As we enter the second quarter of 2019, AV integrators and manufacturers now have the proper perspective to take stock of what happened in 2018 and determine how it will affect our industry moving forward.
If you are tired of hearing the term “huddle room,” then don’t read the next few sentences. The migration away from larger meeting rooms continues to progress at an alarming pace. We have seen some customers adding thousands of smaller collaboration spaces around the globe, while only adding a fraction of larger rooms. The continued growth of huddle rooms is coupled with the growth of the new “self-service” model, which is substantially impacting how traditional AV integrators provide services to customers.
Self-service rooms are essentially meeting rooms that have a room PC or similar Microsoft Windows-based device preloaded with collaboration and video-communication software. In 2018, enterprises started to take Cisco and Polycom video codecs out of production and replace them with PCs running Zoom and BlueJeans. That has affected a number of traditional revenue sources for AV integrators and manufacturers. Even setting aside the loss of potential hardware sales, revenues associated with maintenance and managed services can be negatively affected when customers migrate to self-service rooms. That said, it’s important to note that “self-service” doesn’t mean “no service,” as we are finding that customers who migrate to self-service rooms still require support for their users and monitoring of connected devices in the rooms.
Microsoft Teams (MS Teams) is going to impact the AV industry in a big way this year. Almost every discussion with large enterprises will eventually cover their strategy for MS Teams. We will see new ecosystems of hardware and managed services being launched this year, and they’ll be specifically tailored to MS Teams. The migration to smaller, self-service rooms is the precursor to massive rollouts of MS Teams for many global organizations.
Another trend that might finally make its way into the AV industry is AV-as-a-Service (AVaaS). The concept of renting a complete room of AV equipment, including the installation and service, for one monthly fee, has been tried in the past—with little success. However, we have seen lenders offering more creative leasing options and demonstrating a willingness to work with AV integrators to create packages that now make it feasible to offer solutions of this type. That fact, combined with the increasing willingness of enterprises to leverage cloud-based services, might just mean that this year will be the one when we start see traction in the AVaaS space.
As customers continue to expand the number of meeting spaces they have in their facilities, we are seeing an increased demand for data about usage patterns, attendance and the overall performance of the collaboration environment. Customers are no longer happy just to see historical information about how many tickets were opened or closed in a given period; instead, they want data that can be analyzed and used to make meaningful decisions about their continued investments in technology, services and real estate. AV integrators will be called upon to provide creative ways to capture points of data—for example, how many people are physically in the room or which rooms are used most.
This represents a new, services-based opportunity for those capable of supporting the associated data and reporting demands.
These trends represent both a challenge and an opportunity for the AV industry. We continue to be pushed to develop closer ties with IT organizations, as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to involve AV components and as meeting spaces exchange codecs for PCs. This opens up a new way of delivering services for customers. Whereas we used to focus on supporting rooms, we now must support end users. Whereas we used to provide a small number of large rooms, we now must provide a large number of smaller rooms.
The status quo is not what we should expect this year. The AV industry must evolve and adapt to these new trends, and it is encouraging to see that many have already begun to do so.