What are CIOs thinking about AV?  It’s a trick question, because the short answer is… they’re not. Today’s CIO is worried about many different things: money (and all its related acronyms, like TCO, ROI, CYA), security, regulatory compliance, accumulating data, dealing with big data, data analytics…  By the time the list gets down to AV, the CIO is pretty short on time and patience. Besides, the siren-call of convergence assures her that she need only consider AV as data.  After all, to the phone and cable carriers it is all just data anyway, right?  The CIO doesn’t like coaxial cable, analog signals, and analog switching, viewing them all as obsolete technologies.

Even in higher education, where we can add to the list of CIOs’ concerns MOOCs (massively open online courses), kooks (faculty), and spooks (responding to the FBI), where every “learning space” (classroom, seminar room, study room, library) needs to be wired for sound and screening, the CIO isn’t paying much attention to AV, and to the degree she has to, she is resentful.

But the board and its subcommittees want to meet virtually, and meeting spaces need to be set up for PowerPoint presentations, so the resentful CIO, or worse, the director of (IT) infrastructure is going to meet with AV consultants and contractors.  What’s a poor AV systems designer to do?

Focus on the following ideas to the extent that such a solution is possible and appropriate.

Skew toward standards, especially internet standards. So that means:

  • Internet protocol (IP) transmission for wireless and wired solutions;
  • IP-based management, preferably including Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), and;
  • HTML/http interfaces for devices, HTML user interface and backend management software, and eschew proprietary solutions.

Simplicity – Focus on simplicity and consistency of operation and management.  A simple and easy-to-use solution means that C-level executives aren’t embarrassed when they can’t get the technology to work in the board room, training for managing the equipment is shorter and cheaper, and end-user training (hopefully) not needed.  That improves long term TCO, which might even garner a bit of a smile.

Compatibility – The enterprise already has an identity management solution, and the CIO doesn’t want to hear about an alternative, so your solution for authentication (and you need to have a good answer on all the questions of security) had better integrate with Active Directory, Kerberos, or whatever other enterprise ID solution her enterprise uses.  The storage of data, which includes media, should be compatible with whatever relational database management solution the enterprise employs.

Mobility/Bring Your Own Everything (BYOE) – Mobility could be regarded as part of compatibility, because today’s CIO is looking for browser-based user interfaces compatible with any browser on any computer, tablet or smartphone. Especially the smartphone permanently fused to her hand.

We tend to think that we all speak the same language and belong to the same culture – “techie.”  But sadly, we don’t.  Hey, in the data “space” Microsofties and Linuxians are different species, let alone telecom-types, and audiovisionaries.  But, when working with the CIO, it is really important to speak in her language and it is probably a good idea to know her techie-genome.

And, of course, never talk in broad caricatures and generalizations… like this column.


Robert Kuhn, Ph.D, is a Senior Consultant at Vantage Technology Consulting Group.  As Executive Director of Technology at Simmons College, Bob oversaw a five year unified technology organization, insourcing and consolidation initiative.