It’s an exciting time to be in this industry, said Brad Sousa, CTO at AVI Systems. “It’s a very different marketplace than in the past.”
Technology is being consumed in a transformative way, which is affecting businesses, organizations and entire industries. What’s surfaced throughout this period are various trends that Sousa highlighted during his May 3 keynote address at AVI LIVE in Chicago, Ill.
With over 20 years of industry experience, Sousa has worked with enterprise systems in health care, education and global corporations, along with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Sousa has identified numerous trends that the audio-visual industry faces, and they’ve stayed top of mind because wherever he goes, there’s always somebody asking him what’s ahead.
“There’s a big shift in how people interact with technology,” he said. “For the first time, we have four or maybe five generations of people working in the same place, facing the same problems, trying to solve the same issues together.”
He sees this at AVI Systems too. People from the traditional generation to the millennial generation can be found at AVI, working to support the organization in different ways. “How a traditional and a millennial looks at solving a problem or communicating together is wildly different,” Sousa said. From generation to generation, the technology appears different, and more significantly, the approach is different.
“A Gen Xer will say ‘I like this technology, so I’m going to adapt the way I work, I’m going to change my meeting so that I can use this technology and improve my life,’” he explained. “A millennial will walk into that room and look at the big monitors on the front and the funny-looking touch panel on the table and say, ‘that’s way too complicated,’ and get out an iPad and make a call through FaceTime.”
This shift, the way people use technology, was the central theme of Sousa’s keynote address. Included in this shift are three major trends that have surfaced in the industry. Sousa dubbed them:
- Forget the technology, I want the experience.
- Changing the way we connect and meet
- The unexpected Skype Disruption
Video by rAVe Publications
The trend “Forget the technology, I want the experience” deals with the end user. It’s not necessarily the early adopter of technology that’s going to have the greatest need for the latest tech, it’s the so-called knowledge worker.
The early adopter, while still an important figure within the industry, doesn’t always have the same demands that a knowledge worker does. The worker wants and needs to get their work done. The tools used to do so aren’t the main concern.
Identifying this trend came from customer meetings that Sousa took part in. During these meetings, he said that depending on factors, like job role, that worker has certain ways of completing tasks, including the ways he or she meets with others, which is partially dependent on technology.
“When a knowledge worker consumes [technology], we can create a fundamental shift in how an organization goes about solving problems and working together."
Technology is meant to be easy to use so that production isn’t slowed down or interrupted. Unfortunately, it still happens.
Sousa said that when things aren’t working as they should, knowledge workers often look to others to solve their technical problems. That usually means getting out of their seats to walk down the hall or phoning IT for support. It’s not until later down the line the thought of using one of almost 30 different types of collaboration software comes to mind, he said.
The “I want the experience” portion of the trend surrounds simplicity and transparency, and to achieve this for end users – the knowledge workers – automation and workflow integration are the answer, Sousa said.
The experience is what the technology helps workers accomplish. It’s not about the hardware’s CPU or technical capabilities. Not for the worker. Distinguishing this is important because of how this affects the organization as a whole, he explained.
“When a knowledge worker consumes [technology], we can create a fundamental shift in how an organization goes about solving problems and working together,” he said. This ties into Sousa’s second trend: changing the way we connect and meet. This is all about the way people use technology for meetings.
Changing the Way We Connect
Traditionally, meetings happen around a scheduled time. When it’s time to meet, people gather in their designated rooms, hook up their devices or power up equipment, and “magically” everything works, Sousa explained. That’s changing quickly.
Now, it’s more like a slated hour-long meeting, where people, including subject-matter experts, can jump in and out as needed. They’re more flexible, ad hoc.
“This ability to ad hoc add people and drop people to meetings is really critical to shortening the meantime to decision-making,” he said. “It’s critical to creating knowledge-worker adoption.”
The challenge: Where is the person? And, how do you connect them?
“We need to be able to identify if you have five minutes,” he continued. “And if you do, you’re brought into a meeting.”
That’s what it’s like at AVI.
When he’s gathered with others to problem-solve and needs input from another person quickly, he shoots them an IM, reading “Hi.” It’s the shortest way he can see if somebody is available, he said. If they respond, he knows they can join. Seconds later, that person is on the video call.
“If he ignores me, I’m not offended because I’m recruiting busily people in my head, who can help me solve this problem,” he said. “The idea is that we want to be able to connect people on demand.”
To do this, it shifts the way people integrate technology. For example, the traditional boardroom isn’t looked at as just one system. It’s a node.
That node connects to a bigger system, which is connected to the rest of the organization, so that wherever an employee is, he or she is able to connect. The end result: faster decision-making.
“The idea is that we want to be able to connect people on demand.”
“We’re just not sure how to get there,” Sousa said to the audience, asking if this resonated with them. On the presentation slide behind him showed pictures of conference rooms, cafeterias and other “systems” that connect to numerous other systems, feeding into a central data center.
This is something Sousa has seen while working at AVI Systems since 2010. Now, it’s becoming commonplace, where integrating these various systems together from one end of the spectrum to the other end – mobility to conference rooms – is a fast-emerging trend.
Integrating systems like this affects the design of spaces, he said. However, it’s not so much about “bringing mobility into the space, as it is into the discussion.”
“It’s about connecting teams and people together, not just rooms,” he said. “If we can find a way to do that in a manner that’s simple and easy to adopt, it’s going to create a shift in our organizations and drive forward business decisions and acceleration in our businesses.”
The 'Unexpected' Skype Disruption
Among the many trends Sousa discussed, he didn’t see Skype coming. “Skype is really an interesting phenomenon,” he said. “It’s probably the single most consistent topic we’re talking about with customers today is ‘what do we do about Skype, how we integrate with Skype.’”
“Skype is an unexpected disruption, and what we’re trying to figure out is the beneficial part of this disruption to help us move forward,” he said.
Historically, Sousa explained that Cisco was the dominating force in collaboration. But, after Skype for Business came on the scene roughly four years ago, the two collaboration solutions seem to have equal weight in the minds of CTOs and CIOs.
One of the leading benefits of Skype for Business, according to Sousa, is that it’s democratized video, meaning that it’s given people the ability to utilize video conferencing in a way that wasn’t quite possible before – at least not on this scale.
Sousa explained that customers reported doing around 2,000 video conferences a month. That was before Skype for Business.
After Skype, they were pushing upward of 30,000 video conferences a month. “That’s significant,” Sousa said.
“It plays into this open workspace concept,” he said, helping detach workers from appliance-based to software-based video conferencing, which impacts the way collaboration spaces are designed and used. What this means is that anyone can connect to a meeting with the tap of a button.
The Keynote Takeaways
With these emerging trends in mind, Sousa advised the audience to take away three main practices:
- Have a planning framework that knocks down silos and focuses on use cases and experiences.
- Create an ROI and a “RO-Why,” asking why it’s beneficial to your organization.
- Have the analytics, reporting and monitoring in place.
Sousa ended his keynote with a QA session, before stepping off stage. You can watch Sousa’s entire keynote address at rAVe Publications’ website, here. He will deliver a similar keynote address at AVI LIVE Minneapolis at 8 a.m. on May 23.