With all the factors that go into implementing the correct audiovisual systems for a higher ed classroom, AV design and installation projects can be rather daunting for those who are new to the industry. There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to AV system design — and even though colleges and universities often use AV contractors for equipment installation, in-house AV or IT departments still must handle many of the initial design and project management tasks. Thankfully, there are tools out there that can help you through the process. Here are some recommendations on software that makes my life easier during the design and construction phases of AV projects. I have no affiliation with any of these pieces of software — I’m just a fan.
Av Project Management Software
Even though time tracking software isn’t directly related to AV design, it can be incredibly helpful with streamlining your project management process. I use an app called Harvest to track all of my hours. I’m able to break each project out into all the major project phases (schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding, construction), then within each phase I can associate my time spent working on a specific task. At the end of each project I’m able to pull a report showing how much time I devoted to each phase and task, to help me better manage my time on future projects. Higher ed tech support managers can pull time tracking data to pinpoint which project tasks take the most time from their employees, and even determine where they need to focus their staff’s professional development efforts. Those that work in the corporate world are very familiar with time tracking to aid in billing, but I don’t see it being used very often in higher ed tech support departments. It’s a great way to streamline your AV design and project management efforts on future projects.
If you’re working on the renovation of an existing classroom, the initial site survey is very important. If you overlook details relating to electrical or mechanical infrastructure, or architectural aspects of the room, it could result in a costly last-minute change order during the construction phase. You don’t want to walk in at the end of a project to commission the AV system, only to find out that the old HVAC system in the room is making an excessive amount of noise, or you didn’t have accurate room measurements for proper projector throw.
I like to start a site survey by taking room measurements with an app called Magic Plan. It helps me create a floor plan for those rooms where I don’t have architectural CAD drawings to work with. Everyone has those old buildings on campus that don’t have reliable architectural drawings. Using my phone’s camera, I can take photos of the room to automatically create a measured floor plan drawing. I still use my trusty tape measure and laser measurer to get more accurate numbers, especially when it comes to projector throw distances, but Magic Plan helps to quickly determine general room dimensions.
There are plenty of complex and expensive measurement tools out there to help with AV design, especially when it comes to sound and acoustics. While there’s a time and place for these tools in site surveys, often they’re not necessary for basic classroom design. We’d all love to spend half a day in each room setting up measurement microphones with a nice RTA (real time analyzer), pop some balloons for reverb tests, and measure numerous sound pressure levels across the entire room. The fact of the matter is that your AV support and design staff members are probably stretched pretty thin, and only have time to collect the essential room information during their site surveys. Simply using phone apps like an RTA, SPL meter and tone generator will help AV design staffers gather the info they need. Sure, those apps are using a cheap, tiny phone microphone, but they can be useful in a pinch to highlight issues in classrooms, like excessive HVAC background noise.
Av Project Management: The Complete Guide
What Is AV Project Management?
AV project management is often a key subset of another project, like launching a sporting venue, hosting a major event in your entertainment space, or even the grand opening of a new office building or educational facility.
Planning an AV tech installation is a significant challenge, and the job often becomes so large that businesses dedicate entire teams to overseeing the process. These teams map out every detail of the technology’s installation and use, ensuring that it can meet the goals and overall needs of the event.
An AV project management team might consist of several individuals, including a project manager and team members, including clients and contractors. Those members all work together during all of the project’s stages.
A typical project consists of three phases:
- Planning: Set goals, outline the work to be accomplished, develop team processes, and assign tasks to team members
- Execution: Perform project-related work, troubleshoot issues that occur, and meet goals
- Review: Assess the project’s success and the team’s performance, and discuss lessons learned
Those phases and the work required for each will differ depending on your project scope and goals. While every project is unique, you can follow some essential steps that can contribute to its success.
Steps of Successful AV Project Management
As you start to plan your AV project, you’ll quickly find that you’re working with multiple to-do lists. The following steps can help to guide your process and ensure that you’re well-organized and ready for the challenges that might arise.
1. Determine Your Project Team
One of the first steps toward managing an AV project is to determine and create a project team. Your team will need a project manager, but it will also need technical specialists. Depending on your project, stakeholders, clients, and possibly additional supervisors may also be integral team members.
