Randy Schrock and Bernie Klein Discuss BT-Polycom-Microsoft Relationship

19 Sep 2010

Jim Burton, founder of UCStrategies, is joined by Randy Schrock and Bernie Klein in this podcast to discuss the partnership between BT Global Services, Polycom, and Microsoft. Randy Schrock is Vice President of Corporate Alliances for BT Global Services. Bernie Klein is Strategic Alliance Manager at Polycom.

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Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights, this is Jim Burton and I'm here today with Randy Schrock, Vice President of Corporate Alliances for BT Global Services and Bernie Klein, Strategic Alliance Manager at Polycom. Welcome gentlemen.

Bernie Klein: Hi, Jim.

Randy Schrock: Thank you, hello Jim.

Jim Burton: We're here today to talk about a unique relationship between Polycom, BT, and Microsoft. They made an announcement recently and quite frankly it's part of a series of announcements talking about what's going on in our marketplace that's so important. The challenges that our industry faces with interoperability, the challenge it faces with global deployment, and trying to integrate these various products to work together, and recently Polycom and BT made an announcement about their partnership with Microsoft that I think is extremely important and one we want to get into in a little more detail. But I thought it would be very interesting to start off understanding a little bit more about BT Global Services, so getting us started, Randy, could you give us a couple of comments on BT Global Services?

Randy Schrock: Sure, Jim, happy to, and I appreciate the opportunity today. So Global Services, if you think about it, takes the assets, the networked and converged network assets that BT Group brings to market and uses those as a way to take to customers in terms of solving business problems. So, when you think about networked IT Services, that's Global Services taking those network assets and putting them to work for customers in a way that reconciles to their business needs and imperatives.

Jim Burton: So you're basically the systems integration arm of BT, so in many cases if I were to buy BT Services, I wouldn't necessarily have to look at another systems integrator. That's a service that clearly BT is able to provide.

Randy Schrock: That's exactly right, and if you think about it in the way customers buy today, whether it's buying a particular service or a product or buying an outsource scenario. Whether it's delivered on-premise or in a managed service or a hosted service environment, that's exactly what Global Services does in terms of representation of that, like I said, the BT Group assets.

Jim Burton: Great, Bernie I haven't forgotten you, but I want to ask one more question as we're getting started here, of Randy. And Randy, give us some insight of some of the trends that you and BT have been observing over the last six months or so?

Randy Schrock: It's been fascinating, as a global leader in the telecommunications market, we see customers' buying criteria changing. In the past, the purchase of network services has been pretty straightforward. It's been circuits, and outsource scenarios, connections worldwide and it's changing. Customers are now looking at it from the standpoint of, "what else can I have that network infrastructure do for me other than just traditional data traffic? I want to use it for real-time collaborative applications and the flatness of the world; I need it to run enterprise voice for me, this concept of presence becomes really important that's trafficked across the network that not only sees somebody as green so that I can IM or chat with them, but a system can respond to it, in terms of internal workflow and business process."

So those are the kinds of things that our customers are looking for, in regard to the innovation of their network purchases, but it's also becoming the buying criteria of what a lot of people think are commodity network services. So I'm buying it for enterprise voice over IP. I'm buying it for a presence enablement and business process initiatives tied to my communication strategies.

Jim Burton: Thanks, Randy, one of the things I recall as Microsoft first introduced their Office Communications Server product, and as they rolled it out over the years and made enhancements/improvements, both BT and Polycom have been listed as important partners as part of Microsoft's programs and their ecosystems. Polycom has been a partner as I said from the very beginning and they continue to enhance and improve that relationship, and I recently saw an announcement where both Andy Miller from Polycom and Gurdeep Singh Pall from Microsoft talked about strengthening that relationship. Bernie, could you give us a little bit of background about that most recent announcement and that total relationship that the two companies have-that being Polycom and Microsoft?

Bernie Klein: That's a great question and thank you for bringing that up. As you mentioned, recently, Andy and Gurdeep came out with a press release and renewing of the vows between two companies, if you will, and what that will mean is joint solutions and a roadmap that's worked on together by the two companies to come out with solutions that will be easily integrated into Wave 14.

Jim Burton: That's really good. Polycom and BT recently made an announcement on a product that I understand the code name is Symphony, can the two of you give us some insight on that? Randy would you go first?

Randy Schrock: Sure, it's probably more of a project than it is a product, Jim. What it is, is it's an initiative tied to Microsoft releasing Lync, this next version of their unified communications enterprise voice platform. What we found is as we go to our largest customers-now they're very, very complex infrastructures and environments of worldwide multiple-country corporations-we need to have as solid and comprehensive and cohesive a unified communications strategy as we can. So when we approach Microsoft-centric unified communications with our customers, we believe that setting some partnerships with other best-of-breed vendors, product, and service vendors was super important. BT has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Polycom and in our commitment, BT's commitment to Microsoft to really lead in this space from a systems integration and intelli-communications environment, coupled with Polycom's announcement of this roadmap of strategies with Microsoft technology and Polycom's product strategy, it really created a very interesting opportunity for us to tie all those three things together.

