Gary Denman, ANZ MD of Polycom, discusses the changing nature of video collaboration, the models that are coming into play and the work the company is doing behind-the-scenes to expand and enable its partner network in New Zealand.
Q: Can you provide a run-down on Polycom's work in NZ in the last couple of years?
Gary Denman: Polycom has had a presence in NZ for many years through partners. Back in May 2012 we opened a physical office. We are focused in two areas - we have voice products and we have video products that fit into the unified communications and collaboration portfolio.
Being independent from a platform means that we drive across open standards and integrate across platforms at the customer end. If we look at the NZ market we are seeing a huge growth in Microsoft's Lync. We are seeing a great deal of interest from customers on visual collaboration. We are making significant depolyments in NZ in that space. We are constantly talking to partners from the service and capability perspective.
Then there is more traditional video platform used to connect visually across different end points. But we are slightly moving away from that and much more into collaborating around content. We are seeing collaboration being the discussion, not communication. This is a shift we have seen in the last 12 months and it is accelerating now. What has happened is that there is a familiarisation with the value that video can bring in terms of the connection standpoint. Now the focus is more on what we are trying to work or agree on and we can still see each other at the same time.
With the increased consumerisation of IT, BYO models, robust networks and UFB coming into NZ, access to networks and bandwidth are not seen as constraints that they have been. Not everywhere has got the same quality of coverage, but it's an evolution many other areas didn't have any of this connectivity not long ago, but it is growing and growing.
In terms of customer strategy this has got to be a long term approach. We are getting involved in much more a consultative environment, addressing short term, medium term and longer term requirements, as we implement ideas today. There is more in our conversations, especially in the enterprise space around change management and dealing with cultural change. Historically, with phone or travel they would work in a different format. Now when you tell them that you can work anywhere, with the device of your choice and you can remain connected with the team - that is change management and that is far more cultural than technological.
In this scenario we as the platform provider has to focus on usability and ensure adoption. The success of this would be when multiple people can adopt the platform and if they adopt it the value gets enhanced. If it is just too hard to use, and video has been in that category, it won't gain the take up and benefit that is required.
A lot of time building systems is about identifying the types of users and services that each user would require. For example, an executive not bound to one location may need to bring groups of people into a situation and might like the room experience, versus a team member who is desk based and may come into a meeting room to do some collaboration. You have to build around those personas and the different types of services to clusters of people in the organisation, and build it into a strategy, enable support and other potential investments that need to be made.
Q: How has your licensing patterns changed in the recent past?
GD: In terms of licensing, the model we are moving to is not dissimilar to a mobile plan. If we are going to deliver video we have to move away from infrastructure and have it inside an organisation, where what device you attach becomes irrelevant to the service. The way it works from our side is that we provide a bridging capability provisioned through various mechanisms. It could be through your premise with some capital expenditure, or it could be managed in someone else's datacentre, or you buy a plan with number of hours, paying for number of minutes or ports on the bridge, or the utilisation of a port for a period of time.
Then there is the cloud model where you can expand and pay for more as you go.
On the client side, we have a free of charge piece of software that goes into tables and Apple products. And then we are delivering a piece of software that wraps a browser-based interface into that bridge, so you don't need a particular client. This is about capacity on bridging infrastructure that drives the number of people who can attach. The client could come into the bridge with any device and there is no increase in licensing. It is about capacity for the inter connect at the backend.
There are customers now saying I have Lync on the desktop, tablet and phone and do I need a Polycom interface? We are saying no. If you got Lync there, then just use that to get into the bridge. It is about simplification for the user. What we need to ensure for adoption is reduce complexity. Our historic boundaries include different user experiences dependent on the scenario that you are in. Where we are going - and we are not totally there - is there will be a consistent experience regardless of the environment. You would interface in a room as you would on a tablet.
The room requirement is where immersive rooms come in, and that is really based on customer requirements. Back in 2011 there were predictions that room environments will decrease as mobility increases. Interestingly, we are not seeing that. Lot of rooms are being refreshed and new immersive rooms are being taken up, due to the drive for video. People want to be in a room if they can be. In the room you get a richer experience, bigger screens and better acoustics, so room refreshes have been very strong.
Q: What are your current verticals of focus in the country?
GD: We have got two verticals and then there are horizontal needs. There has always been healthcare and education. Distance learning continues to be a requirement in different learning facilities and it is only growing. Healthcare has similar attributes associated with it. These are industries well-adopted for us.
