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Professional audiovideo and its role within information communications and technology (ICT) is the bridge that has been connecting the virtual and onsite worlds for businesses, schools and communities over the past year. It’s easy to imagine the added difficulties we could have experienced if not for AV technology.
Hybrid workplaces and learning environments are nothing new, but much of the heavy lifting was done amid chaotic conditions over the last 12 months. The pandemic accelerated not only enablement but also user comfort levels with collaboration tools. The next generation of the physical and digital worlds will be integrated even further, with AV playing an integral role in the evolution. For now, it’s clear there are choices to be made on whether there is a wholesale return to onsite, a move toward the fully virtual, or a hybrid approach that embraces both.
The Future of the Office
Companies that revert to pre-pandemic business operations will likely have a competitive advantage.
There are clear benefits of remote work for employees: no commute time, more physical activity and a global talent pool. And for the company, there are financial advantages: no office means no office costs. But one advantage of in-person work that is seldom spoken of is chance collaboration — those moments when inspiration strikes, or a question appears with the opportunity to immediately go to work on it with one or more people in your vicinity. The energy and enthusiasm generated from these chance collaborations often lead to tremendous results.
A famous example comes from one of the most successful companies in recent memory: Pixar. In his book, “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson wrote:
So [Steve Jobs] had the Pixar building designed to promote encounters and unplanned collaborations … “to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see.” The front doors and main stairs and corridors all led to the atrium, the cafe and the mailboxes were there, the conference rooms had windows that looked out onto it, and the six-hundred-seat theater and two smaller screening rooms all spilled into it. … “I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one,” [Lasseter, Pixar’s former chief creative officer, recalled].
Not all buildings were created for these chance collaborations, but collaborative work areas were trending before the pandemic, with AV integrators building huddle rooms at a furious pace. While the advantages of ICT will propel us into the future, there’s still the matter of that chance encounter at the office that should not be overlooked as a way a company can thrive.
The Future Is Virtual — Balance Is Key!
One aspect of a company’s future success lies in the balance between enabling people virtually with ICT and ensuring there is fertile ground for powerful and unscheduled chance encounters. Pro AV can facilitate these encounters with virtual, always-on meetings for remote employees; like the huddle room, but virtual.
To make this hybridized workplace a reality, integrators will need to understand and operate in both the physical and virtual worlds.
Here are 6 ways integrators can prepare for the evolution of the workplace:
1. Recognize and Understand the Fourth Utility Concept
If you work in AV/IT today, it is critical to understand the concept of the Fourth Utility. Tom Shircliff and Rob Murchison, co-founders of Intelligent Buildings, coined the term. The approach positions the Fourth Utility — internet connectivity and ICT itself — as necessary to a building’s infrastructure as the three main utilities of gas, water and electricity. With an increasing number of technologies converging on the network, understanding how it should seamlessly interact will be key; ICT is rapidly becoming the umbrella for all the projects that AV integrators will be undertaking.
2. Enable Day-Two Expansion
AV integrators will need to meet customers’ rising expectations for immediate service with day-two support. Third-party support services can help deliver a seamless transition for customers. Look for these qualities in a support partner:
- Knowledgeable, experienced and supplier-accredited professional AV technicians and engineers
- Technical support and on-demand assistance
- Troubleshooting resources or on-demand talk, messaging or video
- Remote monitoring and management
- White-label service, with calls being answered as if handled by your own team
3. Scalability for Low-Complexity, High-Volume Projects
Technology convergence and the large role AV is playing have led to the commoditization of every aspect of unified communications and collaboration technologies. The result is that complex deployments and projects are now much simpler. These low-complexity projects are also at a higher volume and spread across large geographic areas within every environment and sector, driving the need for scalability.
4. Utilize Global Capabilities on a Local Level
Global capabilities are equally valuable for integrators working on a local or regional level. These same concepts of scalability apply to deployments across cities, states and the country. Work with a partner who can help you scale, as well as increase efficiency. For example: integrators who work with a global supply chain need to deal with things like product stock, credit terms, product education and labor optimization. WESCO and Anixter already navigate these project realities every day and can help integrators optimize each step.
5. Safety, Security and Productivity
Access control and health safety via AV technology can provide new uses to screen visitors and deliver a safe and secure workplace. AV advancements pave the way to connecting today’s health and safety technology — such as touchless access, thermal scanners, virtual concierge services, building security and access control. The result is easy-to-use, simplified interfaces for the user and an expanded, diverse portfolio of offerings for the integrator.
6. Understanding the New Buyers for AV
As decision-making shifts from facilities and real estate to IT and the office of the CIO, the AV industry needs to understand that IT wants plug-and-play solutions that are easily replicated across large geographic areas. Scalability and consistency can only be enabled if integrators trade creative or proprietary solutions for ones that are uniform.
What’s Next for Integrators Who Need to Scale?
The combined company of WESCO and Anixter is perfectly positioned to offer an unmatched product portfolio and capabilities in AV technologies and supply chain solutions to help integrators scale, whether the project is in town or out of the country.
With nearly everything you need to help navigate the changes we’re seeing in the industry, our expertise and solutions will benefit you in several ways, including:
- Developing and managing your supply chain to improve working capital and sourcing while reducing scrap and obsolescence
- Project deployment services to streamline projects involving multiple product sets, multiple contractors, integrators or installers, large inventory management issues, and national or global rollouts
- Installation enhancement services to reduce costs and speed installations
- Technical expertise to help with day-two capabilities
Learn more by watching WESCO and Anixter’s recent webinar, “The Evolution of Pro AV: From Analog to Digital and Beyond.” We’d love to connect with you.
Phil Langley is the senior vice president, global pro AV and UCC, with WESCO and Anixter. Phil’s extensive background in power distribution and substation control set the stage for an early entry in the European pro AV industry. For over 20 years, Phil has consistently led in nearly every facet of the ICT space from consultancies to system integrators, manufacturing and distribution across the globe.