In this Executive Insights podcast, UCStrategies' Jim Burton welcomes Doug Jones, AVP of Product Marketing of voice and collaboration services at AT&T. Discussion topics include what is meant by "video is the new voice," how collaboration is being used in enterprises today, video as a service and its business drivers, and the future of web and video conferencing.
Transcript for Video is the New Voice
Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton, and I’m joined today by Doug Jones, AVP of Product Marketing at AT&T where he’s responsible for voice and collaboration services. Doug, welcome to the podcast.
Doug Jones: Thanks, Jim.
Jim Burton: The title of our podcast today is Video Is the New Voice. That’s a term we’re hearing a lot in the industry, and quite frankly, I hear different definitions of it. I’d like to hear more from you about your definition and what you exactly mean when you say video is the new voice.
Doug Jones: Yeah, and I agree. That’s a term we hear, either that or said different ways, and I think the latest term used to describe the advancements in communication and collaboration that are constantly evolving towards better voice, video, and web solutions. It’s really nothing new. It’s really a journey or an evolution where there’ve been constant developments in the industry, which have driven advancements in solutions for customers.
If you go back in the days of ISDN where ISDN revolutionized the video conferencing space and made it very easy for video endpoints to connect with each other, people at that time thought that video was going to take over the world.
And then, more recently with advancements from Cisco in telepresence with their immersive telepresence systems and how much easier that made it for people to join meetings. That was going to be the latest advancement that was going to take over the world.
So this is, I think, the latest in things that’ll “take over the world,” but are driven by advancements in the underlying drivers, whether they be technological or cultural or economic.
But the bottom line is that it’s been made better and easier than ever to join video meetings. And it’s gotten to a point where it’s as easy or easier to join video meetings as it is to join a voice call.
Jim Burton: I couldn’t agree more. One of the things that I find, I do a lot of conference calls, and almost every one of them has a video option with voice as part of it. And I’d say eight out of ten times, it ends up being a video conference, and it’s just amazing how that’s changed. And that’s over the last two or three years, and probably even more dramatically here in the last year.
So maybe you can give me some examples of how businesses are using collaboration in their daily lives and what kind of impact you’re seeing.
Doug Jones: Sure. One example is one of our customers that is in the oil industry. And they used to use on-site meetings for field research and field meetings where they’d schedule an event, send their executive or engineers out to the event, and hold their meetings. As you can imagine, in the oil industry, some of those events are held in some interesting remote places and sometimes not the best remote places that people would want to visit.
So a lot goes into those meetings, a lot of prep work, a lot of planning; sometimes as much as guards have to be hired and security has to be hired in order to be able to manage the meetings in those remote locations. All that’s been replaced.
Now this company that we work with uses video meetings for those applications, where of course, people no longer have to go through the planning, extensive overhead associated with meetings, the expense associated with those on-site meetings. Now they can just use video meetings plain and simple instead.
Another example I’ve seen more recently is around marketing and sales materials where rollout of a new service, rollout of a new feature used to come with a standard one page or PDF. Now it has become standard for that material to come out as a video blog or a video clip. For example, everything we roll out now comes along with marketing and sales video clips instead of the old PDFs.
Jim Burton: That’s interesting. I think that there just is such a big impact on businesses today in multiple ways. I really like your example about how we’re having videos as opposed to reading a PDF in the past.
We’re hearing a lot about video as a service. Can you tell me what exactly that means, and how is it helping to facilitate meetings?
Doug Jones: Video as a service; that term has been used by many other applications. And a common theme across any of the “as a service”-based solutions is that they provide agile, flexible, often Opex-based models that are easy to use anywhere, anytime. The agility to support growing customer needs and the ease of use that customers come to expect from a so-called cloud-based service.
However, cloud-based services are good for home use or for our kids when unpredictable performance is fine. And what we see video as a service is in a business application is really based on hosted managed services that have many of the aspects of a cloud-based service in that they’re available for anyone, anywhere, anytime.
But in hosted managed services, you also add in predictable, reliable performance to that solution. So video as a service becomes an anywhere, anytime, easy-to-use service that’s based on a hosted managed network-based solution at its core.
Jim Burton: Well, that’s interesting. It sounded like you just said, I just want a clarification here, that a hosted service is maybe a little more reliable than a video as a service.
Doug Jones: That’s right. More or less the same in that the hosted service provides, or can supply, the same kind of capabilities as a cloud-based service but with the predictability and reliability that business applications and business customers require.
Jim Burton: That’s a really good point. Thanks for that. What are some of the business drivers? And then what are you seeing as the benefits for people that are implementing video as a service?
Doug Jones: A primary one is improvements in productivity, flexibility, and ease of use. Studies show that more than ninety percent of businesses who regularly use video conferencing benefit from improvements in productivity, better teamwork, and reduced travel expenses.
So as you would expect, some of the common themes here are reduced expenses from travel. It’s obviously easier to just hold a quick meeting than it is to go through the travel associated and the overhead associated with personally attending a meeting. And with the advancements in the technology, it makes it pretty much almost as good for a video meeting one-on-one or a group meeting as it is to see face-to-face.
Opex model versus a Cap-ex model is another improvement that many customers see as a benefit, the more flexible Opex model as opposed to the capital intensive type solutions of the past.
Another one of the benefits is providing customers with a more future proof, more flexible solution as to opposed where in the past where customers that needed to deploy an equipment-based or prem-based solution obviously have some investments and have some return on that investment they need to see.
