By Alan C. Brawn, CTS, DSCE, DSDE, DCME, DSNE, DSSP, ISF-C
I wrote my first article on this topic just before the turn of the century, on the (then) growing need to converge AV and IT. Yes, that long ago! It seemed back then (and perhaps even today) that AV people were in one camp and IT people in another… and never the twain shall meet. Suffice it to say today, AV and IT have converged at some level. I do suggest that while AV and IT frequently work in unison at the infrastructure level, they have not truly completely converged and may never fully do so. They are certainly parallel to one another with varying amounts of overlap. The point is that they are distinct in their work processes. Let's begin by looking at this distinction.
Historically the pro AV industry has focused on technologies, products, and systems. Its mandate is creating, transporting, displaying, collaborating, and communicating information to the intended audience. AV integration aims to give clients a full range of solutions from which to pick and then make the operation and communication of audio and video seamless. Since the early 2000s, the commercial AV industry has been driven by expanding communications, sharing of data, and introducing collaboration and interactivity, both internally and externally. This is where IT comes into the picture.
The Harvard Business Review introduced the term IT (for information technology) to make a distinction between purpose-built computers designed to perform limited functions, and general-purpose computing machines that could be programmed for various tasks. One IT subject matter expert suggests an inclusive definition; “Information technology is the use of computers, storage, networking and other physical devices, infrastructure, and processes to create, process, store, secure and exchange all forms of electronic data.”
IT now embraces an array of technologies and related disciplines. The foundation of IT is still basic computer-based information systems, including computing hardware, operating systems, application software, and the data that is processed to produce useful information. Over time, each of these IT components and functions has become more complex, embracing ever-growing subsets of technologies and methodologies. IT no longer just happens locally; cloud computing environments now complement and even replace on-premises resources of the traditional data center. All these developments have made IT more complex and require greater specialization and new roles and responsibilities from the IT workforce.
IT creates, manages, and services the backbone of where AV often exists. To me, the most appropriate way to look at the relationship between IT and AV is one of symbiosis. Of course, some IT people can take on AV-centric projects, and AV people are familiar with IT, but the work processes and responsibilities are different. Without fear of contradiction, what can truly be said is that IT and AV are codependent.
What I can safely say is that out of necessity, is that we are still speaking and writing about AV and IT convergence today. I was speaking to my partner about this, and what popped into my mind was an analogy to the old Brady Bunch TV series. You had two distinct families with individual histories, but when the parents married, the families had to find ways to work it all out. If you don’t get it, just search for the old TV show, and you will.
When people used to think about convergence, it was almost like mixing black paint and white paint. The black and white would each go away, leaving a “new” color we call grey. Continuing the paint analogy to AV and IT there is still some black on one side and white on the other side, but there is (growing) grey in the middle. This is the convergence of AV and IT. AV is distinct from IT in most ways and vice versa. So, no, AV and IT are not “fully” converged and probably will never totally be… but there is convergence. This begs the question of what is driving these distinct “camps” to work together and yes, converge.
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