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Zoom Continues Hybrid Work Pivot

Similar to last year, Zoom this week is holding its annual customer and partner event Zoomtopia virtually. While the format is the same, the tone of the event is quite different. Last year, Zoom placed a heavy emphasis on remote working, which made sense given the pandemic. This year, the focus for business leaders has shifted from remote to hybrid work — and Zoom has adjusted accordingly.
 
The topic of hybrid working is pervasive throughout the Zoomtopia agenda and features session on shifting company cultures, industry best practices, and Zoom deployment strategies. Many people, particularly Wall Street investors, characterize Zoom as a work-from-home company, but it’s actually a hybrid work company, and that is certainly reflected at Zoomtopia.
 
As one would expect, Zoom announced several new products and feature enhancements, which further supports that the company has made the hybrid shift. Below are the key product announcements from the event:
 
Zoom Video Engagement Center (VEC) — This is perhaps the biggest news from the event, as it moves Zoom into customer-care capabilities. VEC lets businesses connect with customers through the visual medium for better, more personal interactions than voice or other digital channels. This is most useful for interactions where a high degree of trust and personalization is required, such as financial services, healthcare, and high-end retail. In addition to customer engagement, the product lets businesses bring in experts quickly for additional support or troubleshooting. On the pre-brief with analysts, Zoom was crystal clear that VEC was designed to complement traditional CCaaS products, such as Five9, which Zoom recently announced its intent to acquire the contact center company.
 
An interesting aspect of VEC is the customizable workflow templates, where Zoom has simplified creating video-enabled processes. Not only can developers use Zoom’s APIs and SDKs to accomplish this, but line-of-business professionals can also use the workflow template, speeding up time to market.
 
Zoom Events Conference — It has become glaringly obvious that moving forward, almost every event will have a virtual component. Enterprise Connect is an excellent example of an in-person event that will likely be hybrid for years to come. This product is Zoom’s new event platform, which enables hosts to hold multi-track, multi-day events in a much better format than one could put together using traditional meeting tools. Zoom Events has a number of new capabilities, including an event lobby, attendee chat, networking capabilities, sponsors, surveys, recording, and analytics. Zoom is using this product to host Zoomtopia 2021, so all attendees will experience it.
 
Modernized workplace tools including the following:
  • Zoom Whiteboard — The whiteboard remains the lone collaboration tool that has yet to be digitized effectively enough to create mass adoption. From what I saw on the pre-brief, Zoom’s new whiteboard is easy to use, loaded with tools, version controls, and works on all the major desktop and mobile operating systems.
  • Virtual collaboration — Zoom has partnered with Oculus to integrate with Horizon Workrooms to bring the physical and virtual world together. Users can access Zoom Meetings and the Whiteboard in a VR environment for a more immersive experience.
  • Live translations and transcriptions — Zoom is adding to its current transcription capabilities with the addition of real-time, automated translation as multi-language live transcription.
  • Zoom Rooms and Smart Gallery — This feature has been available for virtual participants to create a more natural view of people. This was ideally suited for hybrid working. Zoom is extending this to meeting spaces of all sizes by creating video feeds of individual participants, so remote employees can better participate with in-person meetings.
  • Hot desking — Employees will be able to reserve desks and spaces in their offices through an interactive map. Zoom has simplified the authentication process and supports a wide range of bookable spaces: Zoom Rooms Appliances, Zoom Phone, and personal devices.
  • Enhanced security — Zoom has invested significant resources in security. The company has developed a bring-your-own-key solution to let customers manage their own keys. Zoom is also extending its end-to-end encryption to Zoom Phone.

Workstream integrations — One of the challenges users have is managing all the different work tools. At Zoomtopia, Zoom announced the following innovations to streamline workflows:

  • Zoom Apps update — Earlier this year, Zoom announced its Apps programs to enable developers to build applications on Zoom. Later this year, Zoom will make integrations of Zoom Apps available across the platform, including Zoom Apps for Webinars, Zoom Apps for Mobile, and immersive apps.
  • Chat Huddle View — This will provide a visual view of channels to provide workers a better sense of togetherness when working virtually. Channel members will quickly be able to see who is in the channel, whether they are available or not, and interact through different channels.
  • Zoom Phone Video Voicemails — Users can use this feature to leave video messages for co-workers and team members.
  • Zoom Widget — This is a quick at-a-glance tool where workers can see who is in a meeting and then alert the host through Chat if they are late. For people, like me, that book back-to-back or overlapping meetings, Widget can help manage their schedules and expectations better.
At the event, Zoom also provided an update to its social impact plans. During his keynote, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan announced $2 million in new funding to eight global nonprofits. This includes support for mental health, LGBTQ, young people of color who have been impacted disproportionality by COVID-19, and systemic racism. Zoom has created a team of seven global experts to help with the grantmaking process.
 
The past 18 months have been huge for Zoom, as it went from being a niche video company to the key vendor in enabling the world to function when we all had to be socially distant. Zoom is now rapidly changing, as it hopes to make just as big of an impact on the future of hybrid work as it did for remote-first work during the pandemic.

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