What Symphony basically is, is it's a go-to-marketing initiative that is tied to Microsoft's technologies around Lync, BT's professional service and managed service capabilities and Polycom's audio and video endpoint devices. So we've built a number of reference architectures, four to be exact, we call them small, medium1, medium2, and large, that go from the three to five thousand users all the way up to hundreds of thousands of users or seats. And built the necessary interoperability and integration that a very large, multi-national corporate with very complex infrastructures could look at and say, "okay so that's exactly what I need," and it ties everything as I mentioned from services and solutions to technologies to products; it's quality of service of network, it's security, it's all the voice standards of being able to deliver five nines of dial tone in an IP telephony scenario. The kinds of things that are really expected when a company decides they're going to start sunsetting some of their legacy communications platforms and move forward on the Lync platform.

Bernie Klein: I'd just like to add to that; I think that through this partnership, we're taking UC-which certainly can be quite complex-and we're making it easy for customers. So we're offering a very strong customer experience. We're integrating the voice, video, conferencing, the services, and really giving a turnkey solution that will drive business and make a great customer experience.

Jim Burton: That's great and congratulations on that initiative; it's obviously going to do well, and it certainly meets requirements that these big enterprises have and makes life a little bit easier. We all know how complex UC is and anything that could be done to help simplify it but still deliver the best-of-breed solutions which you're doing is very, very important and I applaud you both for that and of course applaud Microsoft for their particular efforts and are helping make this happen as well.

That brings me to a final question that I have for the two of you. It's an interesting thing...a lot of my colleagues and I have been talking about this for a while, the death of the PBX-when will it finally end-and it's been a long, slow process. But yesterday, my colleague Eric Krapf at NoJitter made the comment that it looks like the Lync announcement may determine the end of the PBX as we know it. And the question I have for the two of you, do you believe that's the case? Do you think that we're really going to see the end of the PBX, or are we going to see it continue on as a viable part of solutions, more independent than they are integrated? So maybe you can comment on Eric's comment, Randy?

Randy Schrock: Sure I'll go first; I do believe we're in a very aggressive transition stage, Jim. I mean there's no question that as corporate business decision makers look at this, they really see an opportunity, and the opportunity certainly isn't to switch from technology A to technology B-that the opportunity is really all around economics and efficiencies. So as organizations look at end-of-life platforms that exist today like a PBX, for example, and the SLA's happen to be coming to terms of expiration with their vendors, they're looking at an opportunity to perhaps replace that platform with something that takes cost out of the business, that replaces what was being delivered technically, and offers them an ability to do something dramatically different or better. And from the standpoint of what we called unified communications and collaboration, what that means is, I can trade my existing system that's delivering voice dial tone, voicemail, etc., with a system that does just that, that costs less, that can be deployed on an existing platform and then I can start layering it with all the other things that come, in this case, from the Microsoft stack-whether that be business intelligence or enterprise content management or real-time collaboration or all the other things that are tied to the Microsoft message around business productivity. I don't believe that corporate decision makers can look at that and not necessarily see the death of the PBX as you mentioned, but just a real step change and what that kind of platform delivers for me. So again, tied to innovation, tied to economics, tied to a trigger or tipping point that they're looking at, saying I have to make a decision based on end-of-life or re-platforming. So I think the timing is perfect in terms of all of these things we've been hearing about unified communications now delivered in a way that replaces an existing platform that offers incrementally or exponentially more value.

Jim Burton: Well, one of the things that clearly Polycom plays in is in a market where they sell a family of endpoint devices that in many cases when it comes to their conference phones, almost every vendor on the planet uses when it comes to their endpoints, their IP desk sets, less of that happens but it would seem that the end of the PBX as we know it probably is going to open up more opportunities for endpoints for Polycom. What's your take on that, Bernie?

Bernie Klein: You know I totally agree, and I believe that enhancing the customer experience with the Polycom products that are developed specifically for Microsoft platform will certainly increase adoption. With the joint roadmap and the value add to customers that will definitely shorten the sales cycle and have a very positive impact for the customers.

Jim Burton: I absolutely agree; I think that I admire Avaya because they've been calling for a little while that it's no longer a telephone system, it's a feature server, and I believe that's exactly what the phone system of the future is. It's a feature server delivering what we typically would call, "call control components," or features to an end user to help connect calls and make it a simpler solution. So I think that a number of vendors have figured that out and as I talk to many vendors, which is what I do on a regular basis, none of them really think about themselves as being a PBX vendor. But some of them have had a little harder time shifting out of the mode of having this core component that's call control, we call a PBX and moving into the UC world, so I think that's really important.

Well, this is very exciting as we move forward, as unified communications evolved, partnerships and these types of relationships are critical to help our industry move forward, and I want to thank you both for joining me today. Randy thanks very much, I appreciate it.

Randy Schrock: Thank you very much Jim.

Jim Burton: And Bernie, again I appreciate your support and your help as well.

Bernie Klein: Absolutely, it was a pleasure-thanks, Jim.

Jim Burton: Thanks everybody.




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