I’m the CIO, not the AV technician

The boardroom becomes quiet as the executive management meeting begins. My colleague, the CFO, begins to deliver a presentation on our corporate financial results and plans. She has some supporting spreadsheets and slides to show on the projector. The CFO finds the presentation on her laptop, then connects the laptop to the projection system.


The screen remains blank.

As CIO, and (presumably) the most technical person in the room, all eyes turn to me. What’s wrong with the projector? As any good problem solver would do, I jump into action.

I go over to help the CFO, who is much less flummoxed about the situation than I am. The CFO has complete faith that I will fix the problem, so proceeds with her presentation.

I fumble with the laptop a bit then realize that the video connector is loose. I try to get it working. Unplug it, plug it back it. I still can’t get it to work. Darn. I then notice that the socket on the laptop is damaged. This isn’t going to work. I then proceed to figure out where the presentation is located so I can get it on the boardroom computer to project it. Sweating bullets, I finally get the presentation up and running. All this took about 12 minutes.

In the mean time, the CFO had continued on with her presentation. When the presentation is finally projected I regain my composure and try to catch up.

Since I was working on the issue, I hadn’t heard a thing she said. Although I did a passable job as an AV Technician (I solved the problem quickly), I didn’t do my job as CIO. I missed some important financial information. More importantly, I removed myself from the discussions and decision-making.

Although it is a very small part of what a CIO is responsible for, the performance of Audio/Visual equipment in boardrooms is very high profile, like it or not. If IT can’t get a projection in a boardroom right, how can we possibly be trusted to complete that multi-million dollar ERP upgrade?

Think about this. Although you do know how to fix the problem (and what self-respecting CIO can’t figure out how to fix a projector problem?), your department might be better off if you didn’t.

Here are some things to consider as you work toward providing AV support during these important meetings:

1. Great Staff. Ensure that you have motivated, client-service oriented, skilled AV technicians that can solve any issue or quickly find appropriate workarounds.

2. Great Process. Ensure that you have a great process for reporting and responding to AV requests. Ensure that all key staff know how to escalate when AV emergencies arise.

3. Reliable Equipment. Ensure that you have good equipment and a great maintenance program in place, with comprehensive check-lists. Replace missing or damaged cables immediately. Never let a bulb burn out. Make sure there is a procedure in place to check the entire set-up regularly — audio, video, computer, conference services. And, if you have a particularly important meeting coming up, make sure this check-list is completed in advance of the meeting.

4. Flexibility AND Control. There are many people who like to reconfigure any set-up you have, and you may not be able to control it. Make sure you have appropriate lock-downs in place. Where you can’t lock down a configuration, see #3.

5. Hardest Part. Here’s my challenge to you. Next time you have an AV emergency (and I guarantee you will), instead of trying to fix the issue, make a point of using the same escalation process you expect your colleagues to use. Trust your team and your process. Let your team shine. If they don’t shine, then continue to work on the above until they do.

When your team does come to the rescue and solves the issue quickly and efficiently, make sure you thank them publicly as they exit the room. Draw attention to their good work. You will want your technician to be remembered for the excellent, client-focused job they performed. And, you want IT to be remembered for your client-service focus, not for a misstep in a presentation.

Did I become the CIO just to act as a Chief AV Technician? Of course not.

P.S. Thanks for reading my post. If you have alternate approaches to this difficult issue, I’d be grateful if you added them to the comment section below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Stephen Abraham
Stephen Abraham
Stephen Abraham is the CIO and IT Director for the Medical Council of Canada, the organization that issues Licenciates for Physicians practicing medicine in Canada. Mr. Abraham has been a CIO for a decade. He has made many mistakes during his 30 years in IT, and has learned a few things along the way.

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