By Corey Moss

Let’s just call it already, the end of “the discussion” and the approach to the reality that ‘as a Service’ has much less to do with hardware – just a means to an end – yet there are certainly other, more strategic scenarios.

I will explain more soon.

Really, what exactly has the industry arrived at other then we’re pretty sure this is not a glorified lease, and no one has given us a reason to really believe otherwise yet.

Oh sure, there are those who will talk about the benefits of ‘as a Service’ strategy in the business world, however there has been no one who’s fully defined how this honestly relates to AV. Equipment? Software? Services?

Getting to the point

Back in September 2018, good friend Scott Tiner wrote an article AVaaS: It Just Does Not Make Sense – pretty succinct in its title I might say. He talks about how when reading about “AVaaS,” every perspective is from the integrator’s point of view, or aimed at the integrator. Scott points to how all need to start creating new revenue streams and get away from the dying (dead?) revenue of box sales.

In fact, one of Scott’s statements is “I would be paying for a service that I don’t need and certainly does not provide any value.”

AV as a Service here.

Right. Bingo.

Yes there are of course industry cloud and software-defined solutions – which I say are still nascent in the industry – becoming major strategy. Look at Zoom, Crestron, Utelogy as certain main companies providing such solutions, as have existed strong in IT for the last several years. In fact, take a look at Utelogy’s home page – “Why IT Departments Choose Utelogy.” We as an industry talk about being separate vs. being adjacent (and at times even owned) by IT – and to that I say no matter how you look at it, the reality is IT is in the AV realm with or without a slash. Period.

Does the industry really get it though? Software-defined, cloud – as a Service… these are the true centric components to the conversation. Not hardware, which is really a means to an end. Software in itself is not a part of a usual aaS approach – as in SaaS, IaaS, DaaS – it resides on the PC or server. However in AV, I’d certainly allow it in my overall approach.

This to be explained soon as well.

On Google search:

  • a means to an end

phrase of means noun: means to an end

  1. a thing that is not valued or important in itself but is useful in achieving an aim.”a computer is merely a means to an end”

The answer to the end of “the discussion.”

And these are some of the convincing points as well that we are an inward facing industry, still so concerned and heavily hardware laden, and you have to wonder why customers are so confused when talking about such things as “AVaaS” – and even the integrated experience in this respect. It always seems to be more about hardware and the industry than the clients themselves, and their own strategic needs.

And after all of these years, why do so many refuse to face to the the client rather than inward? Explaining “AVaaS” to the industry? How about explain it strategically to the client? Why would you want to educate your competition to your strategic ways – if they really are so?

I don’t recall this necessarily being an industry of joint integrator providers. If it is, I’m a bit confused as I was very successful in integration sales – not explaining my strategies to other integrators in my area of coverage, and that competition was fierce.

I would leave that to the manufacturers, though…

An AVaaS “incident”

I recall a scenario from a few years back, when attending (as press) a well-known integrator’s global sales meeting. There was a vendor session, and as I made my way across the floor I stopped at a well-known manufacturer’s booth to see what they had that might be new. There was actually nothing new – but the discussion of AV as a Service. It made me stop and think for a few seconds, would this be the new approach – fewer new products and solutions and a new approach with “AVaaS?” I let the sales person explain this approach, and then I asked him to repeat it as I truly had no idea what he was talking about. I’ve been a part of the AV and IT industries since the early 90’s, so it wasn’t for a lack of knowledge at all.

He explained again, and again I didn’t get it – in fact there were so many buzz words involved now I ended the conversation there, gave him my card and said please get back to me when you have a new product or solution available, I’ll consider writing about it – as I did for some of the other vendors that were there with new products and solutions.

Why these days would any manufacturer rely more on buzz speak than actual strategy? “AVaaS?” Stick to AV and aaS, but don’t put them together as one without a real strategy. It’s still, and will continue to be wholly undefined this way.

Read Scott’s article if you’re not convinced – and take note of the fact that he is a customer, not a manufacturer or integrator employee.

That should make one really take notice.

AVaaS, and other things that will make a customer go “huh?”

Like I said, that manufacturer explanation a few years ago made me go “huh” – and it actually turned me off, so much so I pretty much cast them to the wind at that point (I don’t believe they attended InfoComm anymore). How can you come to a large integrator’s annual sales meeting telling stories like that, without representing one new product or solution? And if it confused me, I can only imagine it might confuse a customer (especially if it was a customer event) tenfold.

For those integrators that are, or have rolled out AVaaS solutions and programs, I’m truly wondering if it’s much more than a glorified equipment lease with some software or services “add-ins.” I had a great conversation at last year’s InfoComm with an exhibitor, who made the first five of my top picks at the show, where “AVaaS” (not really IT-based aaS) started to make some sense. Why? Because the conversation was about software, where I figured out the lead-in to the customer could be through this software, building or adding on to a system behind it. He agreed, in fact the light bulb seemed to really go off in his head as it did mine.

In fact, QSC and Q-SYS has become a great example of this as well with the software-discussion lead-in.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about that idea, I’d be happy to discuss, including other software,software-defined and cloud-led approaches.

AV as a Service – one integrator’s approach, then another…

Back in March 2017, HB’s article Considering AV As A Service [AVaaS]—Know The Facts sorted out some of the details at a more strategic level, beyond just a ‘hardware and then some’ approach:

AVaaS outsources AV and video services to streamline processes that include more than just hardware and equipment. It encompasses a range of cloud-based remote management services reinforced by on-site service resources. It’s like an all-in-one approach to video collaborative tools and resources. 

Like Software as a Service (SaaS), AVaaS is the next big step in business collaboration technology—a truly comprehensive utility model used as a single entity. What businesses once had to build piece by piece is now available—without the old hiccups—as a streamlined service. This method makes sense—an all-cloud approach with guaranteed services and updated equipment sounds a lot better—and easier— than patching together disparate systems for an already taxed IT team to struggle with. 

Now I do agree somewhat with how HB approached this, especially talking about taxed IT teams which is absolutely the truth in this day and age – as yes, they also deal with AV in the organization, no longer separate departments as was the case eight and more years ago.

Yet they were two points that I find it a bit difficult to agree with:

  • Like Software as a Service (SaaS), AVaaS is the next big step in business collaboration technology – AVaaS compared to SaaS would be mostly incorrect – I’d refer to it more as an AV/SaaS approach (cloud and equipment – yes, AV – upgrade or full system installation)
  • an all-in-one approach to video collaborative tools and resources – I’ve always been wary of all-in-one anything

And then talking collaboration (collaborative tools) here – one of the most recognized buzz terms in the industry (and beyond) these days. Collaboration must first be associated with a more client-based needs approach to even be convincing enough as an “AVaaS” approach – and not just AVaaS collaboration, collaborative tools, etc. Uh, uh.

Then there’s another integrator’s explanation. Then there are integrator opinions. Even AVIXA (InfoComm International at the time) redefined it some years back.

Honestly, if this industry actually wants to even attempt an AVaaS type approach – get rid of the hardware lead-in, it will always and forever just be a glorified lease that way. The means to an end – it’s right there defined on Google search. Make it more of a stricter client-based, than an industry level approach. Lead with software, cloud and services and build (or even upgrade) around it.

Make it something that truly mirrors other certain technology realms – and yes, I am talking IT with software, software-defined, cloud and services solutions and scenarios to go with hardware (PC’s, etc.). Sure, put devices in the mix as well.

Header image: Free to use via Pixabay.

With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, Convergent Tech Talk, Convergent Week and The AV Tech Trade. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers. Find him talking about a whole lot of things, tech and otherwise. On LinkedIn