AV in the Public Sector

Scott Pollard 3Written by Scott Pollard, CTS, Technical Account Director at Midwich. As featured in the March-April 2019 edition of AV Magazine.


After years of “austerity” and a seemingly permanent squeeze on public spending, you might think the public sector had no cash to spend on AV. But this is far from the case.

Last year, one of Midwich's resellers supplied the AV in a brand-new building for an English local authority. There were 80 meeting rooms and the total order was worth around £900,000 (out of a £50 million spend on the entire building). So there always seems to be money available if there’s a genuine business need.

Higher education, for example, is investing heavily in the latest collaboration technology – as at the University of Warwick, where one of our resellers completed a highly successful installation of Mersive’s Solstice wireless presentation technology in the university’s £19 million Oculus building. The army, navy, police, and transport authorities such as the Highways Agency are beefing up their command-and-control centres with the latest technology, while the NHS is spending on everything from patient information and telemedicine to high-quality specialist displays.

One of the good things about the public sector is that organisations across a market, such as government, higher education or the military, like to talk to each other and share knowledge and experiences – much more so than private sector companies.

For example, we're a key partner in higher education, supporting ‘champions’ within universities who use products that we distribute – people like Adam Harvey at the University of Hertfordshire and Jonathan Owen at Warwick. We have good relationships with many universities, where we introduce the latest technology to permit our partners hands-on choice to meet their business need. We're sometimes asked to recommend a trade reseller or integrator to deploy such equipment if it's right for the needs of the institution.

It’s important to realise that, although Midwich is channel based and can’t actually sell direct to public sector organisations, that doesn’t mean we can’t engage closely with them, and we do.

We also collaborate closely with resellers, of course. I have personally worked with a number of channel companies for more than 20 years, and if you ask why they keep coming back to Midwich, I can sum it up in three words: portfolio, expertise, and trust.

We have possibly the widest product portfolio in the business and work with well over 350 manufacturers, which means that we can offer a lot of options for virtually any project.

Working closely with manufacturers supports Midwich’s technical expertise, enabling us to understand all the nuances of a product set and what it can achieve. Add the skills and knowledge of our people and you have a winning combination.

My own background is in engineering, like a lot of our technical advisors. Having experience of installing these kinds of products into projects is invaluable in visualising what a client is trying to achieve and the challenges to be overcome. Most of us have been in the industry a long while, and we have a wealth of experience that simply can’t be gained overnight.

If someone comes up against a particularly knotty problem, with more than 250 UK-based people on the Midwich team there's always a colleague with exactly the right in-depth technical knowledge and a willingness to share it. We often help each other out, and of course we can also call on our vendors for added expertise.

All of this means that both resellers and their customers know that Midwich is a company they can trust for the best impartial advice. A lot of my clients are at the top of their game, but they still welcome our expertise.

The £900,000 local authority order I mentioned above is a case in point. It involved some great new wireless technology from Mersive. The reseller was highly competent, but the Mersive technology was relatively new to it, so it asked us for support.

We helped to present the Mersive technology to the customer – first the network team, who had plenty of tough questions on security, and then the council’s heads of department, complete with mock-ups of actual meeting rooms to demonstrate exactly what they were going to get.

As a result, the reseller got the order, and the clients said the technology gave them even more functionality than they were expecting. It's so rewarding to see technology exceed the expectations of a client, and the reseller has been able to win further contracts with another local authority for 55 meeting rooms, using the first project as a reference.

Midwich can assist at every stage of a project, from initial preparation and product demos to after-sales services and warranties. We strongly encourage our resellers to get their staff thoroughly trained in any new technology, and our training centre at Crowthorne, Berkshire, has extensive facilities for this. We can either deliver the training ourselves, or invite the manufacturer in where more appropriate.

After supporting the sales process, once the contract has been won Midwich can offer services such as commissioning, or tech support for the reseller’s own engineers – especially valuable where unfamiliar new technology is involved.

Post-sale, our Mi Support division offers a comprehensive range of services that enhance a manufacturer’s basic warranty to provide whatever level of cover the customer requires, from phone and email support, through on-site support to complete next day product replacement to ensure continuity.

We can fill all the gaps and provide a five-year extended warranty if required. Even tier one resellers are using Mi Support, because it dovetails perfectly with the support they can provide in-house.

Working in the public sector is definitely a rewarding field to till. Customers are normally pretty clear about what they want to achieve and the service they want to deliver, which isn’t always the case in the private sector. And they’re usually nice people to deal with – down-to-earth and approachable, even at very senior level.

There’s definitely a "public service ethos", and at Midwich we’re proud to be part of it.

For more information, please contact me at Scott.pollard@midwich.com or call 01252 876300, or take a look at our favourite products in this handy PDF: