What are IT professionals’ priorities when deploying audio technology?

Trent Wagner, senior product manager for the Q-Sys platform, offers a perspective on how IT professionals view audio technology when procuring and managing it in in corporate deployments. He talks to Tim Kridel.

TK: Many enterprise IT departments are responsible for AV, too. In your experience, what do they often overlook or underestimate when it comes to audio? For example, what do they typically know – and don’t know – about choosing mics, loudspeakers and other components for applications and spaces such as videoconferencing, conference rooms and huddle rooms? Do they understand what makes for a good user experience beyond just network aspects such as jitter, latency and packet loss?

TW: One of the biggest knowledge or experience gaps IT typically encounters is how to properly configure their infrastructure for the real-time media protocol(s) being deployed. While most protocols do not require anything beyond what the typical managed switch can provide (QoS with at least 4 strictly weighted egress queues, and IGMP management), there can be some challenges such as overlapping QoS values between protocols, which requires some familiarity and a nuanced approach.

Many IT departments can be reticent to deploy high-bandwidth real-time media on their infrastructure due to this knowledge gap or simply because their infrastructure isn’t yet capable of handling it end-to-end. There is also the security conscious who require technologies such as 802.1x and encrypted media not yet implemented by many AV devices on the market. For these reasons and more, AV networks are still often physically or virtually isolated.

Another knowledge gap is audio domain experience in relation to both actual products and principles of acoustics. Most IT professionals do not understand acoustics vs application and the need to acoustically treat the space, select the right products for the space and properly configure and tune a system to increase intelligibility.

TK: In your experience, what do IT managers typically prioritise when it comes to audio? In other words, what should vendors and integrators focus on if they want to deliver audio hardware, software and systems that work for IT? For example, I suspect that their wish list will be topped by criteria such as “products that are easy to manage/update remotely via the network” and “ample security features so they don’t create back doors and other vulnerabilities.”

TW: IT managers are primarily concerned with how AV products affect, and integrate with, their infrastructure or services. In particular, they are concerned about how AV products complement or go against their standards or policies, service, user experience, connectivity, and security. Based on that, they are typically concerned with how to update their policies to accommodate their stake holders’ applications.

TK: Whether it’s due to M&A or the pandemic-hastened trend toward hybrid workstyles, many IT departments now have a lot of hardware, software and systems scattered across multiple offices (including home offices) around a country, a continent or the world. How does that geographic dispersal affect their audio needs and wants? For example, do they prefer hardware and software that employees can set up themselves and that is easy for help desks to remotely configure, troubleshoot, support, etc.?

TW: The panacea for IT managers is a single vendor solution that can scale organization-wide and offer comprehensive remote management and monitoring. In lieu of that, it’s important for the chosen solution from each vendor to offer their own remote management and monitoring capabilities that can be easily integrated with preferred IT software tools to offer that “single pane of glass” view of all systems and assets. The ability for systems and products to either provision themselves or be deployed en masse with templated or preset programming is also key.

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