POV: AV/IT Convergence Offers Opportunities

For several years, the industry has anticipated the arrival of true AV/IT convergence. Now that it is here, it is time to explore the opportunities the 6/01/2007 8:00 AM Eastern

POV: AV/IT Convergence Offers Opportunities

Jun 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Julia Pegg

For several years, the industry has anticipated the arrival of true AV/IT convergence. Now that it is here, it is time to explore the opportunities the convergence presents to companies who can speak IT.

The rise of collaboration, communication, knowledge-sharing, and dissemination has shaped the vision, culture, and mission of corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions. Leaders of these organizations rely on professional audiovisual service providers as they strive to offer efficient communications, and develop a workforce that is satisfied with the technologies offered by their employer.

As a result, AV solutions are considered when organizational leaders formulate their information technology strategic vision. This development has had a ripple effect that has changed the professional AV industry across the entire pro AV value chain. The convergence has occurred across technology, industry, and organizational lines at all levels.

One reason for the technology convergence is the replacement of analog by digital technologies. Another rationale is that key AV apps, such as videoconferencing and command and control, are being carried over IT networks. Last, but not least, high-growth, IT-centric AV solutions have emerged, including digital signage and telemedicine applications.

But despite the IT-centric nature of these applications, the visual component is of the greatest importance to users. This gives AV integrators, with their knowledge of display technology, a considerable advantage over traditional IT integrators. The concept of “intelligent buildings” has also created the need for a variety of applications to be integrated across the board, including AV, IT, telephony, and security.

The industry convergence has taken place largely because IT vendors, such as Cisco, HP, Dell, and Microsoft, saw the synergies between their core competence and AV/IT technologies. They have entered the AV marketplace either through acquisitions or with AV solutions that have high IT profiles.

At the user level, the IT department has become the decision maker for most AV purchases. As a result, the AV value chain had to reengineer itself to sell into the IT department. This process has caused a significant amount of organizational change. AV manufacturers are partnering with IT vendors to develop products, and AV consultants and systems integrators must either upgrade their skills to become more fluent in IT, or partner with IT systems integrators to get the job done.

The union of IT and AV legitimizes AV in the minds of IT decision makers. This will benefit the AV industry because chief information officers and chief technology officers are making most of the AV purchasing decisions for corporations and large institutions.

As is the case with most transitions, the AV industry must strive to cope with the new reality. Many AV systems integrators still do not fully understand the ramifications of convergence. With IP products, they not only need to be able to speak about AV products in IT terms, but they also must be able to understand the strategic context of the AV application within the organization. AV integrators of the future will also need to understand the much larger context in which AV products can be found. The importance of IT-related issues of firewall and other security protocols with which AV products must comply cannot be underestimated.

There are significant opportunities for AV integrators conversant in IT. AV Integrators can forge strategic partnerships with large IT systems integrators. Many IT integrators do not yet understand the AV environment, but they are being presented large pieces of new business by IT clients.

The growth of conferencing, another IT-centric application, also provides great opportunity for the AV industry. The highly fractionalized spectrum of conferencing solutions designed to meet the growing needs of the collaborative business environment, offers a potential niche focus for small- and medium-sized AV systems integrators. This level of differentiation will allow them to be more competitive.

For more information on AV/IT convergence, InfoComm members can refer to InfoComm's first Quarterly Business Report, prepared by Acclaro Growth Partners, and Market Definition Strategy Study, which will be released at InfoComm 2007.

Julia Pegg is a project manager at Acclaro Growth Partners, a strategic planning and market research firm based in Reston, Va.

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