VQ Conference Manager 3.0 – enable users to make more calls

  • Increased scaling and resilience
  • Multi-node clusters
  • More end user control through Outlook & iOS
  • Skype for Business redirector
  • Analytics 2 (Elasticsearch)

VQ Conference Manager 3.0 (“CM3”) was publicly shown for the first time 10 days ago at the Cisco Live event in Florida.

CM3 has been under development for the last 18 months and builds on the success of Acano Manager 2. Many things have changed, not least the name; we’ve reverted from Acano Manager back to VQ Conference Manager.

The objective with CM3 was to update the AM 2.x architecture to enable scaling, resilience and to provide user tooling and applications that would enable users to have more control of their conferencing experience and as a result of that, make more calls. In short, we want to enable the next generation of big systems and to drive up usage to further increase the return on investment customers are achieving on their Cisco Meeting Servers.

The internal architecture of CM3 has had a major rework and can be run as a multi-node cluster. Initially, this will be limited to a two VM node cluster which will then be increased over the next couple of releases. The cluster approach solves two problems: scalability and resilience. If components in the cluster fail, the system will detect the failure and restart the failing component. In the first versions of CM3, the database is not replicated and therefore represents a potential point of failure; as with the cluster size limitation, this will change in a future release. Another change for a future release will to support “replica master nodes” so that if the current master node fails, a replica master node takes over the role and the system continues running. In terms of scaling, it’ll also be possible to “scale-up” or “scale-down” the system to add, for example, more instances of the web-server to handle larger numbers of users using either the web user interface or the API based applications.

In terms of enabling end users to have more control over their conferencing, we’ve added a range of new applications: An Outlook Add-in that works on Office 2016 and Office 365 which allows users to see activity on their Spaces from within Outlook. Not only that, they can drill down into active calls, see who’s in the call and perform actions like change layout, mutes, set importance or remove people from the call. And create new Spaces or update/delete existing ones – for example, changing passcodes. Select a Space and Inject HTML details into Outlook Emails and Calendar invites to make it easy for other’s to “click to join” into calls. All from within Outlook and no requirement to go to an external website. The Add-in works on Windows, Mac and Office for Web applications.

We’ve also got an iOS Phone app that delivers essentially the same functionality as the Add-In.

There’s also an updated version of the current Outlook plugin for users on older versions of Outlook who can’t move to the Add-in.

And the final new app we will be releasing is a “Skype for Business redirector” plugin. This plugin runs silently within Outlook and replaces the default text injected when a user clicks on the Outlook “Skype for Business” button with details for the user’s CMS based Space.

The Scripting engine architecture and ‘scripting language’ have been replaced and are significantly improved. We’ve rationalized the available set of alerts and provide a wider set of “out of the box” HTML templates that include logos and icons.

The Analytics functionality we added in AM 2.x was OK but was a bit clunky and had limitations. We, therefore, decided to offer “Analytics 2” based on an amazing Open Source project called “Elasticsearch” and its visualization engine called “Kibana”  (also known as “ELK”). Analytics 1 will remain in the product for the foreseeable future but we envisage it eventually being removed. All Analytics data is copied into a separate Analytics 2 database (Elasticsearch) and, in addition, all the dashboard data for CMS licensing and bandwidth consumption is also now available historically (from the point in time you start using CM3).

Outside the new Applications and Analytics 2, functionality is essentially the same as AM 2.3 MR7. The UI, however, is much faster and the LDAP Importer pages have been improved and allow you to select historic log files to check what happened. You no longer lose the data if you leave the Importer page.

In terms of the system requirements and upgrade process:

  • CM3 requires a new VM (or two) with a minimum spec of 4 cores, 16GB of memory and 200GB of disk space per VM.
  • An update upgrade will be available for AM 2.3; install this and export the data. This copies out all the database and certificate data. Import this onto the new 3.0 VM. The process includes all audit and analytic data; this is then copied into the new Elasticsearch database. Historic CMS and bandwidth consumption data is not available in AM 2.3 and therefore cannot be carried forward so will start from the time the CM3 system was installed.

