Michelle Ruyle, VP Digital Transformation at Intelisys, sits down with Vonage CEO Alan Masarek to discuss how Vonage is helping partners conduct business in this remote environment.
Michelle: Hi, my name is Michelle Ruyle and I’m the VP of Digital Transformation here at Intelisys. Today we’re going to be talking about remote workforce solutions with Alan Masarek, CEO of Vonage. Alan, thank you for joining us today.
Alan: Thanks, Michelle. I appreciate it.
Michelle: Well, Alan, as you’re aware, businesses all over the world are experiencing a digital transformation tsunami as the COVID-19 virus puts a halt to travel and in-person meetings. So what is Vonage hearing from its partners and customers in terms of their needs during the pandemic?
Alan: So I think consistent with what you know and your question is the need to work anywhere as everyone has got to virtualize their workforces, they have to be as productive working from home than they were previously working from the office. That’s the type of solutions that we enable. So we’ve distilled it down really into three buckets in this whole notion of remote work, which is you have to be office-ing anywhere, you have to be agents anywhere in a contact center solution, and service anywhere. And the notion of service anywhere is… Critical services are being provided remotely. Think of tele-health, distance learning, and many other verticals that… Now that we’re all having to be virtualized, you still have to have those services, and so service anywhere is a key element of what we do.
Michelle: I really like that whole concept about service anywhere and, speaking of service anywhere, with so many working remotely is security actually a concern? And if it is, what should a business be looking for to ensure secure collaboration?
Alan: Security is critically important always, whether you’re in a on-premise environment or working from home. Those security requirements have become more pronounced because while we’re involved in a Vonage meetings interaction on video today, the big challenge that you have from a security when you’re always remote, not working within the four walls of the organization, is if someone gets the wrong person, gets the coordinates for the meeting.
So many of the solutions are about what we refer to as programmable communications where you think about them… The most is in-video. So in tele-health, in distance learning. You’ve heard frequently about problems where a teacher may be trying to provide a remote classroom for 30 students and the coordinates for that meeting fall into some fraudster’s hands and something bad happens and they’re putting some profanity or whatever into the meeting. So the notion about programmable communications, in this example with video, is you can program in that it’s only 30 students or it’s these specific 30 students. So, in those sorts of ways, you limit some of the fraudster’s ability to come in and disrupt these video sessions.
There’s a whole variety of other things that we’re doing as well that have to do infrastructural where you’re, again, where and how you run your service. We happened to put it in a public cloud infrastructure where you’re really riding on the back of the existing security protocols. We happen to use AWS, for the most part, as our public cloud partner. Their security protocols are generally much, much higher than many of the other private data center solutions where certain solutions are run from.
Michelle: Well, it’s great to know that Vonage is thinking about security and when we’re using these remote workforce solutions that we’re talking about. So why is the partner relationship more important and more impactful now, during this global crisis, and how can we actually work together to meet our customers’ needs for technology solutions to ensure business continuity?
Alan: So I think the relationship of the partner with the downstream customer is more important today than it ever has been. And the reason for that is because it’s the trusted relationship that the partner has with the downstream customer, which the customer is going to rely on even more in this anxious and tense and fear-inducing environment that we have today.
So think that what’s happening, a particular company may be making a decision pre-COVID to move from premise-based to a cloud-based solution. All of a sudden boom, COVID is happening, and from a business continuity perspective, bam to do it tomorrow. Think of the extra tension, anxiety, and stress that that will create. The partner is the one who has to really have the existing trust and relationship with the customer to say, “Look, I’m working with Vonage as the supplier in this instance, they’re experts in this world.” And in effect, no one wants to feel sold to. In this environment it’s about being helped because the crisis has spawned needs that have gone from here to here.
And so how do you then work together with a partner to make sure that we’re serving the downstream customer? What I talk about all the time is that I think that we as a supplier and Intelisys as a partner, we live in this completely symbiotic relationship where our business models depend on the success of the downstream customer. Everything is about that. And so our whole focus is to be a partner-first organization so that we can focus with our partners on making sure the downstream customer is successful.
Michelle: That’s great. And so how has Vonage’s free offers provided opportunity for Vonage partners?
