Poly: Accelerating Partnerships and Product Innovation

4.9/5 (7)

4.9/5 (7)

Poly’s CEO Joe Burton was in Sydney recently to meet with staff, customers and partners. I had the privilege of interviewing him about the roadmap ahead for the company. Plantronics acquired Polycom for $2 billion at the end of March 2018 and earlier this year at Enterprise Connect, Poly was unveiled as the new brand  – the coming together of Plantronics and Polycom. The company prides themselves on the strong engineering heritage they have across their product portfolio. Poly is playing in a large addressable market and these segments include unified communications (UC), video, headsets and contact centres.

Big news last week – Poly and Zoom partnership

At Zoomtopia last week, Zoom announced purpose-built appliances for their Zoom Rooms conference room system. These appliances are custom developed hardware that lets users gather room intelligence and analytics and will simplify installation and management of large-scale conference room deployments.  One of the major partnerships for this was with Poly. Joe Burton was on stage with Eric Yuan the CEO of Zoom to unveil the Poly Studio X Series – The X30 (for smaller rooms) and the X50 (for midsize conference rooms).

What is promising about this offering is that the whole concept of launching a meeting by connecting to a screen has become simple. In a world where user experience is everything, simplicity and quality are what end-users expect. The Poly Studio X Series are all-in-one video bars  that will simplify the Zoom Rooms experience and will feature Poly Meeting AI capabilities. Some of the features include advanced noise suppression to make it easier to hear human voices while simultaneously blocking out background noise.

For Poly, this is a great partnership given Zoom’s good growth in the Asia Pacific region. Poly is also increasingly deepening their relationships with other major players in the Video and UC market including Microsoft.

Flexible Workspaces and Contact Centres drives the headset market in Asia Pacific 

According to JLL, the flexible space sector in Asia Pacific is expanding rapidly. From 2014 to 2017, flexible space stock across the region recorded a CAGR of 35.7% in Asia Pacific – much higher than in the United States (25.7%) and Europe (21.6%) over the same period. When you consider the changes in the modern workplace which include the rise of open flexible workplaces, remote and home working and the rise of freelancers, providing a seamless experience for the office worker will be important – it should be the same for a contractor as it is for full-time staff.  As we move into more mobile and agile work practices and with the rise of open offices, headsets will play an important role for the office worker. More organisations across Asia are investing in headsets and whilst it may sound simple to just buy the headsets, it is more sophisticated than that. There is no one-size-fits-all headset and IT managers will have to invest in headsets to suit the persona of employees taking into account the role, workload, use of voice and video services and ultimately their comfort level. Vendors in the headset space are heavily investing in easy-to-use features, more automation, deep workflow integration and machine learning to deliver that experience. The opportunity for headsets does not stop there. In the contact centre space as agents spend long hours on calls, designing the right headset with feature rich AI capabilities will go a long way especially for training and coaching.

The one area Burton emphasised on is how AI and analytics is transforming this market and Poly investing in building these features into the headsets.  Some of these examples include:

  • Tracking conversations by using analytics to gain insights into long pauses of silence and “overtalking”. The analytics generated from these insights can help for training and coaching.
  • AI can help track user behaviour patterns related to noise, volume and mute functions. These patterns can be used to detect problems during the call and could lead to possible training sessions for the agents. It is a great mechanism for supervisors to understand and work through where agents are struggling during the call.

Partnerships to expand their reach into the contact centre markets in the Asia Pacific region will be important. The market for contact centres is seeing a big shift and new entrants are making their presence felt in the Asia Pacific region. Poly will need to capitalise on this and expand their partnerships beyond the traditional vendors to expand their footprints across the contact centre markets.

Asia Pacific – an important growth theatre

Poly continues to win and have some large-scale deployments in Japan, China, India, and ANZ. They have also made several strides to develop what is best fit for the local market in terms of user requirements. With a deep understanding of the Chinese market, Poly released the Poly G200 in September this year which is tailor-made for the Chinese users with easy to use and collaborate solutions. The Poly G200 is the first and significant customised product launched in China, after Poly announced their ‘In China, for China’ strategy. This is a logical move given China is an important market and one that presents its own unique business dynamics.

Conclusion

The shift to mobility and the cloud has changed everything and is driving a new level of user experience. The ability to offer the same and frictionless experience when on the desktop, mobile device as well as other applications is what is driving fierce competition in the market. Users get frustrated when they cannot launch a video session instantly or when there is poor quality in audio. These may sound simple but addressing these frustrations are critical. Vendors in the UC, Collaboration and Video space are working hard to make sure that the experience is seamless when they are inside the office, out of the office and when they are working in open plan offices. Ultimately users want their daily office communication and collaboration solutions to work seamlessly and to integrate well into the various workflows such as Microsoft Teams.

On the contact centre front, Digital and AI initiatives are taking centre stage in nearly every conversation I have had with end-users. Company-wide CX strategy and customer journey mapping and analytics are what CX decision makers are talking about most. Poly is addressing that segment of the market by providing quality headsets coupled with AI to help in coaching and training by identifying trends and bridging the training gaps. There are new vendors starting to disrupt the status quo of some of the more traditional vendors in the contact centre market and hence deepening the partnerships with these new vendors in the contact centre space will be important.