In terms of costs, there is no charge to upgrade from AM 2.x to CM 3.0 on a “like for like” basis. New functionality such as the Outlook Add-in is licensed separately. Analytics 2 in its base form is included as part of the package with an upgrade option available for customers who need to export data, set and mail alarms on threshold values. The objective is to enable you with masses of data and powerful visualization tools. VQ is now an OEM partner of Elasticsearch and can supply X-Pack license upgrades. There are no additional charges for multi-node configurations of CM3 (note: large clusters with multi-node Elasticsearch who have purchased X-Pack do require additional X-pack licenses for clustered Elasticsearch).

Windows customers will, I’m afraid, have to wait for the Windows world to catch-up with what is happening in the Open Source and Cloud worlds. CM3 is based on a Cloud technology from Google called “Kubernetes”; Windows Server 2019 will be available later this year and supports Kubernetes and Containers. Certifying CM3 against Windows Server 2019 is something we will do once it becomes available. We expect to offer Windows (and other) forms of Single Sign-On (“SSO”) relatively quickly; our recommended path for the majority of customers who use Windows because they need SSO will be to switch to the VM based version of CM3 that supports SSO (including Windows Authentication).

CM3 is the next step on the VQ journey; we’re very excited about the solutions it’ll enable and the problems we can help solve. We hope you like it too.

Availability is targeted for somewhere around July 16th 2018.

Technical Training Update

Do you want to get more from your VQ Conference Manager/CMS deployment?

Users of VQ Conference Manager are invited to enrol on two new remote VQ Conference Manager (formerly Acano Manager) courses run by Scott Waschler from TEKnowLogical Solutions, (an Acano and Cisco certified instructor) our technical training partner.

By attending these courses you will gain in depth and hands-on experience…

– To enhance the capabilities of your CMS deployment

– Give your operators and administrators more knowledge thus driving adoption

– Get the most from your investment

The first beta sessions have been scheduled for 12-16 February 2018 between 9AM and 5PM (CET).

Beta training sessions give you the opportunity to help shape the course for future sessions so it can meet your organisations specific needs and requirements.

The pricing reflects that they are beta courses and are offered at a 50% discount from the standard rates. You can sign up via the links below or contact Scott at TEKnowLogical directly.

2 day – VQ Conference Manager Concierge and Call Management

3 day – VQ Conference Manger: Deployment and System Administration (VQCM-DSA)

Looking back at 2017…

I haven’t put out a blog post for some time; with the year-end looming, I thought it would be a good idea to put out a quick update.

Very loosely, 2017 turned out to be “Year of the PIN”. This might surprise you as much as it surprised me. As 2017 started to unfold, it became apparent that something we’d considered in the abstract during the design and development of the Acano Manager 2 platform had become a reality. With a twist. Our focus in legacy versions of VQ had been around call management: how could we allow operators and the service delivery teams schedule, launch and manage calls? In volume and make it fast.

We knew from previous product generations that predictability of call experience was key; calls had to work well and work consistently. If that happened, users came to like the in-call experience (great audio and video) and trusted they could use it for business calls. Calls worked. Every time. Usage normally grew relentlessly.

We therefore went to a lot of effort to design predictability of the in-call experience into Acano Manager 2.

The twist was the customers wanted to use not only different types of calls and exploit the ability to have multiple roles per call, they also needed some roles to have PINs and others to not have PINs. That would have been OK but there was a subtle change in how CMS 2.1 handled PINs. The year started with PINs (or, to be more correct, PassCodes).

With flexible PINs in place, we started to see wide adoption of Acano Manager’s coSpace Templates and the ability to define Service Tiers; different groups of users being able to make different types of calls.