At this stage, it’s also essential to determine the scope of work that the project will involve. The more details you have about the specific workload involved, the better you’ll be able to determine how many team members you’ll need to be able to carry that workload. It’s also helpful to identify any specific or unique skills that the project will require, and make sure that your team consists of members who have those skills.
It’s important to determine not only your key team members, but to also decide at what step in the project management process each member should be involved. Consider the roles that each person will hold and how they’ll work together. You may also want to start detailing the responsibilities of each team member.
2. Establish Clear Communication Strategies
Team communication can be a major barrier to effective AV project management. Many AV projects involve team members who are located in different departments, buildings, or even different states or time zones. When you’re working under tight deadlines, accurate and prompt communication becomes even more important in keeping your project moving forward.
Outlining communication strategies at the beginning of the project can help avoid some communication delays and errors that are common project management issues. Consider getting your team involved and discussing communication tools that they’re already comfortable with. This is particularly valuable when you’re working with a client and you need to establish an open line of communication. Clarifying working hours, availability, and response time expectations can help your whole team to approach the project with a mutual understanding and unified approach.
This may also be the time to consider using AV project management software. A quality software platform can help to facilitate internal team communication and even capture and record that communication for easy future reference.
3. Determine Project Goals
As you start to evaluate the work to be done, it’s also time to determine the goals for your project. You can break these goals down into what you want to accomplish during each stage of the project.
Don’t forget that your goals can also involve important elements like quality of work, timely communication, and other elements that will contribute to your project’s success. While it’s easy to focus on meeting specific milestones and viewing those as goals, also think about the goals that will help you to evaluate your team’s performance, too.
4. Create a Project Timeline
Your project timeline will guide your work through the implementation phase, and it really serves as the overall roadmap for your team. Start with a general list of everything you need to accomplish, and determine the deadline for the entire project’s completion.
Next, work backward. Break down those larger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. Once you’ve created individual tasks, you can assign tasks to certain team members and add deadlines for their completion.
When you’re determining deadlines, always leave yourself extra time. Back your deadlines up so that, when something inevitably goes wrong, you won’t immediately delay the result of your project. Be sure to consider which tasks are dependent on the completion of previous tasks, too. A delay in a previous task can trigger a chain reaction, delaying subsequent tasks and putting you past your deadline. Building in extra time and anticipating potential problems can help you to avoid this scenario.
As you build your project timeline, you create a workflow that can guide the overall project’s progress. Plan on referring to this timeline frequently, but realize that you may also need to make adjustments as you progress through the project.
5. Develop a Detailed Budget – and Refer to It Often
Good, detailed budgeting is essential to a project’s success, and it can help you avoid getting into tight spots and facing difficult decisions later in the project’s stages. Careful research, accurate quoting, and rigorous attention to detail can help to ensure that your budget is appropriate.
While establishing a detailed budget can help you plan an AV project, it’s equally important to frequently refer to that budget as the project evolves. There will almost inevitably be unexpected expenses, and it’s essential to balance your actual costs against your predictions. This is also a stage where client communication becomes even more important, especially if you discover that the project’s costs will exceed your initial predictions.
6. Create an Audio Visual Installation Checklist
The AV installation process is particularly prone to errors, so developing an installation checklist can contribute to your project’s success.
Your installation checklist will need to detail the equipment and supplies needed, as well as policies and procedures that installation technicians should be trained in. This is the time to develop an installation plan that outlines the order of installation, as well as the locations.
The more detailed this checklist is, the smoother your installation process should be. This checklist can help to ensure that you don’t miss important steps, and it may help limit the troubleshooting you have to do after an installation.
7. Determine Appropriate Tests and Fixes
Rigorous testing is one of the most important elements of AV project management. Investing plenty of time in thorough testing can help to identify issues that can be addressed before they affect the technology’s performance.
It’s essential to perform plenty of testing at appropriate stages during the project. You’ll need to identify those stages, as well as the types of testing that you can use to validate the technology’s performance.
You may also want to develop a troubleshooting procedure or list of fixes to help the process go smoothly and quickly.
