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When Jeffrey Fairbanks, global head of AV and media technology for Bloomberg, is away from home, he keeps to his bedtime storytelling routine with his daughter... via video. Nicole Comello, the company's global head of Information Systems, is known to video chat with her mom. But no, neither is using a popular video consumer app like FaceTime or Skype to do so, as you might have assumed.
Rather, Fairbanks and Comello are placing their video calls via Bloomberg's new Nexi platform, a global communications platform that leverages the VidyoWorks technology and APIs from Vidyo. Bloomberg recently installed the Nexi platform to facilitate video conferencing for its 17,000 employees the world over -- encouraging communications and collaboration among each other, with business partners and customers... and, yes, friends and family and anybody else someone might want to look at while talking.
Bloomberg would like its employees to think about a video conversation in the same way they do a phone call. "We want to make video ubiquitous with communications," Fairbanks told me yesterday in a phone interview.
"By enabling employees to use the system for personal interactions, we can make work experiences [like overnight travel] more bearable and enable them to focus on what needs to happen at work because they're not losing that personal connectivity," he said. "You can't quantify it, but there's a tremendous amount of value we get from that."
That Bloomberg is fine with allowing employees to have video conversations with any third party is a credit to how it has designed the video infrastructure and Vidyo's flexibility in meeting Bloomberg's security requirements, Fairbanks said.
Leveraging the VidyoWorks platform and APIs, Bloomberg has been able to provide one-click video or audio calling from within the internal communications and calendaring systems that users access via their beloved Bloomberg Terminal. On these terminals, Bloomberg has been supporting email since 1983 and instant messaging since 1984, so surely didn't need the add-ons many vendors push along with their video solutions, Fairbanks said. "What we needed was a provider that allowed us to use our chat, our text, and our ecosystem and append the video aspect. That's what a lot of the other providers were not able to do."
As part of its implementation, Bloomberg needed its scheduling tool to speak to the Nexi portal and have the conferencing information passed to the calendaring system in a way that wouldn't disrupt workflows, Fairbanks said. The thing is, the scheduling and calendaring systems live on different network segments. "We had to be able to exploit the APIs to navigate our network in a certain way, to be able to make that communication and return path," Fairbanks said.
Other providers with API libraries that Bloomberg has looked into haven't been able to match the robustness and flexibility that Vidyo offers, Fairbanks said. For example, they might require paths that Bloomberg doesn't allow on its network or lock return paths into a specific port range, methodology, or protocol that it doesn't allow in the segments on which the calendaring and scheduling systems live. In other words, "the traditional methodology that most people have used to build APIs wouldn't work in our environment," he added.
Building out the global video infrastructure, which comprises 850 Nexi-enabled conference rooms in 150 offices throughout 73 countries, took Bloomberg nine months. "Flipping the switch" took all of about 60 hours. "On Friday we turned our old video conferencing system off, and on Monday people started using Nexi," Fairbanks said. Within five days of that, the company had converted 100% of its users.
Utilization is so high in part because of the seamless integration into existing work processes and because anybody can join a call from a mobile or laptop -- "you don't have to be part of our ecosystem for us to invite you to participate," Fairbanks said. Participants need only click on the provided Nexi link.
A look at the numbers shows just how seamless the Nexi integration has been. As Fairbanks and Comello shared during a briefing earlier this week, Bloomberg logged more than 636,000 calls and nearly 26 million minutes during the first three months of Nexi's deployment. That sounds like a lot on its own, but all the more so when compared against the median corporate volume of about 1.9 million minutes annually.
"We needed to make it 'sticky'... so easy you don't need anybody helping you," Comello said.
And that, indeed, it seems to have accomplished.
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