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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: David Guthrie, CTO of PGi (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, May 14th 2012

Remote workforces continue to grow and telecommuting becomes more commonplace every day as modern technologies like Web conferencing and video chats make it easier for people from all over the world to collaborate on projects or simply work from home. These types of conveniences save money for everyone, and companies like PGi strive to make Web conferencing and video chats less bothersome than some of its closest competitors as my interview with CTO David Guthrie quickly reveals.

Sramana Mitra: Hi David. Please give our audience some context about you and PGi.

David Guthrie: Sure. I’m the CTO at PGi. PGi provides virtual meetings for enterprise customers around the globe. We provide audio-, video- and Web-based collaboration meetings. We have our own services, build our own software to deploy them globally. We service both North America and the Asia-Pac regions. We service about 80% of the Fortune 500. A lot of times you’re joining our service but you don’t necessarily know it’s us because you’re joining it through an enterprise that uses us for all of its conferencing or Web conferencing or video meetings. We go out to market with products of our own like iMeet for video meetings and GlobalMeet, which is our Web conferencing meeting product. A lot of people have heard of us through our audio products as well like Ready Conference and GlobalMeet audios when they hear voice prompts on conference calls at times. It’s all in cloud, service based that we provide for the end-to-end service for customers.

SM: And you’re about a $400 million company?

DG: Yes, a little over. Sean, do you have the exact number?

Sean: Yes, we’re on track to do between $500 million and $510 million this year.

SM: OK, thank you. How does your service compare – this is a crowded space, the virtual meeting space, spanning from Webex on one end to Polycom, Cisco, On24, Citrix, a variety of different companies – how do you look at the lay of the land, the line meeting, Web meeting area, and how do you view the world?

DG: You’re right, there’s a lot of players, hardware players, software players, service providers in the space. What we love about the space is that there’s so much innovation going on. It changes every day. We’re able to bring new technologies to bear to our customers to create new experiences, change the way they host meetings, provide new technologies like mobility to the space as well. And we also allow them to save money versus doing it themselves. So, we’re leveraging technologies that they have to manage themselves. We provide that end-to-end solution for them and allow them to focus on their core competencies.

SM: That does not answer my question. All of the players that I quoted earlier have cloud-based virtual meeting solutions.

DG: There are cloud-based meeting solutions. We focus on the user experience as a differentiator versus the solutions that are out there. There are technologies that compete with us. You mentioned Webex. Webex, we believe – and we resold that service for many years – we don’t believe it’s the most user-friendly service in the marketplace. We focus on making our technologies to where they’re easy to use and where we meet, the user, wherever he is on whatever device he wants to use our product, whether it’s a mobile device, tablet or desktop, we want to create the best experience in that environment. People join our services via [telephone calls], cell phones, tablets mobile device. We don’t know where the users are going to come from but we want that experience to be a great experience.

SM: Can you give our audience a more visceral feel for what constitutes that superior user experience. We are very familiar with Webex, Go-To-Meeting and Vivu. Tell more about how, specifically, you differentiate on a visceral level.

DG: I’ll give you three examples. The first is that we believe a guest should be able to join a meeting without having to download anything to her desktop. We believe a guest should be able to hit a URL in a Web conference and join a meeting, not have to worry about, oh, I’ve got to do this download prior to the meeting. I’d better go there 15 minutes before to make sure my service can support this. We believe all you need is a browser and an Internet connection and she can get it. So, now downloads required.

We believe that the URL should be a room name or a fixed URL that’s very simple to use in invites. A third example is we believe that numbers should not change in the meeting, and it shouldn’t be every time I go to a meeting, I’ve got a different set of numbers that I use like some competitive products have. We believe a number should be assigned to a meeting room and they ought to be the same.

Those are three examples of how we try to make it easier for the user and for the guests who participate in Web conferencing. We found that through the billions and billions of minutes of usage that we provide for our customers that time is important. They’re trying to accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish. They don’t have time to accommodate technology for 15 minutes on the front end of a meeting. They need to get to their content and move forward. I think a lot of the technology products that are out there are out there for technology’s sake and not for the user’s sake.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: David Guthrie, CTO of PGi
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