VC Daily’s Future of Video Conferencing interview series asks leaders what role video conferencing plays in the way they live and work and how new video conferencing technology might affect their industry and the products and services they provide.
Rosanne Saccone is the Chief Marketing Officer of BlueJeans Network and is an enterprise enthusiast whose passion is marketing the right solutions to solve specific, real needs. After working with a number of software companies targeting enterprise customers, she joined BlueJeans looking for a new challenge. She loves BlueJeans for the way it addresses enterprise pain points in a personal, meaningful way that’s fun to use.
VC Daily: How do you use video conferencing in your own life—both work and social?
Saccone: I spend the majority of my day on BlueJeans meetings, so I use our product constantly, whether it’s connecting with partners, customers, or teammates in another office. It’s easier than calling someone and more personal and productive than just email or messaging. Instead of circling around an issue or decision, I can just hop on BlueJeans and work it through to resolution very quickly. I’ve also found that it makes work much more enjoyable because I’m having quality interactions with colleagues. Everyone is engaged, and when you involve facial expressions, you can more easily ‘read’ the situation and help get issues solved. For me, BlueJeans video conferencing makes work more productive and enjoyable at the same time.
Because video has become the norm for my business communications, I find I use it much more in my personal life too. FaceTime is a way of life in my family. Video keeps people connected in such a rich way that there’s no going back!
VC Daily: The Big Five tech companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) have turned their attention to video conferencing over the past few years with offerings like Amazon Chime, Workplace by Facebook, and Microsoft Teams. These giants offer complete business suites in addition to video calls, with options like Office 365, G Suite, the Facebook network, etc. How does a company focused primarily on video conferencing compete with all those added extras?
Saccone: The best thing about the BlueJeans meeting platform is that it combines video, audio, and web conferencing with the collaboration and messaging tools people use every day. Given the complexity of large organizations, we believe that enterprises will always have multiple products to help aid in communication, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. As a result, we’ve approached this communications conundrum from a different angle: Why don’t they all work well together in one cloud-based meetings platform?
That’s where BlueJeans comes in. BlueJeans was the first cloud service to connect desktops, mobile devices, and room systems in one video meeting. In addition, we’ve partnered with Facebook, Microsoft, Dolby, Amazon, and others to extend the reach of our offering by integrating with the collaboration tools teams trust to do their best work. Because we play so well with others and are able to help them elevate the entire meeting experience by integrating seamlessly with what they already have, BlueJeans is experiencing tremendous success.
VC Daily: How do you get your users to access such apps through your service rather than get them from the source—when the source now also offers video conferencing?
Saccone: BlueJeans integrates natively with the user experience you’re already used to. You don’t need to sign up, download anything, or even log in to participate in a BlueJeans meeting. For example, many of our customers have standardized on Skype for Business as the means to communicate across their enterprise. This is a great way to chat with co-workers inside your organization. However, the moment you want to bring in someone from outside your organization, it gets complicated. BlueJeans is a great solution to this challenge. Users can click on a button to automatically launch a BlueJeans meeting from inside their Skype for Business experience, allowing external users to select a connection option with ease. And this is just one example.
VC Daily: BlueJeans has been quick to incorporate WebRTC through BlueJeans WebRTC. What advantages does WebRTC offer video callers right now? Why should people try the service?
Saccone: WebRTC enables a single-user experience for calling, messaging and applications—it doesn’t matter where team members, partners, customers, or even vendors are located. One click from the browser and they are instantly, seamlessly connected. It makes things remarkably simple because you can always get connected and don’t need to download anything to do it.
WebRTC in and of itself isn’t what provides the most value; it is all in how you use it for or in your app.
VC Daily: What do you hope to achieve with WebRTC in the future?
Saccone: As much as we might hear that the browser is dead, the fact remains that everybody still has one and will continue to do so, which is where WebRTC’s ultimate value lies. No matter what the user’s browser preference is or what tools a partner, customer, or group uses, it just works. With WebRTC, it doesn’t have to be “all about the app.” Tools need to support WebRTC. Companies can then meet customers or partners wherever they’re at, which is important when you’re working with teams outside of the typical tech centers or in other parts of the world. Again, it’s about ease and flexibility.
WebRTC in and of itself isn’t what provides the most value; it is all in how you use it for or in your app. We’re still in the early innings of WebRTC for the enterprise, and connecting distributed teams is one obvious example of how it could be applied to help businesses increase efficiency and productivity. I see future linkages to AI/Bot use cases by adding human-like interaction to enrich the entire meeting experience workflow, such as facial and speech recognition. WebRTC will likely influence the enterprise in ways we have yet to envision.
