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How Video Fits into Your Long-Term Digital Workplace Strategy with Pexip’s Jordan Owens – Futurum Tech Podcast Interview Series
by Daniel Newman | May 8, 2020

On this episode of Navigate, a special six-part podcast series with Pexip and Futurum Research, host Daniel Newman talks with Jordan Owens, VP of Architecture at Pexip, about how video fits into your long term digital workplace strategy.

Video Complements In-Person Meetings

COVID-19 forced companies to turn to video to work effectively and to connect with teams and employees now spread out across the country. While video is great for maintaining face-to-face interactions when remote, there will always be value in meeting in person. When we come out of this pandemic and return to business as normal, people will crave the human-to-human interaction.

But video will augment those meetings and help fill in the gaps. If someone is working from home or travelling, video conferencing will be more normal to ensure that person is connected to the workplace.

Businesses will realize that they used video to fill the void during this pandemic, why can’t it continue once we emerge and return to normal?

Realizing the Benefits of Video

Video conferencing will also be part of the digital workplace strategy because companies will finally see its worth. Companies will realize that this technology will help accelerate transformation and improve efficiency ultimately improving the bottom line. It will also likely eliminate unnecessary travel, saving companies money. A lot can get done in a well-assembled, secure, high definition, quick, easy to enter, frictionless video meeting. No need to travel across the country or across the globe for meetings.

For employees, video will be empowering. Employees will have a better work life balance once video is part of the digital workplace strategy. The current work environment is illustrating that employees can be effective working from home with video. Jordan predicts that managers and leaders will empower employees to make the decisions that are right for themselves. That could be creating a flexible work schedule, eliminating travel, or working from home full time. Employees are going to figure out how to use the tools they’re given, including video, to be more effective in their role in the workplace.

How to Deploy Video as a Long-Term Strategy

It’s clear that video is now mission-critical. Once we return to our normal work environments, IT leaders will be tasked with determining if they have the right tools in place to support video in the digital workplace strategy. This will likely require an audit and internal reflection on processes that are currently in place to determine where video fits.

Video isn’t going anywhere. It will soon be built into the fabric of how we work. If you’d like to learn more about Pexip, their products, offerings, and how they can help you add video to your digital workplace strategy, be sure to check out their website or listen to the full episode of Navigate below.

Transcript:

Daniel Newman: Welcome to Navigate, a six part podcast series brought to you by Pexip. My name is Daniel Newman. I’m the Founding Partner and Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and your host today. In this discussion I will be talking to Jordan Owens on what’s next and how video fits into your long term digital workplace strategy. Jordan, welcome to the show.

Jordan Owens: Thanks so much, Dan. Great to be with you. Certainly look forward to the conversation.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’m absolutely excited to talk about this. We are in the middle of April 2020 depending on when you’re listening to this. Hopefully right after we published it, but it could be April, it could be October, it could be 2025 and you’re calling from the future, but we are in the middle of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and I’m only pointing that out because obviously it gives some good context. We are all sheltered in place right now, being told to stay home unless we are essential to work.

This has risen, the need, desire and ability of companies to get behind enterprise video and different collaboration tools and Pexip being in this space has certainly seen a boost because of it. So while the event is been significantly problematic and unfortunate, it’s been great that these kinds of technologies have existed to help companies stay connected. And Jordan, I’m sure you’ve seen a huge spike in the demand for your products at Pexip.

Jordan Owens: One hundred percent, one hundred percent. Even if we take a step back and just look at us as a company and you start to look at things like our ability to transition, our ability to make sure that we maintain business continuity in this type of an environment, certainly video is paramount to that and who we are as an organization. We often forget … Just those of us in the industry, Dan, a lot like yourself, we often forget it, how we’re so used to this video culture and how easy it is for us to make this transition. And yet there’s a lot of other organizations out there that have struggled with this and have had to make various decisions on their own behalf in order to help maintain business continuity.

And to your point, I mean we’re fortunate enough to have been a part of a lot of that transition, especially within our own existing customer base as well as net new customers that have come onboard because of this. Working with them to realize video in a much different way. Some of our existing customers have grown 6, 700%. One customer’s grown over 1200% in their utilization of video since this pandemic has broken out. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of, albeit with a little bit of a sour tone, if you will, that’s surrounding this type of a growth. It’s just a shame that it is under these health concerns and health scares.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, yeah. You never want to succeed at someone else’s expense. However, this is one of those times where it’s really great that the tool like Pexip be an enabler, enable companies to continue forward. I mean we are going to come out of this, this will be over at some point. The exact timelines are being negotiated and debated around the world, but we do know we will return to some semblance of work, but we also know work will be different and that’s sort of sets the stage up really well for the rest of our conversation.

