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One on One with Vidofon CEO Jorg Weisflog
March 22, 2011 |
In our quest to speak with as many channel partners as possible, we've even resorted to drinking our own champagne - using videoconferencing to establish that oh-so-personal connection (see photo below) and to see into other people' personal space. This week
we re-connected with Germany's Vidofon and CEO Jorg Weisflog, visible in the PiP bottom right of his "personal telepresence" system.
Shoot firstname.lastname@example.org an email if you've got a story to tell
and if you'd like to chat One on One.
WRB: Last time we talked about ViDOFON, you had just done your first acquisition. How did that work out, and where is ViDOFON today?
JW: It worked out great. In January 2010 the
videoconferencing channel partner
ViDOFON acquired a systems integrator and AV specialist Dekom. We doubled our size up to 60 people and greatly increased our capabilities and our ability to do larger projects. Dekom is now a brand name. We also recently joined the AV Global Alliance which gives us solid partnerships outside of our main territories of Germany and Spain; and of course it
gives the other members of the Alliance a solid partner to work with here. Although we are only a small company, we now can compete quite well against the big guys like Orange, T-Systems, Compua Center, and DiData since we have expertise depth and footprint breadth.
WRB: So, are you a full service videoconferencing provider?
JW: Absolutely. We provide consultancy services to prepare, support, analyze, and
assess video over IP projects. Of course we provide training along with sales and
installation services. In the video space, we are strong partners for Tandberg/Cisco and for
LifeSize where we buy direct; we also are a tier two reseller for Polycom, which is a much
smaller part of our business. And we are looking at taking on another line for video as well.
WRB: What about services?
JW: Good question. Services are very important to ViDOFON. We offer a managed
service based on three principles - manpower, know-how, and responsibility. We can
provide bridging, gateway, and firewall traversal services; we manage customers'
endpoints, and we even offer desktop conferencing as a hosted service.
WRB: We've always considered a help desk a fundamental component of video managed
services. What do you do there?
JW: First, let me say that we offer a help desk. Then let me add that we think most
customers are fooled by help desk promises, particularly those offered by the big service
providers. We offer help desk services during normal business hours, and our help desk is
staffed by videoconferencing experts. We do not offer 24x7 help desk. When our
customers ask for 24x7 support, we think we did something wrong. The solution offered is
either too complicated or too fragile. And this is what the customers know as well. Many
customers are told by the big guys that their help desk is 24x7, but it turns out that during
the off hours, the help desk is staffed by low level support people who can only write down
the issue and have someone address the problem the next day. We have a different
The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-7 Vol. 12 #06 March 22, 2011
approach: we actually provide the name of the responsible technician to the customer.
This establishes the trust and ultimately leads to the reaction time the customer demands.
WRB: How is the German market different? Or maybe it isn't.
JW: I think Europe is different from North America; and within EMEA each country is a bit
different. Germans in general are more skeptical about new technologies and less
adaptive to change than the Americans. I would say the UK is somewhere in between.
WRB: OK, so what's your take on unified communications and desktop or personal
JW: This of course is the big question we are wrestling with. First of all, when it comes to
implementing desktop video on any reasonable scale, IT managers are very conservative, even afraid. What will it do to bandwidth utilization? Can they support it? Will users really want it after the novelty wears off? While there is a lot of exploration and investigation today in Germany, there really isn't a lot of action. In truth, the desktop products available from the
videoconferencing vendors, and you know I represent Tandberg, Lifesize, and Polycom, aren't really suited for large scale deployments. Licensing and concurrent call support are still barriers - business barriers more than technology barriers. So that brings us to unified communications and Cisco/Microsoft. This is a big question for ViDOFON. We already have a lot of the expertise, but we need to become certified in this area. That's our challenge for 2011.
WRB: What do you think is the biggest threat facing ViDOFON?
JW: There are multiple challenges we're facing right now. First, ViDOFON is a fast growing
company, so it is a challenge to find appropriate experts and skilled workers for the growing
demands. Second, requirements are increasing: projects are getting bigger while
expectations of the customers are more demanding. Third, competitive differentiators: A
performance winner has to measure up against "eBay prices" as well - a near impossible
situation, but common in today's Germany. But there's another challenge on the customer
side: The recent consolidations on the VC-market did not diminish uncertainties, but
enforced it. This means that an extra dose of trust is needed for a channel partner to invest
in a good solution. And, we have to invest more in customer confidence than a few years
before, when technology did this by itself. But we don't feel threatened!
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