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.

Speaking at NDC Oslo

Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to speak at NDC Oslo, which was a fantastic experience. On a personal level it was exciting and fun, and on a more professional level, it was incredibly beneficial to talk to other people from around the world about different technologies and how they can be effectively utilised.

I would like to praise NDC for hosting a conference with an incredibly diverse set of speakers, it was great to see a fair representation of women speakers, from all over the world. NDC has always been a warm, welcoming environment, and this year was no different.

My talk was about something called The Blub Paradox, and how we at VQ step outside of our comfort zone to try and find the best tool for the job at hand. The talk was well received, and the attendees appreciated how VQ have even contributed to OSS, both financially, and with our own packages / pull requests. Hopefully, this has inspired more people to take this approach back to their respective companies and will start doing the same. VQ Communications was also mentioned outside of my talk, by Kristian Hellang on Microsoft’s Channel 9. This says to me, we must be doing something right in the software industry.

All of the talks were recorded and will be uploaded to the NDC Vimeo within the next few months.

The conference lasts 3 days, which meant I was given plenty of free time to attend other sessions and see what other people are doing, which is always incredibly useful and has led to some inspirational ideas on how we at VQ can improve and be even better. All of the talks I attended were great, but the most useful “track” I visited, was undoubtedly the unofficial “hallway track”, or to put another way: Talking to attendees, listening and learning. Attendees and speakers travelled from all over the world, and they have some interesting stories to share. A particular highlight was talking to an industry leader about VQ’s approach to writing software, and having it described as “refreshing”.

Although I have spoken at numerous events in the UK, this was the first time I had done any abroad, and on such a big stage, so naturally, I was quite nervous. The organisers were fantastic every step of the way, and the nerves soon disappeared. They even took the speakers (and some attendees) on an Oslofjord Shrimp Cruise, which gave some incredible views of the city and surrounding area. Sitting outside on a boat discussing software, culture and everything else was incredibly relaxing and made for a great conference.

I cannot speak highly enough of NDC, and attending conferences in general. They truly are a great way to learn, and I would recommend attending a conference/local user group/anything similar, to any developer.

My 3 Month VQ Update

So, I’ve been at VQ for well over 3 months now and I thought I’d give you another update from me.

I hadn’t appreciated when I started, what a truly international business VQ Communications is. Giles spoke about his US trip in his April blog and my passport is seeing quite a bit of use, too. I was in Switzerland last week, visiting partners and customers to provide both training and supporting new Conference Manager deployments. I did a fair bit of travelling whilst there and as an aside, for anyone needing to use it, it’s a great train service from Geneva to Lausanne: comfortable, punctual and clean.

Next week Mike and I will be training a partner in Bulgaria and then I’m off to the US for an intense week of meetings culminating in the InfoComm trade show in Orlando. If you are going to be there, please let me know: I would like to meet as many customers and partners as I can.

But of course, there’s no need for everybody to get on a plane every time we need to meet. Not with the almost-as-good-as-being-there experience offered by modern video conferencing platforms such as CMS. At VQ we have partners and customers all over the world. South America, Australia, USA, Vietnam, India, South Africa come readily to mind but there are many more and we are in regular video contact with many of them. I am always reminded how much easier it is to communicate, (especially where not everyone is using their first language), when you can actually see who you’re talking to.

Then there are the webinars that I run. These are timed to accommodate as many time zones around the world as I can and they do always feel like very international events. You should be receiving the invitation for the next webinar soon, by the way, so please make sure you register. The feedback I receive is positive and it’s a great opportunity to catch up with the latest VQ news.

We are indeed seeing huge demand from all over the world, and we have the tools and capability to service our growing list of international customers and partners from our home base in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

I look forward to welcoming many more worldwide users to the VQ customer base. Exciting times indeed. More from me again after my next trips.

VQ’s Partner & Reseller Update – May 2017

We’ve been making great progress here at VQ since I last spoke to you about our Partner Programme back in October.

Last week we were delighted to announce that Perfect Wave Technologies had become our Master Distributor in the US. Alongside Perfect Wave, we are really pleased to welcome West Telco, Transition Systems and 8 other partners to the VQ family who are located across the globe.

It’s an exciting time here at VQ. We have ever-growing resources for our Resellers, available via the VQ Portal. New members of the team have also joined.  They come to us with years of invaluable experience working with this technology and are experts in their fields.

I look forward to updating you over the coming months with more Reseller and Partner news on this VQ journey.

 

 

VQ’s new Master Distributor in the USA

5th May 2017: Perfect Wave Technologies and VQ Communications sign Master Distributor agreement for the USA.

UK based VQ Communications are a leading supplier of management software for video conferencing and unified communications. Acano Manager 2 is deployed globally and hosts some of the largest Cisco Meeting Server deployments.

Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, USA, Perfect Wave Technologies, are a team of skilled experts in the video collaboration market who offer products and services that allow customers to utilize their existing collaborative investments and cohesively integrate new technologies. Perfect Wave’s team of experts knows how to design and implement easy-to-use video conference rooms, and how to provide training and support that help clients make the most of their investment.

“Perfect Wave Technologies is extremely excited at the opportunity to partner with VQ Communications and act as their Master U.S Distributor.” says Rick Green, President of Perfect Wave Technologies. “As a service organization dedicated to enhancing our partners customer service offerings, we believe the VQ solution fills a significant void in the market place by truly optimizing previously purchased Acano solutions as well as new CMS deployments through their management and monitoring software.”

“We are delighted to be working with Perfect Wave” states Mike Horsley, CEO, VQ Communications, “their extensive knowledge of the Cisco Meeting Server and their track record of enabling customers to successfully deploy this technology makes them a fantastic partner.”