Customers started switching audio conferencing workloads from external providers to on-premises CMS/AM. That does interesting things to the ROI models!

By mid-year, new large enterprise systems were being commissioned and going into production. coSpace Templates (and those pesky PINs) played a bit part in enabling them. We’ve learned the hard way about many of the obscure ways things can go wrong creating coSpaces and all the associated objects. In addition to a steady string of refinements into Acano Manager itself, we’ve also created some very useful tools to identify and fix coSpaces issues which will eventually find themselves in the product allowing the system to self-heal.

The “Year of the PIN” label should probably be more accurately defined as “Provisioning year” but it just doesn’t sound as good. It doesn’t stop there, other really good areas of progress include reliability/robustness, performance and new functionality. And plenty of bug fixes. We’re really pleased how the 2.x platform has matured since it was launched in April 2016.

The remarkable thing about the year is where we are at the end of it. We now have over 100 instances of Acano Manager 2.x installed globally. In November, one of the biggest systems managed by AM 2.3 went through the significant milestone of over 1 million calls (call legs) in one month; the system’s November call volume was over 33 million minutes. If we annualize the call volumes for systems we have visibility on, Acano Manager managed CMS systems are delivering approximately 1 billion call minutes/year. This is just amazing and we’re incredibly proud to be part of the global team (customers, resellers, Cisco and VQ) enabling this volume of calls.

If you have call volume data you could share with me, please let me know and we’d really appreciate it. We will not reveal customer names; the data will be aggregated and will remain anonymous.

Behind the scenes, we’ve invested heavily in how the product evolves and we’re really excited about how that is looking; expect more on that next year.

Oh, and one last thing…..

We’re hiring. If you or somebody you know is looking for a new challenge….we’ll be adding open positions onto the web site. The team say they really like working at VQ; some have even said it’s the best job they ever had.

Enjoy the rest of 2017 and have a great 2018.

Mike

VQ’s New Technical Training Partner

VQ Communications is delighted to announce our new technical training partner, TEKnowLogical Solutions.

We caught up with TEKnowLogical’s President, Scott Waschler to discuss the partnership and how the courses can benefit your organisation.

Can you give a brief summary of the courses?

We’re still in the design phase of our ISD (Instructional System Design) model however, the plan is to release three initial tiers of training. These will be…

  • End User Tutorials
  • Operator Concierge and Call Management Training
  • Deployment and System Administration Training

Who are the courses aimed at?

Depending on the course, each one is aimed at a different audience. For example the End User tutorial is much more for mass consumption; it’s for anyone who operates, maintains or schedules Cisco Meeting Server based meetings with VQ Conference Manager. The Operator Concierge and Call Management training course is targeted at people who are assigned to support the End Users through a concierge or scheduling service. The Deployment and System Administrator course is for audiences at an Engineering level. It’s for those who will be deploying VQ Conference Manager and CMS and who will also be responsible for troubleshooting and maintaining the operation of these systems for the long term.

Tell us about your background as a trainer in Acano and CMS?

It was a great compliment back in 2013 when Acano executives called me and asked if I would partner with them as their training distributor; I soon became Acano Certified Trainer #1. My partnership with Acano led me to create the Acano Basic Product course, Acano Certified Operator course and both Acano Certified Expert Parts I and II. Since the Cisco acquisition of Acano, I deliver hands on training on CMS and CMA. Alongside that I am currently engaged in CMS projects as a Deployment and Troubleshooting Engineer. Most recently I have worked with a major U.S Government department.

How have you found working with VQ?

The support and expertise I have received from VQ has really been exceptional. I’ve found the team welcoming and eager to support my efforts with their time and skillset. It’s really exciting to be part of a partnership where I am working with a team of knowledgeable engineers who are both dedicated and passionate about their product.

Why should a user go on the courses?

