I’ve spent the past two days with about 2,000 new friends. Polycom’s annual sales conference provided a drumbeat of messages about what is to come from the vendor. As Kate Hutchison, Polycom’s chief marketing officer, talked about the future, you could feel the certainty of an organization that has set its mind to a task. I sensed a certain swagger from everyone with whom I interacted that echoed Kate’s desire to see the company push the limits of human collaboration at work. CEO Andy Miller left no doubt that the company was committed, describing the unalterable market forces that have shaped his vision for the company and letting everyone in the room know that he intended to assemble a rogue’s gallery of industry goliaths to drive Polycom forward — inviting Dreamworks, HP, IBM, and Microsoft to contribute to his keynote address to hammer home this point. Sue Hayden, VP of global alliances and programs, has been charged with making this so — and, based on my conversations with her about companies from Apple to Motorola to Siemens, she will.
Polycom is committed to five things moving forward: being easier to work with, being easier to use, being more innovative, assembling more complete business solutions, and pursuing the business models their customers prefer. The values that Polycom put forth include:
- Being easier to do business with. Polycom is simplifying the process for buyers — working to make ordering products and services easier. There is now a tool for systems managers to enable zero-touch configuration. The company’s commitment to channels and end users was on display all week.
- Making products that are easier to use. Polycom is committed to simplifying the user interfaces for its own products like videoconferencing and collaboration. The firm is also delivering access to its video services from inside business and productivity applications like Microsoft Outlook, IBM Sametime, and Salesforce Chatter.
- Being more innovative. Polycom is delivering new products and services and acquiring other businesses like Vivu, HP’s videoconference unit, and Accordent to deliver unique collaboration capabilities. The Real Presence Platform, Real Presence Mobile, and UC Board were all launched in the last four months of 2011 and, based on some sneak peeks at Polycom’s development programs, there is plenty more where that came from.
- Offering more complete solutions. As proof of its commitment to this tenet, last week Polycom announced a partnership with Microsoft and HP to deliver all of the hardware, software, and services to deliver open, best-of-breed unified communications and collaboration that is mobile, social, and visual.
- Pursuing new business models. Polycom talked about its advantages in terms of being open, having a lower TCO, and delivering an engaging user experience to drive adoption — while pursuing cloud and variable-cost business models to accelerate buying cycles.
When you listen closely to Polycom, you hear a commitment to the future of collaboration, including technology, products, services, and business models that embrace partners to push the limits of human collaboration forward. Working with giants like Microsoft guarantees that Polycom’s differentiators will be examined, understood, and incorporated into solutions that will be on most business desktops around the world. This will require that Polycom continue to innovate faster and more creatively to stay ahead of the market, including its most sincere flatterers — those who will mimic and replicate Polycom’s ideas and capabilities. Licensing its H.264 SVC stack to Microsoft sounds like a great idea, but so did the Innovative Communications Alliance when it was announced by Nortel and Microsoft. Today, Nortel is no more; its intellectual property portfolio was acquired and divided up by a consortium of tech vendors, including Microsoft.
Polycom has chosen its road forward carefully and thoughtfully; it’s a hard road that will test the company’s determination and commitment.