As the visual collaboration industry continues to change, the cloud/software trend continues to disrupt everything. Managed service providers are no exception. I got an inside look when I caught up with Mark Haase, (Glowpoint Vice President of Product Marketing) to discuss recent developments at Glowpoint. Mark shared a unique view of how today’s changing technologies and user expectations have affected the managed service game.
Glowpoint’s Proactive Service Model
Glowpoint is the company responsible for my introduction to the concept of proactive service back in my Wainhouse Research days. Up until that point, I had only experienced reactive service, and that was all I knew to expect. With typical reactive service, when something breaks (cable, power, water, etc.), you call and complain until someone comes to fix it. They are reacting to the failure. Proactive service prevents the failure from happening in the first place.
This distinction has been essential for the adoption and achievement of ROI in visual collaboration, and videoconferencing in particular. When the cable, power, or water goes out, we have no choice but to wait. When videoconferencing fails, we just pick up the phone and never use video again. That is why video can’t afford to fail. It has to work on time, every time. That means it can’t be supported by a reactive service environment. By the time a technician shows up to fix the VC system, they have switched to audio and the meeting is over.
I understood this conceptually, but it still took me a bit by surprise when I saw it in practice. I was participating in an independent evaluation of a new VC managed service offered by a large integrator. In fact, it was a white-labeled Glowpoint service. It wasn’t just the website and documentation that were white-labeled, it was the people as well. I would be talking to Glowpoint technicians at a Glowpoint Support Center, but they were answering the phone with the white-labeler’s company name.
We had set up a testing environment, with video equipment in three sites around the country, and several around the office. We used an alias, to avoid special treatment as product reviewers. I received white glove treatment during setup, as expected, but the level of preemptive troubleshooting was not expected. Technicians were not only making test calls to systems before meetings, but, if requested, would call into meeting rooms themselves before the scheduled time to ensure all callers connected successfully and to offer any assistance.
Next we upped the ante by deliberately trying to sabotage meetings. Glowpoint wouldn’t let us get away with it. I unplugged a cable 15 minutes before a meeting and not only would Glowpoint detect it, contact me, and walk me through fixing it, they would insist on conducting a test call immediately to ensure the next meeting would not be effected. If I tried to pass on the test call, the technician would talk me into letting him/her do it. If I changed a setting on a system in the middle of the night, there would be emails and phone messages waiting for us in the morning. We did everything other than literally break the system, and we had no failed meetings throughout the test.
Glowpoint’s Response to the Cloud
The short version of the story is that Glowpoint continues to do what they do best; ensure the final user experience is what it should be. They also continue to share their expertise with partners, through white-label and other relationships. While their approach stays the same, the environments they are preparing to support are very different. Most obviously, supporting a desktop VC service involves a different process, and a different platform, than the old VC appliance management systems. Glowpoint’s upgraded platform enables users to easily plug in and consume the services they need, while taking care of the back end configuration just as they would for a traditional VC appliance.
Glowpoint has invested several million dollars in upgrading their platform to continue to accommodate the ever-changing software revolution and remain a leader in providing support services.Expect about half a dozen new products to roll out over the next quarter. My understanding is that, in general, the enhanced Glowpoint platform is designed to support the kind of flexibility and ease of use expected by today’s video customers. For example, rather than the typical choice between high touch, scheduled and pre-launched calls, or self-service ad hoc calling, Glowpoint understands today’s users want a hybrid of self-scheduled, reservationless, prelaunched, and everything in between. The current Glowpoint platform is wide and deep, meaning it includes a large number of services, with low, medium, and high touch options. Stay tuned as we will be covering details late summer as the new products prepare for their fall launch.
Why A Glowpoint Cloud Makes Sense
The lines of demarcation in the visual collaboration industry are being obliterated. In the old days it was simple. Vendors made appliances, integrators sold them and installed them, and managed service providers made them work. These boundaries are falling apart because of the cloud. The shift from hardware to software, and the dominance of the cloud, were expected and anticipated by everyone, but who would be supplying these new cloud services? If you guessed “everyone” you are right. The hardware guys all have clouds or are quickly building them. The integrators are acquiring, partnering, or building their own clouds, while also reselling vendor clouds. Service providers from outside the industry are jumping into the game with their own video clouds. And, as if the market wasn’t dynamic enough, a slew of new upstart VC cloud companies are coming out of the woodwork.
With all of these options, how can Glowpoint stand out? While we have to wait for the details of the upgraded platform to shake out before we can spot feature differentiators, there is one key, inherent strength to a Glowpoint cloud. At its essence, a video cloud is a service. Logically it makes sense to have your new VC cloud service managed by a firm with experience in video services. Glowpoint is one of the first names you think of when it comes to service based videoconferencing. Unlike some of the other players in the growing cloud market, Glowpoint doesn’t have to change who they are, what they do, their corporate culture or philosophy, the way their technicians are trained to provide support, etc. They simply are applying their years of VC service experience to today’s VC environments. Check out this Wainhouse Research White Paper for more information on how the benefits of a managed service apply to the current hosted VC service paradigm.
The real bottom line, for video, for cloud, for the market, and for Glowpoint, is always user experience. At the end of the day, if the users are frustrated by video technology, they will simply continue to be phone users. Whether you get your video from a quarter million dollar telepresence system, or on your tablet, the user experience has to be not just good, but great. Since Glowpoint is the company that refused to let me ruin my own meetings, no matter how many settings I messed up or how many cords I “accidentally” unplugged, they clearly get the importance of making sure you connect. But they also go beyond basic connectivity and help make sure your systems are optimized for the best experience through their well-developed configuration and support process. This results in more usage and adoption, which means more ROI and productivity.
Just because someone has a cloud, doesn’t mean they know how to optimize your experience to promote adoption. In the end, when choosing a cloud, you need to look at the features of the cloud itself, who will be supporting it, and what they can do to assure a quality user experience. With this in mind, Glowpoint should be very interesting to the cloud video market, as their suite of cloud services continues to deliver on Glowpoint’s long-standing and ongoing commitment to delivering an outstanding user experience.