The truth about training in general is that there is little any trainer can do to replace real-life experience in the classroom environment. However, the idea of this particular training is to get the System Administrator or the Operator to the point where they can go into the field with confidence and be able to immediately impact the operations of the organisation. The training is designed to make sure you’re prepared for the real world environment.

How does the course offer a ROI?

The course is designed to put the organisations investment into use immediately. This involves having a shorter time to deployment, quicker operational time and having operators who are ready to impact the users capabilities. All of these add to the user adoption. Once users have adopted a platform immediate ROI can be seen from factors such as reduced travelling costs.

What will engineers get at the end of the course?

Users will receive two levels of certification, VQ Conference Manager Certified Operator and VQ Conference Manager Certified System Administrator.

What do you personally think is the most interesting and exciting parts of the courses?

From an engineering perspective, I believe these courses are interesting as they show the interaction between VQ Conference Manager and CMS. In particular the fact that VQ Conference Manager wraps the complex REST API (Application Programming Interface) exposed by CMS. This allows you to replace very complex hierarchical command structures of collections and objects with an easy to use browser based user interface. Within moments from when you tick these boxes you are able to create entire call leg profiles, user profiles and a lot of other things that would normally take hours of planning to generate.

When will you be running the courses and how frequently?

Beta classes are scheduled for the end of January 2018. Initially I will offer training once every two months, but I will adjust the schedule based on demand.

Where will you be running the courses? Are any parts of the course online?

All of these courses are designed to be held remotely, but will also be scheduled on site in the Washington DC area. As the demand and student concentrations become better understood, we will be glad to adjust to the need. The classes will not just be scheduled on East Coast US time they will be scheduled in three major regions, North America, Europe and APAC.

Interested? Here’s what to do next:

Interested System Administrators and Operators can contact us directly info@teknowlogical.com. There will also soon be more information available at www.teknowlogical.com.

VQ and Small Deployments

In the third of this blog series Barry Pascolutti shares his thoughts and experiences on why VQ Conference Manager is as relevant in a smaller deployment as well as in larger deployments.

Are there any differences between large and small deployments?

In terms of feature sets, no. A user’s experience should be exactly the same whether they are in a large or a small deployment and CMS was designed to be scalable from the outset from small to medium enterprises all the way to large service providers; the idea being that if you need more capacity you throw another box at it and everything scales up like that.

Very large conferences are obviously different from very small ones. The user experience is different particularly because you can’t see everyone on the screen at once and you need more meeting control. You probably need a moderator in large conferences but the process of provisioning that conference should be identical, irrespective of size. The steps you take to start the meeting, join the meeting etc., they are all identical.

With larger scales you do have more redundancy. In a small deployment, you may just have a single box and so that’s going to be a single point of failure. With larger scales you have more to do with your dial plan – do you have a regional versus a flat dial plan, or do you need to consider least-cost routing. All those sorts of considerations are important but the day to day operations between a large scale and a small scale should be absolutely identical.

Does VQ Conference Manager as a product stand up to the rigorous corporate standards for video conferencing?

Absolutely, we do. We have a 15 year pedigree, delivering video conferencing management solutions and we have developed our system in collaboration with some very large deployments and global organisations. We have gone along this journey with them. Today VQ Conference Manager is used by finance organisations, healthcare, private sector, public sector, manufacturers– all sorts of verticals all over the world. Organisations with the highest and most stringent standards for policy and compliance requirements.

How does the VQ Conference Manager pricing model work for a small deployment?

We price on scale so it’s designed to grow with your requirements. So if you have a small deployment the price will be at the low scale and as your requirements grow we will price it accordingly.

Is provisioning important for small deployments?

Yes for small and large deployments. Your users can’t access the system until they have been provisioned and manually provisioning your users is going to be an administrative burden and overhead whether you are talking about 10 or 10,000 users.

Is integration with CMS licensing important for small deployments?