Poly has a good addressable market to go after in  unified communications and collaboration with their headsets and extensive range of video solutions. The most important part will be deepening the partnerships with the wide range of vendors in this space and engineering their products to be tightly integrated with their partner ecosystems’. The release of the Studio X series at Zoomtopia is a good example.  I am confident that the road ahead for Poly is promising given the deep engineering capabilities the company invests in and how they are taking their partnerships seriously.

3
VendorSphere: Zoom Accelerating their pace in APAC

4.8/5 (5)

4.8/5 (5)

Zoom is no stranger in today’s world of video and collaboration. Organisations would have heard of Zoom, trialled the product or are now users of the product for video collaboration.  Zoom’s success is built on the simplicity of their technology and the ability of the solution to be deeply embedded within workflows.  They have put some serious thoughts into user design and how that experience through the app or when launching the solution from the PC/ laptop allows for a smooth integration to email, calendars as well as other popular collaboration applications (including Slack).  The market for cloud videoconferencing is growing rapidly. As the market shifts towards new and more agile ways of working and as co-working spaces rise globally, the need to collaborate and communicate instantaneously without too much hassle and interruptions will be critical.  We are living in an era where it will be all about the experience.

Zoom’s share value has risen more than 120% from the $36 IPO debut price.  Zoom has been focusing on building a base of high-value customers (those that spend more than USD 100,000 per year for services). In the last quarter alone the number of high-value customers went up by over 17%.

Rapid expansion outside of the ANZ region

Zoom has witnessed rapid growth in the ANZ region in recent years. Demand for the solution continues to come from both medium and large enterprises. Japan will be an important market for Zoom and they are starting to work with some big names in the market such as Rakuten and are expanding on growing their partner network. With a good data centre footprint which is critical for video and collaboration, other key markets for Zoom in Asia include India, South East Asia, Hong Kong and China. Their wins in these markets are from some of the biggest brands and conglomerates. Zoom’s growth in Asia is demonstrating how their cloud-based video solution is becoming the preferred platform, even if IT has already invested in other cloud video offerings.  Demand is coming from the lines of business and not necessarily through IT. That is a big differentiator – Zoom being used by lines of business changes the entire sales process. It is now driven by word of mouth and individual user experience and LOBs which then becomes a companywide opportunity for Zoom. When you put that into context, the sheer numbers in terms of users within an organisation becomes large.

The launch of Zoom Phone

Zoom launched their Zoom Phone cloud phone service in Australia, supporting local phone numbers and PSTN access with new metered and unlimited call plans. Customers have the option of using their own carrier or using a Zoom number. The launch of Zoom phone should not be taken lightly by their competitors as they have so far succeeded in pulling customers to their app and impressing them with the user experience. Once the customer is locked into Zoom, the user experience has somehow led them to want to use it even more. With the launch of voice, they are now pushing themselves deeper into an account by creating upsell opportunities in workplace video, collaboration and voice technologies. This allows them to take on UC players across the stack of video, voice and collaboration.

Accelerating deep partnerships with leading cloud innovators

Zoom has strong partnerships with leading cloud platforms. Zoom’s partnership with Dropbox allows customers of both services to start a Zoom Meeting while viewing or working on shared files via shortcuts built into Dropbox’s viewer tool. The Atlassian partnership, for instance, allows Jira Ops to be integrated with Zoom. Users will be able to start a meeting directly from a Jira Ops ticket with anyone associated with the ticket. These are some of the partnerships and it demonstrates how Zoom has thought about other critical cloud apps that are important for day-to-day work and collaboration and the ability that can make Zoom the app that can provide that in-between integration for collaboration.

Ecosystm Comments

Zoom’s architecture is video-first, cloud-native and optimised to process and deliver high-quality video across devices. They reported recently that their approach to video has been uniquely different from that taken by others who have attempted to add a video to an aging, pre-existing conference call or chat tool. Zoom developed a proprietary multimedia router optimised for the cloud that separates content processing from the transporting and mixing of streams.

With the launch of Zoom Phone and the adoption they are witnessing of their video platform, Zoom is set to be a leading provider in video and voice collaboration. We can expect Zoom to further build on the office collaboration stack in the near future. As organisations start deploying solutions from cloud innovators such as AWS, Slack, Microsoft, Google and others, Zoom stands out from that standpoint. They are a cloud innovator that has thought about the issues of the past and the pain points of those using video. The thinking behind user design and simplicity and the integration to workflows has paved the way for the success they are seeing today.

As they grow their presence with some of the largest brands and Fortune 500 companies in the Asia Pacific region, they will also start attracting partners who will want to be part of that journey with them so it’s a win-win for both parties. These partnerships will include a range – from the existing players in the video to other workplace collaboration vendors.

For the fiscal year ended January 31, 2019, Zoom reported that 55% of their 344 high-end customers started with at least one free host prior to subscribing. These 344 customers also contributed to 30% of revenue in that fiscal year.

The journey has just started for Zoom in Asia Pacific and we can expect the next 12 months to be good for them as they expand rapidly across the region.

4