Interview: Polycom president Marco Landi on workplace collaboration

Following the announcement that Polycom will be expanding its product range for Skype for Business environments, InAVate caught up with Marco Landi, president EMEA at Polycom to discuss the demands of the modern workplace.

What trends do you see shaping the application of technology in the workplace?

“I think the big trend you will see in the market is a transformation from telephony on one side and video conferencing on the other, to collaboration.

That is driven from Microsoft and other big vendors. I think Microsoft has started to push it, but if you look at Google, the likes of Cisco, everybody is looking to the collaboration space, whether its with instant messaging, content sharing, voice conferencing or video conferencing. Re-arranging the way people work and collaborate is a major driver. That is really pushing companies, and they are really looking at how their infrastructure and all of the platforms their using, and trying to consolidate it.”

How are companies like Polycom adapting to the needs of the modern workplace?

“Given the different type of environment that the workplace is now, we are offering more flexibility. If you are a home worker you want a better piece of equipment and if you are working in the office you have different type of collaboration spaces, so you need different types of tools.

If you are a company and you want to go on the cloud, and you want to work on Office 365, that’s where we offer the integration. So there’s a kind of symbiotic approach, and that is what is happening in the market, companies decide I’m going to stay Cisco, I’m going to Google, or I’m going to go Microsoft.”

Why is the time right now for SME’s to branch out into unified communications?

“I think SME’s are as used to using collaboration tools as the big ones. I think the problem was that there was a barrier of entry, as the equipment was too expensive, and we’re now making it much more accessible to everyone. We’ve launched a range of products geared to the SME market with a low cost of entry to make it very accessible to any company.

Before they would have been using the voice, some content sharing, some way of doing the conference calls, but they might not have bought the whole collaboration piece because it was too expensive, or because it was too difficult to install, or too difficult to use and they didn’t have the I.T. resources to put behind making sure it works.

We think particularly video will move from what may have been perceived a niche application, that was seen as good only for the boardroom of the CEO, to a tool that can be used all across the enterprise wherever you are, across all types of enterprises.”

What’s the benefit of SME’s investing in these products?

“Even for SME’s we have statistics that show if they want to recruit young graduates, people will demand more flexible working hours and having more flexible working practices. And collaboration and video will make them maintain productivity whilst not in the office.

Depending on the verticals of the industries that we sell to, there is also an added benefit to develop collaboration into the work processes, or use collaboration not just as a tool, but actually as one of the processes that are used at work. In education, you can’t do remote learning if you don’t have the AV systems so that therefore that becomes a tool that is actually generating revenue, because you are can give lecture remotely.

We think whatever the company, the one thing that we need it to move is collaboration from being just a tool to work better, to a tool that actually changes the work processes of a company and increases productivity, and also increases customer satisfaction, or is the differentiation from competitors. The benefits are no longer just people work better together, the benefits are they’re faster to develop products to market which in turn makes them more competitive.

I think what we will see in the future is applications moving from being nice to have if you want to them, to being a business critical tool.

How has your approach to the EMEA market changed in the last 12 years?

“I’ve moved to a much stronger vertical approach, because I really believe that we shouldn’t sell this as a horizontal application, but we should look at different verticals and actually apply our technology to really make them become business critical for this vertical. And integrate our technology into business processes so they can get maximum benefit out it.

I think in some cases it’s obvious, like in healthcare and education, but in other cases I think it’s less obvious. Finance and banking tend to be using it as a very horizontal application. I think it could become a lot more of a vertical application, and I think that’s where the next opportunity is. And that is big corporations as well as SME’s.”

What are the benefits of Skype for Business over alternatives?

“I think probably Microsoft was the first to – unless you take out Lotus Notes – to actually push these different ways of collaborating, with instant messaging, with link or using link for voice conferencing. They got there first, bought Skype and added more flexibility. I think everyone is used to using Office, and the more they integrate into Skype not just being a separate application, but actually making it part of Office, the easier it will be for people to adopt it because it will be integrated in things they do today.

Companies can also have extensive cost savings by moving from an old PBX platform, which is heavy on infrastructure, servers, networks, versus a much more software-based platform, so there are real benefits. I’ve been hearing quotations in region of a third of the cost of running your telephony platform on Skype, rather than running on an old PBX platform.”

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