Revisiting Managed Services

Managed Services

As the need for collaboration across space and time is increasing, so is the demand for centralized technology monitoring and management. Customers are attempting to avoid the hassle of owning a depreciated asset or the technical risk associated with having to locally manage technology. This results in the outsourcing of a growing number of technology management responsibilities and functions.

So why are many institutions and enterprises looking for managed services from their service provider? Cost control is a major part of the equation. Plus, access to a leased product and leveraging product-based services is more appealing to certain audiences than receiving delivery of an installed product that requires a lifetime of maintenance.

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In addition, the increasing complexity of AV systems and the business demands put on these systems have resulted in a need for specialist skills. By using an outside provider, companies are, in essence, paying for a specialized skillset that enables integration with new systems.

What separates some service providers from others today is being able to use the data harvested from their systems and deliver the bundled value of low capital cost, high availability, improved performance and increased sustainability. The commercial AV industry has been providing post-installation services for the past several years. As the Internet of Things (IoT) flourishes, AV service providers will have to differentiate themselves in response to new business demands. But there will be challenges.

Knowledge of the IT industry is key to the AV industry’s success in the managed services business.

Standing out as a leader in the IoT era will mean extending service beyond the AV system handoff and providing a pay-as-you-go service model, where the service provider employs software, Cloud services, network providers and on-the-ground troops to continually manage and monitor that AV system. This is a fairly well employed managed services model. But beyond that, AV service providers can use the information collected from the system, sensors and space usage to predict and avoid system failures, reduce energy consumption and increase space efficacy.

Some integrators are offering the full spectrum of service, including designing the systems, apportioning pieces of the conferencing Cloud, installing the equipment, monitoring the rooms through the Cloud and employing local AV service staff dressed in the customer’s shirts to deploy the system and clear the helpdesk tickets.

Monitoring is not necessarily limited to a single site. An AV company could provide different models, depending on the customer’s geographic scope. If a customer is a three-site company with four various-sized conference rooms per site, it’s not likely to invest tens of thousands of dollars into a 12-hour-day centralized monitoring center and staff it for level 1 and 2 support scheduling and preemption. But that company might be willing to pay a monthly fee to a company that will do it.

Managed AV service providers must test products, tools and delivery models that will allow them to respond to customers’ new demands. A large number of products and services have to reside on the network and in the Cloud. Therefore, knowledge of the IT industry is key to the AV industry’s success in the managed services business. AV professionals will have to understand network policies and procedures a lot better than they used to.

Managed services is a ripe opportunity for those with the right AV/IT talent on staff.

For instance, they are becoming familiar with terms such as “high availability.” There are often chargebacks to the clients if services aren’t met or the clients don’t have a satisfaction level of greater than 99%. On the IT side, that may mean that there is no downtime at any given point.

There are several additional obstacles to delivering managed services. Lack of internal sales skills to articulate services to customers is a major roadblock. AV integrators can only be successful if they are able to both speak the C-suite language and fully understand the deliverable. Understanding how the recurring revenue works, describing it and selling it will not happen overnight. Interoperability also continues to be a challenge to the industry. Some enterprises may have implemented several types of control system offerings but remain unable to combine different systems. Managed services is a ripe opportunity for those with the right AV/IT talent on staff.

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