2015; another busy and successful year

We had another amazing year! I know it doesn’t look like we’ve been up to much as we’ve been so hunkered down ‘doing’ that the web-site has been seriously neglected (again).

Here’s a summary of some of the things that have been going on:

  • Acano Manager 1.x has been ‘holding the fort’ as we worked on Acano Manager 2.0.
  • Acano Manager 2.0; we’re still pre-release but now at RC4. AM 2.0 has been a massive undertaking and has completely consumed us. It does, however, look really good and will provide a fantastic platform; not only does it look good, we’ve invested heavily in automated test tools and processes which is now yielding great results. We’ll post more details along with more content on AM 2.0 (VQ 7.0 platform).
  • VQ Conference Manager 6.5; a steady stream of refinements, performance increases and TLC. 6.5 is a trusted work-horse being used by some pretty big players. Going into 2016, we’re working on some fairly major changes that’ll push scalability and performance. We’ll post more as things firm up.

Finally, a big thank you to our customers and partners.
Mike

How we use and contribute to OSS at VQ

Open source software is a key area for many developers and it is exciting that more .NET based companies are joining this world. Take for example Microsoft’s ASP.NET vNext project on Github as a sign of the times!

We’re really pleased to have finally got to the stage where we’re contributing back to the open source world. It’s small at the moment but we expect it to grow. Watch this space.

We’re now on Github at:

https://github.com/vqcomms

We look forward to your pull requests!

News catch-up…..

We haven’t posted any news items for a while and our news section looks distinctly skinny. We had an amazing 2013:

  • We restructured the team which resulted in people leaving; although this was painful at the time, we’re now seeing massive benefits.
  • We moved office; we’re now in much larger, spacier offices with loads of natural light. Fantastic!
  • We signed an OEM agreement with the major new disruptive force in video conferencing.
  • Two new major international customers became customers (Aerospace and Banking)
  • Our existing customers continued to ramp up call volumes.

2014 has started well with new customers coming on board and first versions of OEM software shipping. The team is growing with some very talented new engineers joining the team who will help accelerate the innovation we deliver.

The rise of self-service video conferencing

VQ’s CEO, Mike Horsley shares some thoughts on self-service video, a rising trend amongst many enterprise video conferencing users’ unified communications strategy.Mike Horsley VQ Chief Technology Officer

VQ’s customers are some of the largest enterprise users of video conferencing on the planet. Although they’ve traditionally been advanced users, they’ve often come to us because the video service delivery solutions supplied with their video kit just don’t fully meet their needs.

As early adopters of the technology, these visionaries knew what they wanted in terms of video management and reporting software and, basically, we listened and built it for them. We gave them the tools to deliver the service they needed, one that worked well and was liked by users, adoption and the rate of use of video conferencing grew quickly.

Users now trust video and want more; the challenge is delivering it to them. But an exclusively managed service is difficult to scale; you can’t just keep adding people (as, for example, the installed user-base goes from one or two thousand to tens or hundreds of thousands). Unfortunately it’s not just a case of adding one or two extra heads, it’s about a times ten or times twenty growth. The numbers just don’t work.

The self-service model, on the other hand, normally follows the approach used with telephone conferencing; users are given their own number (VMR; Virtual Meeting Room) and dial into it. This avoids the issues of having to know who else to call; everybody dials into the well known number.

Several key pieces of the jigsaw have dropped into place in recent years that now enable self-service. One of these pieces is Microsoft Lync. Its simplicity and features such as click-to-call are well liked by users, encouraging mass adoption. Another driver is the new entrants to the video hosting side of the market, which enable previously incompatible technologies to work together. Acano, in particular, allows Lync to overcome its occasional compatibility issues and work seamlessly with traditional video conferencing equipment.

What I like about Acano is that it’s great at “joining the dots”. For example, its MCU automatically handles the differences between the various versions of Lync available. Like the best and most popular technology, it simply works.

Overcoming the compatibility hurdles in the way that Acano does solves many of the scaling issues that affect traditional video conferencing MCUs. Their limited capacity previously meant that video conferencing required lots of boxes, leading to increasingly complex infrastructure setups. Acano MCUs, however, can host many hundreds – if not thousands – of calls from just a single server.

All of this new technology makes self-service on a grand scale now viable for the first time and enterprises are exploring the options available to them. Many are looking for platforms that deliver both self and managed services. We predict that managed video services will maintain their use-levels, but as overall video usage continues to grow it will be the self-service delivery model that will see the biggest increase in new call minutes. We’ve already seen the popularity of self-service in the voice conferencing model: video self-service is a continuation of this trend, and it will be adopted quickly because the concept is already known to anyone familiar with conference calling (almost everyone!).