The CMS licensing integration is irrespective of deployment size. The importance of CMS licensing is not dependant on the size of deployment but more on what type of licensing you have. A shared multi-party license is a shared multi-party whether you have one or a 100 of them. With a personal multi-party, on the other hand, you need to make sure that you are using them when you are entitled to because there is quite a price difference between an SMP and a PMP. This true whether you have 10 or 10,000.

Is self-service important with small deployments?

Yes. Although it is easier for a video conferencing admin group to scale down to small numbers, i.e. the white glove, concierge operator managed conference, just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should do a thing. You don’t set up audio conferences for example, for people. When was the last time you were asked to set up a very simple audio bridge? Everyone knows how to dial into their own audio bridge and it should be the same with video conferences. The technology is definitely there to make it simple, pretty much the same as dialling into an audio bridge, so we should use it. This is certainly true of large organisations but you should do it for the smaller ones too. And then when you are ready to scale that service, if your organisation grows, you can grow the size of your video conferencing deployment because your users are already used to self-service. That self-service paradigm will grow as your deployment grows.

Is controlling video from one place important with small deployments?

I think so. One could argue that the view from the CMS web admin presents pretty much the same information as the view from the operator view of VQ Conference Manager. But it doesn’t allow the same call control. You can see what’s going on but you can’t control what’s going on. The requirement to provide operator control of video conferencing exists however large your organisation or video deployment. You still have a need to control that conference.

Is Analytics important with small deployments?

This is another example of something that is important irrespective of size of deployment. Even if you have one call and one user, you still need the historical data to track your usage and you also might have issues you need to trouble-shoot.

And even what we are calling a small deployment might still involve participants from outside your organisation and might involve large numbers of participants. One shared multi-party license is not limited in the number of participants you can include in the conference. You are only limited in the hardware scale. So even with what we are calling small deployments, the scale could be very significant and that has the potential to mean you require Analytics and Reporting.

 

So, if you are considering a small deployment, or indeed a larger deployment of video conferencing and you want to see how VQ Conference Manager can form an integral part of your conferencing toolset, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Click here to arrange a Product Demo

 

 

My 9 Month VQ Update

In the next of our series of blogs from Barry Pascolutti (Lead Sales Engineer) we interviewed him on how he’s found his first 9 months here at VQ Communications. This is what he has to say………….

What have you found most exciting working at VQ in your first 9 months?

Well ultimately I’m a sales guy so obviously I get very excited when I close deals, especially the larger ones. I think my trip to the US was also very exciting. In particular, seeing customers with our software in actual and production environments, talking with the customers about how they use it and getting real insight into the issues they are having. I also thoroughly enjoyed InfoComm; seeing what is happening in the industry and the latest trends. It was also good to catch up with former colleagues and friends – these things are great in that you’ll always see familiar faces. People move organisations but they still go to these events. But mostly it has been the move from working at a very, very large organisation to a small dynamic organisation, such as VQ.

VQ has been going for a long time now and the product is mature and very well established but the size of the organisation, the ethos of the people within it and the dynamism of VQ all make it feel like a start up environment and there are very few, more exciting environments to work in than that.

What is it about the software that potential customers are most interested in when you talk with them in the pre-sales process?

There are 2 things that are getting the greatest reaction from customers during demonstrations. The first is the Operator View – the single place where your on-going calls can be monitored and controlled in a single pane. The second is Reporting; both real time Dashboards and the historical Analytics. Both of these features give admins and service delivery teams true visibility of everything going on within their system and confidence that it is working as it should.

Can you describe some of the problems VQ has solved for our customers in the last 9 months.

