BlueJeans (Verizon): the video conferencing landscape 2021
Answering six questions, Paul Scholey, SVP & General Manager, International, BlueJeans (Verizon) speaks to Business Chief North America on the current video conferencing technology landscape as we leave 2020, as well as his predictions for 2021.
Could you talk me through the current landscape for your industry as we count down the final weeks of 2020?
The video conferencing space my company, BlueJeans by Verizon, operates in, is one that clearly gained a boost during this crisis. To serve a market expected to reach USD 6.37 billion by 2026 (source: Fortune Business Insights), we now see a wide range of video conferencing solutions available - from House Party, a pure consumer play to BlueJeans Meetings - which was built for business and comes with ‘smart meeting’ capabilities, high-end security, and an admin console.
The massive adoption of video conferencing that COVID triggered resulted in our revenue growing 300 percent after the first lockdown. Another big contributing factor to video conferencing’s meteoric growth during this crisis year was the transition from live to virtual events - from small webinars to large scale industry events.
How have you seen your industry evolve this year?
As is the case in many areas, the pandemic only served to accelerate the changes that were already underway in video conferencing. In our case, the most dramatic change was that people started to switch on the ‘video’ in their conferencing systems because they felt an urgency to be more connected to colleagues, business partners, friends, and family. Once this switch happened, it opened up a whole new vista of possibilities for using enterprise video conferencing to support internal communications, company events, webinars and even Friday pub quizzes.
What technology and/or approaches have you seen emerge in the industry due to COVID-19? How do these compare to before the outbreak?
COVID-19 has injected real urgency into innovating for agility, flexibility and resilience - in other words Digital Transformation. The companies that had already transformed before COVID were able to adapt easily to the almost overnight transition to large-scale working from home. This has inspired others to step up their Digital Transformation programmes.
What are your predictions for the industry in 2021 and beyond?
Further to my last point, in 2021 I predict that companies whose digital transformation programmes stalled will step hard on the accelerator. Even though most companies built strong business cases for digital transformation, some didn’t feel a sense of urgency to move beyond the planning stages. Integrating video communication - so key to flexible working - will be a top priority in enterprises’ transformation programmes.
Along with a rush to digitally transform, next year I predict organisations will work fast to mature their internal communications programmes. With so many people working remotely, internal communications, once seen by many organisations as ‘nice to have’ (and given minimal resources) will become a top priority in 2021.
In 2021 video conferencing platforms like ours will help organisations deliver increasingly sophisticated internal comms programmes by adapting to a range of formats beyond the standard meeting. Smart meeting features like whiteboards and annotations, for example, are ideal for creative brainstorming sessions; personal meeting IDs are ideal for ‘watercooler moments’; and intelligent transcriptions that log written meeting highlights and action items support those people who can’t attend every meeting and want to avoid “FOMO”.
What are the current challenges in the industry?
The video conferencing space, though burgeoning, has also become very crowded and ‘noisy’. I expect to see further consolidation in 2021 through technology mergers and acquisitions.
Another big challenge for players in this space is dealing with the reality that corporate IT environments are becoming increasingly heterogeneous. As much as IT departments would prefer to standardise, in the ‘new normal’ world of work, teams are made up of employees, contractors and supplier partners working in various locations on a wide range of company-issued and personal devices. I believe the video conferencing players that have a long-term future are those that work seamlessly in mixed hardware and software environments.
Could you talk me through your career journey and tell me a bit about the company that you work for?
I have built my career in international enterprise software sales and general management roles. My passion has been leading high-performance teams in dynamic growth businesses. Earlier in my career, I focused in the business intelligence and analytics space at companies like Teradata, Oracle and Pentaho (now part of Hitachi). I’ve spent the last three years in London leading international sales at BlueJeans, which was acquired this year by Verizon.
Put simply, BlueJeans by Verizon brings video, audio and web conferencing together for better remote work productivity. Joining the Verizon family has opened up new markets for my team and I expect as the company rolls out 5G, the potential for video conferencing will truly explode. Exciting times!
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.