features such as conditional logic and controller grouping, which are required in larger more complex applications. Programmers are the individuals in our industry that have the level of knowledge required for these projects.
Our configurable control products were embraced by the end-user right from the start. First it was the universities. Next, came corporate and government customers and finally K-12 schools.
GC Pro will be licensed to individuals who have achieved Extron Control Specialist certification. To become Extron Control Specialist Certified, you must be a programmer with previous programming experience and be thoroughly trained on Extron products and software. If a certified Extron Control Specialist installer is not available for a project, then the reseller or customer will have to contract for configuration services directly with Extron for a fee, or be referred to a qualified independent who has met the criteria for access to GC Pro.
Even though we are limiting access for GC Pro to qualified individuals, customers will still benefit from using a configuring approach. Systems will be deployed faster and can be modified and supported without having to start from scratch.
One thing is certain, Extron will continue to develop and deliver control system products. There will come a day when we will have a full line of control products that is the most complete in our industry. That means configurable and fully programmable solutions. It’s what our customers are asking for and we’re listening. Those products will be available to the resellers and integrators willing to invest the time to learn and support the Extron product line. I don’t know any other way. If the reseller can’t support the product, then the responsibility falls on us. Remember, I have a Satisfaction Guarantee which says that if you’re not satisfied, we’ll do what it takes to make it right! Those of you who know me know that isn’t just an empty promise. At Extron we stand behind our product 110%! That includes configurable, advanced configurable, and when it comes, programmable product support.
I accept that there are those resellers and consultants who take a position against our approach to control systems. If programming is where you make your money, then selling programming is your job. What I don’t accept is when a customer demands our product and is then directed to a competitive product by a reseller who enjoys the benefits of pricing and support from Extron. If a reseller does not believe in a product or support our customer then there is no reason for them to have access to the product line. In the future not all resellers will have access to TouchLink and MediaLink products.
This may be controversial, but like I said, I prefer to be straight at all times. I encourage you to be the same way with us. If you have asked for Extron products and your reseller or consultant has tried to switch you to a different product, let me know. Whether you are a reseller, consultant or end-user customer, I would like to hear your thoughts! Write me back at President@extron.com.
Andrew C. Edwards
President, Extron Electronics