Proposed: Integrator Faceoff

Here's an idea for a new series.

Update: First Integrator Face Off Results

We post a project - could be an actual one or a hypothetical, including details of what the customer wants (general features, not specific products) and what the key logistical issues are.

Four integrators provide responses to this with a quote, brief plan and explanation for their approach.

We publish this, with our commentary, allowing members to review the integrator's submissions and vote on what they like best, etc.

Benefits: Help everyone better see tradeoffs and options designed.

Questions:

  • Do you think this would be interesting to read?
  • Consultants / End Users: Anyone want to volunteer a project? Otherwise we can make them up.
  • Integrators: Would you be willing to participate? How much is a fair payment? We will pay each participating integrator, just trying to get a sense of how much.

Let us know. Thanks.


As an integrator:

Fun! This sound like a unique idea. It would be interesting to see the differing approaches and the reasons why certain products were utilized. I always enjoyed public bids because we could FOIA everyone else's bid and pick through it... Free intel. This would be like a mock version of that. Knowing the quantity of bright, active people on here the solutions are likely to be much more unique than many local bids.

Compensation is much harder to determine. Depending on scope and complexity I am sure some will participate without it.

I would participate without compensation, so long as it's not going to be weeks of work to put a quote and detailed description of how and such.

But a few hours a night over a couple of days? Why not, helps me hone my skills as well. At least that's how I justify it.

This sounds like a great idea. It would be an interesting read, or better yet make it live like Running Man or Hunger Games.

Does the winner get his/her photo taken with an IPVM booth babe?

Yes with the ORIGINAL IPVM booth babe: me.

How ironc would it be if a female wins :)

Oh and I know a good body paint artist

Dammit, where is there no "Ewwww" button?

Yes with the ORIGINAL IPVM booth babe: me.

Game on!

John, don't fire Ethan, but hire a xxxxxxxxxxx to get audience and evaluate pixel quality ..

On the content aspect, it could be very interesting, especially if you propose a kind of standard project matrix

I redacted part of the comment above. I assume you are joking but I don't want to tread on that topic.

As for the 'standard project matrix', can you elaborate on what you want to include there?

I' ve been xxxx censored xxx ! I don't believe it !

Personally, I prefer "Bowdlerized," but John's "redacted" seems so much more sophisticated than "censored."

Depends on the depth you want to give to that type of simulations, like the H264 profiles it can be basic , main or high :-)

Set number and type of cameras according to security missions, Evaluate global camera day/night bandwidth(Diffusion strategy cbr/Mvbr, Smart,+ Stream Strategy View/Rec with vms), how many streams (stream strategy) are managed by Vms and recording schedule (recording strategy) , Server CPU and Server redundancy, Usage of Edge or centralized Analytic, storage stragey (Das,Nas, type of Raid) type of protocol (TCP uni or udp unicast or multicast) how many Lan clients and bandwidth, Play back speeds, Wan clients , Network architecture (level 2 or 3) ,type of network technologies (Of, EThernet, Wireless, IP overcoax, Vdsl..etc) Network redundancy, Power protection strategy, conformity to law, IP security strategy, maintenance strategy ..etc

You might survey the level people wanna have

I'll assume we'll be free to nitpick after?

Not sure if 'nitpick' is the best phrasing for it, but the point would be to discuss the options presented, what each person liked, disliked, etc.

Let me throw out a number for compensation per integrator: $200

The deliverable would be a quote and a one page description of why you choose what you did.

We are not looking for blueprints, design documents, a proposal presentation or anything outrageous.

Thoughts?

If possible, and without compromising the estimator's company policies, it would be worthwhile to see the actual estimate form. My thought is that there is likely to be a high level of variability in the numbers. There is so much variability in how people estimate labor. The actual cost varies widely as well -- labor in New York is much more expensive than labor in Erie, PA. The numbers will likely be all over the place. Being able to see how those numbers were arrived at is of value.

