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Do You Belong in AV/IT?

Technical training may help you decide

Do You Belong in AV/IT?

Mar 13, 2014 10:35 AM,
By Cynthia Wisehart | Posted by Jessaca Gutierrez

Technical training may help you decide

Figuring out where you fit in the landscape of media networks, unified communication, collaboration, and campus- or enterprise-wide systems may be a technical question as much as a business question. If you’re trying to chart a future path, consider a little technical training. You may decide that you are right where you belong, a quality AV integrator who can hold your place at the table and communicate with IT people as necessary. Or you may find yourself more deeply attracted to the challenges and opportunities of AV and IT networks, and the places where they converge.

Paul Depperschmidt lives the AV/IT convergence. His career path to his current position at Cisco led through Panasonic and systems integrator Technical Innovation. He spent more than seven years at Polycom; he came to Cisco about five years ago (via Tandberg) to do market development for global AV systems integration.

Most recently, Depperschmidt was on the InfoComm team that developed the AV Systems Performance Verification Standard that was approved by ANSI on Jan. 20. From Depperschmidt’s vantage point, the AV industry is already a decade into the so-called convergence. However the pace over the past three years—and the AV industry shakeup that goes with it—has accelerated dramatically.

In one sign of that acceleration, his role at Cisco has just changed to focus on what is called “Global Collaboration Video.” He says Cisco is integrating previously siloed disciplines and now treating collaboration—via voice, video, web ex, instant messaging, presence—as one thing. “It doesn’t matter where you are or what device you are on,” he says. “The boardroom is now everywhere.”

Meanwhile, he sees “voice guys definitely moving in the video world and video world moving into voice.” Or trying to. One of his frustrations is watching companies end up with AV systems that are merely passable as a function of buying them from IT or even voice companies. Without standards, he says, how does a client know what is good and what is just good enough? At the same time, he says it hasn’t been easy for those AV companies who committed a few years ago to a broader market. “It can be difficult for a video-based AV company to deploy BYOD or instant message or presence. They can stumble.” For companies willing to try—AVI-SPL, Technical Innovation (TI), among others—that has meant investment in knowledge, people, certification, and in some cases acquisitions and partnerships with companies in disciplines such as cloud conferencing. Depperschmidt says companies are now starting to make a return on that investment. Technical Innovation CEO Mike Landrum has publicly cited videoconferencing as a key part of TI’s revenue growth last year.

Depperschmidt says the market is in the billions—and that’s part of the challenge. “There are companies getting involved in this that make AVI-SPL look small,” he says and adds that these behemoth companies are finding ways to offer AV systems integration as part of a comprehensive voice/data/video/network play. He says it can be hit and miss, sometimes the voice and IT companies find quality AV partners, or hire quality AV people, and sometimes they don’t, and may put in systems that don’t meet AV quality standards.

“There is still a place for quality AV integrators; there’s still a business in that,” Depperschmidt says. But it’s a changing landscape with changing players. “What we’re seeing is people playing their positions with the customers that already trust them. A big telco may hire an AV integrator to do everything but the Cisco gear. People seem pretty happy with that arrangement. The purchase of the Cisco gear is going through a certified voice/network partner. They’re then handing it to somebody who goes out and integrates.

“The question for the end-user becomes, what kind of capability does this integrator have that they’ve hired? Are they really good or just somebody we found? Is there a baseline of AV integration expertise?” Depperschmidt says.

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Do You Belong in AV/IT?

Mar 13, 2014 10:35 AM,
By Cynthia Wisehart | Posted by Jessaca Gutierrez

Technical training may help you decide

Performance Verification

For Depperschmidt, what’s happening in the market relates back to the standards effort. He sees that the AV industry is under increasing pressure to keep up with IT industry forces that are standardized. “In a small industry you can be about the magic you bring to the game. In the beginning you can carry that into partnerships with IT and voice partners—the ‘my magic is better than the next guy’s magic’ kind of thing. But there comes at time when the network world is going to demand something more formal than that. They just can’t deal with a cottage industry.” Depperschmidt was on an 11-person roster of AV industry colleagues who spent two years working on the new performance verification standard. “We were trying to set a benchmark level that was not so over the top that it was a burden, especially for the smaller designer or integrator who was not going to be working with a consultant,” he says.

The new ANSI/INFOCOMM 10-2013, Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification provides what InfoComm calls a comprehensive, systematic, and practical approach to verifying performance of AV systems. “This standard will provide practitioners the ability to produce a verifiable evaluation of the audiovisual system based on quality assurance, testing, and acceptance, and will ensure the system conforms to the owners’ operational needs, as established in the system/project documentation,” he says.

Depperschmidt says he feels that the standard helps ensure respect for AV expertise in a world where IT and voice companies may underestimate that expertise. With non-AV companies representing AV interests to clients—or choosing AV partners to work with—professional benchmarks may help protect AV skills and jobs. “But the standard is only as good as it’s adoption,” he cautions. “It’s only powerful if we make it powerful and move past individual best practices.”

Depperschmidt says that this is a good time for integrators to take aim for the future and not just let things happen. “You can choose to be a good AV integrator and your home is in the boardroom and you don’t try to be much more than that. That’s fine, that’s still a business.

“Companies like TI and AVI-SPL want to do more than just the room. They’re making a play to be the communication provider. Customers are going to be moving away from all these individual subcontractors and looking for people who can build and manage digital communication and full collaboration.”

Or the choice could be a middle ground, he says, like finding a local telephony company that’s about the size of a typical regional AV integrator—maybe someone who installs voice networks and PBX. “You bring your strength, they bring their strength, and together you can provide an entire communication and collaboration system to a client.

“The new world that we’re living in now is something integrators have to face and make choices about rather than being blindsided,” Depperschimdt says. One way to face a new world is training, and not all network training and certification is the same. “There is the network infrastructure aspect—building the roads, bridges, stop signs. And then there is an entirely different discipline about how traffic runs on the network. If you want to be involved full collaboration, look for those types of courses: how to manage traffic and understand the parameters,” Depperschmidt says.

See SVC’s courses to consider, including a tough three-day InfoComm course that Depperschmidt highly recommends.

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