VC Daily: It is estimated that 64% of U.S. companies now have a video conferencing setup in small shared huddle rooms. These rooms have specific needs—users are close together, there’s limited space for equipment, and the tech must be easy to use. How does Blue Jeans accommodate huddle room video conferencing?
Saccone: We love huddle rooms! We were the first to design a product specifically for huddle rooms because we see fantastic potential for growth as companies reorganize their office space to accommodate more collaborative workspaces. We have seen strong interest and sales, particularly with our BlueJeans Room with Dolby Conference Phone solution because the sound is so good, along with great high-def video. This offering is a strong differentiator for huddle spaces because we combine the best of both worlds—our meetings cloud service incorporates Dolby Voice to eliminate background noise during the meeting regardless of where you are, while at the same time the Dolby Conference Phone optimizes the voices within the room so everyone can be heard clearly across the divide.
We want BlueJeans to be a big part of huddle spaces for impromptu brainstorms. That’s where the magic happens and how teams come alive. We make it so easy and affordable to make any room a video room (and I use the term “room” loosely— it could be an area with a screen on the wall, a phone on a coffee table, and bean bags all around). Our BlueJeans Rooms product works with what you already have, with off-the-shelf components, or we can work with you to configure a space from scratch. In all cases, users can start video calls with a single touch, even without reserving a room in advance. It’s as simple and flexible as you can get for large company environments.
VC Daily: BlueJeans talks a lot about how they can accommodate large group meetings, from face-to-face calls for up to 100 to town hall events for thousands of people. But how many people can actively engage in such a service—how many are displayed on screen, how many can speak publicly, and how does a host manage such a large crowd?
Saccone: BlueJeans Events provides an easy and engaging way for organizations to interact with many different types of large audiences—from company town hall and all-hands meetings to educasts and webinars with large external audiences. It allows up to 15,000 attendees to join an event. Organizations using BlueJeans Events can have as many as 100 presenters, and all can actively speak at any time if left unmuted by the moderator. In reality, large events are a bit more formal, so the moderator can seamlessly manage the event with easy muting and unmuting of presenters. BlueJeans Events provides a very simple and intuitive panel for moderators to manage all meeting controls. During the broadcast, at any point in time, moderators can promote any attendee to presenter to allow live interactive dialogue—essentially enabling two-way discussions within the large event as needed. BlueJeans Events has several different video layout options to support large-scale events, which intelligently displays and highlights the presenter who is speaking. This helps the organizers broadcast the most relevant video to attendees even when there are several presenters engaging within the event.
VC Daily: Can you tell us about some of the town hall-sized events BlueJeans has hosted? What future uses do you see for such large-scale, interactive events—sports, entertainment, live streaming, politics?
Saccone: While the majority of BlueJeans Events are focused on large enterprise meetings and town hall events for Fortune 500 companies, there is regular usage of our service in the sports, media, and entertainment industries, where we have hosted live debates and enabled live interactions of sports celebrities with their fans. It is a terrific way to engage audiences, particularly when leveraged with social media streaming on Facebook Live, which can then reach literally millions of people. Companies love the flexibility BlueJeans offers with Events, including interactivity, brand customization, large-scale support, social media streaming, and embeddable live streaming options. This week, for example, Red Hat is streaming their annual Summit in San Francisco to customers, partners and employees around the world. The conference has grown each year and the internal team relies on BlueJeans to provide an engaging experience for the audience that is as good as being there.
In the future, we believe AI will generate better human interaction by handling the mundane tasks from before a meeting starts until long after it ends.
VC Daily: BlueJeans recently announced a partnership with Voicera to allow its users to access the virtual assistant Eva. What future uses do you see for virtual video calling assistants such as Eva (and AI in the video conferencing industry in general)?
Saccone: Voicera is a great partner for us because Eva, the digital assistant, is a perfect example of AI in the enterprise and the promise of automation that serves a practical purpose. Meeting attendees can focus on what’s happening in a conversation rather than worry about taking notes because Eva’s already done it for them. Nothing gets lost. And this is just the beginning of what we think AI can do.
In the future, we believe AI will generate better human interaction by handling the mundane tasks from before a meeting starts until long after it ends. Virtual personal assistants, virtual agents, bots, natural language understanding, and voice and face recognition will all become mainstream in the workplace, and machine learning technology will power smart meetings. So, your virtual assistant could do things like suggest which meetings to attend (and which to skip), who should attend and where to hold them, and then notify the group if participants are running late. Besides note taking, screen and whiteboard session capture, and easily accessible and searchable content sharing, a virtual assistant can also follow up with attendees and keep projects on track as part of the entire extended meeting workflow.
A lot of this technology is starting to hit the market or in beta, but it is still early and needs refinement for users to be ready to trust and adopt it. In the future, it will become more seamless and only limited by what we can imagine.