This is a reply to a Mark Coxon post after a discussion on Red Band Radio podcast at Infcomm 13.
To begin with, apologies in using the PhD equals medical degree relationship - the Red Band show was recorded on the last day of Infocomm 13 and I was suffering the waning mild effects of several days limited sleep and the river o’ libations we consumed only a mere few hours prior. The example still holds, just because one has a PhD (or an MD for that matter) does not mean that the individual will use the logic and information gained in an honest way. MD’s can have a licence to practice revoked but not the title -(both can insist on being called doctor as they have earned a degree which can only be ‘revoked ‘ if it could be proven that he or she obtained it by false pretenses (i.e. cheating).
In a similar fashion I have always seen CTS as a general benchmark of knowledge for the Audio Visual Industry. The achievement of passing the test shows an understanding of how practical systems work, the general theory and fundamentals of the technology and an understanding of the general practices of our business. This is your ‘degree’. Like the levels of degree in higher education a CTS is the associates degree while CTS-D and I are the Masters degrees. An inherent code of conduct is expected from dedicated professionals based on the knowledge gained and proven.
I can relate the difference in quality employees the process of studying and passing the CTS can, and does, have. During my tenure with a major manufacturer of automation and distribution equipment the policy of having all support folks CTS qualified was implemented. This was met with obligatory grumbles and kvetching but proceeded nonetheless. The policy stated that all new technical support employees needed to gain their CTS within Ten days of the first day of work (back when it was only a on computer test). Essentially one was payed for ten days of study and to take the test. Fail? You were handed walking papers. Those who were already employed were given a schedule where in office time was provided to study and test. We had a good number of the support staff, including sales reps and administrators CTS qualified in just under a year. Did it mean that all were competent to be sent out in the field to program and install? No, but their knowledge was expanded and therefore awareness of the proper methodology instilled. We found that people made better, and often more ‘ethical’, decisions more consistently. The knowledge is the power and motivator.
Regardless, lazy and despicable folks are unavoidable no matter what level of omnipresent oversight and enforcement one attempts to implement. Audits more often than not do not catch the truly deceptive and lazy individuals/ organizations, we do, the clients do.
AQAV (based on the ISO model) appears to be more a standardization of process than continuing education and utilizes the omnipresent oversight threat to ‘insure’ application and commitment to following the preordained set of standards. Is ISO workable in an industry where the majority of companies are those with under 100 employees? Perhaps, but the cost of certification, (not to mention pre audit, training ) and annual audit are not to be taken lightly. The link you provide has the wonderfully worded statement “Once certification is attained, the only annual costs would be a reasonable fee for the surveillance audits” , the emphasis is mine. While the cost of ISO certification does slide with the size of the company certified the return on investment takes much longer. I have seen a good deal of discussion about the percentage of companies who were able to recover ISO 9000 implementation costs, most site the McGraw-Hill/Dun & Brad-street studies which state something in the order of 50% in Three years or less. For something which requires the extent of effort and vigilance this is not a very good number, especially when applied to current economic model of AV Integrator. The big boys and manufactures might be able to swallow this but not so the smaller partnerships and mom n’ pops.
To be clear, I am not against the concept entirely but my, albeit limited, experience with folks who are, have been and are maintaining ISO certifications do so only because it is required for specific types of contracts and is considered overbearing and clunky and not really a motivator to responsible practices. Does the AV Industry really need such oversight? Is the argument really stating that one cannot expect to be good without the threat of damnation? If true then we are already lost.