Zoom’s Head of UK&I, Phil Perry talks to Michelle Winny, Editor of PCR about taking the remote/hybrid workforce experience to the next level and the company’s current and future plans to transcend this space.
Following on from our Dec-Jan issue focusing on the Remote/Hybrid workforce, Zoom’s Head of UK&I, Phil Perry tells PCR about Zoom’s recent developments, it’s plans to take the remote/hybrid workforce experience to the next level and how really cool tech such as AR and VR is on the horizon and will most certainly play a role in the workplace of the future.
How has the Zoom platform continued to evolve in line with advances in the hybrid working infrastructure and what further advancements can we expect to see?
As we look ahead to 2022, Zoom is continually making improvements to its platform to stay at the forefront of hybrid working infrastructure. This year we have introduced Zoom Apps, Zoom Events and Zoom Phone Appliances, as well as several other important updates. But, customer’s wants and needs are evolving all the time and we need to continue to innovate.
Our ultimate ambition is to make Zoom meetings more effective than face-to-face meetings. And we are focused on making improvements that offer best possible user experience (UX) for our customers.
We are adding unique features to hybrid meetings to help enable the era of flexibility. These include AI-generated meeting transcriptions, meeting summaries, and real-time language translations.
How can companies look to ensure long-term sustainability with their hybrid work model?
Hybrid working is here to stay and businesses need to ensure they have the right infrastructure and culture in place to make it work for them for a sustained period of time.
Employers need to have confidence that their staff will get the job done wherever they are working, making it crucial to equip employees with the right technological set-up to make collaboration possible from anywhere.
With the right set-up, businesses will benefit from a hybrid approach. They will be able to recruit from a broader talent pool with location being less of a factor. This will lead to increased diversity, which will strengthen the work that teams produce, as they will have a wider variety of ideas. We can expect to see productivity increase overall because of these factors, and this will be key to persuading business leaders to invest in technological infrastructure that supports a sustained model of hybrid working.
What challenges has Zoom encountered in regards to the remote/hybrid workforce and how has it looked to address this?
When businesses had to transition to hybrid work overnight, building and maintaining trust was undoubtedly a challenge. It was a completely new experience for many, and we had to tackle the stigma that working from home meant working less hours and reduced productivity.
An effective working environment should be focused on employee satisfaction and productivity, and flexibility is key to this. Allowing employees to manage their own work-life balance and trust they will get their work done creates a positive working atmosphere and is something businesses need to harness in order to optimise performance.
Please could you explain a bit more about Zoom’s Reseller Partner Program for Zoom Phone BYOC and the benefits this brings?
In January 2019, Zoom Phone was launched. It is a full-featured cloud phone system built on Zoom’s platform. It acts as an alternative to legacy phone solutions by enabling businesses to video-enable workspaces with purpose-built appliances that are easy to procure, deploy, and manage.
At Zoomtopia, Zoom unveiled the Bring Your Own Carrier (BYOC) Partner Programme, letting resellers sell licences that allow customers to connect their existing PSTN calling plans into the Zoom Phone platform. This means that customers can experience all the advantages of Zoom Phone whilst keeping their existing service provider contracts, phone numbers and calling rates with their chosen carrier. It has the added benefit of offering partners a new way to discover providers and follow self-service to access phone numbers securely.
Prior to this announcement, only Zoom Master Agents could refer deals for Zoom Phone and Zoom Phone BYOC. Now reseller partners who meet the requirements and qualify will be able to resell Zoom Phone BYOC.
Please could you explain more about Zoom auto-generated captions and overcoming the language barriers?
Overcoming language barriers is crucial to increasing accessibility and collaboration globally. This is particularly important with communication between different governments and countries that are looking for real-time voice-to-text technology. In June 2021, Zoom announced that it signed an agreement to acquire Kites, a start-up based in Germany, that strives to develop real-time machine translation solutions. Kites’ team of scientists will help Zoom’s engineers provide multi-language translation, which will improve meeting productivity and increase accessibility.
