OVCC: Addressing Barriers to B2B Video Adoption

18 May 2014

In this Executive Insights podcast, UCStrategies' Jim Burton is joined by Christine Howley of Verizon, Marketing Committee chair of the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC). Founded in October 2011, the OVCC's mission is to enable an environment with simple, anywhere, anytime, any party video communications. The discussion includes a conversation about a recently commissioned Forrester Research study which interviewed over 700 business decision makers, IT decision makers, and information workers.

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Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton, and I'm joined today by Chris Howley from Verizon. Now we have not talked about Verizon in the past and we're not here today to talk about Verizon because Chris is the chair of the marketing committee for the OVCC, which stands for Open Visual Communications Consortium. Chris, why don't you tell us a little bit about the OVCC?

Christine Howley: Sure, I'd be happy to, Jim, thank you. The OVCC was founded in October of 2011. Our goal is to easily enable customers of various video service providers to conduct business-to-business calls in a secure manner, in a predictable manner, with ease of use. We have about 30 company members and the two major committees that encompass the OVCC are the technical committee and the marketing committee. We have other committees, but those certainly are the most active and I'm the marketing chair. I am the chair of the marketing committee.

Jim Burton: Great. Well, you've certainly got a problem that needs to be resolved and doing it with an open view of this is, I think, very important. I remember, this has been about 12 years ago, I was working with a major video provider. The CEO of that company would always show up late for meetings, and it wasn't like him because he was very strict about other meetings. But he'd show up for big, internal meetings about 20 minutes late. I finally pulled him aside one day and said, "why are you doing that?" He said, "well, have you noticed it takes about 20 minutes to get everything set up for a video call?"

I know things have improved, but they have a long ways to go. Can you give me some examples of the challenges that OVCC is dealing with and how they're working with the marketplace to make it a little more simple to get these calls set up and get working?

Christine Howley: Yes, absolutely. I'm unfortunately not surprised that it was 12 years ago and it's now 2014, and to be quite honest, I believe as an industry we have not really done a leap frog yet to make the ease-of-use factor something that's available for everyone all the time. I would say the biggest challenge we're facing is having a video call behave in the same manner that users are accustomed to by dialing a cellphone, or a regular WebEx kind of net meeting tool, where they're self-sufficient, they know what to do, and they very rarely call a help desk for support. We are not there yet.

The biggest challenge we're still facing is making video easy to use. One of the ways we're addressing that in OVCC is by reprioritizing our roadmap for 2014 and pulling up the activity, which is referred to as a global dial plan and registry and directory, whereby we would standardize a dialing plan that the industry would use and make it available to our member companies for their customers. Such that, if we have a customer that uses Verizon service and we have a customer that uses Orange Business Services, it doesn't matter. The dialing strings and the way we would reach each other would be the same.

What we found in the study was very interesting. We commissioned Forrester Research to do a study for us. They interviewed over 700 business decision makers, IT decision makers, and information workers. What we found was startling - I was very startled by this - that two-thirds of workers have no idea how to make an external (video) call. Yet, 80% know how to do it for internal calls because the dial plan for internal calls is known within the company. It is when you go outside the company that the challenge exists, and why we're taking on the global dial plan directory function this year.

Jim Burton: Those are pretty amazing statistics. On one hand I'm not surprised, but on the other hand you'd think an industry as mature as this would have figured some of this out by this time. Maybe you could give us a little more information about some of the other findings from the report?

Christine Howley: The report has some very interesting findings, some of which were troubling. Another was that there's a real disparity between what the end user information workers feel is an issue verses what IT managers feel are impediments to adoption. So, while we said that two-thirds of information workers don't know how to address external video calls, only one-third of IT managers felt external dialing was an impediment. So, what we need to do as a consortium is not only change our focus for messaging to messaging to gain membership - which was our plan the last few years - we need to focus on messaging to end users and tailoring that messaging depending on the role a person has within a corporation.

Something else that was very interesting to me was the thought that I had going into this was that the younger workers, gen X and Y workers, were very, very much used to video. They have it in their everyday lives, and that they would be a group that would be much more likely to use video than some people who have been in the business for a longer period of time. But we found that not to be the case. We found the case that here was no real difference depending on age as to the propensity to use video. What that means to us is we have to be careful not to target the younger gen X, gen Y user population in the workplace. Because they are not necessarily going to generate more revenue for our member businesses than the older, more experienced, perhaps having more responsibility global type of person who might be a little bit older to have that kind of global responsibility, and hence needing to communicate over video globally, and also dealing at perhaps a CEO or CIO level, and needing the high quality, secure calls.

Jim Burton: That's very, very interesting. What do you see as far as the prominent industry verticals that benefit most from video?

Christine Howley: I would say I was enlightened by one aspect of the Forrester Study. What I thought within my own experience was that the healthcare vertical, or industry, was most forward thinking, when video really was integrated as part of the daily business process. For example, you'd go for your physical or there's something wrong with your eye, perhaps, and you have the ability to call in a specialist at that point in time. And, to shorten the time between diagnosis and treatment with something that has been deployed at least throughout the US. What I learned, however, in reading the results of the Forrester Study, is that the professional services industry is also very, very interested and moving forward quickly in the use of video. That's because, I believe, most professional service companies realize that the people who work within the company are very valuable. They get charged a lot of money to use them and they want to have an efficient way to communicate with their customers that saves time and makes more money.

