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Historically institutions have considered AV to be a bespoke add-on, tending to utilise it on a limited project-by-project basis. But with recent spikes in demand for both collaborative solutions and more impactful staff/customer communications, pro AV is suddenly big news and the integrator sector is booming.

Many of today’s AV solutions include video conferencing or centrally served digital signage, and this has led comms or IT departments, and more recently IT vendors and their channels, to become involved and increasingly take control. This in turn puts pressure on AV businesses to accommodate IT mainstream practices such as standards, centralised support and volume procurement.

Traditional AV companies have a challenge: how to be taken seriously by these IT departments that are used to dealing with technology services businesses, having had many years of experience with working with IT vendors, integrators and service providers – and also how to dovetail effectively with the working practices of IT.

There are also challenges for facilities departments responsible both for the broader environment in which the technology resides as well as overall project delivery – since not all IT departments are familiar with facility requirements. This presents integrators with a major opportunity to help both parties work together efficiently with regard to AV.

Seismic Shift
This huge change in the way things are being done – with integrated AV solutions requiring support by IT – is largely as a result of an growing number of video conferencing (VC) systems being integrated into broader IP-based Unified Communications platforms, and being situated on the more mainstream IT networks.

In addition, the prevalence of digital signage within corporate businesses in particular has resulted in even more AV solutions being mounted on IT networks. Whilst at the same time, mainstream IT and telecoms vendors, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and most recently Mitel, have expanded their portfolio of solutions to address a broader range of meeting space requirements, mostly through acquisitions, again resulting in increased convergence of AV and IT.

Consequently, IT departments want and need to be involved, possibly taking ownership of the technology that is deployed by AV integrators within meeting and huddle spaces, or in digital signage and video wall projects.

Some commentators have predicted that this increased involvement will lead to the IT industry eventually swallowing up AV. Although this is unlikely as very few IT system integrators have genuine AV capabilities, and those IT vendors that have increased their AV tech solutions still only address a limited spectrum of applications, integrators need to be vigilant and up their game when it comes to being IT savvy.

It’s evident that AV will be working even more closely with IT in the coming years to develop models that are standardised and more scalable, whilst also meeting real estate needs. If integrators are to thrive in this evolving market they must work closely with partners to develop innovative, global solutions, helping AV to emulate its more established IT cousin in hitting the mainstream.

This is an edited and abridged version of an insight article written by Rob Lane and Ed Cook, CEO at AVMI, for Commercial Integrator Europe. Please click here to read the full article.