IPVM even create a standardized estimate form and set labor rates, taxes, and so on to level the playing field and to ease understanding how the numbers were arrived at.

I see the value in the suggested labor-baselined approach, but is there a risk for the integrator if the proposed labor differs substantially from their actuals? One benefit for the integrator might be the good publicity. Could a non-representative quote detract from that by creating unrealistic expectations (if the integrator's actual labor costs are higher than the defined defaults) or perceptions of excessive cost (if the integrator's actual labor costs are lower than the defined defaults)?

John...Will you consider having two catagories residential and or commercial applications for said projects considering different applications are involved? Our primarily focus is residential installs.

Greg,

The idea is to have a series. One could be a hospital, the next could be a home, the third could be an office, etc.

We could have different integrators participate depending on their interest, experience, time availability for each one.

Save time and just ask BRS Labs who the winner will be.

Make it a cage match.

As you're probably aware John the IPVM audience is global now (I'm in Bermuda!) - how about making the competition more about how integrators in different countries would aproach the same project requirements? The critique would be a learning experience for everyone involved and should also be quite entertaining.

I like the idea and would be willing to participate.

I like it. Instead of payment for the winner and I believe I've described this before in one of your surveys; it would be cool for the integrator to be featured on your site. Something we could showcase to clients etc. In turn it could bring IPVM more recognition to the public and makes it kind of a win-win for both integrators and IPVM.

As for the competition, only hard part would be costs. Everyones labor is different and requires different labor hours based on tech abilities, region of country or world, overhead, you get the idea. With that, our distribution pricing is all different so that would be tough.

Maybe a better approach would be to leave costs out and approach it as:

1. IPVM acts as customer, describing what they want.

2. There is one or several problems the integrator must overcome (pricing excluded).

3. Integrators involved will be instead judged by their system design.

4. Integrators involved would need schematics of design showing how all goals would be achieved.

Cost would be fun to see, but I don't think it should be part of the critique. Only issue if you leave price out is integrators would be able to throw cost to the wind which isn't real world design either.

Robb,

Good feedback.

There is going to be recognition of the integrator on the site as well as payment. I don't want to sell it simply based on publicity though because it is unfair to ask people to essentially work for free / promotion.

You (and others) make good points on cost. In addition, since the quote is hypothetical, they quote anything for cost :) We need to think through how to handle that.

Perhaps the focus could be more: Why did you choose this product over that? Why did you choose these types of products over others (e.g., panoramic vs fixed vs fisheye, etc.)?

Forget price.

Provide a list of part #'s, and list labor as "feet of wire pulled", "# of cameras hung", etc. Then have IPVM evaluate that list for completeness as part of the selection criteria (i.e. have they thought of everything). IPVM is usually able to estimate street price fairly well on their own.

There is going to be no fair way to evaluate labor prices. Is A low because he's a trunk slammer, or is B just a ripoff? It's hard to make that judgement call over the internet.

If an integrator argues for a more expensive device because it "saves on labor", then they should provide some math illustrating where the "break even" point is where it would just be cheaper to do it "the hard way".

Let's keep the focus on design, because that's the valuable part. Finding out mega integrator X gets way better prices than me doesn't help, nor does finding out that small guy Y is willing to work for free.

Perhaps they could submit pricing on a separate form that IPVM doesn't look at until they've declared a winner, and then do a follow up piece in light of pricing information (possibly declaring a different winner in the second round).

I also think it would be good to have them submit "good, better, best" proposals. What's ideal? What would you do to meet a restrictive budget?

I am not sure on compensation, but $200 seems low. I imagine this should take a lot of effort (at least as much as a standard bid, if not a lot more). Maybe if we are solving a really small problem, but small problems are not that interesting.

Also, will the evaluators know who they are evaluating? I think it would be interesting to evaluate blind, at least at first. We are all slaves to our own bias.

