What are CIOs thinking about AV? It’s a trick question, because the short answer is, they’re not. Today’s CIO is worried about many different things: money (TCO, ROI, CYA), security, regulatory compliance, big data (metrics and data analytics), and little data (keeping the network running). By the time the list gets down to AV, the CIO is pretty short on time and patience. Besides, the siren-call of convergence assures the CIO that it is all just data anyway, right?
The CIO doesn’t like coaxial cable, analog signals, and analog switching, viewing them as obsolete technologies. Add to this that AV is a broad, amorphous, ill-defined, sometimes contradictory hodge-podge of technologies, which means different things to different people: presentation technologies, lecture capture, collaboration, videoconferencing (room and desk), etc.
Even in higher education, where we can add to the list of CIOs’ concerns MOOCs (massively open online courses), kooks (faculty), and spooks (responding to the FBI), where every “learning space” (classroom, seminar room, study room, library, etc.) needs to be wired for sound and screening, the CIO isn’t paying much attention to AV, and to the degree she has to, she is resentful.
But the board of directors and its subcommittees want to meet virtually, and meeting spaces need to be set up for PowerPoint presentations, so the resentful CIO, or worse, the director of (IT) infrastructure is going to (reluctantly) meet with AV consultants and contractors. You have an uninterested or possibly even resentful audience and a design to proffer. How do you make it as easy and attractive to the CIO as possible? What’s a poor AV consultant to do?
Focus on the following ideas to the extent that such a solution is possible and appropriate.
Skew toward standards, especially internet standards and eschew proprietary solutions. So that includes:
•Internet protocol (IP) transmission for wireless and wired solutions
•IP-based management, preferably including Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
•HTML/http interfaces for devices, HTML user interface and backend management software.
Simplicity. Focus on simplicity and consistency of operation and management. A simple and easy-to-use solution means that C-level executives aren’t embarrassed when they can’t get the technology to work in the boardroom, training for managing the equipment is shorter and cheaper, and end-user training (hopefully) not needed. That improves long term TCO, which might even garner a bit of a smile.
Compatibility. The enterprise already has an identity management solution, and the CIO doesn’t want to hear about an alternative, so your solution for authentication (and you need to have a good answer on all the questions of security) had better integrate with Active Directory, Kerberos, or whatever they use. The storage of data, which includes sound and video files, should be compatible with whatever relational database management solution the enterprise employs.
The Big Picture. The CIO isn’t tightly focused on this project and the best systems for this space or building, but rather the enterprise context and how these systems/spaces relate. That means:
•Stuff that has the same spare parts and servicing requirements with which the AV and IT groups are already familiar
•Stuff goes on the network and interfaces with their asset management systems (like Crestron Fusion, AMX RMS, Extron Global Viewer, Cisco Prime, Polycom Realpresence, etc.)
Why? Because most IT departments are “doing more with less” (e.g. deploying technology into 100 percent of their spaces with the same staffing and funding they had a decade ago) and the only way to stay on top is to manage centrally.
Mobility/Bring Your Own Everything (BYOE). Mobility could be regarded as part of compatibility because today’s CIO is looking for browser-based user interfaces compatible with any browser on any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Especially the smartphone permanently fused to the CIO’s hand. The CIO is also looking for cloud-based, off-the-shelf solutions like Zoom for collaboration and video conferencing.
We tend to think that we all speak the same language and belong to the same culture—the techie culture. But sadly, we don’t. Hey, in the data “space,” Microsofties and Linuxians are different species, let alone telecom-types, and audiovisionaries. But, when working with the CIO, it is really important to speak in her language and it is probably a good idea to know her techie-genome.
Bob Kuhn is a senior consultant at Vantage Technology Consulting Group, specializing in IT management. An expert in harnessing information technology to the service of higher education, he has amassed a wealth of experience in his 25 years as a higher education IT professional at institutions that include Harvard University, Radcliffe College, and Boston College.