Yes, the industry is consolidating. And as technology becomes more complex, it’s actually becoming simpler. This simplicity is rooted in the migration away from multi-wire specialty cable and evolving toward network cabling (and, to some extent, no cabling as wireless technology matures).
In the audiovisual industry, the topic of convergence has captivated the minds of so many of our leaders: We have seen the transition coming. For what seems like a decade, we’ve been talking about IT taking over the audiovisual space.
However, with the exception of a smattering of case studies for IT companies entering the AV space, it really hasn’t happened yet.
What has happened, however, is convergence through integration. Our equipment from end to end has found itself attached to the IT network; the push for simplifying this integration has continued as IT directors are natives to networking but rarely well versed in AV.
This trend has led to integrators needing to rapidly move in the direction of selling software and IT solutions as opposed to IT providers selling AV solutions. (How many big IT and network firms are selling matrix video switching or distributed audio?)
What is next for convergence? The speculation of what convergence will look like in the future may wind up being more of what we thought it would be like. However, this isn’t being brought on by IT VARs displaying an overwhelming desire to be AV integrators.
Instead, true technology proliferation is being driven from the data center, which is going to be the future of presentation technology, collaboration and digital signage.
Some of the trends I’m most convinced will drive the next wave of convergence are Cloud, mobile and data visualization.
First, Cloud technology is going to redefine the delivery method of collaboration and presentation. More and more, our content lives in the Cloud. Access to our presentations may wind up driving our platform for delivering it.
The Cloud trend paves the way for the mobile trend as our data and software are planted in the Cloud. The tools to use these solutions often live in our pocket, on our tablet or on our desktop.
More and more often, I’m trading face-to-face group meetings for live, online collaboration that brings people, ideas, content and video together to create a live meeting experience from anywhere bandwidth allows. Even the bandwidth issue is becoming a non-factor for most IT-driven solutions. New codecs and compression methods allow ultra-lite software applications to run on a moderate WiFi hotspot that can be powered from our mobile devices.
The Cloud is becoming the landing spot for business collaboration; our devices, no matter what they are, can serve it up wherever we are. It’s a marriage of great magnitude that undoubtedly is changing the priorities of CIOs and CEOs as they ask, “Why do we need these boxes? Isn’t there an app for that?”
The final trend in convergence that is shaping our migration toward IT is data visualization (or big data). I’m not going to pretend to be a big data expert, but I do know that it’s becoming an increasing priority in the enterprise as a way to understand and measure everything.
In the book Consumption Economics, written by Cisco Insiders, there is an outline of what is called the Land and Expand strategy. In short, this selling methodology is deeply rooted in partners providing enterprises with the ability to try technology before buying it (and then earning organizational adoption through the application of data that shows ROI).
Perhaps the simplest way to explain this is to suggest that, in the future, integrators will have to figure out how to help identify the right applications and then allow customers to test them. Ultimately, data would be used to justify the technology’s use and value to the organization.
The question I answer most frequently about IT convergence is, “When?” To some extent, depending on what you sell, this may only impact your business in small or unknown ways. But for most companies, the real answer is now.
Just look around. Business decisions are moving from the boardroom to the iPad. People are holding the same meetings with the same people. Only now they are in cars, on planes or (if they’re lucky) somewhere warm having a drink with a piece of fruit inside.
But this trend won’t just breeze by our industry. It will shift it, change it and, for those who figure it out, it will provide one heck of an opportunity to expand relevance as a business solutions provider.
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