Expert Roundtable: AV Meets IT
Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney
Prominent systems integrators discuss the challenges of bridging gaps between the two sectors.
Because the skill sets and background experiences of AV experts and IT specialists differ, how do you get them to work efficiently together? Or is it important to keep the AV group separate from the IT department?
McGinniss: In order to work with the IT department you must first “talk their talk” and understand that the IT department is responsible for data security and the maintenance of a stable network. The best way to get any network information from the IT department is to engage them in the early stages, instead of the last week on the project when everything needs to work. I typically give the IT department a month to issue IP address and activate ports. Keeping AV and IT separate has some advantages for organizations with large infrastructures, but with more and more equipment being network-enabled, it is starting to make sense for the smaller-to-medium companies to integrate AV with IT. In addition, most corporate meetings using AV also require both a laptop and network access, which is exactly what IT is prepared for.
Smith: The key to running a successful project in which the AV and IT specialists work efficiently together is to involve all of the key stakeholders early in the process, preferably even during the sales process. The IT manager knows his network and will be able to provide valuable input that will help the AV integrator provide a more effective solution. When defining the project plan it is critical that all tasks, both AV and IT, are properly identified and their dependencies upon each other are understood by everyone. Simply put, it's a question of project management.
Bianchet: I believe it is inevitable that AV and IT will need to work together, but the challenge is that they are very different disciplines. If you hire someone to work in your IT department, there are many places they can get training and certifications, but if you want to take that same IT employee and have him schooled in AV, you have a much bigger challenge in finding education for them. You are also talking about several different disciplines like video, audio, control, and videoconferencing, which all have their own challenges. I believe that to be successful with this strategy, companies will need to have IT people who specialize in one of these AV areas to add value to the IT staff. Of course, this may be challenging for smaller companies. That's why having a good value-added AV company is so important.
Bellehumeur: As a technology service provider in AV, we have an obligation to impart the fundamentals of good AV design to our IT partners and clients. By the same token, we must learn the fundamentals of IT and give IT equal importance. I only know of a few instances where institutions have merged AV with IT and suffered diminishing returns. In those cases, the result is ignorance instead of good management, leading to poor interdepartmental support — and in the end, the client suffers.
Polly: AV departments are becoming a thing of the past. Rarely does a corporate client — or even a museum client or similar venue — have specific internal AV departments. Instead, what they do have are IT help desks. The IT departments have assumed the responsibility of overseeing both the procurement and maintenance of AV systems. As a rule, we typically try to work with the skill set of a client's IT department to provide us with static IP addresses or configure their firewall to enable video teleconferencing or other AV devices that exist on their network. Generally, the client is very helpful and enthusiastic to give us the support we require. After all, AV equipment is much more interesting to connect to than a printer or a scanner.
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