Defining Users Needs and Desires

Defining Users Needsand Desires

In this chapter, you will learn about

  • Identifying a customer’s current and future needs
  • Developing a preliminary design
  • Defining a project’s scope, budget, and timeline
  • Preparing a proposal

A potential customer may not actually know what he or she (or they) really wants from a home automation project, at least not in detail. He may know that he wants a home theatre, music and TV throughout the house, a security system, and perhaps a door lock he can remotely control (an access control system). However, he doesn’t know what is involved specifically to implement his vision. And that’s where you, the home technology integration professional, come in.

This chapter provides an overview of the steps you should perform to fully understand the customer’s desires and needs, today and into the future, how to organize and document these desires and needs, how to prepare and present a proposal.


Identify the Client s Needs

After an initial conversation with the customer where you actively listen more than you talk, you should have an idea of what the customer wishes to accomplish in a home technology integration project. Active listening means that you provide feedback to the speaker and work to gain an understanding of what’s being said. Be sure to request a floor plan of the customer’s home. If a floor plan is not available, tour the home and sketch one out. In an existing home or one already under construction, you should do a site survey and walk-through anyway, if for no other reason than to acquaint yourself with the workplace and its conditions.

Typically, if the project involves new construction, a floor plan, in the form of a blueprint, should be available from the builder. However, in remodel or retrofit projects, you will most likely need to create one. Keep in mind that the dimensions of the rooms, walls, and features of the home are important, not only for planning purposes, but for budgeting as well. The amount of time you spend discussing the project and its design objectives really depends on its scope and inclusions.

Your task is to work backwards from the customer’s stated needs to identify alternative approaches and perhaps better solutions. The process you should use is detailed in the following steps:

  1. Identify the customer’s stated and hidden needs, ensuring that no critical need is missed or forgotten in the conceptual design. When discussing all the possibilities, be sure to cover every one of the subsystems you offer, such as:

    • Structured wiring
    • Computer networking
    • Distributed audio and video distribution
    • Home theatre
    • Lighting management
    • Telecommunications
    • Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning (HVAC) and water management
    • Security protection system
    • Home access control systems
    • Home control system
    • Other automated devices

    To help keep track of the customer’s desires and needs, create worksheets for each of the subsystems to accurately and consistently record the discussion and decisions. Table 37-1 is a sample worksheet for the audio distribution system.

    Table 37-1: Design Planning Worksheet for a Home Technology Project

    Zone #

    Room

    Placement

    Speakers

    Volume Control (VC) What does V/C stand for?

    Keypad

    Special Instructions

    1

    Kitchen

    Ceiling

    Round Model #

    VC with IR input

    Keypad

    Keypad by pantry

    1

    Dining Room

    Ceiling

    Round Model #

    VC

    NONE

    Controlled by keypad in kitchen

    2

    Living Room

    Wall

    Rectangle Model #

    None

    Keypad

    Integrate with home theatre

    3

    Deck

    Surface mount bracket under eave

    Outdoors Model #

    VC

    Keypad

    V/C and Keypad located by slider door to deck

    Table 37-1 shows a sample of a worksheet developed for an audio subsystem portion of a home automation project. Creating worksheets for each subsystem, rather than one large worksheet for the entire project, is a good way to focus the discussion with the homeowner on each subsystem. The detail in the worksheet for each subsystem should provide good input when preparing a design proposal.

  2. Tie every alternative approach back to a need identified by the customer.
  3. Prepare a conceptual design for the project that identifies your understanding of the customer’s current and future desires and provide a factual basis for your system specifications. The format of the conceptual design can be the worksheets you design, a drawing, a narrative, or all three. Figure 37-1 illustrates a drawing of conceptual design.

    click to expand
    Figure 37-1: Floor plan with conceptual design of devices and locations

      Note

    Consumer Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) has adopted and published a set of planning icons it hopes will become accepted industry wide for planning and design purposes. While the number of icons are far too numerous to list here, Figure 37-1 illustrates how they are used.

  4. Discuss the conceptual design with the customer, highlighting how the design addresses their current and future needs. After making any necessary adjustments, obtain their approval to move forward with the project proposal.

Consolidating Wiring Requirements

Working from the conceptual design (see Figure 37-1), list the major systems (audio, video, remote controls, computer network, security, HVAC control, and so on) to be installed and list the wiring type required for each. For each cable type, determine how many runs are needed, where they will be installed, and develop a preliminary wiring plan and an estimate of the amount of each wiring type required. Of course, this presumes that you and the customer have agreed on a location for the cable distribution center.

