Scoping Our Industry: AV, IT, AV/IT, or What?
At the recent InfoComm show in Orlando, I was struck by several things relative to the scope and definition of our professional AV industry. First the punch line (then some context): What was once two discreet industries (AV and IT) is now one industry with multiple facets.
Up until about 10 years ago, InfoComm the trade association was called the International Communications Industries Association. Its deep roots (founded in 1939) are pre-Internet, pre-digital media, and pre-invasion of IT manufacturers and integrators into AV territory.
But what about now? As recently as a few years ago, a big industry challenge was figuring out how to compete with the IT integrators and box houses that were encroaching upon AV territory. Today that has given way to themes like partnering, opening IT divisions of AV companies, and being sure that AV technicians are IT- and network-savvy.
Today InfoComm the trade association is known as “the professional audiovisual communications association.” It has worldwide reach with members, trade shows, and industry initiatives (like certification and standards) that span the globe.
Complicating things, there are new competitors selling professional AV gear at all levels (OEMs, branded manufacturers, distributors, integrators, direct marketers, brick-and-mortar retailers–you get the picture). They come from consumer electronics and home theater. They come from security and life safety. They come from smart buildings and automation systems. Some even come from the entertainment technology world. And, of course, from information technology.
It’s time to define the scope of our industry and set some boundaries. Boundaries not to exclude qualified people and companies, but boundaries to provide clarity. While everyone might not agree on the best labels for what to call things, the benefits of defined scope include:
- Developing shorter elevator pitches. Crisp and concise instead of “Well, you gotta understand…” or “It’s a long story…”
- In terms of industry growth, a defined scope makes it easier to attract investment capital
- On the end-user relations level, sending clearer industry messages about positioning pro AV/IT integrators as partners, not just vendors
- Building up the talent pool
- Establishing global standards, protocols, and best practices
What are your thoughts? Should the pro AV Industry be more inclusive or more exclusive? What’s included or not included from a technical/applications or a business/channel partner standpoint? Is the industry impossible to define?
Eager for your thoughts—please comment.