Is ‘Going Global’ the New ‘AV-IT Convergence?’

Integrators that wait too long to explore the world of possibilities outside North America will find themselves missing out on a major opportunity.

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Is ‘Going Global’ the New ‘AV-IT Convergence?’

The popularity of Integrated Systems Europe is at least partly reflective of the integration industry's recognition of global opportunities.

For as long as Commercial Integrator has existed (since January 2011), editor-in-chief Tom LeBlanc and I have been writing about AV-IT convergence.

We’ve done articles predicting when AV and IT would converge, covered the idea that AV and IT have converged and written about companies whose leaders still don’t believe AV is part of IT today, no matter how much they resist or deny it.

After my first trip to Integrated Systems Europe, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll be doing the same sort of articles on the idea of AV integrators pursuing global business.

In a lot of ways, these major shifts in thinking bring about similar results as what happens when some company releases a product that does things we’ve never seen before. There are the early adopters, some of whom will camp out or quit their jobs to ensure they’re the first ones to get their hands on what they believe will be the next big thing, there are those who wait for a few of the bugs to be worked out and there are those who still believe the Internet is a fad whose time will come and go soon enough.

I wrote a cover story for the February 2016 issue that highlighted some of the AV integrators who’ve figured out the importance of following their customers beyond the borders of North America in this ever-increasingly global marketplace.

This year, I saw first-hand how much AV integration means to people outside the U.S. and Canada, as I was among more than 73,000 integrators, manufacturers, end users and others in and interested in the industry at ISE 2017. Still, there are plenty of integrators who question the need for them to go outside their comfort zones and make connections and do projects on foreign soil.

As we continue to see the industry’s biggest integrators acquire smaller companies that have expertise in an area they’re lacking, we’re also seeing more integrators who realize the importance of following their clients around the world.

Perhaps the most basic evidence of this came in the fact the last three subjects of my Back Stage Q&As—Mike  Shinn of Verrex, Bob Zimmermann of Whitlock and Rob Smith of HB Communications—all have as the primary function of their job something to do with global AV.

Meanwhile, the Global Presence Alliance and the Global AV Partnership continue to attract new members—and InfoComm International has paid more attention to opportunities and members outside North America in the past several years.

And let’s not forget that the biggest company in this space, AVI-SPL, recently opened an office in Germany and launched a global accounts management program that helps its worldwide customers get their problems solved more quickly—and by a familiar face.

During my time on the floor at ISE, I heard a lot of talk about how that show has become the primary target for many manufacturers when it comes to rolling out new products, pushing InfoComm’s annual show in June down a notch in importance for many companies. That’s a function of the record-setting crowds that keep coming to Amsterdam every February and a subtle acknowledgement that this industry is about a lot more than what goes on in the U.S. and Canada.

If you’re an AV integrator and you’re seeing the biggest companies in the industry invest big bucks in overseas operations and installations, how can you not realize that it’s something you should be at least considering in some way?