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IT Trends: Turf Wars

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Brent Harshbarger

Can IT and AV groups learn to coexist in peace?


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The conflict still continues in a battle that should have never been. This is not taking place in the Middle East or anywhere else, in a geographical sense. I am talking about the turf wars between AV and IT. This began more than a decade ago as AV technology migrated from analog into the digital domain. But it grew really complicated with the introduction of a new window to the digital world via the open architecture of Microsoft's Windows operating system — and then the Internet. Windows created an easier way to view, manipulate, and control data. This control, and the advent of the Internet, allowed digital technology to be more generic and facilitated its use in more and more applications, thus blurring the lines between the IT and AV trades.

Although AV used the technology for monitoring, control, and enhancing production elements — including graphics creation, compositing, and audio and video recording and editing — the fact that a PC was involved raised the eyebrows of the IT group, who considered it an encroachment on their territory. Then, from the Windows operating system, came Windows Media. This would be the software “killer app” that this time would minimize the need for the AV group because video was now clearly in the computer domain.

The underlying conflict between the AV and IT groups has been the issue of maintaining quality of media content while meeting the needs of realtime, synchronous information as well as asynchronous data. Although AV clients are concerned with the presentation and deliver a competitive product that has a great deal of right-brain thinking attached, the core customer of the IT professional is more left-brained, with little to no right-brain emotion for the products you find in accounting and email systems.

The most recent lines were drawn with the emergence of the Internet and networking technology — specifically between the IT people, who didn't understand the realtime needs of audio and video, and the AV folks, who wanted a dedicated network so they could guarantee content delivery. The idea of having a private network managed by a group of “non-experts” didn't sit well with the IT group. In addition, let's not forget the confusion that arises with the executives about why they are paying for two technology groups and why two networks are needed in the first place.

In light of increasing concerns regarding business travel, the idea of video conferencing became more appealing. And the potential savings in travel costs helped to drive implementation. With video conferencing becoming more of a priority, the IT group had the fiscal backing to put video on the network and was able to focus on VoIP technology due to the cost savings and convenience from the executive staff's perspective. With the executive staff's understanding, it became easy to fund this technology and put the IT people in the driver's seat.

As computer virus attacks and network security breaches became more frequent with increasing risk, all the turf wars about VoIP, media on the network, and who controlled the network took a back seat. These attacks from unforeseen and unseen opponents made the IT groups shift their focus to protecting the enterprise. To achieve the highest level of protection possible, IT groups were afforded authority over anything connected to the network. And in the AV world, performance and quality suffered yet another setback: The virus protection programs are extremely intrusive to realtime media.

This problem now brings us full circle today, with AV staff wanting to put AV technology on an isolated, private network again. The AV folks can now support their case that isolation is the key to maintaining the performance or quality of service (QoS) required for AV. Yet times have changed drastically due to the world's dependence on the Internet; therefore, the IT group can plead a strong case for their having control of all machines and the network to ensure protection, because every day someone will find a way to get to the Internet and open the network to potential hazards. And the Internet is everywhere today: If you call any technology vendor for information or service, the first thing they say is: “You can get that information from the Internet,” or, “You can download that fix from the Internet.”

Today we are constantly faced with the threat of computer virus attacks and security breaches. To ensure daily survival against these attacks, areas of specialization within the technology fields are important. People must know their disciplines well, then learn how to work together to increase efficiency, creativity, and productivity to meet corporate objectives while protecting assets in this new era. We need to learn to understand ourselves as AV specialists: What are our strengths and weaknesses? We must also learn to understand our fellow technologists as well as their strengths and weaknesses, and make an effort to respect each other's disciplines. It is vital that we communicate to each other as professionals, and be cognizant of how the actions of those in one discipline will impact those in the other. It is time to identify challenges and problems and determine goals and solutions together. It appears that there will always be conflict, but it is far more productive to work together and utilize the combined knowledge base to deal with the things that affect both disciplines.


Brent Harshbarger has worked for Peavey in the development of MediaMatrix. He can be reached at behnms@aol.com.



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