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What’s on the IT manager’s mind?

Paddy Baker 9 January 2011

The cloud tops the list of concerns, but pattern-seeking technology, sustainability and regulations must remain front of mind, writes Bob Snyder

In his recent update, Dr Randal A Lemke, executive director and CEO of InfoComm International, says: “At the end of the next decade, it is possible the industry might be called the Information Communications Technology Industry as it completes the business convergence that is following the ongoing technical convergence with the IT industry. The industry is rapidly becoming net-centric at the same time that it grows rapidly.”

That would make this column just about the most important regular business insight you can read as we open a window (no pun, you Microsofties) into the culture and direction of the IT industry.

Many of the first AV-over-IP applications were not integrated into the customer’s network: instead they ran parallel to it. Now more and more AV (and everything else) runs over the customer’s regular IP network, and the IT department supervises (OK, ‘controls’ is a better word) our AV services.

Lemke notes: “The end user, the facilities manager and the IT department now all have a say in how AV is done, with IT often being the gatekeeper. In the Net-Centric AV Era, the customer will reflect the role and influence of its IT department. IT will be the primary decision maker, just as it deploys and oversees VoIP and other communications services added to the traditional data network.”

That shift by our clients (passengers) leaves the AV integrator ship of state in a two-sided world. On one side of the boat, we have video distribution and control, which will be mainly digital and run on IP networks. On the other side, the physical endpoints (microphones, screens, etc) required for people to hear and see will still need to be designed and installed in corporate spaces where facilities managers and architects (and others) will have to work with IT and AV integrators to meet the needs of the corporate department (end user).

For the foreseeable future, you can assume that the AV integrator will be piloting a business ship where port and starboard are equally important but have different passengers with different needs. Ignore either one and you may find yourself on the shoals.
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The AV gatekeeper

In this first column of 2011, we start the year by considering the role of the new AV gatekeeper: the IT manager. What’s on the mind of the IT manager that will affect our role in AV in 2011?

First, the IT manager literally has his or her head in the clouds. Cloud computing is as much of a change to IT folks as going digital has been in AV. However, in the larger IT industry style, the change in weather is deeper and more violent in nature.

Cloud computing reflects a shift in mindset as IT managers who once bought technology now look to consume the benefits of technology (with a cost saving because it’s pay-as-you-go). The difference is similar to the one between cooking your own dinner and going out to eat.

The IT manager (in much larger companies, we are really talking about the chief information officer who employs a number of IT managers) has to confront a transition, to migrate some of the corporate IT and AV resources to the cloud – not all at once, and not all resources, but nonetheless the CIO must engage in a cloud-hugging process in 2011.

In AV, we must recognise that on our starboard side, where video distribution and control will be mainly digital (and run on IP networks), we will be forced to fit in with the tide or sink from view.

Today, social media is pouring into business, changing the way business is conducted. High on the agenda of every IT manager is the effective adoption of social media. Up until 2015, most organisations will lack a coherent approach for dealing with social networking for business. But AV will play a major role in helping IT managers use these new social technologies. Or, perhaps more correctly, we will help put these social technologies on display and in use both internally and externally as corporates understand better how to use social media.
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Following a pattern

Through 2015, pattern-seeking (PS) technology will be the fastest-growing IT intelligence investment among the most successful Global 2000. Pattern-based strategy will allow IT leaders to seek out patterns amid the burgeoning information sources and model future possibilities. As IT managers adopt PS technology, it will require AV ability to display and visualise the results.

By 2016, one-third of worldwide mobile consumer marketing will be context-awareness-based. Context-aware computing involves taking advantage of location and time to enable a new era of augmented reality. This extension of corporate mobility requirements will be added to the IT manager’s shopping list. The impact on control rooms, digital signage and other AV areas will be significant.

Also by 2016, sustainability will be the fastest-growing enterprise compliance expense worldwide. Green AV will move off the lips of officers and into the arms of corporate deckhands. The IT manager as a gatekeeper will ask of all acquisitions: “How green is it?”

Regulatory and corporate demands for greater attention to risk have already begun to emerge. Think video security and video audit trails as two examples of topics that will earn IT manager attention.

With the recent recession, business thinkers must find new ways to create growth – in revenue, jobs and industries. Cost and value optimisation must be a top priority, while the search for growth continues.

Perhaps the greatest issue on the mind of the IT manager will be the CEO’s imperative that IT must go seamless – instead of being a separate fiefdom, IT will be asked to become embedded department-by-department as an enabler. The nature of IT as a department is changing…

All these points signify that IT managers in the coming years will not want to hear about the technology silos that we once touted. Instead, IT managers will be looking to lower the gangplanks to suppliers and installers that can present a business case that includes consuming the benefits of technology instead of acquiring; maybe augmenting the use of social media, conforming to green standards, improving mobile enterprise, securing the regulatory/compliance environment, or creating business opportunity.

If your AV solutions don’t fit in these top-side lockers, then you may want to think about giving up the piloting of a full ship and just paddle a raft. There’s nothing wrong with a raft, after all, it’s just a different business model. As long as it keeps you afloat…

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