First-Person Perspectives from Technology Leaders
Andrew Simmons: Senior IT Technician, Raven Industries, Sioux Falls, SD
AV Technology Editor: What is your knowledge of AV technology and operations?
Andrew Simmons: I have served the AV industry for more than 10 years and the IT industry for six years. It’s been amazing to see how fast these two industries are quickly merging together.
As a senior-level IT Technician, I am responsible for the success of our AV technologies.
More and more companies are discovering the benefit of technology— which has led to a rise in frustration for those very same users. Those who wouldn’t dare touch a conference room in years past are now frustrated that the conference room can’t do more for them.
That’s a great problem to have, but it also presents challenges for IT departments as they try to meet budgets and utilize network resources efficiently.
Do you manage AV systems in your facility/facilities?
Andrew Simmons: Yes, I currently manage and oversee our Audio/Video systems at our headquarters, located in Sioux Falls, SD. I also support our many satellite offices located throughout the United States that also have AV equipment. The satellite locations do a great job at self-supporting their equipment, but we step in for any critical issues or projects that may arise.
Are you planning on buying new AV equipment? If so, what?
Andrew Simmons: I am always looking at new technology that can be implemented into our system. Looking ahead to the future, I do expect to purchase additional equipment to support our needs.
Our biggest need is an affordable “onprem” videoconferencing solution that allows us to monitor traffic to our satellite locations, adjust bandwidth as needed, and offer our customers the best possible experience when collaborating with our satellite locations.
There are many cloud solutions out there that offer some amazing opportunities, but we have quickly reached a crossroads in enterprise video in which senior and executive management are demanding more quality and better reliability. I look forward to where the industry is going and what equipment will become available in the next 12-24 months.
How familiar are you with AV/IT convergence?
Andrew Simmons: AV/IT convergence is something that I experience on a daily basis.
When I started at Raven Industries a few years ago, AV and IT couldn’t have been further apart. In a few short years, our IT department has been tasked with supporting almost every audio and video solution that has been presented to us.
Many enterprise level businesses are most likely hitting the same challenges that we face —where does AV support fit within the IT. Department? Is it a dedicated AV professional with knowledge of basic IT systems and troubleshooting? Do more companies outsource to local AV vendors for their work?
There is a fine balance between IT and AV, and the companies that are prepared to handle both will be better positioned for success. I have been able to adapt my original role as an IT Technician to a senior level position that manages all AV needs, as well as larger IT projects. By having this role, we are better able to support our Networking/Infrastructure group and provide better service to our employees and customers.
What technology trends are you most interested in this year?
Wireless display is taking the industry by storm, and I feel that the providers that are first to market will have incredible success. There are many studies that suggest that by the year 2015, mobile use will surpass desktop use. Employees and customers are demanding to be connected everywhere they go regardless of what business they walk into.
The biggest roadblocks are very simple tasks such as connecting a mobile device wirelessly to a conference room display or TV. The recent announcement of Apple’s Airplay service could be a huge game changer by providing a peer-to- peer connection without reliance on the corporate network.
Bad video is not acceptable anymore—and companies are quickly making decisions based on these factors. We must develop better video solutions that optimize bandwidth and can cross the WAN without interruption.
Netbiscuits.com predicted that 2014 will be the year that “Poor experiences will be punished by customers.” I couldn’t agree more; our managers and engineers are challenging us daily to provide better tools and more effective ways to collaborate in the workplace.
I still see the trend of traditional room systems being able to integrate with cloud-based solutions to allow for maximum communication. Cisco has done an incredible job with this in the marketplace. They have been able to seamlessly provide integration between their Tandberg system and their cloud-based solution, Webex.
This is absolutely the trend; more providers need to offer better solutions. We must be able to connect the traditional conference rooms that are still being used every day to the mobile workforce that continues to grow.
Andrew Simmons is a senior IT technician with Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, SD. If you would like to nominate an outstanding IT or AV candidate for our Meet Your Manager section, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Photography by Lauren Neff.