The result of this process should look something like Table 37-2.

Table 37-2: A Preliminary Wiring Estimate

System

Cable

Runs

Total Length

Outlets

Placement

Total Estimated Length

Total Needed

Audio

RG-58

6

50 feet

12

In-wall

300 feet

660 feet

Video

RG-58

6

60 feet

12

In-wall

360 feet

Data Network

Cat 5e

10

100 feet

10

In-wall

1000 feet

3980 feet

Security

Cat 5e

16

120 feet

12

In-wall

1920 feet

Access Control

Cat 5e

2

30 feet

2

In-wall

60 feet

Communications

Cat 5e

10

100 feet

10

In-wall

1000 feet

HVAC Controls

Quad wire

3

45 feet

3

In-wall/basement joists

135 feet

135 feet

  Note

Be sure to include extra cable length for rough-in cable loops at each outlet in your preliminary estimates of the total length of cable required for each system. In addition, consider any special construction or layout in the home, such as vaulted ceilings, that will require extra length for wire runs.

The next step in this process is to verify the local, state, and national building and wiring codes and standards to determine the cable specifications that must be followed. This information is very important to the budgeting phase of the project.

Project Planning

Now that an estimate has been made for the cabling requirements for the project, you can list the tasks required to complete the rough-in, pre-wire, trim-out, and finish work for the entire system. As part of this process, you should list the tasks to be performed in their chronological sequence (you may need to coordinate with the builder or contractor to learn their schedules and sequences).

The project planning should include all tasks, including customer training, follow-up, coordination, approval, inspections, and so on. Leaving out a pacing item could lead to a later misunderstanding between you and the customer, especially if a third-party begins to pace the project. You heard it here first: the most important part of any project is your communications with the customer.

You should then cost out the wiring, outlets and faceplates, controls, control panels, networking devices, and labor required to complete the project as conceptualized. This information allows you to prepare a budget.


Preparing a Proposal

Your proposal to the customer for the work to be performed creates a working contract in the customer's mind. So, anything that is important to the success of the project should be included in the proposal. This means that any and all tasks to be performed should be listed; all equipment and devices should be listed; all prices should be firm (with language to cover changes or additions to the original plan); all timelines should be reasonable and doable; and any potential obstacles to meeting the timeline should be listed, such as contractor delays, material delays, inspection delays, and the like.

The project budget should be developed so that it reflects the cost of each system to be installed. This information allows the customer to answer two questions: are you the contractor of choice (in a competitive situation) and does she really want to install all of the systems on her wish list?

When presenting the proposal to the client, also share a finalized drawing or diagram of the project and its scope of work. Clearly identify wire runs, outlet placement, and cable distribution and consolidation points. An incomplete proposal with vague drawings creates a situation where the project's objectives are “in the eye of the beholder.” The proposal should detail exactly what will happen, when it will happen, and how much it will cost the customer.

On the other hand, be cautious about including too much information. There is no need to include the appropriate building codes and cable specification sheets, unless you believe it is important to provide the customer with this information in a competitive situation. It is a fine line between sharing your concepts and giving them away. Consider which documentation for the project you want to give to the customer at the time of proposal as you have not been awarded the contract yet. You don't want your hard work designing the system to be used by others who might be able to outbid you, installing your system at a lower price since they didn't do the design work.

Be sure your proposal is dated (you may end up presenting several versions to the customer before you reach a final agreement) and includes a Signed Acceptance Agreement that clearly outlines the payment terms and what happens if they are not followed.

Present the proposal to the customer in person and review it in detail. Explain why you made the decisions about the system and components based on previous conversation(s). Sending it to the customer through the mail or e-mail and then discussing it over the telephone or by e-mail creates the opportunity for the customer to misinterpret technical information and, most important, not understand how your bid represents a quality installation. By meeting in person you can answer questions directly, get a much better sense for the customer's thoughts, and, hopefully, close the sale.


Review

In your initial conversation with the customer, listen carefully to learn what the customer wishes to accomplish in his home technology integration project. Request a floor plan of the customer's home, but if one is not available, tour the home and create one. You should do a site survey to acquaint yourself with the workplace and its conditions. The dimensions of the rooms, walls, and features of the home are important for planning and budgeting purposes.

The steps in the initial phases of the project planning process are: identifying the customer's current and future needs, and preparing and presenting a conceptual project design. After the customer has approved the conceptual design, develop the formal project planning. The project phases should include consolidating the structured wiring requirements and developing a project plan and budget that addresses each phase and task of the project.

