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AtlasIED on Selling Mass Communication to IT Departments

Commercial Integrator chats with AtlasIED’s Michael Peveler about the power of shifting the technology spend from AV to IT.

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CI: We’ve been talking for years about how IT departments are increasingly empowered when it comes to the ecosystems that AV technology is part of. Can you pinpoint a couple of ways that integrators can “sell” mass communication to campus and district-wide IT departments? 

Michael Peveler: The first thing is to focus on an issue or a solution that’s relevant to the IT department. Historically, although many people have talked about engaging with the IT, that connection has largely been because a category cable was plugged in, and we were running on their network. Today, the needs of the IT departments have shifted. These days, it’s important to have a solution. For example, AtlasIED partnered with a company called Singlewire. They’re a large telephony and mass-notification-management solution that’s entirely software-based. 

When we mention Singlewire in our meetings, the IT people immediately respond. They’ll recognize that’s the technology running the phone system, for example. It’s therefore a relevant conversation to talk notification and the challenges they have getting both on-premises and off-premises, as well as how to make sure they have proper audio coverage for all their key spaces. 

The key is to have a solution that’s relevant to themmaybe even something they’re working with. And it needs to have the appropriate tools, licensing and reoccurring support tied into it. That gets them engaged very, very quickly. 

CI: What are the implications, with respect to budgets and available funding, when a project or technology expenditure shifts from AV over to IT? From an integrator’s perspective, what are the dollars and cents of this shift? 

Peveler: Let me offer an example that I think everyone can relate to. Think about the school environment. If you go to the facilities department in most schools, their sole focus is on fixing things that are broken. They’re not looking at the next generation of evolution. Instead, they’re looking at what’s going to ensure we have a working system. So, if you have a conversation with them and inquire about opportunities, you’ll find that their budgets focus on what’s broken. 

If you switch that conversation over to the IT team and say you want to talk security, mass notification and audio coverage, they’re looking at how to easily deploy a solution that can be managed via one single infrastructure for both on-premises and off-premises notification. As soon as that shift happens, the budget grows exponentially. So, in simple terms, the facility person is going to tell you about the one school that has a non-functioning system. By contrast, the IT person isn’t going to focus on one school. The IT person is going to look at a district-wide, factory-wide or campus-wide implementation. And the IT department’s budget for security, safety and communication is much, much larger than a facilities budget that’s dedicated to fixing what’s broken. 

CI: Let’s turn to AtlasIED’s IPX family of IP endpoints. These days, IT departments are very much focused on investing in technologies that are easy to support…that won’t generate a lot of helpdesk tickets. What makes IPX particularly attractive to the IT professionals with whom integrators are increasingly working? 

Peveler: I think the benefit centers on the toolsets we built for the end user, enabling them to manage their applications. Those toolsets are key to how they manage everything in a system. For example, we have our product in all the San Diego Unified Schoolsover 200 schools. With this deployment, they have the tools to allow a message to go out to all the schools at the same time. That, of course, is far preferable to calling every school and asking it to make an emergency-related announcement. It’s equally essential to have the software tools to identify that a unit is not working; reporting from a fault standpoint is very important. Finally, there’s power in seeing all this off a single pane of glass and being able to remotely manage everything. 

One reason that IPX has really taken off is that it has the tools to be scalable and fit the client’s infrastructure from a helpdesk standpoint. I believe that’s why we’ve seen incredible growth over the last few years.