Additionally, Zoom has expanded its auto-generated captions feature to Zoom for Government users and all free commercial Zoom Meetings accounts. This will allow for better accessibility, diplomacy and international collaboration.
Please could you explain a bit more about any recent company acquisitions and how this has helped with Zoom’s service offering?
Most notably, Zoom acquired Kites, a start-up dedicated to developing real-time Machine Translation solutions.
Prior to this, in May 2020, Zoom acquired Keybase, a secure messaging and file sharing service using deep encryption. This was part of Zoom’s 90-day plan to further increase the security of its platform when customer uptake soared at the start of the pandemic. Keybase’s team of engineers joined Zoom to assist in developing end-to-end encryption. This has helped Zoom to reach its goal of becoming a truly private communications platform, supporting its millions of users.
Both acquisitions have strengthened Zoom’s offering, enabling improvements to the platform and enhancing the user experience.
Please could you explain a bit more about Zoom Phone Appliances? What does this offer and the benefits it brings?
This year, Zoom launched a new a category of devices, Zoom Phone Appliances, purpose-built business productivity endpoints that provide both Zoom Phone and Meetings capabilities. They allow users to easily collaborate with colleagues and clients using premium audio, video and content sharing capabilities.
Zoom Phone Appliances are designed to be effective for hybrid working as both ad-hoc and scheduled meetings can be carried out on the devices, making it easy to quickly schedule meetings without needing a formal calendar invitation. The devices can be logged into and out of with any Zoom account, including ones in shared spaces, and any calls that have been placed on hold can be retrieved by the intended executive, simplifying these communications. Also, phone calls can be upgraded to Zoom Meetings using the device touchscreen. All of these are integrations designed to streamline the UX and make it easier and quicker for users to collaborate with their colleagues.
Please could you explain a bit more about Zoom’s virtual experiences events platform and the benefits and features it offers?
Zoom Events is an all-in-one solution that supplies users with the tools to produce a wide range of engaging virtual experiences. It can be used by large companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs to create, host and manage their online experiences, or by consumers for activities such as fitness classes and music lessons.
Zoom Events enables businesses to create a “hub” to list all of their upcoming events. Attendees can network in a virtual lobby in-between sessions. Hosts can organise ticketing and registration for attendees with the capability to track this. Company internal functions, such as all-hands and sales summits, and external functions, such as user conferences and consumer events, can be managed and hosted in the same space. Businesses can also group internal events together to make them easier to find for employees.
Post pandemic, where does Zoom expect to see the future of remote working headed? How will the future world of work look?
In the longer term, we expect to see a fully functional hybrid-working set-up that allows inter-functionality between in-person and virtual members. Those joining a meeting virtually will be able to see, smell, and experience the meeting as if they were in the room. They will be able to use language translation technologies to bridge any gaps and create a truly immersive and collaborative experience.
A further significant benefit of hybrid work is the larger talent pool. Anyone can be hired as companies and employees are not limited to commutable distances for employment. More diverse ideas will be brought to the table as there will be an increasing number of people from different locations and backgrounds. All of these benefits were experienced during the pandemic and many employees and employers want these changes to stay.
Do you think AR and VR will have a role to play in the remote workforce if so how?
AR and VR will almost certainly play a role in the workplace, it just remains to be seen to what extent. The technologies will aid hybrid working as they give businesses and employees another avenue for communication and connectivity.
In anticipation of this trend, Zoom has partnered with Facebook to create a more immersive product experience using VR. The new VR app, Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms, allows people to collaborate in the same VR room. Zoom Meetings and Zoom Whiteboard will be brought into VR using Oculus headsets so consumers can see the entire whiteboard canvas, without requiring a large screen.
Using Workrooms, people can collaborate with one another both virtually and in reality. To improve connectivity even further, Zoom Whiteboard can be linked to Horizon Workrooms’ desk view and wall view, to increase VR integration. Using their Oculus remote, consumers can “draw” or “write” on their physical desk or wall, which will be transcribed to their Zoom Whiteboard, further enhancing employee collaboration.
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