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How to Get More ROI from Existing Video Conferencing Solutions

This is part three of a podcast series with Futurum Research called Navigate. The six-part series aims to help IT leaders navigate the changing times with insightful conversations about remote work, video conferencing, digital workplace trends, and more. You can view the other episodes below:

On this episode of Navigate, host Daniel Newman talks with Karl Hantho about how to get more ROI from your existing video conferencing solutions.


Listen to the podcast here

 

The Current State of Video

COVID-19 has exposed how prepared and digitally transformed companies are. Almost overnight businesses were rapidly shifting how they operate. Pexip has been focused on customers at this time, equipping them to be able to function in the new work-from-home environment in the matter of a few days.

Necessity is the mother of invention. People left behind the equipment that was available to them — like a full video conference room — and had to learn how to be functional and productive with the equipment that they have.

In the past few weeks, companies have reported high productivity levels due in large part to video conferencing. This has helped people realize the power that video has. As humans, we crave connections, and thankfully, video has enabled those connections whether it’s on a personal level or professional level.

Many times at work, you have a meeting and get things accomplished quickly. Video conferencing has enabled a similar level of productivity and accomplishment.

Improving ROI with Current Video Technology

At some point in the near future as states and countries lift social distancing restrictions, businesses will return to a sense of normalcy. Things won’t change over night and there will likely be a measured way of going back to work, but one thing is certain — video isn’t going anywhere.

Now that people are more comfortable with using the technology, the video conferencing rooms in many offices will see a resurgence of use. But many businesses will realize that the tools that have been used out in the field are not necessarily interoperable with those video conference rooms. People will need to find a way to make traditional video conference rooms accessible by any software. This is where Pexip can help.

Those video conference rooms were expensive to build, but instead of spending the money to retrofit the technology, many companies will be able to spend the money to work with what they have. Pexip can make those rooms useful. Pexip offers a great meeting service that allows anyone to connect from any device, meeting system or browser. It’s simple to join a meeting — and that’s what matters.

Turning Sudden Usage into Long-Term Adoption

COVID-19 forced companies to adopt technology that they might otherwise have forgone. And the question facing many leaders now is how do you drive temporary adoption to permanent adoption? In order to break ground in terms of creating new habits, people will need to see a better user experience.

Joining a meeting, whether it’s internal or with clients, customers, and partners, needs to be super simple. Employees should not get lost in the technology. At the same time, companies need to be assured that data and privacy are protected. It won’t happen overnight, but Pexip works with companies to figure out how video can enable their goals. It’s a journey, but it’s one that many will be willing to take. Check out the resources below to learn how Pexip can help:

Up Next:  Why Video Interop is Key for Business Continuity

 

Please see below for a full transcript of the interview:

Daniel Newman: Welcome to Navigate, a six part podcast series brought to you by Pexip. My name is Daniel Newman. I'm the founding partner and principal analyst of Futurum Research. In this discussion, I will be talking to Karl Hantho on how to get more ROI from your existing video conferencing solutions. Karl, welcome to the show.

Karl Hantho: Great to be here, Dan. Thanks for having me. Looking forward to catching up with you and talking more about the subject.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, that's a great topic. This whole series has been a whole lot of fun for me and hopefully all the listeners out there. This podcast, as I mentioned is part of a series, and we're basically really making sure everybody's learning with all that's going on in the world about simplified, scalable collaboration solutions. At Pexip you guys are doing some really cool things. So it's been a lot of fun for me as an analyst, someone that looks at the whole industry to spend some time with you, Karl, and with a number of your cohorts at Pexip. Known each other for a number of years, it's always fun to get you here on video. So before we jump into the discussion and I have a number of, I think, questions and topics I'd love to go through with you, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself so everyone that's out there that doesn't know you and your celebrity has a chance to get to know Karl Hantho and what it is you do at Pexip?

Karl Hantho: Should I start with the celebrity status part?

Daniel Newman: Oh, absolutely.