For those considering deploying self-service, ultimately its success will depend on a number of factors. Video conferencing is intrinsically complex and the volume of data it involves will push your network harder. If your network isn’t completely reliable, video will expose this sooner rather than later.

If you don’t have the time or experience needed to properly manage video on your network, then consider going to the experts first instead: video conferencing managed service providers. You will increase your chances of launching a working service that meets user expectations by having them on board from the outset.

Self-service video is also not a ‘quick fix’. Cutting corners will result in poor experience and low adoption, making your overall costs higher and leaving you with a low return on investment. So work with the experts and do it right.

Finally, always remember that it is user experience that is the ultimate driver of adoption. High usage rates reduce the overall cost-per-call-per-minute (keeping the finance team happy) and so the focus when developing and deploying a self service solution must always be on reliability, convenience and ease of use.

A version of this article originally appeared on Telepresence 24.

How VQ Conference Manager helped BCS Global slash its operating costs

BCS GlobalAbout four years ago we started working with BCS Global, a provider of managed video conferencing, telepresence, unified communications and collaboration services. Ranked as the 15th top technology company in the UK on the Sunday Times Fast Track of 2012 (an annual list of the world’s fastest growing companies), it has a truly global offering and now has video conferencing network presences in Toronto, New York, Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as the UK.

When we first met, they were looking for ways to automate operations and improve efficiency as part of their relentless pursuit of the market’s most competitive full-service solution. Once they’d met VQ, I’m happy to say, they didn’t need to look any further, and I recently spoke to BCS Global’s CEO, Clive Sawkins, to discuss the project and the benefits VQ’s Conference Manager has brought to his business.

Challenge

Clive Sawkins, BCS Global

Clive Sawkins, BCS Global

BCS Global’s users across the world are able to ‘meet’ instantaneously via its global B2B video exchange system. However, the challenge BCS faced when it contacted us was how to continue to successfully grow the company and its services by being first to market with new technology, while still remaining cost-effective in an increasingly competitive market.

Key to reducing operating costs without having a detrimental effect on BCS’s established level of service delivery was for the company to identify areas that could be made more efficient through automation.

“Our operators could be working with up to six different interfaces to provide video conferencing services, which was neither efficient nor scalable in the mid- to long-term,” Sawkins said. His goal was to reduce operator interfaces to only one, which would simultaneously increase service delivery and productivity and improve customer service, while also increasing process automation, especially call launching and management.

Solution

A BCS Global Operator

A BCS Global casino online operator

After researching the market extensively, our Conference Manager was deemed the ideal solution as it

fulfilled BCS’s three main concerns: integration with its existing software (including billing features), a user friendly front-end dashboard and the ability to scale and integrate with new technology, thereby future-proofing the company’s existing infrastructure.

Although at the start of the project Conference Manager already had all of the essential components required to meet BCS’ needs, because it was being rolled out on such an enormous scale this meant we had to upscale the architecture of the software to manage multi-device control between multiple locations.

Benefits

Four years on, BCS Global has seen an increase in its operators’ customer facing time by 50 per cent. It has also seen rapid business growth, which has averaged more than 25 per cent year-on-year, yet the time it takes to train new agents has been significantly reduced now there is just the one management system to get to grips with.

“By getting the software to do the work of managing multiple MCUs, and building in high degrees of automation, our personnel can now focus on what they should be doing – delivering customer service,” Sawkins says.

With this improved efficiency the company has slashed operating costs and now boasts a full-service communications portfolio at a price point that, in Sawkins’ words, “the others simply cannot reach”.

Looking forward

Sakwins believes that VQ’s API made it particularly different from the competition: “We knew that success was dependent on making software talk to software in order to minimise operator intervention; and VQ had demonstrated they were able to build a reliable, high performance architecture and have a flexible, robust API to deliver the solution BCS required”.

Through our API we were able to get BCS Global’s CRM to drive VQ Conference Manager directly as a component. This meant that when the sales team closes a deal, for instance, the features of that agreed service package are automatically provisioned from the CRM into the service and billing side of things.

This automation has enabled BCS Global tighter control over its operating costs which has supported its goal of further growth. As video becomes a more mainstream business communication tool, BCS is able to continue scaling whilst maintaining efficiency.

