InfoComm: Three Ways AV Professionals Can Improve Collaboration with IT Teams

CableHeart_450-300x221-0116By Cory Schaeffer

The world of AV is quickly tilting toward a more IT-focused environment, as AV products evolve to better integrate with existing IP, wireless and mobile infrastructures. These advances require AV professionals to gain a deeper understanding of IT technologies and to work more closely with IT departments to deploy AV solutions.

Still, communication and collaboration between the two teams is sometimes challenging. In an effort to improve AV-IT relationships, QSC teamed up with Spiceworks to survey more than 150 IT buyers and professionals to learn about their perceptions of AV integrators.

Here are three insights gleaned from the survey and other research that can help AV professionals improve interactions with IT teams:

Understand the IT Team

Approximately 96 percent of all technology purchasing decisions are now made with input from more than one person, according to TechTarget. Each IT purchasing team is unique, with a different number of team members, each with his or her own role and set of priorities.

For example, an application manager’s primary concern will be how the AV solution integrates with existing software, while another team member may be concerned with the how the solution will increase revenue opportunities or reduce capital expenditures. Therefore, AV providers can increase IT teams’ confidence and trust by creating tailored messaging about the technical details of the solution, providing comparison information with other solutions, and citing previous customer success.

Providers can also build trust by demonstrating a solid foundation in IT processes and technology. According to the QSC survey, half of all IT decision makers feel that significant knowledge of network configuration, IT workflows and holding any IT-related professional certifications (Comp TIA, Cisco, CCNA and others) are important factors when selecting an AV partner.

Recognize that Integration Means More than the Network

For AV professionals, the term “integration” often means incorporating solutions into a company’s existing network. For IT decision makers, however, integration carries much broader implications. IT buyers look at not only how an AV solution integrates with the network, but its ability to provide native-level operability without additional hardware or workarounds. Or, in other words, they want solutions to integrate with other applications, operating systems, and IT industry-standard monitoring and control consoles, as well as to be centrally managed and monitored.

To meet these expectations, AV solutions in a corporate setting should deliver native network connections as well as turnkey compatibility with IT systems like LDAP, SNMP and SIP softphones. In addition, these solutions must be scalable and provide the flexibility necessary to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the customer’s entire business — not only the network.

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Become a Strategic Partner

IT buyers rarely look to AV professionals to help solve AV-related issues. The QSC survey revealed that when asked to plan and deploy audio systems in meeting rooms, 37 percent of IT professionals said they would research and figure out a solution, while 29 percent felt they could simply handle the project on their own. Only about 15 percent said they would look to an audiovisual vendor for help.

By developing a strategic partnership with IT purchasing teams, AV professionals can have greater influence throughout the decision-making process and be someone IT teams turn to first, rather than last. Strategic partnerships carry many benefits, including the ability to increase revenue, expand geographic reach, and extend product lines, according to research from the CMO Council and BPI Network in conjunction with Powerlinx.

Yet, very few of these vendors, according to research firm IDG, are considered strategic partners by companies. IDG’s research revealed that there are several critical attributes required to strengthen the relationship with IT buyers and be considered a strategic partner, including: the ability to understand the IT buyers’ goals and objectives (75 percent), customer service/response time (74 percent), post-sales support and service (66 percent), and insight and expertise on technology trends and directions (61 percent).

To position oneself as a strategic partner, AV professionals should seek to proactively understand IT buyers’ needs, while providing best practices and strategies that can help drive business innovation and efficiency. AV providers must be informed about their customer’s business model, current technology environment, and industry or vertical trends in order to deliver solutions that meet or exceed expectations.

Ultimately, today’s IT buyers want more than AV components — they are looking for AV solutions that can address business needs, produce better user experiences, provide easier maintenance and management, and deliver a strong return on investment. AV professionals must understand these motivations and proactively communicate to IT buyers how their solutions solve critical pain points and are designed with the full spectrum of IT integration in mind.

How are you collaborating with IT?

This column was reprinted with permission from InfoComm International and originally appeared here.