8. Use the Right AV Project Management Software
Managing any AV project, whether it is a small residential retrofit or large-scale commercial new build, is a large task, and it requires rigorous attention to detail. It’s essential to track everything from task deadlines to budgets, and you also need to be able to easily review project progress and identify potential issues before they become larger problems.
Having the right project management software can make that easier. The right AV project management software can help you with everything from proposals to system design and development to enhancing team effectiveness. A quality software platform takes some of the work out of tracking essential details and manually checking in with your team members. It leaves you to focus on the tasks at hand and to address issues that truly require your attention and energy.
Av project phases
– Within the “end user’s” organization, the AV project officially starts with budget approval from administrative management that is probably too busy to actually fully digest the impact of the systems. Likewise, this approval only comes after significant effort (often through a series of unsuccessful altered pleas) to demonstrate said need, has been expended by the internal AV staff. So, in actuality, once “officially” launched the project has been on the AV technology management staff’s radar for some time. It’s fair to say “enthusiasm” is a fitting descriptor of the release of pent up sentiment surrounding the importance of funding the new AV. This is, however, quickly tempered by…
Which actually comes in not one merciful dose (in equal, but negative, proportion to phase one) but as seemingly relentless waves of general unconstructiveness. While perhaps starting with fairly mild glitches typified by say pesky unrealistic requests (more like directives) to add technically unrelated scope, the complexity of disillusionment continues to increase. The damaging effects of which seem to inevitably culminate in a ninth-hour reduction to the total funding at about the same time higher-than-expected bids are returned.
Levity aside, this is truly the critical phase. While panic is a perfectly understandable emotional response to the situation at hand, the successful technology manager must evaluate all given circumstances and realistically reposition the AV project within those constraints. With a revised scope in hand, a methodical (if not hastily applied) approach must ensure all aspects, starting first and foremost with what the real end users needs are, are in alignment with what is about to get installed. And, in reward for this proactive hard work, one might still have a viable project and still be in a position of moderate influence to receive the benefits associated with the next phase.
4. Search for the Guilty
As we all know, if the AV project is done right, it almost always must include facility updates, or perhaps better yet, (re)building the room from the ground up. And in the spirit of being careful what you ask for, one then finds themselves a Construction Project Underling, where the AV will assuredly be the last thing on that “team’s” collective mind. So, combined with your best efforts to resolve your “own” issues simmering from the previous phase, you’ll now be entrenched in a Search for the Guilty exercise of combating disinformation being distributed to folks with hammers and screwdrivers while trying to keep from having your own AV experts from being kicked off the site.
5. Punishment of the Innocent
On the face of, this phase may also sound a bit pessimistic, but again, it is a chance for the technology manager to shine (sort of). Key to the success of which (as well as the project in toll) is the ability to artfully fall on ones own sword. Also known to be helpful skills are: eating crow, having/using get out of jail free cards, or pretty much anything else that is not known to be illegal. So, across several fronts, the AV as planned is compromised, the technology has changed, user input changed, construction techniques are inadequate, contractors are spitting change orders, etc., etc., while the well positioned technology manager takes it on the chin. Finally, after playing lots of monkey in the middle, it’s time for a successful conclusion.
6. Praise and Honors for the Non-Participants
Even though the project team was long since worn out through dogged pursuit of nagging problems championed by the technology manager (the bones of the few still remaining), a last minute push to avoid ribbon cutting hiccups is also completed! Campus stakeholders (which are almost never the same individuals who provided the original “needs” input), the somewhat disinterested folks controlling the funds, the agitated facilities manager and the wonderful AV supplier (they may be reading this also, and I need to restock some get out jail free cards) and yes, the technology manager, assemble for the kick off. As the technology manager’s boss’s boss fumbles with the microphone to publicly thank the faculty stakeholders (with honorable mention for tech manager’s boss) you gladly take a pass on recognition, enthusiastic about applying lessons learned to the next project you’re already privately scheming.
Audiovisual is electronic media possessing both a sound and a visual component, such as slide-tape presentations, films, television programs, corporate conferencing, church services, and live theater productions. AV, an abbreviation for audio/video, is frequently used as a generic term for the audio and video components and capabilities in home entertainment system …