Sawkins also believes that the infrastructure and software architecture BCS has in place, thanks to VQ’s video conferencing tools, has given it the edge over its competitors because it is able to easily integrate new technology and get solutions to market much faster.

“BCS Global’s success to date has been underpinned by a philosophy of never standing still but instead embracing new technology,” he said. “From traditional video to unified communications services – which have grown to almost a third of our business – we have never been slow to adopt the latest solutions and so we appreciate working with companies that share this attitude”.

We at VQ are delighted that BCS are getting these benefits from VQ; when we set out, we had a set of objectives and one was to enable high degrees of productivity gain to be achieved via software-to-software integration. It is always really rewarding when something as significant as this turns out successfully.

If you want to find out how your business could benefit from VQ Conference Manager, please get in touch.

Are you being served? The self-service video trend

VQ’s CTO, Mike Horsley considers the self-service video trend that’s on the rise amongst enterprise video conferencing users, in a recent piece published on telepresence24.com. Read the full article here.

BCS Global simplifies life with VQ Conference Manager

As featured recently on ucinsight.com, find out how VQ Conference Manager enabled video managed services provider, BCS Global to simplify and better manage its video conferencing network here.

The Bigger Picture

VQ’s business development director, Giles Adams, argues that contrary to many analyst reports on the “video conferencing market”, video is entering a very exciting new phase. To view the full article on ucstrategies.com, click here.

Languages and development tools: don’t dismiss Microsoft

There is a tendency at the moment to dismiss Microsoft; I face this, for example, in board meetings when I whip out the trusty steed (a Retina MacBook Pro) and run Windows 7 as a VM.

I think it’s fair to say that Windows 8 has been ‘difficult’ and is a tad unloved, but my Keyboardcounter to these comments is that an area where I think Microsoft is way ahead is with languages such as c#. It’s inspiring to see the async methods in c# 5.0 and at the weekend I spent time playing with Reactive Extensions to process  HTTP GET/POST events coming off the network using publish/subscribe patterns: very impressive and something VQ definitely plans to exploit (see here, or for more on RX, here). This combined with things like SignalR (see here) opens up a whole new way of doing things in the connected world we’re playing in.

On the theme of communications and Microsoft, I spent some time recently looking at the UCMA API within Microsoft’s Lync server and again, was massively impressed by its richness and the functional building blocks that are present and offer ample opportunity for building value.

So, to conclude the Microsoft thoughts: Windows 8 might not yet be the flavour of the month, but the software technology coming out of Microsoft is pretty amazing. Not to say they’re the only ones though – other stuff we’re working with includes KnockoutJs and AngularJs and then, in a circular reference back to c#, there is the brilliant work being done by Xamarin and the Mono project (developed using Visual Studio with breakpoints on a target system hosted on the Mac was another of those ‘holy moly’ moments).

Unified communications: the biggest MSP opportunity in years

Unified Communications represents an opportunity, not a threat to video MSPs

Video MSPs who have spent years building a range of robust video conferencing tools are now seeing new competition emerging from a variety of directions, including from some huge integrators, on the back of unified communications solutions.

They needn’t concerned, however, because it’s important to recognise that because UC has increased video usage massively, which makes for a fantastic opportunity for the whole market. As such, their own inertia could be said to be the only risk to MSPs.

Unified communications has already gained significant momentum. The popularity of Microsoft Lync is helping drive video usage across all segments of industry. Other video and UC players such as Avaya, BlueJeans and Cisco are playing an equally large part in the transformation of the video conferencing industry, which I believe is on the path to almost universal acceptance as a business communications method.

Forward thinking service providers should throw themselves into the mix and start developing UC services. UC is about allowing people to stay connected at whatever level they need to, whenever they need to so the traditional MSP integrator skill set is still required. Video delivery might have become very sleek from the end user’s point of view, but connectivity is still incredibly complex, especially between different kinds of devices. Thankfully for the channel, enabling is what video MSPs are exceptionally good at: bridging the gaps between disparate solutions, technologies and devices to offer reliable video whatever the context.

Enterprises that have already made a significant investment in video, perhaps in the shape of telepresence systems, will also want to integrate their UC solutions in order to protect that investment. Video MSPs need to recognise that their future value will be in helping businesses deploy and integrate UC – there is a definite opportunity to develop unified communications as a service, for example.

Fundamentally, being a successful service provider has always been about problem solving. The user doesn’t care what’s in the background; they simply want to press the buttons and get on with it (and the fewer the better!). Video MSPs that recognise this and evolve their services appropriately will thrive in a unified age.