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Polycom -- Today and Tomorrow
I was pleased to attend Polycom's annual industry analyst event last week at the company's experience center in NYC. This was essentially the debut (not to be confused with the company's Debut video endpoint) of the new, privately held Polycom.
Over the past few years the name Polycom has been synonymous with one major theme -- change. Sometimes too much change -- resulting in channel or customer turmoil. Sometimes not enough change -- resulting in market share shifts or customer erosion. And in some cases, just enough change to keep Polycom sound -- both financially and technologically.
While attending this year's event, I couldn't help but think that perhaps the last few years have all been leading up to this point: a new CEO, a new capital structure, and a new set of priorities that hopefully will help the company move the needle.
While pondering over what I saw and heard, I closed in on the following three key areas that I thought were most interesting and offer the most potential for the company.
New CEO and New Ownership
While not quite a revolving door, Polycom has seen its share of CEOs come and go in the last decade. And not surprisingly, each new senior executive brought a different set of priorities and strengths. New CEO Mary McDowell, however, brings a combination of technical expertise and business prowess that Polycom has not seen in quite a long time (if ever).
Polycom has always been a technology-driven firm, which in some ways has been the company's secret sauce, and in others the bane of its existence. As the conferencing industry has shifted from techno-focused to business-oriented, Polycom's ongoing product-centric approach has, at times, left it without a seat at the negotiation table. McDowell's experience, combined with financial backing and business guidance from the Siris Capital Group team, has the potential to resolve this longstanding issue.
On a related note, shifting from a public to privately-held company will free Polycom from some of its reporting and shareholder-responsibility burdens. That said, Siris did not become a multibillion-dollar private equity firm by accepting excuses or mediocre performance. So while Polycom's quarterly reporting requirements have changed, the pressure to reward its private shareholders has likely increased.
Ongoing Technology Innovation
Polycom rarely disappoints when it comes to product innovation. At this year's analyst event, engineering dynamic duo Michael Frendo,EVP of worldwide engineering, and Ashan Willy, SVP of product management and alliances, presented and demoed a wide range of enhancements on existing products, and even a handful of new products.
The company has worked hard in recent years to consolidate its product line, standardize and centralize its code base, and streamline its product development processes. These efforts are now starting to bear fruit, allowing the firm to develop and release new products and features more quickly, and at reduced cost.
Unfortunately, all of the product-related information was provided under non-disclosure. I can, however, say that some of the products will propel Polycom into new market segments and increase its footprint in the enterprise. This is all good news given the ongoing pressure on the video endpoint and video infrastructure business.
While perhaps not as headline-worthy as going private, a new CEO, or new product/feature announcements, Polycom described a handful of got-to-market (GTM) shifts that have great potential.
Most notably, channel VP Nick Tidd presented some fascinating details about Polycom's channel performance -- highlighting areas of strength, weakness, and opportunity. Tidd also described several pending changes to Polycom's channel program, including a revamp of the certification program, a plan to eliminate the need to purchase demo gear, and an overall shift from a revenue to a value model.
In addition, SVP Willy has been tasked with expanding Polycom's joint development and GTM efforts with service providers and other ecosystem partners.
The event also included sessions on Polycom's marketing efforts, an update from the services team, and a breakout session with a few large customers. All in all, I found Polycom's 2016 analyst conference to be well planned, well executed, and extremely informative. The last few months could not have been easy for these folks. But at this event, they didn't skip a beat.
And most of all, I left the event feeling newly enthusiastic about Polycom's efforts and direction.