Jim Burton: That's an interesting finding. Was there anything about the geography from that perspective that the report commented on?

Christine Howley: Yes, and this is something else that originally didn't surprise me, but it was inconsistent with my experience, being in charge of video at Verizon. This was a finding that said Asia placed the highest value on video. I thought that it might be a cultural thing, because certain countries within Asia really put much importance on visual feedback and the formality around communications. At first I could get that but then when I look at my own experience over the last several years, we did not find that companies within the Asia region were more likely to purchase video than in EMEA, for example. So, that was kind of an interesting that that we found as well.

Jim Burton: I've got to ask this question since we're recording this for UCStrategies. What about in the UC domain? Is there something that you are witnessing there happening in video?

Christine Howley: Absolutely. I'll tell you what we're witnessing and what we're doing as a result of what we found from the study results. People are not going to use video unless it is integrated with their daily UC toolset. People do not want to download another client. They do not want to have another process. They want to have video integrated within whatever their UC&C toolkit is. So, as a result of that, what we're doing is considering in our next board of directors meeting, expanding the mission or the scope of OVCC in general to be more of a UC&C type of consortium. Because, looking at this in a silo is not working. That's another problem that we've uncovered that we're addressing, as I just mentioned.

Jim Burton: That's really interesting, and quite frankly, I've observed the same thing. A lot of the venders are working on beefing up their video portion. It goes across the board. I could start naming vendors and I'll leave somebody out, so I won't go there. But I know that every vendor has been doing more work in figuring out how to add video, make it easier to use, have it be part of the click to communicate-where you click to...well, first of all you IM somebody to see if they're available. You click to connect the call. You may bring in a couple other people and then the next phase is to click to set up the video thing. So it's a simple series of clicks to do any of this. I know all of the venders are working on it. Quite frankly, I think they are coming a long way. It seems that part of the challenge is the difference between a desktop conversation and an in-room solution for much bigger audience. Do you see anything happening in that domain or is that going to be part of your charter to just try to help synchronize the ability to easily set up a call no matter whether you're at your PC or whether you're in a conference room?

Christine Howley: Well, I see a real trend away from a dedicated room system. What we saw in the study results was that people are more likely to use video if it's available to them where they physically reside, whether that means on their iPad, on their smartphone, on their laptop. So certainly we see a trend away from these large immersive rooms of the past. However, there are instances where the large, immersive, high quality, almost concierge kind of service is very much needed, so we cannot ignore them. The goal would be to integrate and make connectivity among all those unlike devices, whether it's an IOS or an Android device, for example, with different operating systems, different architectures, seamlessly integrate. That's the challenge. That's what you have in the cell phone world today, right? It doesn't matter what carrier you have and it doesn't matter what kind of phone you have. You can talk to each other.

So we have to keep in mind that ubiquity is key and that there are going to be many, many different endpoints in the marketplace for a while and many different behaviors in using these endpoints and have to kind of solve for the whole thing. So, it's not a small problem, but it's doable. It's doable when you have companies, as we do in OVCC, all working to the same end for the good of the whole.

Jim Burton: I agree. I applaud your efforts because as a user I find myself in environments where it just becomes so painful to set up a call because someone else is using something different on the other end. Sometimes, they may have the same platform provider, it's just different equipment, different ways things are set up, or the service provider that's delivering part of the solution. I think, like many, many other end-users out there, we're looking forward to the day where it's as easy to have a video call as it is to have a telephone call.

Christine Howley: Agreed. It's something that I think we're all excited about. And if we're successful, which I truly believe we'll be, I think it would be a different world in three to five years.

Jim Burton: Is there anything that the audience to this podcast, whether it's an end user or a vendor, can do to help the cause?

Christine Howley: I think the end user should deal in two ways. First, internally within their own IT organization, let them know that they need video outside the organization to work as easily as using video within their organization works-number one. Number two, I think the IT organization or the decision makers within enterprises and smaller businesses pressure the service providers to solve for simplicity. And if more customers do that or potential customers do that, the service providers, I believe, will react favorably and more quickly. I don't think people should just sit back and say, "this is too different, I'm just going to use audio..."

Jim Burton: I agree. I think that sometimes end customers don't understand the power they have with the community. I think that anything you can do as an end user to push your vendor to improve is going to go a long way and be a very, very significant help. The other thing, too, is I think that the venders have to realize that it's always been the year of video. It seems like it's coming next year. And, while it has certainly grown it's never monopolized like a lot of people thought it would have at this time. I think a lot of that gets back to what you're dealing with. It's got to be made easier to use. We need more interoperability. I think there are some great opportunities for some venders out there to make that happen, particularly the interoperability piece.

Christine Howley: Yes, I agree.

Jim Burton: Well, it's been a delight working with you today, Chris, and understanding what's going on. I think your association is really in a position to help our industry and I applaud you for that. Thank you for joining me today.

Christine Howley: My pleasure. Have a wonderful day. Thank you.


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