To consolidate the cable requirements, work from the conceptual design and list the major systems to be installed and the cabling required by each. You should first gain approval from the customer on a location for the cable distribution center.

You will need to verify local, state, and national building and wiring codes and standards for the cabling to be installed. This information is important for budgeting the project. List the tasks required to complete the rough-in, pre-wire, trim-out, and finish work for the entire system in a chronological sequence.

Cost out the materials required to complete the job as designed and prepare a project budget. The project budget should reflect the cost of each major system to enable the customer to make decisions regarding the feasibility of the project.

The project proposal should include all the information that is important to the success of the project: all the tasks to be performed; firm prices; reasonable and doable timelines; and potential obstacles to completing the project as scheduled. Include a finalized drawing of the project. You should present the proposal to the customer in person.

Questions

  1. What should be your approach for learning a potential customer's needs and vision in your initial meeting with a customer regarding an HTI project?

    1. Present a list of the latest and greatest system alternatives to educate the customer.
    2. Listen carefully and actively to the customer's needs and requirements, and then prepare a conceptual design.
    3. Listen to the customer's stated requirements and then discuss all newer and state-of-the-art system approaches.
    4. Politely listen to the customer and then prepare a conceptual design that includes the systems you believe are best for the customer's situation.
  2. Which of the following should be performed during your initial visit with the customer?

    1. Preliminary design
    2. Conceptual design
    3. Site survey and/or blueprint review
    4. Budget preparation
  3. Of the following, whom should you consult during an installation project in a new construction situation?

    1. Builder
    2. Customer
    3. Building inspector
    4. Electrician
    5. All of the above
  4. What customer needs should be addressed in the development of a conceptual design? (There may be more than one answer.)

    1. Stated needs
    2. Hidden needs
    3. Unspoken needs
    4. Future needs
    5. All of the above
  5. What documents should be included in a conceptual design presented to the customer? (There may be more than one answer.)

    1. Narrative of the project scope
    2. Identification of the customer's needs and desires
    3. Conceptual design diagram
    4. Specific cable specifications and costs
  6. What is typically the first activity when developing a structured wiring project plan?

    1. Approval of customer wish list
    2. Consolidation of cable requirements
    3. Estimation of labor charges
    4. Site survey
  7. Which of the following project phases is not typically addressed in the project plan?

    1. Conceptual design
    2. Rough-in
    3. Pre-wire
    4. Customer training
  8. When preparing a project budget, which of the following should be verified?

    1. Blueprints
    2. Local, state, and national building and cable codes and standards
    3. Customer's budget
    4. Availability of quality installers
  9. What are the most important characteristics of the project timeline? (There may be more than one answer.)

    1. Reasonable
    2. Aggressive
    3. Vague
    4. Can be accomplished
  10. What method should be used to present a project proposal to a customer?

    1. E-mail
    2. Fax
    3. In person
    4. Telephone

Answers

  1. B. Active listening means that you provide feedback to the speaker and work to gain an understanding of what's being said.
  2. C. It will be very hard to estimate the materials needed or to anticipate any design challenges without a review of the blueprints or a site survey of a partially completed or existing home.
  3. E. Hopefully, this was a no-brainer. Actually the list could be much longer; you may need to consult vendors, manufacturers, and other specialists during an installation project.
  4. A, B, and D. Unspoken needs should not be confused with hidden needs, which are needs a customer may not know exist, such as wiring requirements, and so on. Typically, if a customer doesn't mention a system need, you won't include it. However, you may want to clear up any ideas you have for the system, just to be sure.
  5. A, B, and C. During the conceptual design phase of an HTI project, it is premature to begin estimating the cost of cable.
  6. B. The lifeline of any HTI project is structured wiring, and a clear identification of all of a project's wiring requirements is the only way to install the wiring efficiently and effectively.
  7. A. The project plan is developed after the conceptual design plan has been approved.
  8. B. Blueprints should be verified during the conceptual design phase and, while you may have interest in the customer's budget and the availability of workers, one is none of your business and the other is only your business.
  9. A and D. If a project timeline is too aggressive, it is typically guaranteed to fail. Be reasonable and only promise what can actually be delivered.
  10. C. Only when meeting face-to-face can you avoid the problems that remote conversations invariably create.






HTI+ Home Technology Integrator & CEDIA Installer I All-In-One Exam Guide
HTI+ Home Technology Integrator & CEDIA Installer I All-In-One Exam Guide
ISBN: 72231327
EAN: N/A
Year: 2003
Pages: 300
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