Karl Hantho: So as you mentioned, Dan, my name is Karl Hantho. I lead Pexip here in the Americas, just a few seconds background, just to sort of put me in perspective. I've been doing video conferencing now for probably 25 years and the industry sort of was nurtured and brought up through the Tandberg era back in the late nineties, early two thousands. I led Tandberg and that's where I became passionate about video conferencing and then got back into the industry in 2013 with Videxio and was employee one here in the US Videxio. And then we merged some 15 months ago with Pexip and I continue on this journey. Video conferencing is how I work. So I come at this with a lot of experience and a lot of passion towards trying to help others get the most out of this tool.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I'd like to say I probably met you not too far off from when you joined with Videxio back in the day. I can't remember if we crossed paths in your Tandberg days, but I was still a young, spry...

Karl Hantho: I was young too, by the way, just to put that in the same-

Daniel Newman: I don't think you were ever young to me. No, I'm just kidding. No, and congrats on all of that. And then the success here in the Americas. I know that with Videxio, you were very involved in its scale. And of course now with Pexip, it's a really important market for any company in any business. And speaking of important markets, we find ourselves in an odd market and an odd time. And it's important for me when I have these podcasts is as much as I'd like to think that everybody downloads every podcast that I publish within minutes, these get shared over a period of time. So we are here, Karl, you and I, April 21st, 2020, both of us are sheltered in place. Me here in Chicago, you in Virginia, am I right?

Karl Hantho: Great Falls, Virginia.

Daniel Newman: Great Falls, Virginia. And we are amidst pretty unprecedented time. I'm actually getting tired of the word unprecedented, but I really don't know another word to use because no matter how old you are, if you're alive, and unless you probably go back to the Spanish flu of the '17, '18, and there aren't very many people that were around for that, you probably weren't around the last time the world saw something quite like this. And the technology has been a really interesting part of this as it's enabled a lot of companies with a lot of information workers and a lot of certain business processes to quickly mobilize the workforce, bring them back to the house and stay connected. And it's been technologies like Pexip that has enabled that, but it has also exposed a lot of companies in terms of preparedness, in terms of the tooling, in terms of how really digital transformed companies are. And I'm sure Karl, you being in this role, have seen this, not only is this time crazy, but wild surge in interest in adoption, right, of your product. Because I mean across the whole collaboration space, it's been explosive.

Karl Hantho: Man, no, it's been unprecedented, probably isn't the overused word since it's so true. We came into this year pretty bullish on the opportunity for our company and no sooner did we return from our business kick in Oslo did we find ourselves quickly moving into this changing environment. And then our whole company has been working from home since like the first week of March. And so as this situation has progressed, we've very much been focused on making sure our team is healthy and then focusing on our customers and the customers have done some amazing things in terms of rapidly shifting how they do business. This whole work from home, which I somewhat take for granted, you probably do as well, Dan, but to the whole majority, this is a new experience working from home.

So equipping them to be able to function in that new environment and do that over the course of a weekend or a week has been phenomenal to watch. As is some of our other verticals like healthcare and how they've quickly spun up to be able to accommodate a different kind of scale that they never anticipated getting to, at least not this quickly so that they could deliver the kind of services that they needed to that patient care virtual patient care realm. So it's been amazing to watch. Notwithstanding in the backdrop of all that, of course, it's tragic to hear about other people's suffering and on the economic side, on the health side, but on the business side, we're in the right place to help customers get through this.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. It's been a great opportunity for some companies. And like you said, it's got to have a little bit of a softened edge because it's hard for you to go to raise your hand and be like, "Oh, we're crushing it right now" when so many people are struggling, but there are industries and it is going to change and we are. The new normal, I don't actually quite buy that philosophy, but I do think it will be an evolving normal that we're going to see. I don't think all the things we did. I don't think we're going to never go to events again. I don't think we're never going to get face to face and hand to hand styling like some people suggest. I think we will pack stadiums someday. We will go back to movie theaters. We will go back to bars because the human condition, I think the direness and despair that would come with that kind of experience in life would be so sullen.

