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!
Ivy.ai’s new chatbot streamlines resources and policies
Ivy.ai, a creator of AI chatbots for higher education, is offering a chatbot that helps institutions streamline name, image, and likeness policies for athletic programmes.
This solution will allow athletic departments to dramatically reduce inbound inquiries while answering inquiries related to compliance, financial aid impact, how-to documents, and best practice training videos.
It will allow institutions to condense information in a way that is easily accessible and eliminates the need for student-athletes to read complicated manuals. Institutions can also engage with student-athletes via a real-time feedback loop to see which topics truly matter and what needs further clarification. This allows administrators to be proactive and provide a competitive edge in recruiting.
Helping institutions connect their students with information
“Athletic departments at colleges and universities are overwhelmed by the challenges posed by the name, image and likeness legislation,” said Mary Frances Coryell, Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Partnership.
“Ivy.ai is uniquely positioned in the market to help institutions connect their student-athletes with policies and information related to NIL such as state laws, restrictions and relevant contacts. Our chatbot can digest all relevant policy information and provide answers to student-athletes at any time on any device. We expect the NIL market to move quickly, so student-athletes deserve the answers on their terms, rather than exclusively during work hours.”
Primary use cases for the chatbot include:
- Answering commonly asked questions related to name, image and likeness
- Communicate policies such as state laws, restrictions and compliance regulations
- Provide contact information for various advisors and agencies
- Connect training materials for athletes to improve their branding
- Engage in two-way reactive and proactive communication to keep policies student-centric
Back in March 2020, the company offered schools a free COVID-19 Response System, including a customisable COVID-19 Response Bot, a human-to-human live chat system and an SMS Text platform. These services are offered completely free of charge.
"The customisable COVID-19 Response Bot will help schools connect their students with important information, such as the school's operational status, where to go for treatment, and what to do to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. We already added that information to all of our clients' AI chatbots, and we found that in many cases students needed additional support. That's why we're including our human-to-human Live Chat system in this offer. The SMS Text platform can be used to drive awareness to this communications channel for your students." said Mark McNasby, CEO of Ivy.ai.