AV and IT: It's Complicated

Jon Waugh, AV-Tech Media Solutions
(Image credit: Future)

Both AV (audiovisual) and IT (information technology) professionals are integral to business operations. There’s no denying this. While there’s sure to be some overlap between AV and IT teams, their job functions are very different. And for that reason, they shouldn’t be treated as the same thing.

Take, for example, a company seeking ways to drive value, spark creativity, and better connect with its customers. Audio and video upgrades may be the answer. However, if you find yourself contemplating these upgrades, you can’t do anything until you answer the million-dollar question: Who will manage the project?

[5 Takeaways from the AV/IT Summit 2022]

It’s natural to start your search internally. This typically leads you to the IT department. Keeping the project in-house is the easy solution, but is it best? Not always. Remember, AV and IT are not interchangeable. Yes, they’re both technologically minded, but the two functions approach opportunities and issues very differently from a philosophical standpoint. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between AV and IT teams.

Proactive vs. Reactive

While traditional models of technology support (IT) are primarily focused on instant (or timely) remediation and response to objectively measured challenges—such as internal ticketing systems and procedural services—AV support looks very different. AV teams, while maintaining an objective aspect of their service model, must equally offer support and attentiveness to subjective variables of its critical implementations.

In simple terms, AV teams are proactive while IT teams are more focused on providing instantaneous solutions to real-time problems. AV professionals strive to remain one step ahead of the game. They’re interested in what they can do today to improve tomorrow. Conversely, IT teams have a greater focus on user support.

In simple terms, AV teams are proactive while IT teams are more focused on providing instantaneous solutions to real-time problems.

The AV mindset isn’t better than the IT mindset or vice versa. They’re simply different. Think about it like this: AV cares about how clear it sounds, how sharp it looks, how simple it is to operate, and how clean it is connected. IT professionals are more focused on installation, maintenance, and repair. It’s where the mentality of technical correction collides with the optics of preference, professionalism, and attentiveness.

[Return of the Huddle Room]

Some AV professionals have skills that would suit them well in the IT field, while some IT professionals have skills that would translate to the AV field. This is a good thing. It helps both groups understand the responsibilities, wants, and needs of the other.

Whereas an AV team knows how to install world-class audio and video systems, IT is better suited to manage projects such as installing and managing computer, network, and communication systems. That doesn’t mean these tasks are independent of one another. There’s always a certain level of complementary skill crossover that makes for a stronger relationship.

AV Expert Benefits

Do you need a dedicated AV team or expert? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t—but the one thing that always holds true is that there are distinct benefits of having a dedicated AV expert in-house or via a partnership. These include:

Focused technical expertise. IT professionals don’t always understand the impact a well-designed AV system can have on a company. It allows sales professionals to better connect with prospects, both in-person and during remote presentations. It also allows managers to better communicate with off-site employees, and makes for a more efficient in-office experience. Only an experienced, knowledgeable AV expert can make the decisions necessary for the desired end result.

Forward-thinking. IT professionals think about the here and now. Something goes wrong and they fix it. If there’s a need for an upgrade, they make it. In contrast, AV experts are forward-thinking. Every move they make is based on the here and now, as well as the impact it’ll have on the future of the company’s performance and financial circumstances.

In a perfect world, AV and IT professionals work hand in hand on both current problems and future solutions. This ensures that the right people have their hands on the right parts of every challenge or project.

Subjectively inclined and intentional. AV experts move with a purpose. There’s a reason for everything they do. They don’t make decisions just to get the job done. They make intentional decisions meant to have a positive effect on the company as a whole.

This is not a knock on IT professionals. They also use their knowledge and expertise to make informed, effective decisions. However, without direct experience in the AV world, it’s a challenge for these individuals to make subjectively inclined, intentional decisions.

Important Questions

If you’re still on the fence regarding your need to consult with an AV expert, it’s time to dig deeper. Here are three questions you can answer to clear the air.

Who do you currently rely on to manage your AV requirements? Maybe you don’t have anyone on staff who does this. Maybe it’s an IT professional—or perhaps it’s someone with no technical experience at all. Knowing where you currently stand gives you a clear view of where you want to go.

Have you placed AV requirements under the “IT umbrella?” If the answer is no, you can move on. But if it’s yes, it’s time to address details such as their responsibilities, job performance to date, and willingness to complete AV-related tasks.

How would you use an AV expert to your advantage? Don’t hire an AV expert because you think it’s the right thing to do. Hire an expert because you have a project or require ongoing support.

[NAB: Broadcast Quality for the Next Generation]

It's easy to assume that AV and IT are interchangeable, but several differences prove otherwise. If you need an AV expert, don’t push the task onto an IT professional and hope for the best. Hiring the right person for the job improves the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Jon Waugh

Jon Waugh is the president and CEO of AV-Tech Media Solutions.