The sudden shift to remote working, followed by the rise of the hybrid workforce, has resulted in a sharp increase in the use of video in the workplace. Video conferencing has become the default tool for meeting with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders. This has led to big challenges for IT and audio-visual (AV) teams, but it has also offered opportunities to use and apply these technologies in new ways. 

What are those opportunities? How can IT and AV professionals meet today’s challenges in order to take advantage of these opportunities? And what does all this mean for tomorrow’s hybrid workplace?

We recently heard from leading IT and AV experts on this and other topics at the “Conferencing & Collaboration: IT Considerations for Today’s AV Solutions” webinar, which was sponsored by BlueJeans by Verizon and is part of AVIXA’s Power Hour Webinar Series. 

Integrating IT and AV teams

Webinar attendees heard how both IT and AV professionals are facing big challenges due to the ever-increasing amount of AV data and devices on business networks. IT departments are feeling the burden of responsibility for the quality of the AV experience, while AV professionals are finding themselves operating in environments traditionally dominated by IT. 

The solution, according to our panel, is for IT and AV teams to work together, and recognize their own shortcomings and the opportunities that the other team can provide in terms of reaching a shared goal. For example, IT professionals are trained to look at network-centric considerations such as uptime, packet loss, and jitter, whereas the lighting and acoustics within a room are, of course, AV concerns.

Ultimately, the companies that provide the best AV experiences are those that successfully combine AV expertise with IT knowledge. This enables AV professionals to design high-quality user experiences, while ensuring a sound IT and network infrastructure exists to reliably deliver those experiences.

“I think success comes from blending; where IT starts to understand that they need help with endpoint design, and building the right systems for the right meeting spaces. On the AV side, we find that they often don’t have insight into the network performance. As they’re thinking about how the AV application is running, they may not know where delay is happening, or what impact a user’s Wi-Fi network might have during a video meeting.”
–    Irwin Lazar, President and Principal Analyst at Metrigy 

Supporting the Hybrid Workplace

Companies are wrestling with the challenges that come with supporting staff in the office and at home. Standardizing devices and equipment across all staff members would make technical support a lot easier — but this is not always possible when remote staff want to use their own equipment.

There are a number of ways an organization can manage technical support and troubleshooting for AV issues. Smaller organizations may opt to work with an integrator that can provide the much-needed extra support. For larger organizations, this technical support can be delegated to the internal help desk, or desktop support personnel. 

In many cases, these personnel have already started troubleshooting video conferencing apps for staff at home, or video and audio issues relating to headsets and laptops. This transition may therefore be easier than you think, and will ease the burden on the more experienced AV professionals who will have to take on additional roles supporting the infrastructure behind Software-as-a-Service tools.

“I think one of the biggest considerations is your staffing, and how you’re going to support them as they set up remotely. The recourse for technical issues will often be the IT team. So there needs to be co-operation between AV and IT, as AV issues will increasingly become the purview of the IT department. I think we need to help each other out with that for scalability.”
–    Joe Dunbar, Key Account Manager at Starin 

Opening Up New Video-Centric Opportunities

Combining IT and AV expertise can create opportunities to use video in new ways, such as embedding AV knowledge in customer service and distance-learning applications, and reaching new customers via webinars, conferences, and other broadcasts. To streamline these opportunities, IT and AV teams should be co-located so they can closely coordinate and support such initiatives. 

As issues like video-conferencing fatigue become more prominent, new AV solutions can help customize or personalize the experience of being on camera all day. Bridging IT and AV may allow for the virtual experience to become something that feels natural and “automagical ” to users. 

New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), for example, can help improve the experience in hybrid meetings with both in-person and remote attendees.

“What we’re going to see in the future is 4K cameras. And using AI within the computer to figure out where the faces are, for example, at a large conference table and then making those into equally sized boxes in the video conference call. So whether someone is sitting right at the front or all the way in the back, their face is going to be the same size. And I think that’s a future we can look forward to, where we have greater equity.”
–    Stacey Capps, UCC Engineer at Electrosonic 

Moving Towards an Agnostic Solution

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that the future of work is hybrid. The panelists observed that given the shifting market space and the tendency of hybrid workers to use a range of business-continuity tools at home and in the office, managing these various systems is going to be a huge challenge. 

The silver bullet to this challenge will be an agnostic solution — a platform that bridges all these layers into a single-pane view. But until such a solution arrives, integration and collaboration are vital for successfully supporting the hybrid workforce. 

“I think that we’re all going to merge into a hybrid new world order over the next three years. And it really will define what technology will drive towards for the next decade. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be cutting edge. But it’s also going to put to the test things like bandwidth, device deployments, manageability, and insight.”
–    Robert La Frentz, Senior Manager in Sales Engineering (North America) at BlueJeans by Verizon 

To learn more, watch the full webinar here.