Jan 7, 2010 3:53 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart
Welcome to 2010. We’re all anxious to look forward—and we are. But with that in mind, let’s briefly look back to the future through the prism of some 2009 economic data and predictions.
It’s not news to anyone that 2009 defied predictions. Some seemed destined to fail. I’m thinking of the Middle East “boom,” which was quantified in 2008 as having $1.4 trillion worth of construction projects in the pipeline. In 2007, one source pegged the light and sound market at approximately $3 billion, with “a projected rise to $5 billion in the next five years.” Take a moment.
These predictions seemed perilous, but I think even the most skeptical did not foresee the carnage of cancelled and unfinished projects and unpaid bills that would happen instead. Some companies wrung some success out of the wager, and some projects may resurface. Some individuals got to have the kind of unique expat adventures that the global AV can provide, and for some, their careers advanced as a result. Other people nearly lost their businesses. All are sadder but wiser. So if AV projects resume there in the future, it will be a very different game.
Stateside, InfoComm’s 2009 research indicated up and down trend toward optimism on the part of integrators and manufacturers, and a significant but stabilizing trend in layoffs. The end-user picture was similar but, importantly, less robust. This data paired with decline in demand, or status quo, for all but government and education verticals. Softest demand was identified in finance/insurance and retail/shopping centers.
For me, the number-one flag in all this data is how quickly things change. I’m in California watching our state go “suddenly” broke and not counting on the education vertical here. Government is harder to gauge: There is a lot of money flowing around and a generational comfort with IT and AV. But how will that translate? Meanwhile, the fortunes of many finance and insurance companies have rapidly turned upward, and if the health care bill passes as we go to press, that will infuse the insurance sector with cash that they may or may not spend on AV.
I guess it’s easy to say it’s unpredictable. That usually just means a lack of data or analysis. But in this case, 2010 is fundamentally, deeply, and materially unpredictable. Businesses will have to manage unpredictability for success. We can’t plan or wait for the unpredictability to stop, can’t hang back until something reassures us. Those who don’t need to be reassured will quietly succeed while everyone else waits. Not by being rescued by a geographic region or a specific vertical, but by learning to move and change, try fast, fail fast, make decisions based on information that is closer to home—not on general economic and global trends, which apply to everybody and nobody. The currency will be intimacy—intimate understanding of customers, technology, and potential partnerships. Niche services will be important (next month we’ll talk about Smart Monkeys). Digital will rise. IT will matter—but only within the context of your sphere of influence.
At SVC, like many of you, we managed the tempest of 2009 and are now by necessity investing in 2010. For us, that means more editorial, further development of our website, and our renewed commitment to get you meaningful detail that you can use in your own micro-analysis of where opportunity lies for you. We can’t predict what that will mean other than vigilance and imagination—and that’s the point.