Marcus Jackson-Baker, a prominent member of the residential integration community, has launched a software and consultancy company focused entirely on the residential sector.
Working alongside home technology professionals, Integrated Experience is being lauded as a Crestron Services Provider and Certified Crestron Programmer that can ensure that the homeowner’s requirements are delivered without the need for the installer to maintain the large overhead of a Crestron and Lutron programmer on permanent staff.
Unlike most CSPs, the company’s focus is entirely on residential applications.
CE Pro Europe caught up with Marcus Jackson-Baker.
What is your background in the industry?
I have been involved in audio-visual and control systems for over 20 years (1993ish); starting in the commercial sector, at the very bottom doing all sorts of mucky, horrible jobs as the young lad on an installation team. But I learnt a lot, and quickly.
I was introduced to the residential sector in late 1997 when the CEO of the group that owned the company I worked for, returned from living in the US and planned a major refurbishment of some out-buildings to create a large entertainment and leisure complex for his family. He’d been exposed to all this amazing technology and decided that he would like to have it in this new property. These were the very early of days of CEDIA in the UK and many of the large brands of today had a small presence in the UK. I was charged with learning about this stuff and making it work – a baptism of fire, but I was hooked.
Over time, the company I worked for developed a larger interest in residential applications and I led much of the design and software elements of this.
In 2002, the bright lights of London called and I went to work as a project manager for Martin Kleiser, a large integrator in West London. I designed and project managed many very large and complex installations in some of the finest properties in London and further afield. During this time, I taught quite a few project management courses at CEDIA events in both the UK and the US.
Unfortunately, 2008 and the world changed almost overnight. I found myself out of work when the company went into administration.
I formed a new, smaller, more focused business, WYSAH, with two former colleagues and we grew that business into a very successful integration company working on some very complex projects for extremely demanding clients.
As technical director, I handled most of the system design and technical sales along with much of the project management and programming. The largest project I was involved in (design, project management and software development) had a value more than £750,000 for audio-visual and control systems with many audio and video zones split across multiple properties and extremely demanding requirements for energy management.
What made you launch this company? Do you think there is a gap in the market for the services you provide?
No falling out with my business partners or anything like that! We’re still friends and continue to work together on a contract basis. After 14 years of working together (six as an employee, eight as co-owner), it felt like a good time to move on and I wanted a new adventure. That’s it really.
I felt that I would be able to develop some personal skills and explore some ideas further more easily, and the thought of being truly hungry again excites me and drives me forwards.
Whilst there are quite a number of CSPs (Crestron Services Providers) and independent Crestron and Lutron programmers; I felt that many of them are more oriented towards the commercial sector and with 18 years of experience of working in the higher tiers of the residential market, I think I have both the experience and the expertise to really help integrators and homeowners alike.
Why are you focusing specifically on Crestron and Lutron software for the residential sector?
Primarily as that is where my own skills have grown over the past couple of decades. I have a huge history with both companies, dating back over several generations of product; and I do believe that whilst there is ever increasing competition, both companies can and will continue to offer competitive advantages over these newer companies for some time yet.
What does your new company provide to customers? Who are your target customers/clients?
Integrated Experience offers software and consultancy services to integrators, design professionals and, to a smaller degree, end-users.
Many integrators have the engineering, design and project management skills to successfully deliver large projects; however, they may not be able to support the large overhead of an experienced Crestron programmer. I work alongside client’s project teams through all stages of a project to ensure that their end-client’s needs are met.
Some integrators are simply just too busy and they need overflow programming and boots on the ground when their own internal resources are stretched.
I am also hoping to work with M&E Consultants and architects to help guide them through the increasingly complex requirements of modern integrated control.
What sets Integrated Experience apart from the competition?
Experience and understanding.
I have spent two decades observing how people want to interact with technology and how they expect it to work for them. I have seen too many systems where users simply do not use them because they are overly complex and have poor UI flow and design. I make no claim to be the absolute smartest programmer out there, but I do believe I have a better understanding of the cognitive ergonomics of home technology than most. I will ask difficult questions of integrators if I have requests that are detrimental to the usability of a system (of course, I’m a gun for hire and will shoot at whatever I am asked to, but sometimes it’s important to make sure that the integrator thinks about why they are asking me to do something in a certain way, and, sometimes, I can persuade them down a path that delivers a better experience to the end-user).
I have also been fortunate enough to have worked in some of the most amazing homes on the planet, and have a strong understanding of how to work and behave in these environments and can interact with their owners. I have often been dismayed at seeing how some people working within our sector have no understanding or respect for these environments, where artwork (in particular) and furniture may well cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
I have also spent enough time on the other side of a laptop to understand what the stresses and pressures are for installers and project managers on a project team. I know what is important to them as well as the larger team of contractors, and can prioritise accordingly.
Integrated Experience will be based in South-West London.