AV Is IT

switcher control room av it

During End User Day of LAVNCH WEEK 3.0 in February (in partnership with HETMA), I enjoyed listening to end users speak about AV security. It was particularly interesting to me since I had just written a blog on how the SolarWinds hack should serve as a lesson to the AV industry. I was tweeting a few thoughts during the event. In my tweets, I wrote about how AV and IT are the same things. Many of the panelists on the talk had indicated the same thinking. Yet, some of the responses to my tweet surprised me. There are people in our (AV) industry who will still argue that AV and IT are not, indeed, the same thing.

Beyond being shocked that this was still being discussed in 2021, I spent some time thinking about why it’s still a discussion point and about the ultimate goal. I am writing some thoughts here, genuinely hoping for some interaction with others to better understand where our industry stands on this.

The first thing I spent some time thinking about is why someone would argue that AV is not IT. What is the ultimate goal or belief that is promoted by thinking that AV is a stand-alone industry? I can only answer this from my own experiences, having been involved in AV for twenty years, but always under the IT umbrella. My thinking here is that there are two reasons people would make this argument. The first is that they feel IT professionals do not respect AV. There is a feeling that IT people would consider AV people the ones who were not quite as skilled. I think 10 years ago, this still may have been true. However, as AV has changed over the years to a fully digital space, I have noticed increased respect for AV professionals and interest in AV from the IT people. Our AV team is one of the most respected groups on campus in my institution, both inside and outside the IT organization. The IT teams recognize that the programming, security, networking and understanding client needs to be required from AV pros is the same type of work that IT people do.

A second reason is that AV (again, my opinion) has always had a much better customer service approach than traditional IT has. AV people who have this strong customer service ideology don’t want to be grouped with the department that everyone complains about. This, I have to admit, is still an issue. I think we often see this everywhere — but it is an excellent opportunity for AV teams to share these skills with their IT colleagues.

Despite these few reasons some people don’t want to part of IT, the reasons for wanting to be part of the IT industry are endless. Of course, the main reason is that we ARE IT, whether we like it or not. Yes, there are still AV people who set up tiny events where all they hook up is a couple of speakers and a mic, and everything is analog. Those are, by far, the exceptions to the rule. The overwhelming majority of the work we do is digital, has complex programming and is business-critical. Where, other than IT, would such an organization fall?

Additionally, think of the resources that being part of the IT industry provides us. For people inside organizations, it provides access to a much larger budget potential than we would have otherwise. For manufacturers and integrators, it provides you with access to a much larger customer base. AV integrators who merge with, or have their own IT divisions, quickly become a one-stop shop for customers. If we look at a project that includes touch panels that integrate into the security system or the room scheduling system, shouldn’t a single integrator be able to do that work?

What about recruiting new talent? I see threads on social media that complain about why there are no AV programs inside technical schools. The question often looks at AV, again, as separate. A much more successful approach would be for the AV industry to partner with the already successful IT programs in these schools and add AV-related courses to those programs. I know that many manufacturers do a similar thing; they recruit people from computer science programs. It just makes sense.

I have a personal belief that in any work that happens in our high-tech world, if we spend time trying to stop change or ignore the change to protect our job, we actually end up working ourselves out of said job. This industry will continue to thrive regardless of whether a particular person thinks AV is IT or not. The question is, will you be part of that thriving industry, or will you be the person with a shuttered door, wondering how that IT company across the street has taken all your business?