Joe Burton, CEO Plantronics/Polycom, Discusses the Company's New Name and Announcements at Enterprise Connect
In this Executive Insights videocast, BCStrategies’ Jim Burton is joined by Joe Burton, CEO of Plantronics and Polycom. Discussion topics include the announcement of the new company name and corporate logo, the mission and vision for the new company, and new product announcements happening at Enterprise Connect 2019, March 18-21, in Orlando. Scroll below the video to view the transcript of the conversation. Scroll below the video to view the transcript.
Jim Burton: Welcome to BCStrategies Executive Insights. I’m Jim Burton and I’m joined today by Joe Burton—no relation, by the way—and, Joe, I think the drumroll is appropriate, because you have a very, very important announcement to make.
Joe Burton: We do, Jim. We are announcing today the two industry pioneers, Plantronics and Polycom are now truly one company called Poly.
Jim: Congratulations. And, this is the logo and the name, very exciting. I must tell you I was a bit surprised when I heard the name. I was delighted, because you start thinking about all the different names that could come up, and boy, that was a great one.
So, let me know a little bit about what went into the naming of it, the whole process and how you came up with the logo and all of that.
Joe: Yes, let me talk about that for a few minutes, Jim. It was exciting. We are an entirely different company with an entirely different mission than either of our ancestors. Instead of being the world’s best headset company or the world’s best video conferencing or audio conferencing company, we are a new collaboration company that puts the user, the person, at the middle of everything we do. And, because of that, we gave ourselves permission to break from the past, to go off in an entirely new direction with a new name and logo. And, I really mean with a new one.
As we worked together as a team, we considered dozens of possibilities for new names that would be authentic to our new company and our new vision. But I remember the day that one of our brilliant, brilliant people purposed that we could do both. We could celebrate the past while boldly going in a new direction. So, starting with the name, Poly is clearly short, punchy, recognizable. It works well on products that are big, and small ones like headsets. And, obviously, you can see the Polycom heritage hiding in there. But we went with Poly, because Poly means many, many ways of communicating, one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many, many types of media, voice, video, data and beyond. And, many people, all collaborating in their own way. So, we just think Poly’s a homerun ten times over.
But, in my opinion, the logo is brilliant, too. Once again, it looks great small and large, which is really important for products. It works with Poly or as a standalone mark. Looks great in multiple colors. But the part that’s really cool, Jim, is both halves of our DNA are hiding in there. Clearly, when you look at the new Poly mark, you can see a stylized version of the ubiquitous Polycom conference phones, the Trio and its predecessors. But the other little part that’s hiding in there that you might not know is if you look at it, it looks a lot like an airplane propeller.
Jim: It does.
Joe: It does. And, interestingly, Plantronics was founded to create aviation headsets and our ties to the aviation community remain very strong today. So, we think it’s a phenomenal mark. It looks great on our products. And, there’s a little wink to both of our ancestors in there, too. It’s just really fun.
Jim: I really like it. I’ve kept up with Polycom and Plantronics since the mid-90s, and over the last couple of years I’ve seen the continuous changes that companies have made, and particularly with some of the things that Polycom went through. But what I’ve noticed recently is some of the changes you’ve made in your organization, some new blood that you’ve bringing, some of the reorganizations that you’re doing as the companies merge. And, I’ve been a little bit surprised by how dramatic it is. It’s as if it’s not a merger of two companies, it’s the creation of a whole new company.
Joe: It really is, Jim. I mean, we see ourselves as a brand-new company. In fact, I wrote this interesting email to our staff last Friday, meaning about a week ago now, where I actually wrote that I was thinking about moving into what I called “NewCo” at the time, because, we hadn’t told the employees that we were Poly. But as we moved into Poly, I was saying that as I was getting ready, I was thinking about a world where these two wonderful companies, Polycom and Plantronics, were retiring after successful careers. Then on 15 March, they were going out of business. The great news was, there’s this $2 billion brand-new company focused on taking the collaboration industry by storm that’s offered me a job for 18 March.
And I wanted all of their heads there. This isn’t Plantronics or Polycom with a new coat of paint. This is an entirely new company focused on connecting people, not just things, from the headset on the body to desktop devices like our Elara mobile phone station, IP phones, huddle rooms, board rooms and everywhere in-between. When people want to connect to people through a collaboration cloud, it’s going to happen with a Poly device. And, that’s a bigger, bigger, bigger mission than either one of these companies had in the past. And, that’s required a change in org structure and a change in talent, world-class people in the trenches, some world-class executives.