I think one which comes readily to mind is the fact that in order to achieve much of the functionality and gain access to much of the feature set within CMS you have to do that via the API. And this is fine in a lab or if you want to teach yourself how REST API’s work, but in production it means you have to write and maintain quite a large toolset. And even if you have the skills in house to do this, and we have many customers who do have these skills, this is still a huge chunk of work. I have many conversations with customers who have gone along these very same lines. They’ve started using CMS, realized exactly how much work is needed to gain access to these CMS features and then started writing their toolsets. They have had some success but have realised that in order to complete that work and maintain it, a significant effort from the team is required. Probably a permanent job for a good-sized team. The other point is that here all I’m talking about is configuration and service creation. Reporting, well you can’t do that and it is actually very difficult to write. We wrote reporting functions and that was a significant chunk of R&D effort from our perspective. To expect someone to repeat that in their own environment, I don’t think that is realistic.

The other thing is parameterized service delivery; provisioning video conferencing based on who the user is and what dept. they are in. For example, User A gets one set of service levels and User B a different set of service levels. And finally automating this process, so that when people move organisations, or when they leave or people join, keeping track of those changes automatically. So the new user is provisioned and old users are removed.

What are the light-bulb moments when talking to customers when they understand the value of VQ Conference Manager?

I remember a couple of times when people were surprised when centralised control of the video conference was even possible. So observing me change screen layouts, and seeing the effect that had on their view, resulted in real wonder. But now when admins realise they don’t have to manually create Spaces on behalf of their users, because these are created automatically when the users are imported by VQ Conference Manager, this is a real revelation.

How easy has it been to sell VQ Conference Manager?

This does vary. In many instances it has largely sold itself. People see the features, they love them and they have come into the sales process knowing that they want the features we deliver. It doesn’t take much to calculate how much time and effort we can save, for example, in terms of user provisioning.

But in several environments customers need a proof of concept. This is fine and I actively encourage it. This gives the users the confidence that we will stand up and deliver software that enables them to provide services, not just generically but specific to their environment. And I’m very confident that we can stand up and prove our worth in your environment and solve your problems. And we do track how successful we are in turning proofs of concept into successful sales and the signs are very, very good.

What are you looking forward to in your next months at VQ?

Our roadmap for 2018 is exciting and I’m very much looking forward to sharing more about this in the coming months. Also, I want to see us grow our channel. This is a very interesting time in the industry. I’m seeing huge demand and we have real momentum behind us. I want to capitalise on this as much as we possibly can and meet this increasing demand that I’m sure we are going to see. But I think the best way for us to grow and scale to meet that demand is through our channel. Now this requires more than just signing up new partners and organisations. I will be up-skilling and training them so that they can become more self-sufficient and then see their own revenues grow as they scale up their own operations.

 

Exciting times indeed.

Why it’s essential you think long-term when choosing video conferencing tools

If you’re planning to roll out a new service to your users, you’ll probably discover that most people don’t like change. Change is unpopular and disruptive. For example, if you choose one business messaging tool and everyone adopts it and is happy with it and you suddenly make a policy decision to move to a completely different messaging tool, that kind of thing is hugely disruptive to your business. It takes months during which your staff are less productive than they would be. The same is certainly true of video conferencing.

So that means when you plan your video conferencing service – how people interact with the service, how people use the service, how people create their Spaces, how people behave in the meetings, the policies you define for access codes and your dial plan – you have got to have that right at the beginning so you know that how people use the service and behave will be the same, not just next year but in 5 or even 10 years time.

You need to have a toolset that allows you to do this.

So, what toolset?

Good management software can be the difference between a successful video conferencing service and an expensive failure. So when you pick a management platform, here’s what it needs to be capable of if it’s to be viable in the long term.

  1. Self-service – the only way you are going to deliver a video-conferencing service which will grow sustainably is to offer your users self-service. This means your users can – and have the confidence to – create and dial into conferences themselves. They can schedule their conferences using tools already familiar to them. They need to be able to control their calls, adding people to the conference, know how to control and edit their PINs and be confident that their Spaces are always available. To scale it’s key that they are self sufficient. It doesn’t scale if they have to rely on a service delivery team.
  2. Consistent and tailored in-call experiences – not only do your users need be confident that their Spaces are always available, they need to know what everyone in the conference is experiencing – i.e. screen layouts for you and the other participants and that the in call experience is consistent, each time they make a call.
  3. Automation and reporting – you need to ensure your administrators and call operators have the tools they require to sustainably manage and maintain a video conferencing service. The larger the service grows, the more important this becomes.

