Whilst most institutions have historically viewed AV as a bespoke add-on, utilising it on a limited project-by-project basis, 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 relatively fledgling sector unless the AV industry adopts radical change.
AV solutions are increasingly including video conferencing (VC) or centrally served digital signage, and this has led comms or IT departments – and more recently IT vendors and their channels – to increasingly take control when AV is deployed. This has put pressure on AV companies to accommodate IT practices such as standards, centralised support and volume procurement, presenting a challenge for AV: how to be taken seriously by IT departments and dovetail effectively with IT working practices, without being simply absorbed by an IT industry that is increasingly encroaching.
The growing involvement of AV in corporate technology specification also presents challenges for facilities 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 as a result of an increasing number of VC systems being integrated into broader IP-based Unified Communications platforms, sitting on mainstream IT networks.
Similarly the growth of digital signage has led to more AV technologies being positioned on IT networks, and mainstream IT and telecoms vendors, such as Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya and Mitel have expanded (mainly via acquisitions) solutions to address meeting space requirements, leading to further convergence of AV and IT.
Crucial to IT departments, of course, is scalability and reliability, and typically, this is where the AV sector often comes unstuck. Most AV integrators are used to installing unique, one-off 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.
To thrive, the AV sector needs to offer standardised, scalable solutions, whilst adopting professional, mature purchasing and support processes – in other words, the same service levels that clients demand from their IT service providers.
AVMI has discovered a way of unlocking the door to huge growth for the AV industry whilst answering the questions posed by IT. The company has developed modular, standardised catalogues, balancing simplicity, consistency and flexibility, whilst meeting volume roll out requirements and strict standards. It offers customers a choice between standard, pre-built ‘catalogues’ (such as the Cisco Project Workplace) and building their own catalogue.
As a result, AVMI ensures that both facilities departments and IT requirements are met and that they work together more efficiently as a result. Either of these parties can take overall responsibility for owning the service, as it is designed to support collaboration between them.
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.
This is an edited version of an insight article written by Rob Lane and Ed Cook, CEO at AVMI, for PCR magazine. Please click here to read the full article.