Before I jump in though, I do think it’s important, while you probably are in a small Pexip circle as a celebrity in your own rights, Jordan, hopefully there’s a big audience of folks that are listening to this show. So why don’t you just go ahead and introduce yourself and just tell everyone a little bit about what you do and your role at Pexip.

Jordan Owens: Yeah, absolutely. I will question that celebrity status comment for sure there, Dan, but Hey, I’ll take it anyway and get it, I guess. So my role inside Pexip is to help look after our technical and engineering teams here in the Americas. And whether that’s presales engineering and architecture, whether that’s post-sales engineering and support, professional services. I even assist and just kind of help look after our development operations team here in the American’s as well, making sure that they have everything that they need. At the end of the day, my purview inside this organization is to help make sure that all of our customers, all of our employees and the company as well from an America standpoint gets everything that it needs from a technical view, technical focus.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a big role. And by the way, Jordan, thank you personally, you’ve been quite the help as I become more and more acquainted with Pexip, you’ve been the point guy for me and as an industry analyst I get to play beyond collaboration with like a thousand tools. Everything from mobile devices, infrastructure. I get just boxes sent to me. My office is a disaster. You can’t tell by this video because I’ve got the one angle where you can’t see pile of video and people send me security. I got switches and routers. I’ve got about 14 laptops that I’ve had just send to me. So it’s kind of fun. I mean, it’s not the worst thing in the world to get all this stuff, but the point is, no matter how technical you are, it’s always great to get a helping hand.

But one of the things you’ve been really focused on, despite the fact that technically you’re very involved as a leading architecture, is the long-term strategy. So you alluded to this early on, our work has changed because we’ve been forced to change our work, but long-term, the old way of work will return to some extent. We don’t know exactly how much. Talk to me a little bit about how video fits. So we’ve seen how well it can work, but how is it going to fit? How do you see this continuing to fit as we evolve back to whatever this new normal that we keep hearing about is.

Jordan Owens: That’s actually, it’s a phenomenal question that those of us that have been in the industry have been trying to tout this idea that video is not a replacement for an in-person meeting. There’s always value in sitting around a coffee shop or grabbing a bite to eat with somebody, shaking some … or now touching somebody’s elbow. It’s the elbow shake now, right? Yeah, exactly.

As far as what needs to be done and I think, especially as we come out of this, I think there will be a starvation for human to human contact that people will want to jump in and restore both on a personal level as well as on a professional level. But where video really brings a tremendous amount of value is in the augmentation of those in person-meetings. As we come out of this, we will go back into the old way of working in many ways. People will return to an office, people will get back on planes, we will start to have events again and gatherings and happy hours and dinners and all of the things that business has often relied upon over many, many years.

Historically, we’ve always had this as well. We always have these gaps between in-person meetings. And video can help augment those gaps and help fill in those gaps with real human to human interaction. We’ve relied upon in the past, making a phone call, maybe sending an email lately, sending text messages or whatever the case may be. Those are now being replaced with a video and what people need today is to fill that with video because they’re starving for that human to human contact and that’s what’s going to remain is, well wait a minute, when we were in the middle of this crisis, we filled it with video. Why wouldn’t I want to continue to do that as we emerge out of it? And I think that’s where it’s really going to play a pivotal role.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I’ve had this slogan, turn your darn camera on. I keep saying to people, because most of the tools we use for years have had video. And some of them are clunky and awful and we don’t need to name names.

Some of them aren’t secure. We don’t need to talk about those either. The bottom line is the video has been there. It’s been there for a long time. I mean our kids. Mine are 18, 14 and my youngest is three. They all think of voice as video. Meaning the face to face is a video call. There is really no such thing as an analog audio call. The only time I allow my daughter or my daughter will even talk to me by voice only as if she’s in the car and it’s on a Bluetooth and she has headphones or otherwise they FaceTime you. And that’s how they communicate.

For some reason it’s generational though, as we came up through an era of talking on the phone and having voice calls and a lot of people hop on bridges and it’s so impersonal. I mean it’s so much more impersonal. And each of those … I talked to an interesting anthropologist, a digital anthropologist on a different podcast but she made a really good point with each of those sort of different layers of human to human. So you first of all, you take the physical presence away. You’ve already reduced at least to some extent the quality of communication. But video with a high quality audio and good throughput is the closest we can get right now. Again, you’ll add in the future, I do believe in things like VR and augmented reality and it will help us feel even closer, but right now, this connection that we have right now where you’re in high def, I’m in high def, we can see each other, we can full screen our communication feels about as personal as it can feel.