For example, they need ways of keeping tabs on large numbers of calls and spotting potential problems before they affect your users. Automated alerts are therefore a must-have, as are analytics tools that show how all aspects of your service is operating.

Administrators also need an easy way of provisioning the service for users and maintaining appropriate access to the service as people join, move roles or leave. Particularly in larger organisations, these sorts of changes happen daily, so manually updating the video conferencing service user database isn’t viable. You need a management tool that integrates with your enterprise user management system and automatically keeps itself updated.

 

Then there’s reporting, which will play a vital role as your video conferencing service grows. First off, when you make a big investment like this, your sponsors will want to see it delivering returns, so your administrators need tools that enable them to demonstrate this. Second, because your service will invariably grow, you need to be able to forecast when you’ll require further capacity. And thirdly, these forecasts will provide the evidence you need to support future business cases for expanding the system.

So that’s the tools – what else does VQ do?

There’s probably a lot riding on the decisions your organization makes about its video conferencing tools: you need to ensure you make the right choices for the long term. This is why it’s best to minimize risk by choosing tools that have proven themselves capable of supporting businesses as they grow their video conferencing services.

VQ has proven itself on this growth journey.

In terms of scale, we have 100’s of customers, including some that are very large. One of our biggest customers has 50,000 users and that is across a CMS estate of 8 nodes. Another customer has a similar size CMS estate, and they are using our Analytics reporting engine which reports 20 million minutes of conference per month. Across all our customers, we are confident that within a year, we are going to see 1 billion call minutes per year.

VQ goes on the journey with customers.

This particular customer started small and VQ were with them all the way. Prior to CMS, with their previous conferencing infrastructure, VQ was their conference management product of choice. We have been on this journey with them for a number of years now, from their first, initial small handful of calls, right up to this 20 million minutes per month.

So if you want to see how VQ can form an integral part of your video conferencing toolset I’d be delighted to hear from you.

You can arrange a Product Demo from info@vqcomms.com

Self-Service and why it matters

I get asked time and time again why self-service is important when choosing a video conference service. This blog gives my thoughts and why it’s great news that VQ Conference Manager makes self-service possible.

If you want to deliver a video conferencing service to your users and staff, from small to the very large deployments (and by that I’m talking about 10’s of thousands of users), the only way you are going to do this sustainably is by offering self-service. Self-service is the only way you will scale.

What self-service means is users schedule their conferences using tools already familiar to them; tools which already exist on their desktop. Why is this important?

Well, if they are already familiar with the tools, they know how to use them and you don’t have to train them. A great example of this is the Outlook calendar. Everyone knows how to use schedule a meeting using Outlook.

Self-service also means users are able to control their calls; they need to be able to add people to the call, they need to be able to control and edit their PIN numbers, they need to have the confidence to know what everyone in the conference is experiencing.

The alternative is having your users rely on a service delivery team. That doesn’t scale. Your users need to be able to do it for themselves.

And the good news is that VQ Conference Manager delivers all of this.

We have an easy to use web portal which allows users to control their conferences, participants, edit their PINs, change screen layouts and they can have an integration with Outlook, so users can schedule a video conference using familiar tools such as the Outlook calendar.

So what, you ask, would the alternative be if you didn’t have this self-service and your video conference service started to grow?

