"It's like a NASA launch every day-it's fun." That's how Stephen Eagles, director of technology at Lockheed Martin's Center for Leadership Excellence describes his job.
Obviously, he's doing something right, and we should all take a page from his notes.
Eagles was one of eight marvelous IT panelists from a multitude of markets whom I had the pleasure of getting to know at the SYMCO Regional Technology Showcases in Fairfax, VA and King of Prussia, PA in March. I served as their intrepid "SCN Technology User Discussion Panel" moderator for two hours at each event, and over that time I learned a tremendous amount about how AV can better work with IT. Turns out, our troubles aren't so different after all.
Here are the highlights:
Legacy equipment is not going away, and plenty of top-level IT people have to maximize the lifespan of aging analog gear. Regardless of the glamour associated with big-name companies or organizations, budgets are as crunched as ever.
Huddle Spaces are a real thing.
Millennials or no, these IT guys are dealing with a diversity of "customers"- technology has to be easy to use.
AV integrators who send someone to facilitate training make a huge, positive impression. As Eagles at Lockheed Martin pointed out, AV integrators needn't be afraid to share their skills with in-house techs who have to operate and maintain equipment on a day-to-day basis. Whatever knowledge they're imparting is basic, and the AV integrator still possesses the chops to make themselves indispensible to IT.
Ease of use and simplified access to data are equally important to end users-how do we do both?
Security and encryption are on everybody's mind, and redundancy and fail-over make everyone feel better.
Your website is a much more important sales tool than you think: "No one talks to vendors anymore. Your website is a way to attract calls to be invited in," according to Henry Kaylor, director of IT for Arrowpoint Corporation.
Kaylor is responsible for IT architecture development of new construction programs that support Army National Guard's Enterprise Management Initiatives, Architecture Engineering Development program, as well as BRAC initatives supporting IT policy development requirement, and he also shared this bit of advice: If your client's budget is meant to last four years, support three years on what you sell. "Always build in maintenance, even if the client doesn't ask."
Organizations are shuffling AV-related equipment back and forth between IT and facilities departments, and this not only makes your job harder, it's rough on internal IT and AV personnel as well. According to some corporate history presented by Case Murphy, senior manager of AV and conferencing solutions for AOL, IT and facilities have differing opinions and protocols on how things should be done, and which technologies can be safely supported. Sometimes perfectly functional systems come into question and have to be defended.
Lockheed's Eagles had several points about how an AV integrator can work with IT clients to build a better RFP that might help them land the project in a low-bid battle. Offer more support, maybe an on-site tech for three months, and "be creative in helping us write the proposal-use your specific language in the RFP so we can only accept your bid," or require a certain number of CTS-D certifications to qualify for the job.
AV has to dazzle, and keep changing to impress clients: Eagles actually just hired a production manager at Lockheed Martin because "everyone wants to have a presentation like TED Talks." They need a production manager to maximize the AV and lighting equipment already in place, producing a more impressive, and totally different show every time.
Tech better work right the first time: Professors are essentially putting on a show for 90 minutes, and "you can't shoot the news twice," notes Marko Jarymovych, IT technical director, public technology for The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania.
He also made several points about support, asking what proactive support can AV integrators offer, what can they manage remotely, and how will that relationship look over the long-term?
Don't forget that you can be a valuable source of information: Robert Pelletier, chief engineer for University of Maryland distance education technology and services said, "Honesty about product capabilities is a selling point," and "AV integrators have a broad knowledge of products, and can elucidate on what to add to our system to improve it."
Kirsten Nelson is a freelance content producer who translates the expertise and passion of technologists into the vernacular of an audience curious about their creations. Nelson has written about audio and video technology in all its permutations for almost 20 years; she was the editor of SCN for 17 years.
Her experience in the commercial AV and acoustics design and integration market has also led her to develop presentation programs and events for AVIXA and SCN, deliver keynote speeches, and moderate and participate in panel discussions. In addition to technology, she also writes about motorcycles—she is a MotoGP super fan.