AMX – A drink to Crestron CSP’s

Should I Hire an AMX/Crestron Programming House – No!

Why should an A/V company choose a small programming firm over a programming house with many programmers?

In most situations, when you come across an audio/video programming firm that is recognized as both a Crestron CSP and AMX VIP, you can expect quality. But if you’re choosing one of those companies that have several programmers within their organization, then who is really programming your job?

For this article a programming house will be defined as a programming company that is part of AMX VIP’s and/or Crestron CSP’s program and that has more than one AMX/Crestron programmer.


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Recently, I was told about an incident that occurred with a well-known and established programming house that has multiple programmers working for them. Now, some dealers might think that this would be an advantage. However, the audio/video dealer that hired them and did millions of dollars for the government, was in for a surprise. The programming house, on two separate occasions, sent totally different programmers to the on- site commissioning. The first visit went as planned.

For the second on-site date, the company had to send a different programmer because the original programmer was not available. The audio/video dealer told the client (the government) that this new programmer was going to be at the job site first thing in the morning because that was what was told to them. After some time had passed, the client called the dealer and told them no one had shown up. The audio/video dealer called the programming firm who, in turn, could not get in touch with the programmer.
Some time went by and neither the programming firm nor the dealer was able to find him. If the programmer could not show up as scheduled, then what could possibly be worse? Perhaps that the source code, with all the most recent changes, also went missing.

They eventually found the programmer. I did not ask for all the personal details but I was told they found him drunk — going bar hopping.

If you are an audio/video dealer and looking to hire a programming company, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much is it going to cost me?
  • Who is doing the work on my job? – you should know the individual programmer.
  • What are the qualifications of the individual programmer? – you should have their resume.

  Every company, small or large that has employees working for them, can have personal problems. Those problems can be extremely unprofessional such as the example above or it could just be training issues.

Many programming companies cannot afford to pay their employees to go through costly training programs. Programming companies have large overhead costs even without employee training. Many times when you hire a programming house their employees are getting trained by actually doing your job that you hired the company to program. How often do you see on the company’s website the resumes of their current employees?

It would be unfair to be overcritical of the CSP’s and VIP’s programming firms/programming houses. But when you are a dealer and hire a programming company for a specific job (that has your company reputation online), then you should expect a higher level of quality.

The audio/video dealer was not expecting ‘personal’ problems arising from the CSP/VIP company they subcontracted. The above example has the potential to make everyone from manufacturing companies to other programmer firms to look bad. This same dealer told me they would not hire any more programming companies or individuals for their jobs in the future. The client (government) only knew that this person that was going to program their system to meet their deadline was out drunk somewhere in the city.

I do not know how many times I have been to clients’ facilities (commercial or residential) in which they have complained that the reason why the system does not work is because of the logo that appears on their system — AMX, Crestron Savant or Control4. Some clients only see that logo as the source of their problem. So the above information from the audio/video dealer should be very concerning to manufacturing companies.

If you are in audio/video dealer or manufacturing company and you hire a programming firm that has many employees working for them, you cannot guarantee the results that you are going to get. Just like the above example where the programming house could not guarantee the professional quality of their own employees. For this reason and many others, going with a programming company that has just one employee gives you more of a guarantee of a great outcome of your job. But to be fair, there are some disadvantages of going with a smaller AMX VIP’s or Crestron CSP’s programming company that has only one programmer. Probably the most obvious ones are limited scheduling opportunities and problems that will arise if that one programmer becomes sick or detained. However, for this conversation let’s assume health is not an issue and that your company has plenty of time to get someone scheduled to work on a particular job.

Scheduling Is Not A Problem

So I am asking, what else would be the disadvantage of working with a programming company that has only one programmer? Honestly, I cannot think of any disadvantage but perhaps some readers of this article might feel differently.

Is they are an advantage to using a programming house – No!

If you believe that there is an advantage to using a programming house then please leave a comment.


 

Once you take scheduling and health out of the equation, I willing to bet there will be very few comments making the argument that hiring a programming house is more advantageous.


Summary:

This dealer was very open about the name of the programming house company that encountered this problem. The dealer offered to make this information public so that everyone learn & benefit from this ordeal. However for professional courtesy, I am withholding the name of the programming firm. I’m sure the audio/video dealer has already told many individuals about his experience and I bet the programming house knows who they are from reading this article. I doubt they’re going to leave a comment.