But I also think there's been a lot of realizations about what can be done, the work that can be done from this spot. I think a lot of companies had sort of maybe resisted the opportunity to put workers at home. I mean, video for, video has been something we could do for a long time. I mean, you go back and date yourself, but you were on the pioneer side of this. You were in the early side of this, but big enterprises have had video a long time. This is like an awakening. This is like grandma figuring out that Facebook is a way to reach your family. I mean, it's like, "Holy cow, this technology has existed all along. I can get face to face with you. And it works really, really well." And that has been probably one of the big pillars of this whole COVID-19 work from home, shelter in place experience is that people realized, "Holy cow, video works and it works when you have the right video and the right setup. It works really, really good."

Karl Hantho: And it's funny. So I certainly have been through a number of cycles over the years and video conference again. And for me, I'm the first to say that if I was taking meetings in a just pure audio sense, I would multitask my brains out and be very less productive. And so I had embraced video a long time ago and I don't understand people that don't get it and I've been promoting it forever and it's fallen on deaf ears. And I sometimes, when I look at where we are today, certainly the technology changed and it being able to participate in a meeting from any device in a very simple way and have a quality, reliable experience, that has evolved over time to where it is today. So technology improvements that have helped, but I think that necessity is the mother of invention.

This whole experience where people, they're comfortable doing work the way they've always done work. And then they've been thrown into a situation where they've vacated offices, they've left behind the equipment that was accessible to them, and now they've got to figure it out. And how do you get productive and how to get productive quickly? And that's what we've seen is that a lot of organizations have taken what they've got, that were available to them. And to the best extent possible, pushed that out to the organizations when they moved into their home offices to try to give them the tool set that allows them to be functional. And whether or not that's the right tool set for the long haul, I think that was secondary to making sure that they had the tools that would let them keep working. But what I love about this story is that it caused people to change the way they worked and to try video conferencing and to realize the power of video and how to feel connected, even if it's just on the personal level, so you're not feeling isolated and alone in your home office.

And now you're back with your peers and you're talking and that's leading to being productive in work. But there's a social element that also helps people realize the power of video, which I think the impact of that is going to be very long lasting.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. It's great to get face to face with you here. It's great to see you. If you're listening to this as an audio podcast, you don't get to see the amount of interaction, the cues that come with being able to visually see someone and how they're reacting and are they multitasking and are they paying attention? I find myself often having to explain to people like, "Yeah, I'm looking at something because it's where my notes are." And I have multiple screens because you actually feel an obligation to pay attention to somebody when you're on video. Where oftentimes when you're on voice or you're on a bridge, you're multitasking your rear off. It is the human condition. And that's why we still fly to meetings and still go to events because there's more, sometimes, that can get done in 30 minutes sitting across the table, having dinner, wine, coffee with someone and video is by far the next best thing. I want to pivot though, here, the ROI topic.

So obviously we've been alluding to it throughout because these things are intangible and there's a huge return on being able to get face to face. People know that. Companies know that. That's what you're doing here with Pexip, but work will return. So like you heard me say, it won't be a new normal, it'll be an evolving normal. And we will go back to offices, in some cases sooner than later, its seemingly here in the U S and around the world. We're already hearing about places in like Germany and China, where more normal has resumed. States, right? Just down the block, Georgia is opening things up. Texas is opening things up. And in a matter of a month or two, I think a lot of the economy will start to be back. We're going to go back to offices. What does that mean for video? What does that mean? What did we learn from all this? And what should companies be thinking about when we start going back to make sure they continue to get the ROI from their investments and from their learnings during this whole experience?

Karl Hantho: So there's a million different opinions on what's going to happen. And I have been reading my own research. I think, here's what I believe. One is that things aren't going to change to normal overnight. So this is going to be a graduated movement where individuals move back into offices. It could be a phased approach, team a, team b offsetting different weeks. I think that we're going to have a measured way back into doing work in offices. I think that there's going to be a large proportion of individuals that will continue to work full time or part time from home offices. So I think that that phenomenon will continue. One great thing about video is that the more people that are using it, the more purpose there is to go into some of those purpose built rooms that have video conferencing capabilities and participate in a video meeting.