And I got to imagine a lot of companies have realized throughout this process that Holy smokes, meetings can be really good. Now I’m not to say like you said, not to say that we don’t ever want to go out and do a sales kick off in person again. Or not to say that we never want to have an event again, but to say, hey, for all the augmentation of those large events, the day to day sales, the day to day marketing and engineering meets, the day … Videos are a great alternative. And I think a lot of companies are going to be like, we could our travel budgets like 50%.

But you’ll laugh, Jordan, because you and I have been in this industry a long time and you and I knew each other long before you were here, long before I was doing what I’m doing. And we’ve heard this song and dance before. So I got to ask you, do you think this has been the pivotal moment though, where people are going to say, “You know what, finally we are really going to take this seriously.”

Jordan Owens: You know what? I do. And I’ll tell you the biggest reason why is not because I think companies are going to finally understand it. I think it’s because individuals will finally understand it. And the reason I say that is because it’s not just companies that have shut down and had moved people into their houses, but you can’t even travel to see your parents right now. Here in the United States, there are some will that will stop you with the border right now and we’ll take your temperature to see if you’re running a fever. And if you are, won’t let you in. They won’t give you the opportunity to then transition yourself into that state to go visit a relative or to visit a friend or anything along those lines. I’m banned from having … In the state of Virginia anyway, I’m banned from having a gathering of more than 10 people.

So we as a society have self-imposed these restrictions that are prohibiting human to human contact, which has now driven us to now connect over video for just a personal experience. And as a personal experience, we will not want to translate that into the workplace. So again, it’s going to stick.

Not because the company can save 50%, you’re 100% right, Dan. I’m not taking anything away from that, but it’s going to stick because as I go back into the workplace, I’m going to say, “Do I really want to get on that plane? Do I really want to go stay in this hotel? Do I really want to do …” I can talk to my parents, my grandparents, my kids, my cousins, my friends over video. Well, I can’t talk to my colleagues over video. I want to drive it that way.

Daniel Newman: As a person who spent 47 weeks a year on planes, I can tell you I’ve been home now a month straight, a little over a month and reducing my travel in half sounds perfect. Meaning I do miss some of the camaraderie, some of the large events and just the energy. I really miss sports, but I would take it on video right now.

But my point is like I have noticed I probably could be better at doing remote. Sometimes I could do a little less face to face and still get a lot done. Because we’ve gotten a lot done here and it’s also given me more time with the people in our lives that we care about, our families not being away all the time.

So there are a number of potential advantages, there’s better work life balance. There is reduced unnecessary travel, meaning that I think companies are going to be more steadfast to differentiate between necessary and unnecessary and I think those lines are going to … If there was a sliding scale of necessary and unnecessary, I think we’ve moved that slider on the scale.

As I said, I saw a meme really early in this whole coronavirus close down, Jordan and it said, “It turns out that that meeting could have been an email.” And I think maybe that’s a little bit extraordinary in a lot of cases because I do think emails end up being hundreds of emails and a lot of lost time. But you think about a well-assembled, secure, high definition, quick, easy to enter user experience, frictionless video meeting. A lot can get done, a lot can get done and I mean of course this doesn’t cover every job in every industry. There are certain roles that cannot just promote their work and do it on a video if you’re in a factory, if you’re in building and construction. But for people like us who are in knowledge work type roles, we did a lot of unnecessary travel, which kind of brings me to one of my later points in this conversation.

And everyone, we’ve got a few minutes left here. We’ve touched on it, but economically speaking, I know you and I have kind of alluded to this, but I do think companies are going to be pushing their digital transformations forward and looking at tech that accelerates transformation and improves efficiency. Well, I do think like you said that it’s not going to be just a straight like we want to cut all travel no more human to human. I think companies are going to look at it in that sort of sliding scale I talked about and say, “Look, we’ve got a workforce of 40,000 and 20,000 of them travel for work. What if we could reduce that by 20 or 25%?”

It never really materialized, Jordan, but I think it’s going to have to do now because I think companies, a lot of them have been hurt and those that haven’t are going to be way more concerned about showing good results in these next four to eight quarters.

Jordan Owens: I also think you’re going to see an impact from the perspective of employee empowerment.

Companies are going to come back into this and say, “You know what, Dan? You’ve shown me that you can be an effective employee in this working from home type of a model. I’m going to empower you to make the decision on what’s right for you and your role as things go forward. And if you feel that that trip’s unnecessary, I’m going to trust that that trips unnecessary. If you need to work from home for a week, I’m going to trust that you can work from home for a week. I’m going to empower you as the individual to make the decision that’s right for you.”

Which will in effect also drive that conversation. I mean, you were talking about memes, for example, there was a meme that I saw relatively early on in this that said, “List the entity that drove digital transformation for your company. The CEO, the CFO, the CTO, COVID-19.” And they circled COVID-19 right at the bottom. I mean it’s-

Daniel Newman: You should sell that on my wall.

