POV: Independent Programmers, Unite!
Dec 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By John Campanella, CTS-D
InfoComm/ICIA recently approved the establishment of the new Independent Programmers Council. This council, of which I am honored to be the inaugural chairman, has been long awaited. The number of independent programmers has increased over the last two years. My company, MDCI, along with a few others, has provided this service for almost 10 years now. It seemed only right to spearhead this and commit to establishing our own council. In a follow-up audioconference, specific liaisons were assigned various tasks to accomplish for the first year. We are grateful that ICIA's Board of Governors recognized our business segment's need for a peer group. Initial audioconferences were conducted among prospective participants, and the overall response was positive.
The council, which has already started its main initiatives, conducted its first meeting at Infocomm 2004 with an encouraging number of attendees. We discussed a number of topics in an ad-hoc forum to gain insight as to where the group needs to focus its attention.
We have always seen the need to strengthen the awareness of the independent programmers, as well as have the respect from our peer councils such as ICAT, SAVVI, and the Manufacturers Council. Without major representation, this was a difficult task, especially for those who have been in the industry for only a short time. Some of the biggest hurdles discussed were having access to manufacturers' services and technical support teams. Most manufacturers have hotlines for their dealers but not for independent programmers, unless they have an existing relationship.
We are also establishing liaisons to the other councils, through which we will bring specific topics of discussion. These topics include ideas on strengthening relationships and providing credibility to our existence. When one thinks of an independent programmer, the first thing that comes to mind is control system programming. We want to change that mindset. An independent programmer is anyone who programs the software to provide a working system — not only control systems, but also specialized programming for systems such as Peavey Media Matrix, Clear One, BSS, and Lighting Systems. I could fill half this page with the different types and levels of how an independent programmer operates.
Independent programmers who have spun off from consultants and integrators have the opportunity to share experiences that will allow the group to grow. Some of us have design and install experience.
In the near future, programming responsibility will be much greater than it has ever been before. With each manufacturer updating its systems to comply with industry needs, independent programmers' expertise and sophistication need to stay abreast of ongoing changes. Knowledge is the key to success. As a senior academy instructor/facilitator and course developer for ICIA, my colleagues and I are always looking to improve the technical expertise of our members. We are always looking to improve the technical expertise of our members. Already in place are various levels of certification along with the many courses the association provides yearly. We have already discussed how to introduce new courses geared specifically toward independent programmers.
Until those courses are established; however, I encourage all independent programmers to seek at a minimum a CTS level certification. This is important because some of the new specifications developed by the consultants now require certain levels of certification before providing services. As a former consultant, I understand this concept, because the consultant is often responsible for the completed project's outcome. Having certified contractors is a way to ensure the technical expertise is being provided.
We need to reach out to the non-association members because the larger our group, the bigger voice we will have with our initiative. They will also bring another level of insight to our group. Our yearly meetings will take place at Infocomm International in June so that we can also participate in the other councils' sessions. We also envision offering courses designed to help the independent programmer succeed.
The Independent Programmers Council's representatives met at ICIA's 2004 Fall Leadership Forum, held in Chantilly, Va., Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 2004. The group met with other AV business segments to formally open lines of communication and identify ways to enhance strategic relationships with manufacturers, integrators, and independent design consultants. To take the next steps, in 2005 the Council will identify and disseminate some best practices in working with the other business segments.
John Campanella,CTS-D, is chair of the InfoComm/ICIA Independent Programmers Council and president of MDCI/Millennium Design Concepts, Inc.