So I think long gone are the days where those rooms sat empty, waiting for a video meeting. I think that we're going to see that it's now becoming even more embraced as more and more people are comfortable using the technology to get work done. So those rooms that have been vacant for the last 60, 90 days, that were used at a certain rate before the situation, I think they're going to find themselves even more in demand as we go out into the future. I think from a Pexip perspective, we look at that in a great way, because a lot of the tools that have been used out in the field are not necessarily tools that inter-operate well with some of the stuff that is sitting in those conference rooms.

So one of the benefits of what we do in terms of that return on investment that we're talking about, Dan, would be that your traditional Cisco or Poly enabled conference rooms that have now been talking to, and we've seen a lot of things like Microsoft Teams deployed now out into those home office environments, those employees that are trying to go into a team's room from one of those traditional Cisco or Polycom kind of rooms are going to look for a way to make that work together. And that's one of the things we do so well with Microsoft is to do that. So I think that, and what that, from an ROI to bring that back to, so how that tie to ROI is that that doesn't mean that those endpoints need to be repurposed with an endpoint that only works in a team's environment. So you don't have to spend the money to retrofit what you've got to make it work. You can make it work with what you got.

Daniel Newman: I think that's a really important point though. Companies have technical debt and you can turn technical debt into a technical asset. And so a lot of companies, it might be your story, as much as this isn't a direct, there's a lot of comparisons, but like storage technology, right? You don't necessarily have to throw it away, but you might move from using it to store primary data used in your most important workloads to storing secondary data, instead of just throwing it out. And it's the same thing here. You have room systems that were, by the way, very expensive, exponentially more expensive, and those assets still work those room systems back to your days at Tandberg and that those Cisco endpoints and those Poly endpoints, that stuff still works and can be connected, but you do need that right software based infrastructure to connect with and to basically be able to pull in the broader workforce.

And that's always been the thing with video, Karl. It has always been the problem is if a company had the right infrastructure internally, the company was able to be very successful using video. But the problem is companies aren't incestuous that way. They don't only work within each one another. They work with up and down stream. They work with vendors, suppliers, partners, customers, and that's always been the problem. I'm not mistaken where you can start to create a lot of ROI for companies that say the tech you have, which might be different than the tech your customers have, or your partners have, but because of Teams or because of some of these different platforms or the web service that you guys offer, you can come in on your terms, on Google even, right? Google is another platform that you guys support, which is pretty much available at anyone's disposal that has internet connectivity.

Karl Hantho: Well, I think one of the things that I find fascinating about our industry is that back in those Tandberg days, just to go back and put a punctuation on time, our goal was to leverage standards, to create as much native interoperability as possible so that all of these different manufacturers' solutions worked well together. And I find it fascinating then in the last several years, we've moved away from that towards proprietary systems that do a great job of providing great feature and functionality within a specific platform that don't talk together with others. And that's sort of so contrary to what we stand for. And I look at, from a Pexip standpoint, we've got a great meeting service and we're on our meeting service today, right? So we've got a great meeting service that help people to connect with each other on any device and on any browser or traditional video conferencing system or Skype for Business or whatever, make it super simple to come into a meeting.

But there are organizations that have deployed other solutions that could be built out of different use cases. Not one size fits all. So they've got themselves pockets of different technologies. And back to your point, from a protect your investment standpoint, you don't have to try to standardize on one solution because the different applications have got different reasons for existing and different solutions that can help them achieve those goals. So from our standpoint, if we can work with Google Hangouts, meet customers and how they want to talk to traditional endpoints or to a team's environment, talking to Skype for Business, or again, to a traditional video conferencing endpoint, or just leveraging our service and talking to them, we're really quite in the middle of trying to make things as easy as possible for users to attend the meeting they're supposed to attend on the platform that makes most sense for them to participate from.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that's a really important point then. By the way, that is really how you gain material return is have the stuff work. Have it work, have it be able to connect you face to face with everyone. So right now, if there's not a meeting that you would have had across the table that you can now have on video, you can get 90, 95% of that same productivity. And obviously you could arguably say 100, in a lot of cases, percent. That of course depends on every human's ability to discern distance. And like I said, every degree of distance adds a certain amount of discipline required to get those returns. We've seen it for years with people conferenced into meetings. We only have a few minutes left, but I want to have you talk about one more thing when it comes to ROI.

