Globalization, green initiatives, and the shift toward knowledge work are all profoundly changing the way corporations and government organizations are doing business. These three trends are linked by the common element of collaboration. AV and IT tools facilitate collaboration by linking people, processes, and technologies, and AV technology is at the forefront of these business process changes. There are many names for the systems and applications that are emerging to address the needs of the global workforce, but the underlying technologies are firmly rooted in the convergence of IT and AV. Essentially, the collaboration enabled by unified communications systems, social networking tools, and integrated portals has been achieved by combining previously separate AV, IT, and telephony systems. By adding video and audio to data networks, systems can finally be truly integrated.
Trends and technologies mean little unless their value is understood and they are integrated into the organizations' enterprise architectures. AV and IT equipment manufacturers have been quietly making the improvements required for seamless interoperability. Designers and integrators have developed increasingly more complex systems while operators and end users have begun to increase their depth of knowledge. More importantly, organizations have begun to recognize the need for these technologies to improve efficiency and competitiveness.
In the private sector, globalization is a driving force behind the rapid adoption of collaboration technologies. Businesses large and small must communicate around the world, in real time. The old notion that knowledge is power has never been more true, but knowledge alone is no longer enough. Access to knowledge and the ability to adapt it to business needs are paramount. Globalization is bringing with it increased competition and opportunities, creating the need for better collaboration within enterprises and with suppliers, partners, and customers.
Like globalization, green initiatives are reshaping the way organizations do business by putting greater emphasis on environmental stewardship. Organizations are learning that by applying green technologies, they can actually increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Collaboration technologies are reducing travel and associated monetary and productivity costs. Green initiatives are enabling flexible work arrangements that allow knowledge workers to work remotely from just about anywhere. Knowledge workers need information to do their jobs, and access to information is what collaboration tools and unified communications systems are all about. Knowledge work principles are rapidly changing how the U.S. federal government operates. In the years since September 11 and Katrina, we have learned that old industrial management systems are outdated. In their place, knowledge management approaches that reduce "stovepipe" solutions (where systems work together, but are not integrated) are emerging.
Knowledge management requires massive shifts in work styles as aging command and control infrastructures are replaced. Communication and collaboration technologies are enabling these shifts.
In the Department of Defense (DoD), the result has been an emphasis on joint forces in which all of the branches of the military work together to maximize efficiency. The Intelligence Community (IC) is also realizing the value of collaboration. On October 10, 2007, the Director of National Intelligence stated that, "The Five-hundred Day Plan for Integration and Collaboration continues to build the foundation to enable the IC to work as a single, integrated enterprise so we can collaborate across critical missions, enhance our support to a wide range of customers and partners, contribute to our national security priorities, and reduce the risks that the nation faces today and in the future."
The DoD and the IC are not alone. Collaboration and cooperation are essential across all branches and departments of the government. Katrina exposed some glaring communications deficiencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working together with local first responders, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other state, local, and federal entities as well as with relief organizations and private companies to modernize their operations. A critical component of this modernization is the improvement of radio interoperability.
This is only one example of how the government is working to modernize business practices to adapt to rapid technology advancement and the shift toward knowledge work. As the military has realized, collaboration technologies are force multipliers, which means that every successfully implemented collaboration technology can reduce the amount of human labor required to achieve results.
Collaboration technologies are mission critical, and it is clear why organizations are rapidly adopting them. The AV/IT convergence that has been discussed for the last several years is not only here, but it is transforming the way the world communicates. Globalization, green initiatives, and knowledge work require leadership from the AV industry. Everyone in the AV chain from manufacturers, designers and integrators to operators and end users must understand IT as well as AV. They must leverage interoperable systems, international standards, and rapidly emerging disruptive technologies. AV practitioners will be the change agents that facilitate collaboration in the new world order.
Gary L. Hall, CTS-D, CTS-I, is a program management execution officer at the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Bethesda, MD. He is also an adjunct instructor at the InfoComm Academy and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are in no way officially endorsed by NGA, and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States.