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Meet Your Manager: Ben Skinner, The Vitec Group

Meet Your Manager: Ben Skinner, The Vitec Group

Ben Skinner, Head of Corporate Networks and Infrastructure, The Vitec Group These days, video is the both the medium and the message, and no one knows that better than Ben Skinner, Corporate Networks and Infrastructure director of The Vitec Group. Based in the UK, The Vitec Group’s products support the capture and sharing of professional still and video images through leading brands such as Anton/Bauer, Autocue, Litepanels, OConnor, Paralinx, Sachtler, and many more. Since Ben Skinner manages the group’s global corporate networks, we asked him to share his collaboration strategies and explain how AV/IT convergence affects (or impedes) his daily work.

AV Technology editors: How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?
Ben Skinner:
Given that we are in the audiovisual industry, the convergence of AV and IT is a big part of our company. Historically, within our workforce, this has played out in terms of how people can use their laptops to communicate with each other by text, voice, and video. Today, we are stepping this up by using Skype for Business and BlueJeans to connect our people round the world. This provides the level of quality and reliability and simplicity we are looking for, and satisfies the kinds of services our people expect as a result of the “consumerization of AV.”

What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?
Ben Skinner:
Perhaps the biggest one relates to what I just described; namely providing our staff with easy-to-use interfaces on their computers for videoconferencing via Skype for Business. Our users count on their business videoconferencing being as easy to execute as using Skype for their own personal communications. Making this happen has been our biggest challenge recently at The Vitec Group; including being able to integrate these solutions with our existing legacy videoconferencing systems.

Our people also expect to be able to use the same technology at work that they use at home, and to bring this technology to the office for presentations and other functions. To enable this, we have moved to the Blue Jeans Network cloud to simplify these connections at any time, from anywhere. This includes using their mobile devices to connect to corporate videoconferences as need

At a local level, we have swapped all our cables on desk with Barco ClickShare devices, allowing any type of laptop, Mac or mobile device to present onto our TVs or projectors. Again, this builds on our goal of keeping it simple encourages uptake and confidence in AV.

What AV/IT do you hope to buy in the near future? Why?
Ben Skinner:
We intend to do more with the Blue Jeans Network to expand our inter-office communications, and to do more with Skype for Business to enable real-time collaboration between sites. Skype for Business makes it possible to use a large interactive electronic whiteboard across various locations, so that our people can truly work together in cyberspace.

Do you procure/purchase your AV for in-house installs? Distributor, manufacturer direct, in bulk, other? Please explain.
Ben Skinner:
We like to focus on doing in-house procurement and purchasing using our own people, but we do deal directly with vendors when it makes sense to do so. Where are technology manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities? Ben Skinner: From what I have seen, they are not missing much these days. A few years ago, we were scratching our heads looking for the types of collaborative solutions I mentioned earlier. Now those solutions are available, and we are using them.

What is the biggest obstacle to collaboration?
Ben Skinner:
The biggest obstacle is simplicity, or the lack of it. The simpler our collaborative options are for our staff, the more likely they are to use them.

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Margot Douaihy, Ph.D.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D. is a freelance AV storyteller and educator. She is currently editor-at-large for AV Technology Magazine where she provides analysis and insights, and facilitates discussions at live events. Douaihy is a featured speaker at many events, including the AV/IT Summit, where she dives into new paradigms and products making a difference in the ever-evolving AV industry.