But to chase this new mission, we’ve organized very differently. We now are a personal systems division that has consumer headsets, business headsets and desktop phones. We’ve got another entire division focused on group collaboration. Where you mentioned new leaders, we actually had Tom Puorro come in from outside of the company to lead that up. We’ve reorganized our sales forces to be a single sales force maniacally chasing this mission. And, I got to tell you, we’re working together right now in such a way that somebody from the outside could never guess who came from one of our ancestors or the other. No finger-pointing, no remembering, just one Poly going into the future.
Jim: Well, that’s great. Well, you kind of led me into my next question, and that is—and, we’re going to get into products in a little bit. I want to know a little bit more about some products that you can tell us about. But one of the big questions, really, is your strategy going forward. I mean, you’re known in the industry for having vision, clearly. So, I think, love to hear about where you’re going to be taking the company. Because you’re just getting started, but clearly this is the beginning, not the middle of something.
Joe: Yeah. It really, it really is. There’s a lot going on here going forward. When we actually talk about our vision for the company, it’s a big one. We actually always put the person first, the individual at the center. And over the next five years plus, what we say is that we’re trying to create a world where people can listen, communicate, dream and create wherever they are. So, this is a big vision. We honestly think we can make a dent in it through great hardware, great software and great analytics that seamlessly work with the collaboration clouds.
So, really, what we’re doing here is we’re taking all that hardware from headsets to desk phones to conferencing phones to huddle rooms to the board room and everything in-between, we’re going to build the world’s best hardware. We’re going to have that layer of management software that makes it all work together, so you can tell what’s online, what’s offline, usage data, push new firmware updates and so forth. But we’re not stopping there. With literally every place that the human meets the collaboration cloud will through a piece of Poly hardware, we’re able to collect a lot of analytics with the user’s permission, the vast majority of it actually anonymous, but we can say things like this conference room is actually being used a lot, this one isn’t. That corner of the building is too noisy, this corner of the building has wireless interference. We can literally tell IT and the end user things they’ve never known before to improve the collaboration experience. And don’t even get me started on the better together story. So, what happens when your Poly headset gets near your Poly desk phone or conferencing system and real magic will be able to happen in the future.
So, big vision to create a phenomenal experience for end users, regardless of which collaboration cloud they’ve chosen.
Jim: One of the things that I’ve seen is your strategy is unchanged. And, it’s a very interesting document that maybe you’d like to spend a couple of minutes on. You actually started, just finished up talking about your sound-scaping product and some of the other components. So, you want to spend a minute kind of addressing the product areas and the services, and then we’ll get into, drill down in a little more detail?
Joe: Yeah, you bet. So, like you say, I pretty much covered the hardware that you touch, if you will, from headsets to IP phones to the various conference phones and video conferencing products. One of the other fascinating things we’ve been doing, Jim, is really thinking about the future of work, the modern work space. I think we all know that as people are going to these open-office, smarter, smarter working areas, it looks beautiful, it saves money. End users move into it and find that it’s a great place to collaborate, it’s a terrible place to concentrate. So, too much noise doesn’t work their way. So, once again, putting the user at the middle, we’ve really been trying to focus on what they want. So, in addition to collaboration products, it’s not only help me collaborate, but it shields me from some of that communications chaos.
One of the wonderful products that we’ve added in the portfolio is a product called Habitat Soundscaping. In many respects, Habitat Soundscaping is our usual create clear audio almost working in reverse. We’ve created this intelligent system where we have microphones and speakers in the ceiling, all hooked to a cloud backend with some very interesting algorithms. So, we’re literally listening to the sound in the building, we’re listening for sounds that might be distracting to a human being. And, then we’re firing the right sound back into the air to cause that sound to break up and fall into the background babble even quicker. So, all hooked to the same cloud, so you get some other magical effects. So, if you’re sitting in one of these open work areas, you’ll get this lovely waterfall sound, you’ll be able to see running water through a visual thing we have, and it works really good. If you put on your Plantronics headset while you’re sitting under that, you can choose, when you’re not on a call, you want to listen to music, or do you want to subscribe to Soundscaping? Do you want to hear that same waterfall and participate in a relaxing way?
So, really trying to create that whole sound environment from the individual to the device, to even literally the environment around them, all put together, all hooked to the same cloud. And, we even have a services organization that can help you plan and deploy these if your local reseller doesn’t quite have the skill.
Jim: I’ve seen that and heard that, and it is remarkable. I remember being there looking and couldn’t see the waterfall. I remember walking by it, but I still heard it. And, then I saw someone standing nearby and they were talking, but I couldn’t hear them. And, then they turned it off, and all of sudden, it’s what you normally hear.
Joe: It sounded like everybody started shouting all at once. Right?
Jim: Yes, exactly.
Joe: Yeah, it does.
Jim: It’s a remarkable thing. Well, while we’re on the…
Joe: Really astounding. Yeah, go ahead, Jim.
