The AV IT Ecosystem

The AV IT Ecosystem

As soon as the first projector appeared on the scene some years ago with a newly

sprouted RJ45 jack, those of us who've been watching and analyzing the communications technology industries began talking about convergence. Professionals with AV backgrounds spoke in hushed tones about "IT taking over AV." Even today, that notion still exists. According to a recent InfoComm International Market Forecast Survey, only 1.3 percent of surveyed respondents felt that IT managers presently had complete control over AV purchases. But that perception is changing; three years from now, 8.1 percent of respondents believe this will be the case. Twenty-four percent believe that, in three years, IT managers will be the main influencers of AV purchase decisions, up from 7.1 percent today. Write-in comments in this survey were even more telling; there seems to be true concern that IT departments in end-user organizations will "take over" the AV function.

What about your own organization? My own observations lead me to believe that in higher education, this is certainly becoming the norm. The trend is also appearing in other AV vertical markets like enterprise, health care, government, retail, and hospitality.

I think it's time we retire one overused buzzword and start using another. While I detest the tendency in media of promoting buzzwords, maybe we should think of this whole AV/IT not as convergence - or, as some think, a turf war - but as an "ecosystem." Ecosystem is becoming another hackneyed term in business and technology, but at least it's devoid of the Darwinistic or mutational implications of "convergence." In an ecosystem, different organisms function together as a single unit, or system. That, to me, describes the healthy way to look at what's going on in the worlds of IT and AV. There is no dominance theory here; only recognition of the end-user benefits to be realized by investment in these technologies and making them work in the technology ecosystem of the organization.

Both groups bring different strengths and competencies to the table. IT technologists provide the expertise in moving content and data from its source to the correct destination, and making sure it arrives intact. AV professionals are expert in the quality of audio or video content, and making sure that, when it arrives at the endpoint, it is seen or heard the way it's supposed to. IT is responsible for the network transport; AV is responsible for what goes onto and comes off of it, at least as far as sound and images are concerned.

Overly simplistic? Maybe so. But the important point to remember is that we function in a technological ecosystem, where the different "species" are more or less dependent upon each other's existence in order to survive. This is conceptually and fundamentally different from the zero-sum game of convergence, and a much more positive way to look at the evolution of technology for all involved.