Cynthia Wisehart | Posted by Jessaca Gutierrez" />

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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

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AV/IT convergence and opportunities

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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