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Mission Critical: The AVOC

Many organizations are at a tipping point between having a fully staffed on-premise helpdesk and setting up an AV operation center (AVOC). This is spurring some AV/IT departments to seek expertise from global managed services companies such as AVI-SPL, Diversified, Whitlock, and others. In addition to design/build services, these companies specialize in AV as A Service (AVaaS), providing various levels of support, with some offering IT network operation centers (NOCs).

Diversified Global Services network operations center located in Kenilworth, NJ. Photograph courtesy of Diversified.

AVI-SPL has three primary Global Service Operations located in Westminster, Colo., King of Prussia, Pa., and in Farnborough, UK, as well as satellite operating centers in Frankfurt, Germany and in Canada, used primarily to support local language requirements.

For organizations wanting an on-premises AVOC, AVI-SPL offers its Unify ME Symphony meeting solutions monitoring, management and analytics platform. It is orchestrated from a browser-based, and mobile-friendly portal. In addition, AVI-SPL provides traditional helpdesk services in which customers engage with one of the operating centers before traditional remediation and support.

Network management solutions for AV had been heavily focused on reporting lamp hours of projectors. However, with the evolution of IoT comes the opportunity to connect to more components. “We’re able to more consistently speak to a broader base of the technologies deployed in the conference room, either directly by IP connectivity, or indirectly through connectivity to in-room processors,” said Tim Riek, senior VP of Service Operations at AVI-SPL. “[We can more effectively predict when failures might occur based on the temperature of devices or assist with users who are having issues—and provide a lot of useful information around utilization for analytics.”

AVI-SPL actively monitors and manages networkable devices on behalf of its customers to proactively look for faults before they impact meetings

In recent years there has been a shift from facilities to IT departments to support audiovisual and collaboration spaces. “As IT stakeholders start to dig into what they’ve acquired from facilities management folks, a specific competence is required to support these technologies that IT organizations don’t have,” noted Riek. As they begin to realize the differences in traditional IT services and AV services, they reach out to AV or collaboration service providers such as AVI-SPL to help understand how to bring AV into an IT support model.

“IT organizations solicit support such as site assessment to determine what they have, and life cycle management to help understand how to get from what they have today to something that’s more scalable and serviceable and standardized,” he added. “Once they achieve standardization of their technology [for] the meeting room, they put in place solutions that find faults before they’re meeting-impacting.”

On-prem, Cloud or Hybrid?

Labor and infrastructure costs required to support and maintain an AV operation center and oversee all AV and videoconferencing room integrations can be prohibitive. “Beyond the technology needs, you must also address hiring and managing qualified and certified staff to provide the services 24/7,” said Bob Zimmerman, director of Managed Services Sales at Whitlock. “This is hard to replicate with the same level of service quality, while also upgrading the new technology and keeping up with new solutions and training.”

Whitlock manages a nationwide audiovisual field service operation out of its AV/NOC in Dallas, Texas, which includes preventative maintenance, corrective maintenance, live event support and service level agreements. Zimmerman advises customers to focus on technology utilization, adoption and process improvements, and outsource the service and support aspects to maximize investments.

A hybrid scenario would be attractive for organizations that have geographical or time of day restrictions, and a core team engaged and focused on monitoring devices or applications Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. After that they can roll over to the cloud for out-of-hours and weekends,” added Riek. “There are various scenarios where a hybrid is an appropriate solution.”

Large organizations that invest heavily in AV infrastructure and consider AV a strategic element of its business often have on-premises AV operations centers. “Self-managed versus outsourced is often associated with a few considerations,” said Howard Nunes, President and CEO of PepperDash. “First is their tolerance for third-party hosting of any technical capabilities. Many organizations have zero tolerance for cloud-based or hosted solutions due to security concerns, or they may consider AV performance to be so strategically important that they want in-house staff on top of it all the time.” A second decision point is the way they budget for such expenditures. “If an organization is more oriented to keeping operational costs down, then a capital expenditure for developing the AVOC may make more sense,” added Nunes.

Today, organizations can create any combination of managed services that suit their business goals. Diversified Global Services provides cloud-managed or on-site support options. In addition, the company offers customizable services from meeting support to training and pre-emptive maintenance.

AV Operations in 2018

As AV, building automation and control, and other related systems continue their migration to IT, organizations of all sizes are trying to grasp how to manage and harness real-time monitoring. This is creating a greater opportunity for firms such as AVI-SPL, Diversified, Whitlock, PepperDash to expand upon their expertise and managed services.

Whitlock’s Zimmerman said the company will have even more focus on enterprise management, automation and utilization/adoption training and analysis in 2018.

“Our focus on business analytics going into 2018 is at the top of the list of things that we want to continue to enhance and evolve, because we recognize that enabling users to go to their upper management and justify why they’re consuming our services is critical for the continued success of our business,” concluded AVI-SPL’s Riek.

Cindy Davis is the contributing editor of AV Technology. Read more about real-time monitoring in our Technology Manager’s Guide to Remote Monitoring.


Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis is the brand and content director of AV Technology. Davis enjoys exploring the ethos of experiential spaces as well as diving deep into the complex topics that shape the AV/IT industry. In 2012, the TechDecisions brand of content sites she developed for EH Publishing was named one of “10 Great Business Media Websites” by B2B Media Business magazine. For more than 20 years, Davis has developed and delivered multiplatform content for AV/IT B2B and consumer electronics B2C publications, associations, and companies. From 2000 to 2008, Davis was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Electronic House. From 2009 to present, as the principal of CustomMedia.Co, Davis developed content plans and delivered content for associations such as IEEE Standards Association and AVIXA, content marketing for Future Plc, and numerous AV/IT companies. Davis was a critical member of the AVT editorial team when the title won the “Best Media Brand” laurel in the 2018 SIIA Jesse H. Neal Awards. A lifelong New Englander, Davis makes time for coastal hikes with her husband, Gary, and their Vizsla rescue, Dixie, sailing on one of Gloucester’s great schooners, and sampling local IPAs.