By Lindsey Westbrook
In the last five years, there’s been a shift from hosted-on-premises software applications to cloud-based software applications that’s affected almost every computer software user. The IT departments of large organizations are working through the necessary transitions every single day; it’s hardly a simple switch to flip.
A simple, but powerful example was the push for Microsoft to offer Outlook as a web-browser-based email solution like Gmail. Google’s Gmail changed the game for email; its powerful appeal for many users was that it didn’t require a “heavy” application running on the desktop; you could just launch a window. Companies that are “Microsoft shops” have been steadily moving to cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 from on-premises deployments of Microsoft Exchange Server.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype in 2011, and its development of Microsoft Teams more recently, have been part of an overall strategy to enhance its offerings of collaborative communication tools—text chat and video chat—that operate in real time over the cloud. The announcement of Microsoft Teams last year specifically positioned it as a competitor to Slack, another cloud-based IM app that is particularly favored among software developers for its facility in sharing snippets of code.
Many companies, says BlueJeans Director of Business Value and Solution Strategy Robb Woods, are trying to understand how and where new collaborative business tools can fit into their existing Microsoft ecosystems as they migrate to the cloud. The cloud-based Skype for Business is now Microsoft’s standard offering for companies that want to enhance collaboration across teams in real-time. (Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 in a massive Silicon Valley deal.)
But, users tend not to use Skype for Business’s video capabilities, largely because of call quality and bandwidth consumption issues.
So, rather than compete with Microsoft when it comes to online real-time collaboration, BlueJeans recognized a great opportunity to bring what it does best—seamless, high-quality video calling—to enhance Skype for Business. “Skype for Business (and Slack as well) are the best IM apps in the industry,” says Woods. “BlueJeans is adding in components that the Skype for Business user base is looking for that Microsoft either does not offer, or does not provide a sufficiently high-end experience in.”
Employees using Skype for Business with the BlueJeans integration can simply click a button from their Skype for Business text chat to escalate it to a video call. The concept is simple, but powerful: users should never be more than one click away from a great video experience. It’s a consistent experience whether the Skype for Business user is on a Microsoft system, Apple, Android, or iOS.
This is good news for dispersed work groups who want high-quality face time. But what will the next few years of online real-time collaboration look like?
Woods predicts that Microsoft Teams will be a game-changer. “Teams is the next generation of the chat-based workplace. With the global dispersion of the workforce, we’re going to see the rise of so-called persistent work areas, where you use these tools to constantly have access to your peers, wherever they are, via chat and video calling. Teams is going to be like Slack on steroids. You can barely imagine the cool stuff that people will be able to do.”
“And as they notice the need for high-quality video as part of an overall suite of real-time cloud-based communications tools, BlueJeans will be the piece that fills that void.”
Woods anticipates a huge need for organizations, in the next few years, to take the best enterprise desktop tools available (Microsoft) and marry them with the best enterprise communications tools available (BlueJeans). Work is rapidly becoming more group-centric than point-to-point based. And dispersed groups will require more than ad-hoc IM chats; they will need video communications, and expect ever-higher quality.
At first, they’ll try Skype for Business because their employers make it available, but they’ll soon find they need something better for the video component. Then, they’ll discover BlueJeans provides exactly the upgrade that they’re looking for.
So, keep an eye on Microsoft and BlueJeans and how they’re working together to create ever more seamless ways to enhance online real-time collaborations. “I can’t tell you yet about many of the things we’re working on,” concludes Woods, “but it’s going to be impactful for the customers of both companies. There’s exciting stuff coming.”