Ed Cook, CEO of solutions provider AVMI, explains in this opinion piece how the booming AV sector is learning lessons from IT – and how it needs to adopt some of IT’s practices or risk being eclipsed.
Whilst most institutions have historically viewed AV as a bespoke add-on, things are beginning to change.
Demand for collaborative communication solutions has pushed AV to the top of procurement lists and the sector is booming. At the same time, AV is under pressure from its bigger IT cousin, which could eclipse the sector unless the AV industry adopts radical change.
AV solutions are increasingly including video conferencing (VC) or centrally served digital signage. This has IT vendors and their channels to increasingly take control when AV is deployed.
This has put pressure on AV companies and presentined a challenge of how to be taken seriously by IT departments and merge with IT working practices, without being simply absorbed by an IT industry that is increasingly encroaching.
The growing involvement of AV in corporate tech specification also presents challenges for departments responsible for project delivery, since not all IT departments are familiar with facility requirements. Here, the AV industry has a major opportunity to help both parties work together efficiently.
This shift towards integrated AV solutions requiring support by IT is mainly a result of an increasing number of VC systems being integrated into broader IP-based Unified Communications platforms sitting on mainstream IT networks.
The growth of digital signage has led to more AV technologies being positioned on IT networks. Mainstream IT and telecoms vendors, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and Mitel have expanded solutions to address meeting space requirements, leading to further convergence of AV and IT.
Crucial to IT departments is scalability and reliability. This is where the AV sector often comes unstuck. Most AV integrators are used to installing bespoke systems, but big IT departments prefer standardised solutions that they know will work and will be supported on their networks in the same way as their PCs and servers.
The AV sector needs to offer standardised, scalable solutions, whilst adopting professional purchasing and support processes – in other words, the same service levels that clients demand from their IT service providers.
At AVMI, we have developed modular, standardised catalogues that balance simplicity and flexibility, while offering customers a choice between pre-built ‘catalogues’ and building their own catalogue.
If AV integrators are to thrive in the rapidly evolving and converging AV/IT market they must surely develop new, IT-friendly processes. Evolve or die should be AV’s mantra in these changing times.