Unified Communications and Collaboration
The future is calling
I remember overhearing an AV salesman quote a bit of perspective from one of his global enterprise customers: the corporation’s annual worldwide AV budget was smaller than its annual worldwide coffee budget.
That’s still a lot of gear. And it does seem that the trend toward electronic communication and collaboration will inevitably grow. But will it grow in a way that will benefit AV consultants and integrators? Will all those screens, devices, networks, audio, and videoconferences happen as part of AV systems or IT systems?
Part of what makes the landscape hard to read, and hard to strategize, is that unified communications and collaboration means many different things. Here’s one statistical snapshot: This time last year, according to Infonetics Research, Cisco and Polycom had both sustained year-over-year declines in worldwide revenue for enterprise videoconferencing and telepresence systems. Dedicated systems sales took the hardest hit, falling 26 percent sequentially in the first quarter of 2013 due to slow demand for immersive telepresence. In that same year, IP PBX-based videoconferencing, such as videophones using VoIP, grew 118 percent.
Statistics are, of course, mostly a game in relativity. Who knows where IP PBX systems started in order to grow 118 percent? And for Cisco, the decline translated to $661 million in revenue in the first quarter and a 46 percent market share in the sector. Infonetics predicted from its research data that sales of dedicated systems would bounce back and grow. But the point of the vignette is to illustrate that end-users experiment. They try big dedicated systems; they try IP-based systems; they use both at once for different purposes. Microsoft Lync and Google WebRTC exert influence from the desktop/IT side; teleco, web/cloud, IT, and AV all compete and collide.
“The reason that organizations are having so much trouble achieving the promise of unified communications is that it is not a product one can buy from the leading industry manufacturers (despite their sales pitch). Successful UC is actually an outcome, and one that can only be achieved when appropriate technologies are deployed in combination with a future-ready strategic vision and a detailed adoption program,” says David Danto, who is both Dimension Data’s principal consultant for collaboration and director of emerging technology for the unified communications trade association IMCCA. (The association is running a unified communications and collaboration summit at InfoComm14 with 13 sessions (lunches, seminars, presentations, and labs) as well as hosting the Unified Collaborative Conferencing Pavilion.)
But when it comes to strategic vision for unified communications and collaboration, who’s strategic vision will that be? The facilities manager? The department head? The CIO?
Mark Sincevich, director, federal, of Cyviz (booth C6821), typically sees it unfold as more of a progression, from initial solution or application-based adoption (a single room or a single department) that, if successful with users, evolves toward a platform-based approach as it did with Cyviz’s customer Chevron. Cyviz sells visual display solutions at the high end of collaborative telepresense, for government and enterprise markets, and also focuses on command and control solutions. Collaborators may be spread throughout the globe on a variety of devices that can come together on the Cyviz platform. Cyviz supplies turnkey solutions comprised of key building blocks including projector/panel, display controller with multi-touch monitor, and video processor. Cyviz tools are based on the idea that collaborators come together to share something—data, a file, a document, a picture, or a video. Cyviz comes out of AV, looks at collaboration as an AV system, and sells through the AV channel.
That does not mean they are segregated from the IT side. Indeed, Sincevich, who has a long background in IT, says that the IT teams and the CIO come into the decision-making equation when a system gets big enough. “Frequently, initially, we represent such a tiny fraction of what concerns a CIO,” he says. “Our customers and decision-makers are facilities managers, operations managers, and command and control managers. Those are not IT people. But we also work with videoconferencing managers and security managers. Either way, once you are in the building or campus with a few rooms or systems, and those rooms are getting used productively, there comes a time when you can propose wider platform-style solutions. When you’re providing something that’s proven, you can say to a CIO, ‘Let me show you how we could tie these things together more effectively.’ You can show them how IT tools can manage AV assets. At that point, we would propose a client/server solution. Once you’re talking client/server, by definition you’re now talking to IT.”
So what does this mean for the AV professional? “People in the AV industry need to be very conversant in IT lingo and able to bridge the gap between AV and IT,” Sincevich says. With that in mind, here are some training opportunities in videoconferencing.
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