05 Nov Zoom Zen: Mastering The Art Of Simplicity
I recently attended the Zoom Communications annual event for customers, partners, analysts, press and employees. Creatively named Zoomtopia, the two-day event was held in San Jose, CA. If you have not heard of Zoom, it is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider specifically focused on video communications, from the cloud versus on an on-premises server. Given that the functional focus of the software is unified communications, it can be referred to as a Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) provider. The company’s foundational pier is “ease-of-use” for its service and common customer feedback is “it just works!” As a unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) industry veteran and former CEO, I wanted to share my findings and perspective of the Zoomtopia event.
The purpose of Zoomtopia is for Zoom to communicate its plans, allow for the eco-system partners to announce new products and to show appreciation to customers for their loyalty. The agenda included keynote talks in the mornings, breakout sessions in the afternoons and a showroom floor for partners to demonstrate its solutions. Zoom’s solutions are very popular. You could feel the customer enthusiasm at the show. The metrics of attendance growth and revenue growth tells the story best (Figure 1).
As Figure 1 shows, quarterly revenue grew 3.5x over the past 8 quarters, and Zoomtopia attendance grew 4x over the past three years.Today In: Innovation
To further support the growth story, Figure 2 shows that the total employees at Zoom and the monthly minutes of use are also growing dramatically. This growth is impressive.
Zoom announced multiple enhancements to its software offering, including:
- Enhancements to the virtual background (known as the green screen feature)
- The ability to capture meeting notes, action items, and attendees
- Simultaneous transcription of meeting discussions to different languages. For example, two people that do not speak a common language would be able to communicate via Zoom. Not sure if it would work for parents talking with their kids – that’s an entirely different communications issue.
- These features above utilize artificial intelligence that Zoom is working on with Otter.ai
- An expansion of Zoom Phone to Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Ireland and other European countries over the coming year (Zoom Phone currently provides services in the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK)
Zoom also shared some details on the progress of its Zoom App Marketplace, an initiative the company launched last year that did not appear to get much attention. Zoom created an API architecture for software developers to integrate the use of the Zoom SaaS engine into third-party applications, available on the marketplace. Currently, according to Zoom, there are over 160 integrations, and more than 200 million API calls a month, enabling customers and developers to extend Zoom’s product portfolio with new functionalities. Apps in Zoom’s marketplace are vetted by Zoom for security and user experience.
I was only able to experience the new Zoom features in demo mode presentations. As they become available in production software code over the coming months, I will do working meeting assessments of the new features and the productivity value they add. I will write an update article at that time to report findings–stay tuned.
Zoom eco-system partner announcements
Zoom has a certification program to enhance customer experience (CX) called Zoom Room Appliance.It is a process designed to ensure that a product, when used with Zoom software, will create exceptional out-of-the-box customer experience (OOBE). This is critical to maintaining Zoom’s “it just works” reputation. Three partners launched products at Zoomtopia 2019. See Figure 3 for a photo of new products and providers.
- POLY Studio X-series: POLY is an industry leader and global supplier–see my Forbes article to learn more about these new products here. You can also read more here.
- DTEN ON 55”: DTEN announced a 55” flat panel whiteboarding experience for Zoom Rooms. It is out of the box, ready to go and available in other sizes. DTEN offers some flexible purchasing alternatives. Learn more here.
- Neat Bar and Board: Neat, a startup based out of Oslo, Norway, announced two products at Zoomtopia designed specifically for Zoom Rooms. Zoom has also invested in Neat. The “Bar” should be available in January, and the “Board” available mid-2020. You can pre-order the Bar directly via Neat’s website.
Collaboration is a human experience
Tradeshows for technology solutions often focus on the products and their features only. Something fun about Zoomtopia is every year there is a theme incorporating the human element of communications and collaboration. Also shown in Figure 1, the themes for each of the past three years were Happiness (2017), Trust (2018) and Gratitude (2019).
This year to further the human dimension, there were three celebrity guest appearances:
- Zachary Quinto (Actor) talked about being Spock, working with Leonard Nimoy and using Zoom in his personal and professional life. He was very respectful and notably grateful to have been able to work with Leonard Nimoy.
- Mike Massimino (Astronaut) expressed gratitude for being accepted to NASA after multiple denied applications. He told stories and showed pictures from his days aboard the space shuttle. My favorite story was a mental training point that NASA drills into astronauts’ heads in preparation for space travel: “You are going to make mistakes in life – allow 30 secs of regret and then move on. No matter how big of a mistake you make – you can make it worse.”Practical advice for us earthlings!
- Sir Richard Branson (Entrepreneur & British Knight)joined the audience via the Zoom video conference. He started by showing off his new spacesuit and went on to discuss his childhood, business career, and space travel access for the masses. He expressed gratitude that his life had been enormously blessed.
All three testimonials gave the tradeshow a nice human touch–I’m sure Zoom’s customers appreciated it.
Wrapping It Up
Given the progress Zoom has made over the past few years, I thought for a while about my summary. Even with all the progress made, Zoom is still small in the overall UCaaS market. As I reflected on the company’s trajectory, I summarized my thoughts and feedback in Table 1 below.
There was contagious energy at Zoomtopia this year. If the Zoom team and all its partners sustain the focus and inertia into the future, then the UC&C industry will be able to achieve the long-standing goal of the early pioneers of video communications: “video calling as easy and reliable as a phone call.” Hey, all you Zoomers–I’m looking forward to next year.