I really like the idea of solving real problems. It would be great if you could find real customers that could describe real projects that they don't yet know how to solve. I think you'd need to vet that situation to make sure participants weren't potential bidders.

In all, really interesting concept.

I am sure my organization would liketo participate in this. Good idea!

We live on feedback here and are constantly looking for better practices. If we don't win but learn from the others, we still win.

This is also a good way for us to share a common challenge within our organization and see what our installers and service people of differing skill levels have to offer. We are big on development.

Or, we could remove ourselves from competition and create a scenario to submit. If we can help, we will.

PS. if compensated, we would just donate it to any one of 20+ charities we help support

Thanks

I would be willing to participate as well, I would like to see how my skills as a systems designer stacks up against the others. I agree with the others, and forego pricing because I subcontract a lot of my wiring and mounting. Lets submit a detailed parts list and back up why we used the equipment we used and lets get some different perspectives.

Omitting price from a quote is like playing tennis without a net.

I agree with James and others that their are numerous problems with including prices on the quote, but since price is such a big factor in design and product selection, I wonder if the winning quote would be representative of a typical bid.

One way to handle the price problem would be for several volunteers (end-users?) to take the task of evaluating the responses and responding to questions from the integrators on the RFP. They would also have to make judgement calls on someone low-balling the labor. If the rate seems too low then the end-users might dismiss the bid on that basis. Just like in the real world.

What about a prevailing wage, say about $65.00 / hour, then we can use our normal pricing with normal markups. Thats not completely uncommon for a bid environment.

Some may remember that the Integrator Faceoff series had a 'pilot episode' where the requirements came from a real world job. Contestants though were not impressed with the proposal.

$2,000 minimum or my truck doesn't leave the lot

the time is probably better spent doing something more profitable, like collecting empty soda cans or checking pay phones for spare change.

Blind fishing in residential is almost always guaranteed to be a migraine headache at best... a wake-up-screaming-with-sweat-running-down-your-teeth nightmare at worst.

No profit, very low likelihood of selling anything else and very low probability of any service contract. Let someone else lose the money.

This is messy all over!!

Absolutely no jobs without a site survey. You might as well go to Vegas!

Match quotes to posters: Ari E, Matt I, Jon D, Und A, Richard B, Jason C

As for the residential part, I agree. I have tried to be nice and help people out, but I've learned my lesson and stay in the commercial world.

Other than that, I would say some these responses are how some typical project work goes. You get a set of drawings for new construction, a vague idea of what the customer is looking for, and you do your best. Sometimes it works out, sometimes you don't do as well as you hoped. When you're not dealing direct with the customer right away it is almost always hard to determine exactly what they want or how it will be installed.

The key in my mind is to make it a point to have that conversation with the customer after bidding/before contruction. It helps to get a better understanding for not only you, but to educate the client as well. If you've done well at that, you'll point out some factors in the equation they may have missed and possibly sell more product. I feel like I would have missed out on some pretty cool work if I hadn't done this. The more you stay educated on product and your technique, the better the outcome no matter the situation (which is why we're all on this site right?).

That's just my approach and it works for me, but understand it might not work well for others.

I think this would be a great idea and a very interesting read. It would be great to see first hand other's view of how they approach projects. As an integrator, we would be more than willing to participate.

I'll leave the compenstation up to you, but possibly base it on the complexity of the project.

Hi,

Coming from E.Africa and having done projects in over 17 Countries all over Africa I think we would be interested in knowing how we fare against other Integrators especially those in well developed and mature markets such as North America.

I believe if Labor rates were kept at a standard for all this could work out to be a great "Game" it will also serve as a learning curve to all out there on how to best present a proposal to a client knowing John and the team are quite well versed in looking at details

Did anything ever happen with this?

Yes, see: First Integrator Face Off Results

We have not done a second. It did ok in terms of member engagement so we might do it again but we would need to figure out what scenario and think about ways to improve the structure.