Jabra’s Nigel Dunn on transformations within the collaboration space, AI in headsets and more

As the managing director for Jabra’s North European Region, Nigel Dunn is responsible for the UK and Ireland, plus the four main Nordic countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark – Denmark being Jabra’s home territory.

Within this role he is also responsible for Iceland, Greenland and the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. So, it’s fair to say he knows what’s what when it comes to the business’s European success stories over the past year, and what audio and video innovations we can expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

PCR sat down with him to find out how the brand is evolving.

How was 2019 for Jabra and what were some of the company’s biggest successes?

2019 was an interesting year for everybody. The disruption caused by Brexit has been a challenge along the way. We got off to a fabulous start as we built up to the original Brexit date, and I think it’s fair to say that the public sector in particular went bananas with a lot of major decisions being brought forward. So that made for a great start to the year. After the Lord Mayor’s Show for Q2, people settled down a bit and I think we all got back to normal, solid business as we went through the year.

It was a good year for Jabra UK. At the end of Q3 2019 our growth in the UK was around 40%, and things have continued reasonably well for us. From our perspective, that’s a pretty good year. Our resellers have joined in and had a great time with us as well, so we’ve been supported by some of those growing really quickly.

“2019 was a good year for Jabra UK. The acquisition of Altia Systems has put us firmly in the collaboration space”

A highlight for us has also been the acquisition of Altia Systems back in April. They were a small video company based in California and the acquisition got us access to a new camera that launched in August 2019, and that camera is the Jabra Panacast – a 180-degree 4K camera for huddle rooms. It’s been a great success for us. It’s taken Jabra from being just an audio solutions provider in the contact centre and unified communications sector to being firmly in the collaboration space as well. That’s been the most exciting part of the year for us.

Tell us a bit about Jabra’s work with resellers.

We have a significant team of field-based channel managers who handle the top named partners for us. And we have some support staff that layer into the very top echelon of those, so the likes of BT, Computer Centre, Softcat – those kinds of companies. We add in an extra layer of support to work with account managers there. We plan at the start of the year and look at the marketing campaigns we’re going to do for each quarter – inline with any product announcements or major events that might be happening in the industry.

We then plan out the spend and what we see as the outcome. It’s a detailed plan, it’s looking at the actual growth of the business and it’s looking at how we’re going to do it. We then have a very strong pack of toolkits that they can draw down from our media centre. We also have campaign toolkits that resellers can use in their own campaigns and even plan their own events. That’s worked incredibly well for us.

We also do tremendous onsite days. The ones that we run with our major distributor Nimans have been ones that we’ve been really proud of in 2020. We’ve done four of these ‘Race to Replace’ onsite events, where we take over the building for the day and make sure Jabra is top of people’s minds.

We do lots of offline and online campaigns, but on top of that we have around 10 people in the field and around four people who do internal sales as well, all focused on the end user. All of our sales are routed back through the channel, so we are 100% indirect. Our high touch people are creating sales at the front end, these sales can be our biggest, but they also support some of the smaller deals into our small to medium sized businesses as well. So, we cater for a vast range of resellers and support them directly. I call this a real ‘push pull’ model, so we’re pushing through the reseller base to drive this through and my team then pull through the sales with them.

The global account side of things is a very important side to our business as well. It’s around 25% of our business and worldwide we have over 100 global accounts where we deal with each region and country in a consistent manner. They get full 24/7 support and harmonised pricing and supply chain across all regions. That works incredibly well and gives us great leverage with some of our biggest customers. General Electric, HP and Dell are some of our top accounts.

The Panacast offers 180-degree views and can count the number of people in a meeting room

What type of companies are Jabra looking to work with more in 2020?

We had tremendous success over the past six or seven years with the unified communications resellers, particularly those that have been involved in moving from sound and telephony to UC. A lot of that is driven by IT resellers these days. The first waves was into Microsoft Link, and the second major wave (that’s where big growth came) was in Skype for Business and similar types of businesses. The next wave in 2020 is going to be the transformation into Microsoft Teams. This is really driving transformation in the market and the way people work. It’s going to move much more into collaboration and will involve much more video as well.

We anticipate that we’ll be working more with Microsoft Teams-type resellers. And the ones that we are specifically trying to target will be ones who are working in the AV space at the moment. At the moment we don’t work with a great deal of them so we’re actively trying to move more into that space.

What’s going to be the next big thing in audio and video innovation?

We see team collaborations as something that’s on the rise at the moment. Some of the research that we’ve seen and conducted ourselves has shown that around 80% of employee time is being spent collaborating, which is much more than it used to be. People are working in teams more than they have ever done. We predict that around 72% of all workers will be remote by 2020 as well. We think there will be twice as many teams in the next year or so as well. On top of this, around 62% of all knowledge workers today have around two meetings per day. The move to team-based working is exploding and we think that video is going to be a huge part of that. There’s going to be a big drive from large-scale rooms to smaller meeting rooms with around 4-6 people in a meeting room – so classic huddle spaces.

“The move to team-based working is exploding and we think that video is going to be a huge part of that”

The Panacast is ideal for these types of spaces. And the next wave of technology – which is actually already built into the camera – is intelligence. Early this year, the Panacast will have the ability to count the number of people in the room and event count the number of objects in the room. That allows us to estimate how much rooms are being used and by how many people. That can be linked back to the company’s study on efficiency and optimisation, or into room-booking systems, enabling businesses to adjust the size of their huddle spaces accordingly.

We also expect to see artificial intelligence to be built into our ear devices. In a contact centre environment for example, digital headsets can transform the way people work. For example, if you’re having a call with an individual and they are getting stressed or upset, rather than the agent trying to end the call, the software can detect the stress in the caller’s voice and then reroute the call to a manager, or it can actually tell the agent to handle the call differently. That’s a huge move in the contact centre industry to create better outcomes.

We are expecting digital headsets with AI technology to be huge for us in 2020.

On the consumer side, we’ve had remarkable growth in 2019 and it’s pretty much off the back of the True Wireless category, which makes up around 63% of the Bluetooth stereo market. So that’s buds in the ear with no wires. Our Evolve 65t was an enormous success in 2019 within two categories – one was the standard Bluetooth stereo for walking around and listening to music, and the other category was the sports side of things. So we had an ‘active’ version of that, which was sweat resistant and ideal for people who are working out.

Those two areas have been absolutely huge for us and we’ve just recently launched the Elite 75t – a smaller version designed to fit all types of ear size. Sales of that have been tremendous.

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