In the past, AV integrators were safe in their niche. Their specialized skillsets filled a clear void in the industry that other technological solutions couldn’t address. Today, however, the lines between AV and IT aren’t as clearly defined. AV professionals must incorporate IT skills in order to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Understanding Barriers to AV Industry Growth
Today, IT companies are dominating the communications field because they have the ability to do it all. From AV setups to network support and security administration, companies are offering a complete set of digital communications solutions with which AV-only companies simply can’t compete. In addition to limited IT skills, AV companies must keep pace with the latest trends in the industry. Cloud computing/mobile technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing how consumers use communications platforms.
To meet the needs of consumers who expect seamlessly connected controls of lighting, temperature, sound, visual components, and access control, AV companies must expand their business viewpoints to include the latest unified communications trends. Sensor-based tracking, remote servers and support (AV-as-a-Service), and mobile device adoption are trends changing what it means to communicate using technology.
AV companies can bolster IT skills and enact a culture of change to better compete in today’s technology-driven world—but only if they accept this new direction. The blended nature of IT and AV is natural, and it’s already happening in the business world. Companies that want to move forward must learn to continually adapt to the changing nature of digital communications.
Building a Culture that Embraces IT
Technological changes in universal areas—such as communications, networking, and security—trickle down into every industry. To remain relevant, many AV companies focused on the cutting-edge technology in sound systems and high-resolution video systems, such as 4K. Now, they must expand that focus to embrace a more complete communications experience. In addition to AV components, companies must consider bandwidth, networking, security, and managed services business models.
To start creating a shift, AV companies need the right balance of talent. Instead of hiring AV-exclusive professionals, consider hiring IT professionals with interest or experience in AV systems. With collaborative IT and AV professionals, companies can start to shift existing product offerings to more complete communications setups. Consider these tips to ensure that IT and AV goals remain aligned and provide customers with the best possible communications experience:
- Expand away from a hardware-based business model. Hardware will always play a role in the AV industry, but as more customers prefer to rely on personal devices, AV companies may struggle to highlight the benefits of commercial-grade equipment. Expanding into a service-based model allows an AV company to manage the experience rather than the hardware.
- Think about IT considerations early and often. AV systems that integrate with existing technology platforms naturally provide customers with more value than standalone systems. As businesses become accustomed to the idea of connectivity, they expect interoperability in technology-based equipment.
- Understand the customer’s viewpoint. AV companies with IT expertise can act as a strategic partner in order to offer customers a full communications experience. Evaluate customer technology setups and individual industry trends to offer more insight into the strategic outcome of an implementation.
While IT and AV departments remain distinct, they’re inextricably connected. For AV companies to stay competitive with AV-capable IT firms, they must level the playing field with some IT experience of their own.