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JPMorgan Chase: Exemplifying the Video-First Model

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Screen grab of fireside chat participant Gene Pitts

Gene Pitts, with JPMorgan Chase, during the Enterprise Connect Virtual fireside chat

When it comes to enterprise video, a cloud video service gives you an amazing platform to build on, but that’s the key — you have to keep building upon it to stay ahead and be the best, or so says Gene Pitts, an executive director at financial institution JPMorgan Chase.
 
Pitts knows a thing or two about staying ahead on videoconferencing, his purview at JPMC. During a fireside chat at this week’s Enterprise Connect Virtual conference (register for free on-demand viewing), Pitts listed off statistics about the company’s videoconferencing use that most anybody would find flabbergasting — say, for example, the 3.5 billion minutes of multipoint videoconferencing tallied in 2020, up from an equally eye-opening 25 million minutes of just seven years earlier. And here’s another: Last year, during a 10-day period during the height of the global shutdown, JPMC onboarded 180,000 of its 250,000 or so employees to a new cloud video platform.
 
Today, all employees have transitioned to the cloud video service, with usage at about 25 million minutes daily. That is, inside a year, JPMC had fully vacated its entrenched on-premises system, which served up video within some 5,000 conference rooms, another 5,000 premium desktops for executives, and about a quarter-million desktop video phones. Even Pitts, used to managing such a large-scale videoconferencing environment, seems somewhat awed with this accomplishment.
 
“We were incredibly proud of the work we had done on that on-premises videoconferencing system. It was ingrained in our culture, and people had built business practices around it. Think of the change management and cultural change to go from here to something else — it is just a mindboggling task.”
 
Clearly, JPMC epitomizes what it means to have a video-first culture. With executive championship, the company has long recognized the value of video communications for enabling an emotional connection not possible via audio, and early on committed to allowing teams to meet via video, no matter where in the world they might be, Pitts said. But that top-down vision and democratization of use is only half the story of JPMC’s success with video, he added. The other half is simplicity — everybody had a six-digit PIN, or conference number, and they could call into the video system at any time, he said.
 
“Pre-COVID, everybody had already jumped in and adopted video, and we were already doing close to a billion minutes with that on-premises system. It was working very well for us because we made it very simple to use, simple to schedule, and simple to join — and that’s a massive thing for folks,” Pitts said.
 
But with success comes challenge. Take, for example, resiliency. As much as JPMC employees had embraced video over the years, they’d very much been of a work-from-the-office mindset, Pitts said. They could work from home and access the videoconferencing system, but they reserved that for rare occasions, like a snow day or needing to care for a sick child. For his 250,000-user population, Pitts’ resiliency plan for work from home was around 7,000 concurrent external video calls — enough coverage for, say, a snowstorm in New York, he said.
 
Capacity, too, was another challenge. As it grew from millions to a billion meeting minutes, “we were just constantly chasing servers, chasing upgrades, and putting in more capacity,” Pitts said. That could be a bit unnerving, given capacity is table stakes, he added. “Your end users aren’t going to be like, ‘Hey, good job, you have capacity for me to join a video call.’ That’s just an expectation.”
 
In 2018, JPMC began exploring cloud video options, not only with increased resiliency and elasticity of capacity in mind but also with an eye on features, Pitts said. On-premises videoconferencing system vendors simply can’t match the iteration and speed of feature development and deployment possible from cloud video platform providers, he said. “AI, live transcription… things like that require big, big compute to come in and be part of your video meeting, and we just couldn’t do that on premises.”
 
This is to say, by the time 2020 had rolled around, JPMC had made the decision to transition its video estate to the cloud. But it was still “trying to get a few things in order” across the 66 countries where JPMC employees work, so hadn’t started the migration. With regulatory requirements and such, “the nature of a videoconferencing system [for a global financial services firm] is generally that you’re all-in or you’re all-out — everybody has to be ready or nobody,” Pitts said.
 
Reluctance among users to move off their tried-and-true videoconferencing system largely dissolved with COVID’s arrival and the move to remote work, Pitts said. “There was a ton of goodwill from our users,” eased in part by the new use of cloud video in their personal lives, he added.
 
Still, being able to get everybody off the old system is a bit unprecedented at JPMC, Pitts said. “In my history … so many services have a long tail and do stick around for so long,” he noted. “So as proud as I am of making this move to a cloud provider, I’m equally as proud that we’ve been able to move off the other [system] and not really just have two.”
 
Now, Pitts is on to the next challenge: building on its cloud foundation to stay ahead. For 2021, Pitts said he’s spending a good chunk of his time exploring how JPMC might benefit from the use of asynchronous video communications, short-form video messaging, and ways to optimize the meeting experience. AI is enabling “fabulous stuff, and I’m seeing that as the next big wave for folks,” said Pitts, concluding:
 
“It’s really just making it more democratized, more available for people to use — getting those one-click-to-join experiences, regardless of whether you’re joining a video call or recording a video and getting it out to people. You’re not there to use these platforms. You’re there to communicate, so you have to remove all that friction in the tools as best you can.”