There is one place where we cannot deny that AV and IT have already converged. And that place is the meeting room.
One year ago, Michael Frank, Mid-Atlantic regional manager at Biamp Systems, opened Whitlock‘s Convergence show in Durham, N.C., with a quote that continues to resonate with integrators and dealers today.
“This is a whole different realm of communication,” he said. “This is AV and IT, and IT owns AV.”
It’s a new year, with new technologies emerging every day. We have seen 4k really step into the spotlight in the commercial market at InfoComm 2014. We’ve seen Microsoft Lync be accepted and integrated into the corporate space, along with countless other collaboration platforms. And yet, we continue to struggle with the ‘effortless meeting.’
I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. Local employees are sitting in the room, waiting patiently, but employees telecommuting from miles away can’t seem to log in, figure out which number to dial, connect to the right group chat. The race is on to render this pervasive difficulty a distant, albeit painful, memory. But what will it take?
Keep it Simple
You’ve heard this before, but when it comes to the end user experience of a system designed to be practically invisible, this rule couldn’t be more important.
“The technology should just work for your users,” explained Joel Kuhn, director of systems engineering at Polycom.
User experience is critical. We are in a time when almost every meeting across the country utilizes unified communications and collaboration in some way, not to mention the healthcare, education, government, and other vast markets where planning, decision making, and even training happens over a display screen. But what does a good user experience entail?
“It starts with a good design, the right architecture, the right platform, and the right mix of technology,” said Kirk Muffley, Whitlock director of strategic alliances.
‘Mix’ being the operative word. Seamless integration between devices can make all the difference. Whether you pick just one operating system or choose to integrate those that play together, it has to be as simple as possible. The user interface must be intuitive, if not familiar. There must be proactive monitoring and easy, fast support, just in case. And there must be training.
“Anytime you mention integration, the biggest problem I encounter is [that] people don’t know what they don’t know,” said Pat Borka, Microsoft Solutions Architect at Whitlock. “That’s where a good partner comes into play.”
The integrator is responsible for more than the technology and setup. At last year’s Whitlock Convergence show, Michael Frank said, “The biggest headache is what happens when the integrator is gone,” a statement that resonated with integrators and dealers everywhere. Training and support are integral to the user experience, because even if it seems simple to you, it must also come simply to your customer.
… But That Isn’t Everything
Simplicity isn’t everything. John Bailey, Whitlock VP of systems integration, asked Frank, “Do you think ease of use trumps performance?”
“No, I believe they go hand in hand,” Frank responded.