Well you would have to provide a team to do it for you. This doesn’t scale. I’ve been in video conferencing for a very long time; I go back to what I regard as the “bad old days” when there were always n + 5 participants in a video conference, and that + 5 were the back support team. You needed a support engineer at every location to make sure the video layouts were correct, another to make sure that the video conference equipment, itself worked. The users themselves lacked confidence that the video conference would work without these people in place and this just doesn’t scale. Yes, it works if you are going to have one or 2 important meetings every day, amongst a small select group within your organisation but if your whole organisation is wanting to meet on video, this is impossible to deliver unless they can do it for themselves.

So, the whole point about self-service is giving your users the confidence that the system is going to be there, just like flicking the switch and the light coming on. The video conferencing has got to be exactly the same. Your users have got to have the trust that when they dial into their Space they know how it behaves; it is always behaves in exactly the same way. Then usage on the system will grow and return on investment will improve.

Click here to find out more about why you should choose VQ Conference Manager to deliver your self-service video conferencing service.

Where in the world?

One of the things that has struck me over the summer months is how globally we find our software has been deployed. A quick look over our most recent purchase orders shows VQ Conference Manager managing CMS deployments in the US Federal, Food, Health, Defence, Service Providers and Finance sectors, located in Hong Kong, Australia, Russia, Argentina and of course Europe and the USA.

All very exciting but what does this tell us? It is clear that there is no industry vertical leader in deployment of great collaboration tools anymore. With VQ Conference Manager we can help our customers deliver the service their users want, or have come to expect. Whether that is old school white glove concierge, through to the scalability that self-service enables. One of our largest deployments now reports 1 million + minutes a day, truly delivering on allowing users to determine how they want to use their tool set.

Back at VQ, and to keep pace, our team is growing. We have added software engineers, and are adding more through 2017. We also have a couple of major technology steps to announce later this year – think scale and accessibility. Our channel continues to grow, and deepen, with another shortly to join who adds something unique. Not a quiet summer by any means.

 

My Week in the USA

In what is becoming a regular travel update, I wanted to tell you about my latest trip: this time to the USA. On paper, the schedule looked gruelling: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Orlando all in a week. But I actually got plenty out of the trip both personally and professionally.

Between customer visits in New York, I had time for some sightseeing (Empire State, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial) and I appreciated for the first time the ubiquity and convenience of a certain ride-sharing service. I use it at home, of course, but it has only just started in my area and the sheer facility of it across the Pond is on another scale, not just in NYC but all over the US. It’s not an exaggeration to say Uber has revolutionised the taxi business. I think there are analogies here too, with the way VQ and CMS, with their scale and convenience, are enabling video conferencing to become a ubiquitous, self-service facility that people just ‘use’ without having to plan or book.

Then onto Philadelphia to give 2 days of training for one of our key US partners; product development, road map and answering specific customer queries. These sessions are a great opportunity to really understand how VQ Conference Manager is being used in real life situations. We believe that scalability and self-service are key drivers, and these sessions re-iterated for me the sense that we are hitting the mark on these, both now and with our product roadmap. Subsequent customer visits and product demonstrations built on this. It is always very pleasing to see VQ Conference Manager in use and to hear from customers how it is assisting the adoption of video and the associated benefits of this.

As an aside, I was also reminded several times of the adage about UK and US being two cultures separated by a common language as I was corrected on my pronunciation of “schedule”. This is a word one uses a lot during a demonstration of VQ Conference Manager and not putting the hard ‘c’ in it tends to get noticed.

Unfortunately, there was no time to see “The Rocky Steps” or the Liberty Bell as I was on a tight schedule (with hard ‘c’) to get to Washington. And from there to Orlando and the InfoComm 2017 trade show.

Infocomm is a great way to connect with partners and customers, see what is happening in the wider industry, attend the user groups and side meetings and feed this back into our roadmap and product development teams.

So to wrap up, all in all, a hugely rewarding trip. I see the UC industry as a whole, the video conferencing industry and VQ Communications in particular, continue to build momentum and deliver excellent collaboration solutions.

Now I’m back from the US, we’re planning our next programme of webinars. Watch out for further details in the next few weeks.