Alan: Vonage has done a series of free offers across our portfolio. They’re all designed, ultimately, to help the downstream customer, which is what I said before is, as long as we are helping the downstream customer, then we as supplier and partner are really in this symbiotic relationship. So we have created the opportunity to create 250, it’s just one example, 250 free licenses, smartphone licenses, because someone has to move their workforce, virtually immediately and so they may not even have an existing contract or what have you, but how do we get that done quickly? Or how can we get your agents virtualized quickly? Or if you’re a particular industry that’s really on the front lines of things in healthcare, in not for profit, in certain governmental areas, we provide our services for free in those scenarios.
The whole idea is how do we ensure business continuity, whatever your business is, first and foremost? Take care of the customer. Period. End. Let’s take care of the customer collectively. These free services are just a way to eliminate the obstacles and get people up and running.
As we’ve gone into the crisis, I’ve thought of things in two ways. I’ve said first, my responsibility as CEO is to take care of my workforce. My second responsibility is to take care of my company so that my company can take care of my customers. We don’t provide a discretionary product, we provide a product which is absolutely mandatory in this current environment. And so my view is I need to fulfill both those imperatives. I need to clearly take care of my workforce, but we need to make sure that we take care of our company so that we collectively as a company can take care of our collective customers. We stay very principled on that and that’s why these free offers that were put in place, that… How can we get things moving with, not just existing customers, but any company that might need it tomorrow, as quickly as possible? Because that’s so critical for everybody to come back to work.
Michelle: Yeah. Agreed. Do you think these free offers will help establish longterm relationships with customers?
Alan: It’s a very good question about whether free offers will create longterm relationships. The simple answer is: I don’t know. I want to start from the perspective of do the right thing. There is a level of altruism that we all have to practice in this environment, so let’s first do the right thing. If longterm customer relationships come as a consequence, wonderful. If not, that’s okay as well. But we have these services, we’re duty-bound to provide them in my view, to help get our nation back to work and that’s the perspective that we take with us.
Michelle: I really liked that, help our nation get back to work and to bring some continuity to a situation in which many of us are very uncomfortable with. And why would we not? What do you think the future of work actually looks like?
Alan: Relative to the future work, I think the COVID crisis is going to create a level of permanent change that will… I’ll call it turbocharged certain existing trends. And I’ll just take a few. Take work from home as just one broad construct. You’ve already had, particularly in the millennial community, a desired, sort of work more virtually. The fact that many companies have been able to stay productive while being virtual is just going to accelerate that trend. So if the slope was here prior to COVID, I think the degrees of the slope increase. I think it will permanently impact certain industry verticals along those same lines in terms of the remote delivery of service.
So think about tele-health and doing the tele-consultation. That was already a trend. At this moment that trend has gone on complete turbo boost, like a rocket ship. It won’t persist that way, people will go back to the doctor’s offices over time, but nonetheless, wherever the slope was before will be, in my view, permanently impacted.
Another major change I think, which is super, super important in our industry is we’ve tended to look at the move from premise-based to cloud-based in where that’s happened most has been clearly small companies and mid-sized companies, but among the largest companies, most of the move to cloud has happened from those very large enterprises where the teams are distributed, meaning… think of industries, think of retail. You can have 5,000 employees, but you could have those across 500 stores, sort of 10 employees per store. That has always been the focus of the cloud providers because, from a cost of ownership perspective, it’s just far superior to premise-based solutions. But what’s interesting, in examples where those 5,000 employees have generally been under one roof, that’s really where the premise world has continued to be successful because the cost of ownership issue doesn’t push you to cloud.
I think what will happen now, because of COVID, is it won’t be so much the total cost of ownership, it’ll be business continuity. I can see the audit committees, starting with the public companies, those audit committees and the public companies are going to go to those management teams and say, “What is your business continuity plan? Whether you’ve got 5,000 employees under one roof or distributed, what’s your business continuity plan if another natural disaster, whether it’s pandemic or something else, hits us?” And I think the lesson learned today is you’re going to see this be a tipping point that is going to accelerate the move from prem to cloud.
Michelle: Well, Alan, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to have a conversation with you.
Alan: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.
Michelle: Check out Vonage’s website for more information about the remote workforce solutions that we talked about here today. You can also find more information at the Intelisys website in our Go Remote section.