In the space of digital transformation, something I talk a lot about as it is adaptability and an adoptability of technologies. And one of the biggest problems historically has been adoption of the tech. Now there's been a little bit of first adoption throughout this, because I think people, as I've been saying a lot more, turn your camera on to people. Pre- COVID-19, we all sort of just dealt with it, like, "Okay, your makeup's not done, or you're not dressed or you don't have a good camera." But now it's like, "Give me some human, give me some human, let me see your face." But I still think people don't change that fast or that easily. That is one of the biggest issues always. And so how are you thinking about driving this temporary adoption into permanent adoption and what should, CIOs, CXOs, business unit leaders that are listening to this right now be thinking about in terms of taking the best of the returns and the value and the growth that has come from this experience and getting people on board and keeping them on board?

Karl Hantho: That is an overarching goal that we always have, pre-COVID and post-COVID, is how do we help our customers get the most out of what they are trying to use us to accomplish, right, so whether it's healthcare or enterprise? I think in that market, Dan, I think there's a couple of things. One is that the user experience, it's all about making it super simple, to get to the meeting they want to get to and not getting lost in technology, and then delivering on a good meeting, but doing that also in a way that's respectful of the company's priorities as it relates to things like security and privacy and other aspects of what's important to them. And so the world's full of trade offs. We have a customer success team when we look at our own organization and how we drive usage and adoption. It's about understanding the company's goals.

It's about working with them to help them rule this out in a good way, and staying close with them with new features and functionality and good feedback loops to see how we could be a better partner and staying with them. It's a journey and it doesn't happen overnight. And to your point, even though I'd say that, after 90 days, you'd think some good behaviors will kick in and some routines will be established so that people can't live without video. That would be my dream, but we'll see that some people go back to doing with the work what they've always done, but there'll be less, I think they'll be less apprehensive about getting on that next video call. And hopefully they're not muting their camera and they're being a real full fledge member of that session.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, no, I think that's terrific. And I would say my take as an industry analyst would be, we will break ground in terms of creating habits. We will have come through to a large majority. There will always be stubborn laggards that have resisted and resisted all the way up to this pandemic. They will resist after the pandemic. But the fact that I think many have realized, recognize, and experience the simplicity that can be collaboration. I think a lot of people will be asking that question. Do I need to travel for that meeting? Do I need to get on a plane? We certainly have more reason now to at least pause. And it's not just the finances. I think for a long time, the video industry tried to use the financial element of "Save money. Video conference." And I think now it's like, "Stay alive. Video conference."

I mean, as crude as that might sound, I think there's a certain amount now where people are going to say, "Do I have to do that? Do I have to take that additional risk?" And until I think we'll see it fade just like past black swan and awful events in the past, over time, the habits return. But I think there will be a slow descending curve here. And for several years to come, we will see a strong spike. And during that time strong adoption, improved user experience and better connectivity are certainly going to make people like it more and more.

Karl Hantho: I hope that's true, but I do believe that that is going to be the case as well. It is definitely on a different plateau than it was 90 days ago and it's here to stay. And I've heard that from our healthcare partners as well and customers that this isn't just a big bubble as they rolled out to meet mass scale, that what has also come with this is people have tried something different and they realized that me spending half an hour to drive to the doctor's office, sit in a waiting room, potentially with other sick people for an appointment and then an hour come back and it's now two hours gone and I could do that via video, but they've tried it and it works and that's going to be a new norm. So there's a lot of, I think there's a lot of good that comes out of this really difficult situation.

Daniel Newman: No question and a lot to be excited about. Karl Hantho, thank you so much for joining me here. That was a great discussion. For everybody out there, like I said in the beginning, make sure you tune in. We did several episodes of this series Navigate. We're talking about all kinds of different parts of the collaboration space. So if this is the first one you've heard, check out, go back and visit Pexip at Pexip.com and check out the rest of these episodes. Definitely check out, there'll be some of this on my site, on futurumresearch.com. We'll be covering some of what we did here on these podcasts as well. For everyone out there, we really appreciate you tuning in, stay connected, stay safe, stay productive. For now we got to go, but we'll see you later. Bye-bye now.

 

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