Jim: It really is. And, I think that that’s just a whole new business opportunity for you. I mean, I can’t imagine every business isn’t going to want to take a look at that, particularly when the open environments that people are working in now, you’ve got to have stuff like that.
While we’re on product, why don’t we go ahead and talk about some of the new products you’ll be announcing at Enterprise Connect? And, I know that there’s some partnerships and products that we can’t talk about today, and I’d like to invite you back for another discussion on that so we can talk about that. But let’s talk about what we can talk about today.
Joe: Yeah, you bet, Jim. We’re, I got to say, it is a big week of announcements for Poly at Enterprise Connect. So, about half of them we can talk about today and then there’s another handful of them that are coming later in the week. So, a few of things that we’re announcing, I’ll clip through them pretty quick. So, one of the first great pieces of Better Together, we make some of the best phones in the world, we make some of the best headsets in the world. We’ve really integrated our best headsets and our best phones completely together, so we’ll be announcing a Poly headset control application directly in the phone. So, you can configure your headsets, manage it, really have that Better Together experience between Poly headsets and Poly phones, all from the get-go going forward. Great announcement.
Poly Studio is in general availability. So, this is a plug-and-play video bar for the huddle room that is just phenomenal. I’m on one right now, if I could somehow turn around the camera and show you. This is my go-to product now. Portable, USB, works across pretty much every video conferencing platform you choose, plus Polycom’s legendary HD audio and video quality, all jammed into a really, really slick little package.
It’s actually getting a little brother. I brought a few toys I can show. It’s getting a little brother here. This is the EagleEye Cube, a video camera with 4k sensors for just phenomenal image quality, superrich sound that you can put in and upgrade virtually any small-to-midsize room. And, that’s also a USB product, so you can do it pretty well everywhere. I’ve been switching back and forth between the Poly Studio and the EagleEye Cube, testing here at home just seamlessly on my Windows machine and my Mac that I’m on today. So, really good on the video side.
On the audio side, couple of neat products, and I don’t have all of them over here, but a few more. So, this is the Blackwire 7225, so it’s a new UC headset designed for concentrating in open offices, very slick, USB, either A or C. But what’s really great about this—might be a little hard to tell in the video—it’s completely boom-less, so no boom that comes down. Instead, you’ve got a variety of microphones around the top forming an invisible boom. Great music, cool look, no boom, super-slick. I’ve been using it a lot here at home.
Jim: I noticed one other thing.
Joe: What’s that?
Jim: Color of the cord.
Joe: You know, the color of the cord is, the color of the cord is indeed the brand color, so that is, that is lava. It is not orange, and it is not red, it is lava. You’ll continue hearing a lot about lava going forward. But, yeah, it’s a punchy cool color, little bit of the same lava up here. It’s actually a little bit in the ear cups you can’t see. But it’s a headset that, even though it’s communications-focused, you feel just fine about walking around with it. It’s pretty slick.
Joe: Yeah. A couple of other things that I don’t have, we actually have a new status indicator coming, a light that sits on your desktop in an open office, connects with the headsets and the unified communications platform of your choice to show free/busy to people around you. So they know whether to come over and bug you or not.
A lot of good, great work on the management side. Plantronics Manager Pro, that lets IT professionals manage headsets, great new version of this with new features to help IT know what headsets they have, what’s working, what’s not, and what to do about it if there’s an issue. New management on the Polycom former products, so bringing Polycom Studio in where we can manage that product. So, this is really interesting. Unlike a lot of other huddle room products that are just to set on the counter and forget it, you can do that with ours, but if you have a whole bunch of Polycom high-end video rooms of the past, you have our management console, your Polycom Studio products now will show up in there, too. So, you can manage firmware, see what’s up and down, help people connect. Great, great enhancement to the management platform, as well as API enhancements.
Last product that, last product I’ll talk about here and we’ll save the rest of them for later in the week. Of course, I talked about our Elara 60 Series mobile phone station, which is, kind of looks like a phone, if you will. But then you just drop your mobile phone on top of it. It Blue Tooth connects, inductively charges, your headset goes right here. Really turns your mobile phone into a business phone the instant you come in. Very exciting. This product is actually in general availability as of Enterprise Connect, so we’re taking orders and rolling them out the door.
Jim: Oh, good.
Joe: Yeah, yeah. So, I may have forgot a product or two. If I did, we’ll catch them later in the week, along with some other really important product announcements.
Jim: Great. Well, this has been fabulous, Joe. I appreciate your time today. Very exciting news. I’m glad I could share it with you, and look forward to spending some time with you here at Enterprise Connect.
Joe: Looking forward to it, Jim, as always.
Jim: Great. Thanks.
Joe: Thank you.