With the video as a service-type solutions, they become much more flexible with vendors or solution providers being able to provide updates to that solution, whether it be a feature or a dramatic change to the solution, much more easily and quickly enabling that more flexibility for our customers.
Jim Burton: That was a really good point because when I talk to big enterprise customers about cloud solutions, one of the things they almost always bring up is that it’s so much easier in a cloud environment to get the latest features or to upgrade where it’s seamless for them and happens on a more regular basis than what they used to have to go through to get their servers upgraded, so a good point.
That kind of brings me into the question of what do you see as the future of web conferencing, video conferencing? We’re getting in the middle of that, and what do you see as some of the trends? And again, it’s the future of web and video conferencing.
Doug Jones: Right. So some of the trends we see are, as we’ve talked about, some improvements in ease of use, improvements in performance, lower costs, and increased user acceptance.
From an ease-of-use perspective, as we mentioned earlier, it’s never been easier to join a video meeting, whether that be the simple and easy walking into a video conferencing room and just dialing a URI string in order to join a meeting just like you’d walk up to a phone and dial a phone number.
Or even better yet, the most recent feature enhancements where you can use the click-to-call or call-me feature from a video meeting. Where you used to use that to join your phone, now you’re being able to use that to have your video conferencing unit join into a meeting. So it’s really never been easier to join a meeting from a user experience, feature functionality standpoint.
The cost has also never been lower and continues to trend downward. Where, as we mentioned, telepresence units cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or even not too long ago you have room-based systems which run at tens of thousands of dollars. And now you can get to the same performance, and arguably more flexible performance, from units that are in the thousands of dollars or even less. So reduced cost is another trend.
And then use acceptance from a cultural perspective is definitely a trend we see. We even see that in the workplace today where, I guess, sorry to say some of my peers somewhat shy away from video conferencing, don’t like to see themselves on video.
In fact, some people you might even see with black tape across the video camera on their PC because they’re so against having the video on that they want to make sure, even inadvertently, it can’t be turned on.
And you compare that to the millennial workforce. I’ll point out my son who’s a senior in college who uses video from a Facetime perspective as their default. No longer is it texting as a way to communicate. Rather than texting, they just pick up the phone and video call or Facetime with people as their default standard of communication. So as those millennials enter the workforce, they’re driving that greater acceptance and greater adoption of video.
Jim Burton: I hear you. I have a son who just graduated from college last year, and your description of your son is just like my son, how he treats it. But usually the only time I get that phone call, if I don't get a text, is when he needs money. But fortunately he’s off the payroll so he’s moving on.
Another question for you: as buyers are looking at these solutions, what are the things that they should consider? Now I know you’re going to give us a bunch of things about why AT&T has the solution for them. But I think, quite frankly, I’m looking for the general things they should look at, what they need to compare, what they need to think about. Because it is a confusing time because there are so many variables and so many options out there in the collaboration marketplace, there are things that I think are consistent across vendors that really can help an end user make a good buying decision.
So what is your recommendation of the things they should consider when they’re looking and selecting a vendor and a video conferencing implementation?
Doug Jones: Absolutely. So the first thing to look for is a trusted advisor. The trusted advisor is the one who’s going to help the customer through that very difficult and challenging set of options, ever changing options, to make sure that the solution that a customer is looking for is the right solution for that customer today and will be in the future.
So that trusted advisor that is independent of that specific solution or specific software or hardware is the first thing to look for because that trusted advisor is the one that’s going to be able to help guide the customer, can help guide the customer in what solution is right for today as well as what their future needs will be.
And the other aspect I think is important is looking for a vendor that can provide an end-to-end service. It’s very easy for some people in the industry to look to support pieces of a solution but then hand off the rest of the solution to the customer, whether that be a software vendor that came out with a slick new piece of software and can provide that to the customer, or a new piece of hardware and can sell the customer a piece of hardware, or a product that supports a piece of the service.
But what customers should make sure they get when they work with a vendor is an end-to-end solution, not just these software, not just any hardware that might be involved, also includes end-to-end support and life cycle support so that the customer has a vendor they can work with from the beginning to the end.
Jim Burton: Well, I want to actually follow up on both of those comments that you just made. And I’ll start with the one you just ended up with, the end-to-end solution. I think you’re absolutely right about that because these are confusing times with so many variables, so many options, that if you can get a customer...or a vendor who can provide end-to-end solutions, you don't have to worry about oh, will this work with that? Or will that next upgrade work? So I think you really, really nailed that one.
I want to ask you a question, though, about the trusted advisor. Are you talking about an independent consultant who an end user can hire to come in and help them make a buying decision?
Doug Jones: No, it doesn’t necessarily need to be an independent consultant. And I know you want to shy away from the references to AT&T. But a vendor such as AT&T can be that trusted advisor. Where someone like AT&T works with leaders in the industry and works to integrate varieties of solutions so that a vendor which can provide customers with flexible options, not necessarily one based on any particular vendor, and that one can change over time as those vendors evolve and potentially the solutions evolve, is the type of trusted advisor the customer should look for.
Jim Burton: Yeah. Well, and I think you’re right. The good thing about AT&T is that you’ve got multiple solutions. So while it’s not there’s one thing that you’re offering, there’s multiple things to choose from to really fine tune and provide the customer with exactly what they need based on their particular needs as opposed to just your product offering, again, since your product offering is so broad.
Doug Jones: That’s right.
Jim Burton: Doug, thank you very much for your time, today. It was very enlightening getting updated on what’s going on at AT&T, and also understanding about video, the new voice messaging. Thank you so much again, and look forward to speaking with you again soon.