The Canterburgy DHB is a great example of how technology is being used in healthcare. Telhealth can bring healthcare services into remote locations and bring expertise to locations as citizens demand more healthcare services. The only challenge to that is cost and this is one mechanism that an bring a broader set of services and control the cost model.
A lot of cameras, and healthcare equipment, like thermometers are becoming USB-based. You can plug them into a camera system and a remote doctor can see information coming out of a patient. There is a lot going on within the DHBs in NZ.
Other area is very much shared services and connecting DHBs together. This brings up the areas of sharing patient records and privacy aspects. These are things we are going to be forced to resolve, things that we are going to find solutions to.
Northern Australia's health boards work with e-health records and realise that it is the best way to keep records and it is becoming widely adopted. So it proves that the challenges of the model can be overcome. There is also the Ministry of Education in NZ, where are connecting schools on a shared services model. They are broadly deploying technology into school rooms and facilities and then you are seeing schools connect together jointly running classes, even across countries.
Video-as-a-service is the way we would recommend organisations to go. Buying your own infrastructure is what we did historically, due to various factors, but they are being overcome now.
Other horizontal models in NZ include the SMB market. Around 99 per cent of businesses have less than 20 people. This way NZ is suited to a shared service or cloud model. Large enterprises , the likes of Fonterra, in NZ will buy because they have resources to do it. But for a geographically spread organisation, they can get started with a simple plan that is hosted and then you can deliver that out. When you get to a stage where it gets mission critical and you need scale, then you just buy more capacity. You can get more video ports on-demand, you pay for it as you go, and that's the commercial model we are moving to.
Q: Can you expand on your current partner network in the country?
GD: We have tiering for our partners where we have platinum, gold and registered partners. This comes under the Choice Programme, which was re-launched in July this year. We are bringing some enhanced services and functions to that, as we mature more and services mature more.
We have around 5 platinum partners, around 10 gold partners and maybe around 500 registered partners. THe certification goes across video and voice. We have got a lot of partners selling voice and the conference phone models. Then we have got emerging partners in the systems integration space, who come from a different angle.
There are Lync partners doing video and integrating experiences , the Exchange and Sharepoint type partners - we are exposing more of the software as APIs - so they are starting to write apps to embed video into a process. So the ecosystem is changing quite rapidly and requirements are moving into the systems integration and development discussion.
It is fragmenting the AV partners who have done room automation. They are still doing plenty of good business, with flat screen panel and sinking room experiences. They are moving away from implementing the core video platforms, moving more into the user experience in the room. They are then partnering with service providers and SIs. We are telling partners to get niche and get big, and partner with others who can add or complement to your capability.
Q: What are the potential changes that you are considering to the partner network?
GD: We will expand. We are going to end up with more categories. We haven't formalised that at this point. But the more we talk to the developer, we don't have a category for them, but they are partners, and we need to know that that customers will get a certain experience by working with them and they have a certain capability and understanding. We will look to launch a category for them, though I can't give you a timeline.
There are service providers as a sub-category, who build and service platforms and provide them through managed services or the cloud. Then you have traditional AV players, then there are the video people who do the on premise and then there are those who focus on the end-points that we need to develop out.
Our mantra internally is that we are a software-led business. We have been seen as hardware, but now its more about software leading the hardware. So we need to bring new categories of partners into play. The sophistication of projects has increased and with that we should ensure more partner programmes.
Q: What are your revenues from the country and its part in the regional revenues?
GD: We don't break out NZ numbers. From a regional standpoint, it is significant in terms of revenue per capita.
Q: What are your plans for NZ going forward?
GD: We are in the final quarter now. What we have seen is stable year. We had very big growth here last year, couple of large projects that accelerated growth. We are going through a period in NZ of a shift in the model, bit of a pause on is this a collaboration or communication platform? If it is the former, how does it relate to my other investments and some of the other considerations in play? What are the boundaries with Lync and where do I need to extend that?
NZ at the moment is a fast follower on Lync deployments, compared with Australian businesses that are fast adopters of Lync. I think NZ has been waiting for Lync as a service model from partners, as opposed to always running it on premise. That is being developed by a good number of partners now, so we are starting to see Lync accelerate in NZ. That is a conversation with the customer that includes, where does video play with that? What capabilities does Lync bring? We expect that to grow rapidly in the next year.
Globally, this is a Microsoft number, the Lync business is growing 60 per cent year-on-year for a voice platform. That is an interesting proposition, since we are so tightly aligned with them.
So we see Lync becoming more important in NZ, we see our responsibility with Microsoft and relevant partners to grow everyday.