Our Future Title: Technology Managers

New consumer survey shows the CEDIA industry should standardize on the title “Technology Manager” right away

Much has been made over our industry’s recent struggle to embrace a new title. Looking to replace stodgy names like “Electronic Systems Contractor”, and apply more value to the simplified term “Integrator”, we could clearly benefit from something more marketable to the everyday consumer.

A past survey of CEDIA members revealed “Home Technology Professional” as a front-runner. While this title is an improvement on the surface, I fear it is too limiting in scope. The inclusion of the modifier “home” pigeonholes our industry into a small niche of an otherwise burgeoning technology market. This limitation fails to capture the full breadth of our value proposition to the connected family both now and into the future.

In debating our new title, we must consider the fact that our industry is amidst significant change. As in decades past, we continue to refine our core competencies such as smart-home design, installation, service and support, However, while demand for these home technology offerings remains healthy, the market’s needs are increasingly expanding beyond AV and smart home to include personal technology (think smart phones, tablets, and computers).

I think there’s a possibility that, if we’re not careful, the significant opportunity presented by this market expansion could pass us by, being capitalized on instead by the IT business. To accommodate this reality— as an industry—we need to leverage our new title to develop a better product-market fit between our unique positioning and the needs of the connected family. In this respect titles are extremely important as they concisely convey to our potential customers the benefits of working with us. Therefore, while the respective opinions of industry members certainly carry weight, we should also think critically about what our new title says to the outside world.

To that end, we asked consumers about their technology needs by conducting a survey of Electronic House readers. A sister publication to CE Pro, Electronic House was chosen for its readership which consists primarily of consumers, as opposed to industry members. We received several hundred replies. The results? Consumers overwhelmingly want a single service provider to manage all of their technology, not just their home technology. The data also shows that this singular resource is perceived as more valuable than existing professional categories. Take that in for a moment…

Based on the results of this survey, I’m convinced that the title which best positions CEDIA professionals for the future is “Technology Manager”. Not only does it play off the preference we see in the data for a title starting with the word “technology,” but it also positions us to take full advantage of the premium value consumers see in a single point of contact for all of their technology – a market need that is poised for continued growth.

Perhaps most importantly, the title “Technology Manager”doesn’t pigeonhole our industry to home technology services only. While certain niches dedicated exclusively to the home technology space will always exist (think high-end technology designers or home theater consultants), I believe that eventually the majority of integrators will be well-advised to expand their services into personal technology management. This new title allows our collective industry’s scope to be broadened as the demands of our evolving market increasingly dictate.

Where’s this all going, you ask? Whether or not we are collectively ready to begin managing our client’s personal technology, the title we choose should leave our options open to a market positioned for significant growth. The results of our survey (which are expended on in detail in the gallery that follows this article) indicate that  “Technology Manager” fits the bill now, and puts us in the best position for the future. This new title certainly gets my vote. What about you?

*UPDATE: I had a chance to meet with Julie Jacobson recently at the CEDIA Business XChange, where we had a conversation about this topic. She brought up the good point that two words for a title is hard to write all the time, and that “integrator” is more appropriate for most articles about this industry. I agree with Julie and appreciate the nuances of an industry in transition, but for outsiders the title Technology Manager relates in a broader and more relevant way.

The Survey – Our Objectives and Methods

This survey was developed in an effort to gain insight on three key questions:

  1. In what category of professional do consumers place their home technology and personal technology service providers?  

  2. What titles do consumers use to refer to a person who helps with their personal technology and their home technology respectively?

  3. How does the connected consumer want to be serviced in the future?

We received over 600 responses to our survey which was conducted in the first half of 2016. While we have presented our summarized results with corresponding graphics in gallery format in this article, the survey’s design and the resulting raw data are available for review here.  

Please feel free to review in detail and provide feedback in the comment section below. We hope to run this survey again in the future and would welcome ideas about how it can be improved!

Questions #1 and #3 – Identifying the Titles…

Question #1 asked respondents to identify what title they would typically use to describe the person who managed their personal technology (computers, email, mobile, etc). We presented the same question for #3, however this time we asked them to describe the title they would use for the person managing their home technology (TV, music system, universal remote, etc).

The responses were solicited in free-form (not multiple choice). Over 3,400 unique words were captured between these two questions. The image below presents a top ten list for each question and a corresponding word cloud. While neither question resulted in an overwhelming consensus, responses related to personal technology contained far fewer unique answers indicating greater consensus amongst consumers.

Questions #1 and #3 – A Look at the Adjectives…

We then looked at the results for questions #1 and #3 and analyzed only answers that had at least two words. By looking at the first word of these responses, we found that the word “technology” (or similar variations like “tech” or “technician”) appeared in 26% of the replies to question #1 (personal technology), but in only 12% of the replies to question #3 (home technology). This speaks to the work we will have to do in the CEDIA channel if we want consumers to associate us with technology in general, as opposed to just home technology

Questions #1 and #3 – A Look at the Nouns…

We then looked at the same group of answers (those with two words or more) and analyzed the last word of the replies. We found that personal technology managers are often described with personal words like “guy”, “person”, or “geek”. Home technology managers are more often described using less personal words such as “integrator” or “installer”. However, for the most part there was consensus between the two questions here, which shared 8 out of the top 10 responses. Pairing these observations with data from Questions 2 and 4, we can correlate this with personal tech being more associated with professional skills than home tech – the branding of a title might have an impact on the value perceived by the customer.

Questions #2 and #4 – Identifying the Professional Category…

Following our title-related questions, we also asked our respondents to assign a professional category to the respective technology service providers (home and personal). Respondents were presented with multiple choices on this answer: skilled trade (e.g. plumber), skilled professional (e.g. lawyer), or service professional (e.g. concierge).

While both the types of service providers were primarily considered skilled trades, it is interesting to note that personal technology service providers (aka IT) were almost twice as likely to be categorized as a skilled professional that home technology service providers (23% vs 14%). I believe this points to the fact that consumers value these skills more. This is an important consideration for our industry as we endeavor to build more value in our service.

Question #5 – Would You Prefer a Single Service Provider?

Question #5 of our survey asked respondents to indicate whether they would prefer to have a single service provider to handle both personal and home technology, or if they would prefer to keep them separate. An overwhelming 77% of respondents indicated that they would prefer to have one provider take care of both. This is strikingly consistent with a Parks Associates survey that found 72% of the respondents would prefer a single provider.

Ultimately, this demand will drive consumers to find a single resource for all their technology needs. This means that either in-home IT (aka personal technology) service providers will either begin absorbing home technology business, or vice versa. I believe this is the single most important finding of our survey, and that the CEDIA industry should take proactive steps to capitalize on this demand, including choosing a title that aligns with the market’s needs / wants.

Question #6 – What Title Would You Give to this Single Service Provider?

Lastly, we asked our respondents who answered “yes” to question #5 to choose a title they felt appropriately described this do-it-all professional. The answer was solicited in free form (not multiple choice). While a clear front runner did not emerge, four titles took a nearly even share at the top, of which “Technology Manager” was one. While other titles, including “Integrator” and “Technologist” came in near the top, it is my belief that “Technology Manager” is the most marketable and recognizable of all the options, and is therefore the one we should standardize on.

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