Crossing the Video Conferencing Chasm: Talking with BlueJeans CPO Mark Strassman

By Susannah Magers

BlueJeans Chief Product Officer, Mark Strassman discusses how he discovered BlueJeans first as a customer, the video-first ethos of BlueJeans, and the difference between adoption life cycles in business and consumer video conferencing solutions.

Crossing the Video Conferencing Chasm

The Conundrum of Disparate Video Conferencing Solutions

Strassman explains that many of today’s companies have their own telepresence solutions, with different video conferencing systems installed. They aren’t interoperable, which means that “None of these systems talk to each other, and no one used them. ” This is an investment that isn’t paying off the way it could.

Easy Video Conferencing Software That Anyone Can Use

When Mark worked at Autodesk, he knew there had to be a better way to use the company’s existing video conferencing hardware—leveraging their existing investment. That was step one, says Mark. The next issue to tackle was the ease of deployment - there needed to be a simplified, easily-utilized way to incorporate this video conferencing solution to work for anyone at the company. Efficiency suffered because there were limited go-to, video call gurus (like Strassman) to troubleshoot or get the technology running for a video meeting.

“At the beginning of each meeting, I would set everything up, plug everything in, and it would work,” Strassman recalls. “If I wasn’t there, it wouldn’t. Within five minutes, other people would just give up, and just use audio [a phone call] for the meeting.”

Imagine how frustrating remote employees (let alone clients or other external meeting attendees) must feel when the video component of the meeting is lost. “Everyone [working] remote would be listening in, half-engaged,” Strassman observed. “That’s when I started deploying BlueJeans: to hold meetings that everyone could use.”

Evolving to Where Every Business Call is a Video Call

Strassman describes business video conferencing solutions as still in the process of “crossing the chasm” within the technology adoption model. Referring to the stages of adoption of new technology (as examined by Geoffrey A. Moore in his bestselling book, Crossing the Chasm) Strassman asserts that, while consumer video is mainstream, with apps such as Hangouts and FaceTime, the video chasm in the business world is between the early adopters (those willing to take on the new technology, enduring any issues or bugs along the way) and mainstream users who use video conferences for everyday communications, instead of audio-only phone calls.

BlueJeans Integrated Portfolio Strategy

It’s about using the same solution across the board at the office, not parsing out what is needed for each task. Whether it’s a one-on-one meeting, team meeting, or an all-hands event, “BlueJeans video meeting technologies are for every kind of meeting across the company.” The speed of the product—how quickly can people join a meeting—is equally important.

For Strassman, the BlueJeans video conferencing solution can facilitate, and broaden the connections, of any meeting—without toggling between products. “Regardless of where you’re meeting, IT shouldn’t have a different way to manage it, and end users shouldn’t have a different experience than IT using the product. You certainly shouldn’t have to pay for ten different products to have ten different kinds of meetings.”

Prioritizing “The Stack” in Video Conferencing Solutions

“The Stack”, says Strassman, is the levels of involvement that comprise a video meeting. Within this video meeting, for example, screen shares between colleagues need to be crisp, clear, and register motion properly. According to Strassman, meetings, relationships, and interactions all get better as you “move up” the stack. “Once the audio is great, the video has got to be great, too.”

“Wherever You Are, You Should Be Able to Meet”

For the end user, integrations with the existing platforms that they already use are key. “There should be a universal experience, wherever you are,” says Strassman, and all of it should look and feel the same across devices. “In today’s work spaces, it’s not a homogenous environment that people are using. They are using different platforms for messaging, calendars, and the product needs to integrate into those seamlessly. Whatever the application, it should be able to launch a BlueJeans video meeting.”

IT and End User-Friendly Video Conferencing Solutions

Strassman describes BlueJeans’s customer base as having two key demographics: there are the people that buy BlueJeans, the IT departments. For IT professionals, BlueJeans needs to possess integrations for various already in-use platforms, pragmatic features, and be highly secure. Then there are the millions of people that use BlueJeans, the end users.

Strassman notes that while BlueJeans has traditionally been thought of as a B2B (business to business) company, it’s actually a B2B2C (business to business to consumer) company. “All of the end users expect a great consumer experience. If they don’t have it, they’re going to pick up a consumer tool. From a user perspective, the big opportunity for BlueJeans lies in a product that both IT professionals and end users love to use. If we can do both, we have really created a great video conferencing solution.” 

Simplicity as Strategy

The chief approach for Strassman is to simplify. Virtual backgrounds of tropical beaches, or the Eiffel Tower? Not with BlueJeans. “Consumer video has crossed the chasm, while business video hasn’t crossed the chasm.” For one, it’s not secure, or encrypted; deployment isn’t manageable, nor is it interoperable. “What sets BlueJeans apart? It’s the ability to integrate into an enterprise and its systems, from single-sign on, to messaging and mail systems, to calendars—into the entire network. That’s all got to be there.”

Crossing the Chasm of the Video Conferencing Software

Strassman notes, when it comes to crossing the chasm in consumer video, Hangouts and Facetime have accomplished this. The technology is nearly seamless: it requires little to no insider knowledge or the ability to troubleshoot in-depth. When it comes to business video? That chasm, says Strassman, has yet to be crossed—it’s in the process. It should be as easy to make a video call as it is to make a telephone call, Mark says. “My focus at BlueJeans is to come up with the technologies and interfaces—the business drivers—to help business video cross the chasm. And we’re right there.”