During the course of my regular briefings with industry professionals, I often come across information that I find newsworthy. We have created this recurring feature as a way of sharing these items with you. Below, in alphabetical order, are notes and thoughts from a few of my most recent briefings.
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I’ve always liked 8×8‘s virtual PBX offerings. I evaluated an early iteration years ago and thought it was very easy, almost fun, to set up all the business features like the auto attendant, ring groups, hold music, extensions, and other features for my team. It was great to take a peek at the latest version, and to learn from Bryan Martin, chairman and CTO of 8×8 that they have been continuing to develop the platform to make it more robust and scalable for larger (enterprise) customers. They are also supporting this (and all their offerings) with 15 data centers around the world.
8×8 has also been working very hard on the Contact Center side of their offerings. They have long supported large enterprises with their Virtual Contact Center, but they now can support small to medium business as well with Contact Now. This is a more affordable and easier to use contact center platform than we have come to expect, putting it in the range of smaller organizations with customers service issues.
8×8 is also looking to leverage their acquisition of Sameroom to make some sense of all the various team messaging options out there. Hopefully they will figure out a way for Slack, Spark, Stride, MS Teams, and all the other solutions out there to play nice with each other.
The GoToMeeting suite of products is in a bit of a sweet spot right now. Some video providers are known for enterprise offerings, and are working to become more user friendly. Other video providers are known for being easy and affordable, and are working to establish enterprise credibility. GoToMeeting, and GoToWebinar, have long had a reputation for bridging that gap. As a result, they are hosting a lot of meetings and webinars for a lot of customers. Here is where it gets interesting – rather than simply hosting webinars, the GoToWebinar team is finding ways to learn from, and better leverage, all of this great content.
I chatted with Daniel Waas, (Director of Marketing, GoToWebinar at LogMeIn). His team created a “Big Book of Stats” using data from 300,000 sessions. This includes a lot of interesting information, as well as useful tips for webcasters. For example, I did not know that 24% of webinar registrations happen on Tuesdays, making it the best day to promote! The big book is definitely worth checking out.
Along the same theme of leveraging and creating more value from their customer base, they have created GoToStage. We hear the expression “YouTube for business” often, but we usually use it to mean a content library within one company. What if there was a content library, a YouTube-like portal, for all of the informative and value webinars hosted by GoToWebinar? Daniel says their customers create millions of webinars with great (and often very specific) business content. For the most part, these content creators would absolutely love to get more views on their recordings. This makes GoToStage such a win/win. The portal has a wealth of great content organized into relevant categories. As an example of the kind of useful content in the portal, check out this webinar from Daniel and his team on how to make webinars more fun.
I’m becoming more and more of a workflow geek and the Lucid Meeting platform is right up my alley. Co-Founder Elise Keith was speaking my language right away as we discussed GTD and Agile and some of our other favorite productivity techniques. Regardless, I started the demo with a bunch of assumptions. After all, what could there be to a meeting management platform? I expected scheduling, file management, and some sort of follow-up/todo list. If it organizes all of that by project in a dashboard view, I will be happy. Of course, Lucid Meeting does all that, but a few minutes into the demo I realized how much I was missing. Lucid Meeting doesn’t just help coordinate people, files, and meetings, it actually helps you run the meetings themselves to be far more productive and efficient.
Leading meetings is a skill. Gathering everyone in a room to talk about a project without some kind of meeting structure is going to result in at least some wasted time. Lucid Meetings provides and enforces that structure. My first “Ah ha!” moment was when Elise showed me the process of creating a meeting. You don’t just set a time and invite people, you choose a (customizable) template based on the meeting type. The template is a detailed agenda, with instructions for each segment of the meeting. During the meeting, the leader (or others) can take notes in the appropriate section, which will generate the follow-ups, tasks, etc.
Already, I was seeing the value when Elise started a meeting and the display shifted to show section 1 of the meeting agenda. But what really got me sold was that a 5 minute timer automatically started for that section! This takes everything to the next level. How many meetings are ruined because of misspent time? It’s one thing to start off the meeting with a quick review of the last meeting, but if you take forever to do that you won’t get any new business done. Having an actual timer ticking down the correct amount of time for each and every section of the meeting is bound to help. The best thing is the meeting leader doesn’t have to be “mean” or “bossy” to get people to keep the meeting moving. The platform moves the meeting.
The system also collects feedback that can be used to further improve meetings. If everyone hates the Wednesday meeting, but thinks it is crucial, you can use that information to adjust by making it a shorter meeting. Lucid Meetings, based on feedback, even developed the ability to use a poll to pick a better meeting times, allowing users to vote on which day is best. Customers love this feature as it makes them feel a little more in control over their schedule. The Lucid Meeting team is very big on education, and openly sharing the information they are learning about productivity and meeting efficiency. They have even created this Glossary of Meeting Terms as a free resource for the productivity community. My big hope for the future of the AV/VC community is more integration with these types of workflow solutions.
