AV and IT: Friend or Foe? You Decide!

AV Nation launches AV Cross Talk debate series with look at relationship between the future of AV and IT industries.

Now that we’re watching the full-fledged convergence of AV and IT, minus a few stragglers still holding on to the separation between the two, the time has come to look ahead and ask whether the AV industry will soon be absorbed into the IT space.

Mark Coxon, regional sales manager for Milestone AV Technologies, and Josh Srago, manager of audio visual engineering at ICS Integration, recently took the debate to the Internet, helping AV Nation launch its AV Cross Talk series with a half-hour discussion dubbed “AV and IT: Friend or Foe?”

The AV industry has “been undergoing a transition,” says Coxon. “The comfort zone of high margins disappeared and we needed to shift to tailor our businesses to the service-based business of the future.” With regards to IT, AV companies represent “a peripheral industry sitting and waiting” while IT companies “have a leg up to get in and are competing with people who’ve done that (service-based) model for years.”

Srago sees the AV industry as having a “bright, almost brilliant” future, and doesn’t see the change in the AV industry as necessarily meaning IT will swoop in and consume it whole.

“We’re becoming endpoints, but that doesn’t mean IT wants to take us over,” says Srago. “We have a unique skill set and are able to separate ourselves from the IT world. We’re working in a parallel path and providing something IT doesn’t understand.”

Videoconferencing is one area that may see IT at the forefront of installation going forward, says Srago, but “videoconferencing is only a small part of AV. Saying IT is going to be taking over videoconferencing is different than saying IT is going to be taking over AV.”

Coxon notes it’s important “to be able to speak the language of our audience and understand what keeps them up at night.” He points to IT as having an advantage over AV by having relationships with clients that start earlier in the process and also having deep enough pockets to buy the expertise they need when they don’t have it.

But Srago wonders, “How many (IT employees) care enough to program a Crestron system? The AV industry is still providing something the IT industry isn’t doing. The IT guy holds the key to security and getting on the network, but not everything in AV goes on the network. You’re talking about two guys with completely different mentalities.”

Coxon sees the strength in numbers of the IT industry and sees it as inevitable it will consume its AV brethren.

“We love to replay this underdog story,” he says, “but are we the Persians or the Spartans versus the million-man Persian army?”

Srago questions that assertion, wondering, “Just because there’s more of them, they’re better than us? We previously had to explain our role to the facilities guys and the electrical guys and the structural guys. Now we get to explain ourselves to the IT guys. It isn’t about being taken over. We understand something no one else does.”

Here’s the full debate between Coxon and Srago, moderated by Brock McGinnis of Westbury National Show Systems. Remember to cast your vote on Twitter after listening to both sides: