When we discuss the ways that AV can become more IT, it’s important to emphasize that the transition to becoming more IT is not one that should take AV away from its core competencies.
I have had a lot of discussions lately with some of the best minds in AV and we seem to all agree that we (AV) need to continue to promote our value. This is to say that we all agreed that AV can do many things that no other industry can do.
AV rules the physical space. Nothing happens in the physical space (sight or sound) without AV working some form of magic (that magic being the mixture of art and science). When AV adds IT for the purpose of monitoring, managing, sending content, collaborating, conferencing, controlling and much more, the business opportunity is huge and the problem-solving we can do for the customer is immense.
That is where the focus should be — adding IT to AV. But how?
1. Partnering And Connecting
During my training sessions that last two or more days, I also teach juggling. I do this especially when I am teaching an AV/IT class. I tie in the analogy that in an AV/IT class there are three topics being covered; audio, video and IT. In the analogy those topics represent the three juggling balls.
I then have these students partner up in twos. When one partner throws a ball, the other catches. The pairs can easily jump to two juggling balls. This does two things: it allows the thrower the ability to focus on their throw without worrying about catching and this allows the catching partner to catch without worrying about making an accurate throw.
The teamwork being used in this exercise helps me to illustrate the value in partnering in AV/IT. The exercise also illustrates that when you are partnering you can focus on your core competency and trust that your partner can focus on theirs (one is throwing and the other is catching).
We also discuss that partnering mitigates risks. While there is shared risk of course there is shared return so the major goal should be to seek out more customers together than either partner had alone to make sure the partnership yields new business.
The biggest lesson I use the juggling analogy to teach is this: when you are an expert in AV (two of the three) and you can juggle those two really well, but you pick up that third juggling ball and you drop them all, you have failed at juggling (in our case AV/IT integration). Even if the AV part of the job is perfect, if you picked up the third ball and dropped it, you failed at all three in the customer’s eyes.
Partnering allows you to juggle in front of the customer with low risk. A good partnership will have a way for both parties to continue to grow throughout the relationship and not feel threatened by the other’s ability to grow.
Connecting is also important—joining industry associations and social groups in IT will help an AV company stay informed of technologies and trends. This will also help with networking (people networking) and possible sources for candidates, contractors and technical resources.
2. Physician, Heal Thyself
It is nearly impossible to sell, support and promote something you don’t believe in. If you believe in something you need to implement it. As AV/IT integrators our networks need to be solid and they need to be able to support unified communications and collaboration (UC&C).
There is a saying that states the Cobbler’s kids go barefoot. Our industry is not an exception to this saying. I often find that our demo facilities are lacking in capabilities or esthetics. In the case of AV/IT the demo facilities need to be solid. IT people expect an integrator to be able to prove that they can do for themselves what they propose to do for the customer. Make sure your IT system supports what you expect to sell, support and promote.
3. Set A Plan And Take It Step-By-Step
AV adding IT is something that needs to have methodical and planned approach. I have seen several companies add IT to their business model and the ones that do it well do it with a business plan.
It sounds so simple, but you would be amazed at how often I have seen the opposite approach. I’ve seen AV companies that add IT as a second thought. They simply add a few products to their mix and throw some additional responsibilities on their internal IT guy to support a few customers and wonder why they are not growing their IT business.