The team at Videxio has been making some noise lately. The global cloud platform continues to grow (rapidly and globally) and Karl Hantho, President Americas, brought me up to speed on the latest developments. Karl always has a lot to share with me because Videxio leverages in-house developers. That means they are always working on advancements to their platform. This allows them to quickly respond to customer demand by adding new features, like their well received streaming and recording options. I think it’s important to note that things have been changing so rapidly in our space, that any service provider looking to offer a service would be well advised to ask about the development team behind that offering. You aren’t just buying today’s platform, you are choosing a partner to address tomorrow’s needs.
While much of our discussion was NDA, they have announced a partnership with Ricoh, expanding their Japan presence. They also announced a new Skype for Business related capability. While they previously had the ability to include Skype users in Videxio meetings, this now allows users to connect traditional meeting room systems into Skype meetings, using Videxio as the gateway. In this scenario, there is no Videxio meeting to join. Skype users create a typical Skype multiparty meeting, and devices such as traditional room systems can join as if they were Skype callers. A few notable things about this service. First, it is powered by Pexip, which has Microsoft Certification. That means regardless of what changes (expected or otherwise) Microsoft may make to its Skype/Teams strategy, they aren’t likely to break this connectivity since they have certified it. It is also notable that the service is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud, which should further reassure Microsoft customers and partners.
As the use of video in the workplace increases, we will see more and more activity in business streaming and content management. I spoke with Nadeem Khan, VP Sales, to learn about Vidizmo’s approach to the space. Vidizmo recognizes that the mere ability to stream and record is no longer novel and today’s users expect more. As a result, they have focused on creating a next generation portal (YouTube with business capabilities), making it easier for enterprises to manage and share their recorded content. The solution has be recognized as a “challenger” by Gartner and has native Azure integration. I will be checking back with Nadeem soon, as his team is working on some very cool NDA features for the platform.
Vidyo‘s VP of Corporate Marketing, Gary Schwartz, shared the latest platform developments and marketing positioning for this pioneer of scalable IP video. As a SaaS and PaaS provider, many Vidyo users may not even know they are using Vidyo, as it is often wrapped in a partner’s app or service. But in fact, they power five of the UC leaders and visionaries in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. That is a lot of Vidyo UC calls! In addition to UC, they have a particularly huge footprint in the telehealth space, where they are seeing massive growth. They also have a leading presence in the financial space, with several of the biggest global banks using Vidyo powered services. Government, yet another hot market for videoconferencing, is also heavily invested in Vidyo, which is hosting hundreds of millions of government agency video minutes.
On the offering side, they have revamped their portfolio into three offerings; VidyoConnect, VidyoEngage, and Vidyo.io. VidyoConnect is an enterprise VC service, similar to other pay per-user, per-month, cloud software offerings. VidyoEngage allows partners to embed Vidyo’s VC in their own workflows (contact centers, telehealth apps, kioks, etc.). Vidyo.io allows you to work directly with Vidyo’s API’s to create your own customized video experience for your solution. One way to help distinguish the latter two is to think of VidyoEngage as a turnkey version of what you can create with Vidyo.io.
Finally, Vidyo is very proud of their latest developments with the VP9 protocol. This can get a little confusing, as VP9 is open source, yet we are talking about Vidyo’s propriety VP9 codec. Both can actually be true at the same time. Vidyo’s developers have been heavily involved in the creation of open source VP9. This means they can leverage their expertise so that Vidyo’s implementation of VP9 is fully compatible with open VP9 (and WebRTC), but offers additional benefits such as better battery usage on mobile devices.
I had a great conversation with Vishal Brown (Senior Vice President of Professional Services) that ranged from the current state of Yorktel’s Univago offering, to our shared thoughts on the workflow-centric future of UC. Univago is powered by Pexip, which as explained above, is Microsoft Certified for Skype for Business – ensuring interoperability regardless of Microsoft’s future whims. In addition to their customization of the Pexip platform for their customers (including a Healthcare Edition), Yorktel is providing value-add by helping their customers with workflow beyond the technology itself. By evaluating team locations, project types, business culture, and everything else at play in a work environment, they can help their customers improve their processes. They can achieve better outcomes by not only implementing the tools, but also by assisting with adoption and training.
In fact, Yorktel offers a “Hypercare” service to help their customers “manage the change” when implementing Univago or other Yorktel services. Yorktel has learned that adoption and training work best as continuous programs. It is easy to think of countless analogies to this point. For example, if you want to teach someone guitar, you don’t give them a “How to Play” book and never see them again. Ideally, you would play along with them every day until they developed the habit themselves. Yorktel’s Hypercare works along the same principle. Rather than just sending a trainer to give a one-time presentation or training session, they put someone on-site at a customer location for days or weeks to work along with the customers on a day-to-day basis as they transition to their new workflow. This is a great way to really make sure their customers enjoy a full ROI on any Yorktel services.