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AVL Networking
The IT folks may segment your traffic onto a different VLAN, or they may decide to provide you with a dedicated resource. Either way, they are good at their job, and they will get you taken care of.

AVL Networking: Separate Switches or Sharing Switches

Good communication, working toward the same goal, and all the necessary information are not just ways to break barriers between AV and IT, but good project management.

One conversation that I used to dread having when preparing to do an installation, revolves around something  somewhat controversial in the AVL industry.

Both church AV and IT should have the same goal of promoting the gospel through technology.

I loathed the network conversation with the client’s IT team.

Almost everything in AVL has a network connection on it. When it came to putting these devices on a network, though, I long for the days when everything was analog.

In our industry, network conversations tend to go one of two ways. Either the AV guys want their own separate switches, dedicated to AV only, and that request is granted. Or the IT guys give us a set number of ports on their switches to share. At this moment, I can almost feel half of those reading this cringing at the thought, for sending critical media across a nondedicated switch.

I completely understand the fear.

However, I am going to suggest that fear is not tied to the hardware itself, but the rules set in place by IT that can end up damaging your AV communication.

I am not here to debate the notion that a dedicated switch is better or not. I am here to equip everyone with ways to break the barriers between AV and IT.

I have been involved with two negative types of situations with IT during my career. The first and most common, from an integrator perspective, is that you come in much too late to the conversation. I have sat in rooms with IT when I have needed 10 times the ports that they thought we would. The reality is that both of us ended up having to make concessions in the end. The other situation that I was in on, from the client side, is where the decision was made to put AV on the client network, and from that, IT voiced some real security concerns.

Many of the cited concerns were valid, but we still had to get through a long list of issues, and it was not always pretty.

After reflection on both these issue types, I came to a three primary conclusions.

Communication Between AV, IT

Such communication between these two groups needs to begin extremely early in the conversation.

As soon as you have a project, the project should be walked through in your head, sketched out on paper, and then one needs to begin that conversation with IT. The reason to do this is for a few reasons, but the main one is that you need buy in from IT.

Upon talking to them, you want them to say that there would be no problems or to tell you what the problems would be early, so each side has time to fix any potential problem before it can occur.

Early on, the conversation can be high level. Start with the goal.

By discussing what you are thinking, and why you are thinking it, you can help elevate any misconceptions about the project. If a question is asked that you don’t know at that moment, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know, but that you will provide them with that answer later on.

In the same token, ask them questions.

Anything you don’t understand, ask those items to be cleared up. Remember, just as you may not be an expert in IT, they may not be an expert in AV. This is why we should be bringing the in early into this process.

AV, IT Are Working for the Same Team

Both church AV and IT should have the same goal of promoting the gospel through technology.

If you are not in a church, then your goal is still both the same, providing the business with trustworthy technology.

To do this, you need to be under the same understanding.

I find that people often make assumptions about the other group’s trade, instead of specifically clearing these items up. This is a good time to schedule, at aminimum, weekly sync meetings.

During the process, people are going to have bad days, conversations are going to get heated, especially as stress levels rise closer toward the completion of the project.

As tensions rise, simply take a step back and remind everyone about the goal tied to this project, and that you both groups want to get there together. This simple reminder can quickly mitigate potentially damaging situations.

Be Clear About Your Needs

Do the design leg work up front, by giving bandwidth, port, and protocol requirements early on, which goes a long way.

It can help to provide a spreadsheet with equipment listed, noting which items will be connected to the network, with any and all pertinent information.

Later on, you can add any additional information such as Mac addresses and firmware versions, in an effort to have all your data and details in one location.

Your job is to tell IT what you need and give information about what you have.

IT’s job is to get your packet from source to destination within the specifications provided. How they choose to do this, is up to them.

The IT folks may segment your traffic onto a different VLAN, or they may decide to provide you with a dedicated resource. Either way, they are good at their job, and they will get you taken care of.

Good communication, working toward the same goal, and all the necessary information are not just ways to break barriers between AV and IT, but good project management.

The technical stuff is easy when given the proper time and funding. Outside of that, things get more complicated.

As our industry starts to move more toward an IT-centric strategy, even in production, we need to be able to work with the proper people.

By providing proper project management, we can turn potentially difficult situations into very successful projects.

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