Why Is Collaboration So Disconnected?

collaboration-byod-0815It seems that every time I hear about collaboration in our industry lately it is referring to AirMedia, ClickShare, Brio, Via, Enzo or similar “Mirror Op” technologies and the emphasis is almost always on wireless and BYOD. These examples are great success stories and they have a great place in today’s marketplace.  But I fear that with the message, we (AV) are missing such a huge market and better message around the fit for collaboration in existing infrastructure and enterprise environments. I know that some of these solutions have their enterprise versions but the overarching message from the manufacturers and channels seem to be BYOD and wireless “in room” content sharing.

How do we (as an industry) change the way we approach the customers with a new message to help them understand that there is so much more value to what the collaboration solutions have to offer their organizations?  True collaboration is an enterprise application and can allow for content from anywhere on the network to be used anywhere on the network. The focus of the technological enhanced collaboration and communications industry message (of course) is around the increase in profit and productivity for our customers. Then how do we promote that message beyond the conference room and meeting space and make sure we are making it clear that these are solutions for the entire enterprise?

Here are my five steps for helping to transition your message from BYOD and wireless in a local space to make the message an enterprise solution to increase profit and productivity for the entire organization:

  1. Talk the Talk — Change your references to “BYOD” to “all your networked devices.” Make sure you are always referring to all of the devices as networked devices and continue to emphasize the fact that you are talking about ALL networked devices (wired and wireless). These simple changes and “turns of phrases” make a difference. Your IT customer may focus on what you don’t say. They may wonder why you do not mention wired devices when you talk about collaboration. That will leave them wondering if they can connect PC and Mac. When you do not mention “all your networked devices,” your customer may assume you can only connect to mobile devices.
  2. Ensure Interoperation — The emphasis should be that you can network your devices the way the customer wants to. There is no set way this must be done. Make sure you emphasize that these solutions can join an enterprise network, be set up on a separate physical network dedicated to networked AV or be separated using a logically segmented network for AV. Whatever way your customer needs to network, you can help them. All too often we go with an approach where these solutions must be implemented in one prescribed way (typically on a separate AV network — even in the wireless world and usually this is prescribed by the manufacturer) and that doesn’t have to be the case. Be open to working with the customer and doing it the way they say it needs to be done. You can, in-turn, find the right product from the right manufacturer that will fit the application rather than “force-the-fit.”
  3. Address Security — Security is important. Make sure you match and/or exceed the customer’s expectations on security. The keys to address security are “CIA” — Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. You need to be able to confidentiality by preventing unauthorized use, integrity by safeguarding information and availability by making sure that only authorize users have access according to the customer’s prescribed requirements. Of course, all of that is at a minimum and there can be a lot more to address but it helps to know the basics and then when to bring in the experts.
  4. Be Flexible — Don’t lock yourself into one manufacturer. There are many options out there and each manufacturer has implemented their own set of unique values and options to their solutions. Seek out the balance of features, security, interpretability and standards that best fit your customer’s needs. Don’t be afraid to shop and to include your manufacturers in the pre-sales process. Many manufacturers have incredible resources on the pre-sales engineering side and many have now hired a lot of network engineers to assist in this area.
  5. Validate Support — Get comfortable with your ability to design, integrate and support your customers. Learn to leverage the support system that your vendors have. This support structure includes the design validation, pre-sales, integration support and (of course) after installation support. Warranties are nice but the support programs and people (skills, knowledge, and experience) are what really matters. Do your manufacturer and channel partners (distribution partners and manufacturer representatives) have the expertise to support the products you are installing? If so, use them.

Collaboration offers a sexy solution for the customer and is a really fun sell. The overarching message here is to think big. As I said in a recent blog: “Solve big problems, make big money” but more importantly solve big problems and sleep well at night knowing you served your customers well.

AirMedia is a registered Trademark of Crestron, ClickShare is a registered Trademark of Barco, Brio is a registered Trademark of Christie, Via is a registered Trademark of Kramer and Enzo is a registered Trademark of AMX.