Jordan Owens: Yeah, but I do think it is that conversation, which it’s about individual empowerment. It’s about individuals now mandating that they are empowered, that as they come back into the workplace, as they reenter this concept of normalcy, that we’ll have a much different conversation around how do we actually get work done? How do we affect productivity, how do we achieve more? And it’s not, I think as we both very much agree, it’s not one or the other. It’s how do we tradeoff between the sum of all of them in the right way so that we can all be more effective and more enabled inside of our roles?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time, Jordan, studying digital transformation and I don’t think I’ve seen anything that’s going to directly accelerate it the way this particular pandemic has.

Again, for that particular value, we will see acceleration of automation, of collaboration, of digital work, of remote work, never worth loss of human lives, never worth the kind of turmoil and pain. But it is amazing the human condition of just how extreme a situation sometimes has to be to really elicit change.

So I want to wrap this up with you on just asking you, I guess kind of a broad question. You’ve seen a lot, you talked to a lot of companies, you’re watching this, you’re clearly paying attention to digital transformation. What do you recommend companies do? What do you recommend IT leaders do to be able to really employ and deploy video as a long-term strategy in their business?

Jordan Owens: A multi-threaded answer to that question, but I think if I was going to try to boil it down into a small actionable conversation, it’s going to be to take a little bit of a breath and redefine what is trying to be achieved. A multitude of organizations have, as we’ve moved into this, have done nothing more than trying to grab whatever tools that they can easily and very quickly grab to employ in order to help maintain some sort of continuity. And that’s fine. I’m not taking anything away from that. In fact, I encourage it. I think it’s great for all of us involved, but the reason that they’ve done it is because they didn’t necessarily have the right tools in place. They didn’t necessarily have the right processes in place. They didn’t necessarily have the right capabilities internally in order to be able to affect that level of change.

And I think as we come out of this, companies are going to take a little bit of a step back and say, “Look, video is now mission critical. No one’s questioning that. It’s more important to what we do. It’s more important to how we do it. It’s more important to who we are as an identity. So there’s no question about that, but do we have the right tools in place to be able to support it? Do we have the right processes in place? Do we have the right people in place? Do we have the right partners in place? Are we working with the right organizations?”

They’re going to take a little bit of a step back and kind of evaluate its effectiveness. And I think they should embrace that step back. I think they should be willing to do that and to reflect internally to intrinsically review everything that they’ve done.

And maybe they come out of that and they said, “Look, everything we did was right for who we are and we’re going to continue to go forward.” And for that I’m fully supportive. I have zero issues with that whatsoever. But at the same time I also hesitate from the, you make a snap judgment, you do want to make sure that you then come back and you review that sound judge and just reaffirmed that that is the right path forward. And almost then figure out, okay, now that we’ve reaffirmed it, how do we then want to take it further? How do we want to expand on that? What does this mean in terms of us and next steps? And I think you’ll see a lot of organizations do that as we start to, if nothing else plan for coming out of this, even in a world where we don’t know when we will come out of it.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. And I think all of that’s really solid, Jordan. And as an industry analyst that looks at the tech across all of this, I’ll add security and privacy is going to be something enterprises need to be paying attention to. I talked to Giles Chamberlain in one of these episodes you have a chance to listen to it, one of the founders of Pexip. And we had a great discussion about … And the only reason I’m adding it to the long-term strategy is something that you kind of said but didn’t say specifically, but I want to kind of wrap on this note is IT needs to take charge of this.

We’ve seen this rise of SAS solutions infiltrating organizations at scale. And a lot of them start off with good intentions because they are potentially replacing a solution that maybe is productivity negative, meaning it’s something that’s difficult and cumbersome.

So someone, a skunkworks project brings a new toy and new tool into the organization, but when it catches scale, the IT leader needs to grab ahold, grab charge of it, make sure it meets the security, meets the privacy, meets the usability, but that it keeps the company’s integrity protected. We’ve all seen what’s gone on as video is scaled. There’s been problems with availability, there’s been problems with security, there’s been problems with data privacy. And so to add to everything Jordan said, I highly recommend making sure that if you’re an IT leader, if you’re a CIO, if you’re a Chief Digital Officer, being prudent and steadfast to be sure that you are caring for the integrity of the applications that are being run in your organization.

But Jordan, great conversation here today. Thank you so much for joining me on this podcast.

Jordan Owens: No, my pleasure, Dan. Thanks for having me and always great to talk to you.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, for everyone out there, thanks for tuning into this episode of Navigate in six parts. Be sure to listen to the other ones and we’ll make sure to include some links where you can learn more about everything that Jordan and I talked about in this podcast. But for this episode and for everyone out there that’s listening, we got to go, but we’ll see you later. Take care now.

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such. 

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