This story first appeared in Xperience, the official publication of AVIXA. For more articles, take a look inside.
By Allison Tardif
The audiovisual designers and engineers at Google have a new way of thinking about enterprise AV: Rather than consider each installation a unique system, they approach every type of AV solution they develop as a mass-produced consumer product. “The idea is not that we are building a system; we are building a complete product that ships to one of our global locations and is ready to be installed,” says John Arpino, CTS-D, Manager of Audiovisual Design for Google. “Everything is considered, down to the packaging.”
The AV “products” they deliver include everything from web conferencing-enabled auditoriums to background audio systems used in Google’s onsite cafés and gyms. The sheer size of Google and its company culture drive the product approach to AV. Everything needs to work throughout a global operation where work teams often have members spread across continents. Google’s famously innovative company culture and tech-first identity means that employees have very high expectations for user experience (UX) and system performance.
The approach borrows concepts from how other Google engineers develop the company’s popular technology products we all use. They start by thinking about the needs of all potential users (installers, support staff, regular users, one-time users) and the type of user experience they want to create. Their goal is for users to walk into a space and be able to intuitively use each product. A product roadmap guides the project.
Google’s AV team brings in “non-AV” colleagues with UX expertise to consider human factors and the usability of the system. Those UX professionals are also employed to test the system. Then, the product is tested with a sample user population.
Once the AV products are deployed, Google engineers use telemetry to collect data from the field and identify issues or develop new feature sets. Just like Google’s consumer products, these AV products are built as platforms that can be updated for continued evolution after they’ve been deployed. This eliminates the need to constantly update hardware.
Using the product approach decreases the amount of support needed, increases the speed of installation, and boosts user satisfaction. Applying design thinking and user-experience engineering principles to the management of enterprise AV has the potential to revolutionize the work of AV professionals in large organizations.