Just because your company hires a AMX VIP’s or Crestron CSP’s (individual or programming house) it will not guarantee that your project will be successful. I believe the best option is to hire an individual programmer (programmer’s) and make sure you know the person that will be programing your system.

Hiring an individual or programming house that is part of AMX VIP’s or Crestron CSP’s is becoming less of an advantage to dealers. Because how many managers or owners have had problems with AMX VIP’s or Crestron CSP’s programing companies? For the audio/video dealer in this article it was a disadvantage to hire that Crestron CSP company. In the Source Code Revealed article it was also a disadvantage to that dealer too.

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Most importantly, I think the real problem with this situation was the fact that the source code was not backed up on a server. The latest code should always exist on a location that can be accessed from anywhere. Always get a copy of the resume of the individual that will be working on your job and the full source code. For more information about audio/video source code please read Source Code Revealed. The Source Code Revealed article will discuss what an audio/video dealers and manufactures need to know about source code, file extensions, wrapper code, and source code for modules.

Source Code Revealed

LOGO



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2 Comments

  1. Interesting perspective. As a former CSP and now manager of a commercial integrator, I have to disagree with your general conclusion that individual independent programmers are better than multi-programmer houses. You raise valuable points about knowing who is going to work on your job and their qualifications. Anyone looking to hire an outside programmer should request this information. I’d also inquire about backup procedures and agree about source code ownership (a subject you seem passionate about.)

    It seems unfair to dismiss a whole group of capable companies because one moron went off on a drinking binge. Also, scheduling and availability are such critical components, excluding this factor renders the discussion somewhat meaningless. The reality is, people get sick, go on vacation, get busy on other projects, etc. Anyone evaluating a sub-contractor, for programming or any other service critical to their business, has to consider this fact.

    I operated for several years as a one-man CSP. As business grew, there were more existing systems to support along with new project deliverables. An additional programmer became essential to provide my clients (mostly Crestron dealers) with the level of service required – especially when it came to urgent support or minor programming changes, If I was busy on a project, and especially when on site, it was comforting for my clients to know that there was someone available for them. Clients also received value from having a highly qualified, but more junior programmer (billing at a lower rate) available for quick turnaround on logo updates, swapping an IR driver for a new device, etc.

    If a client is looking for a CSP to provide on-site support and commissioning, especially for a large project, than a multi-person shop is likely much better equipped to staff the job. Also, why should a client pay a Master Programmer rate to update firmware or load / test programming? Of course, you want that Master available if any real issues come up.

    I always enjoy reading your articles. We just disagree on this one…

  2. I have worked in both environments where I was the only in-house programmer and in situations with multiple in-house programmers. I generally prefer that EVERYONE on the team at least be able to EDIT code. I have the expectation that an AV person who cannot at least edit code is a liability. So multiple programmers? If any integrator does not have multiple coders in-house: they are already in bad shape. And about the personnel issues of people going out and getting drunk instead of showing up? That can happen in ANY size company, it is not limited to code houses. Lack of management oversight or interest can cause that. Alcohol abuse is not limited to coders or even the AV industry. Back to programming houses. I have found that the best programmers tend to be full time programmers but there are limitations and liabilities of using such code specialists generally in the sense that coders like that tend to be more disconnected from the hardware side of things and also tend to write code, get in and get out and often leave run-time errors due to lack of QC time or interest (I myself was guilty of that for many years). However: a service tech sees the system from an entirely different view and putting the service team leader (who can edit code) in the QC role will deliver optimal results provided that the service tech has access to both the source code and source GUI with no locked modules. (Because it is those C+ modules where the buffers are overrun and the system crashed). From factory modules to code house proprietary: it seems that in this industry there is a real dearth of understanding about how important that memory management is to the stability and reliability of a system. There is simply NO reason to write code that randomly and intermittently locks up and crashes a system and yet that is the standard that more than 95% of the industry follows regardless of the nature of the code house that the coder works at. Hell, the factory modules are NEVER perfected, they get us 90% of the way there but I seldom see a coder close that last remaining 10% regardless of who it was or where they worked. Just look in the event viewer and error log for the problems, it will show the way.

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