Tech jokesters say the hardest thing for AI to solve will be scheduling meetings. I don't know about that, but talking to Greg Martin of Nasdaq at Zoomtopia reminded me: if you don't nail down your meetings - and meeting rooms - productivity falters.
Those at Zoom's annual user conference got the message: Zoom goes far beyond meeting rooms and video streaming. As I see it, Zoom is:
- Bearing down on practical problems like meeting room optimization that are much thornier - and costlier - than we realize.
- Expanding to a full communications platform, including their core video competencies, Zoom Voice, an app marketplace, and Zoom Rooms device partnerships.
- Helping companies build a new collaboration stack, with Zoom as one component that can link into everything from Workplace by Facebook to Slack to Office 365.
"We're re-imagining everything we do for collaboration"
Martin is thinking along the same lines at Nasdaq. Though his current focus is on Zoom Rooms, what's driving him is a bigger goal: to change how his teams collaborate. Martin, who is Nasdaq's Senior Manager for Video and Voice Communications, told me:
We're re-imagining everything we do for collaboration. That's my focus for the next two years: changing how Nasdaq does internal and external business, using Zoom as the focal point, and building around it.
Some of you may be wondering: what is a Zoom Room? Zoom defines them as "a software-based conference room solution, featuring video, audio, and wireless content sharing, as well as value-added services Digital Signage and Scheduling Display." That means a Zoom Room is capable of audio processing with noise cancellation, technical monitoring across all rooms, and mobile app meeting management. Sounds nifty enough, but what are Martin and Nasdaq getting out of them?
To get a handle, we need to know what Martin's team deals with when they don't have a Zoom Room (Zoom Rooms are still in the pilot phase, with ten rooms rolled out to date). In the rooms without Zoom:
Every single video conference we have is white gloved.
White-gloved sounds cool, but it's not. It's costly and time-consuming:
My team builds the meetings and tears them down - every single one.
Zoom meeting rooms are different:
With Zoom, we've rolled out ten rooms so far. We've only selected people that we know are pretty tech savvy to go in and help build that message to other people.
Martin has drafted tech-savvy millennials amongst his early adopters:
The millennials are coming in, and they know how to do everything right away. They don't need training at all, really. So they're helping with our older generation to learn everything, and see how easy Zoom is compared to our legacy system, where a lot of people wouldn't use it. You had to go to a separate booking system, then take an email from that booking system, and then do an Outlook invite to the rest of your invitees. With Zoom, they see that you just click to add the Zoom meeting, and they can bring in the rooms and it's all there in one.
Zoom Rooms - adapter-free living for the win
One thing that spoke to me during my own Zoom Room demos: no more fumbling with finding the right cables and adapters for your old Wintels and fussy Macs for screen displays (if we ever released video of our diginomica team fumbling with laptop adapters, squandering valuable time during our bi-annual meetings, it would be high comedy indeed). With Zoom Rooms, it's all wireless. Martin's preaching to the choir on this one:
It's going to be a shock to some people when they go in that they don't actually have to use a physical connection. They can just open their laptop.
The Zoom Room ramp-up continues:
We're pushing that message next month when we roll out Zoom and web conferencing to the masses. And then, when we do the video, it's going to boost their expectations and their interest. We already had a ton of buzz going in. We actually are slowing people down because they want Zoom Rooms quicker than we can roll them out.
With Zoom, Martin can decentralize meeting logistics:
We want people to walk into rooms and schedule them - click to join. They don't need us at all. It's going to also free up our rooms a lot more. We have meetings that are scheduled out a year at a time - obviously not every room is going to be used all the time. So ten minutes after the meeting starts, if no one's in that room, Zoom frees it up. Anybody can go into those rooms, so it's all going to be self-service.
Martin's team will save the "white gloves" for executive meetings, bringing up calls for the CEO and monitoring those. Otherwise, people are free to use the Zoom Rooms as they need. Zoom wasn't the first company to pitch meeting room modernization. But Zoom stood out because they didn't require Martin to ditch (costly) legacy tech in older rooms:
In years past, with other companies trying to come in and wanting to sell us their video units, we basically would have to scrap millions of dollars of investment that we had. With Zoom's APIs, they can integrate with our current rooms. As those rooms go out of support and end of life, we're able to put in these new Zoom rooms.
We're working with the Zoom engineers on building them out and designing the rooms. So, for my team, that's fun. We like doing it. It's an exciting time to be with my group; we've got support from the lower levels of the company all the way up to Adena. [Adena Friedman is Nasdaq's President and CEO].
The wrap - call encryption and legacy room conversion
There's one more point we shouldn't overlook: data encryption. Nasdaq counts on Zoom to support its secure communications:
In previous years, we had to open up a firewall rule for a company's IP address, and we would dial out to them, but if they had the same rules, we couldn't call each other. So we'd have to use something like BlueJeans, which is good, but they're expensive to be that bridge in the middle. We've started using Zoom for that - for a lot of our calls. And we have an open pipe on our legacy system now with Zoom, and we're able to talk to clients, and everything is encrypted, which is pretty important for Nasdaq.
Once Martin gets back from Zoomtopia, the Zoom Room conversion will continue:
We have 80 rooms that we can turn over into Zoom in 30 minutes for each one. Everybody's excited and, it's an inexpensive, cost-effective way of us moving into the future with our conferencing systems because we're kind dinosaurs with what we have.
I had more questions for Martin, but he was off to present on re-imagining the conference room, so that will have to wait. Next time I see him, most of his meeting rooms should be liberated - or, if you like, Zoomified.