Why RingCentral and Choosing the Right Tools with Curtis Peterson

On this episode of Good Morning Work From Home, Mike sits down with Curtis Peterson, Senior Vice President of Operations for RingCentral, to discuss why RingCentral and choosing the best tools so a business can thrive while embracing the new normal.

On April 2nd RingCentral announced the launch of RingCentral Video, your own online collaboration media product. Prior to that launch, you were using a partner’s platform. How do you see RingCentral Video being different or better than the previous version? What was the strategy behind the change?

RingCentral Video is our new platform and we’ve been working on this product for years. It had been in beta with some of our largest customers. We actually launched it in our partnership with AT&T under their Office@Hand branding because we had met some security standards that were a little bit elevated over some of the other products that were in the marketplace.

Video and communications are front and center on what I like to call “the return to work”, which is really the new way forward in the workplace. We’re the center of the world now. It’s not just video. You’ve got to have non-video time. You have to have collaboration space. We have a great collaboration product. We were in the market long before even some of the big box giants that do your operating system were throwing things out there. We know a lot about how businesses work. We have use cases for actually improving business efficiency, generating digital transformation for businesses where they’re using these products in a different way.

By taking that video product and stitching it completely into our own product, right into the intellectual property, it’s far more about the unification of the products than it is about one upping or coming out with the latest gizmo. It’s about offering a great experience in a secure environment. This new offering is wrapped in WebRTC so things like encryption in transit aren’t even a question. They’re front and center. It can’t be disabled. It’s part of the WebRTC standard and it’s transparent for everybody to review. So there are just things that are baked in there that are enterprise-class and really complement this new way of working.

There’s a ton of press around security breaches and people bombing platforms. How does RingCentral address that balance of security and ease-of-use all together on the platform?

That’s the hard part, right? I could make a product that’s 100% secure and that means pretty much nobody can use it or will want to ever use it. I could make a product that’s so easy to use, that a five-year-old could join. There’s basically no security.

You called it bombing in there — video teleconferencing hijacking is the official phrase. But here we are in the new world and this is what the markets were demanding. A lot of times it was this frictionless experience. RingCentral’s always been here. Do both really well, because that’s the hard part. Doing one or the other is easy. Doing both well is really, really hard.

We saw the shift in the marketplace, obviously, but I think what you described there is the ability to turn a dial and say, “This meeting, it’s an open meeting in a hotel lobby or whatever.” It’s not super secure. Or I’ve got a meeting where I want to know that the people in the meeting are exactly who they say they are and then I want to be able to lock the room and nobody can come in, and if somebody gets booted out, they have to notify me again.

Those are different experiences. You have to have those settings and capabilities so people can run different types of meetings, just like we would at work.

Overnight, most parts of the world went from premise-based work to remote working. The first thing companies had to do is address this world of communications so they could get people working at home. And they needed to do it quickly, so they leveraged whatever platform they had because it was what was easy.

Now, more than three months in, we’re seeing a shift in perspective where they’ve put out the fire, but realized that we’re going to probably be at this for a much longer period of time than we initially planned. No matter what solution someone may have chosen in the midst of a fire to put out the fire, what is it about RingCentral’s platform overall that you think makes it probably the best fit for the new normal?

What we’ve now deemed as the new normal was RingCentral’s old vision of how things were going to be anyway. It’s not a shift for what we were thinking. We were thinking about enabling work from home. We were a comprehensive suite of products. It was always combining messaging with an open platform so you could tie it into all of your business processes to any of the systems behind the scenes, robust voice services so you could contact anyone in the world without them having to download or do anything else, the good old PSTN, and then also video. We’ve always thought these worlds had to live together and be extensible in the business to go on there.

When things went into crisis mode for all of us that were completely fortunate to be in a line of work where we could continue to be productive, that required that point solution. People that hadn’t embraced a long-term, comprehensive and extensible strategy (which we believe we represent in the communications space) are going to have a point solution. They’re probably still on it. Now, they’re probably starting to look at what to do long term. C-level people I’ve been talking to in the last couple of months actually are saying productivity is going up.

Now, other businesses have to figure out their path to enhanced productivity as well, like service-based industries. We service a pretty large restaurant chain and, of course, their takeaway orders went through the roof. So they have to keep improving that business process to support that. How it used to be, is you’d go to the parking lot of one of these restaurants and there were two or three curbside takeaway spots and that was it. The other 90 spaces were for people to go in the restaurant. Now, it’s like 40 spaces of takeaway and the rest of the parking lot is irrelevant.

You’ve been at RingCentral for over 10 years. By various standards, that is a really long time. By any standard, it’s a long time. There are a lot of incredible companies and you’re a very talented person. What keeps you at RingCentral?

One, I’ve been fortunate to be with the company for so long in a world where, as you mentioned, it’s a two to three-year cycle for so many people out there. I think the key thing here is we’re still early in the game. The RingCentral team is really proud of the work we do. We hit this billion-dollar run rate. We’re now part of the Fortune Global 2000. We’ve really had this substantial growth. When I joined the company it was barely breaking 20 million but they had the right vision. The market was going to come to them. That was always going to be a tailwind. The first little whack of wind into the sails always makes a little chill go up your spine if you’re into that. What I’m realizing right now is that this is just going further and further.

There are hundreds of millions of seats out there to still move to this technology, and I believe in the vision of the company. To execute on that, we need this global team that we have. Plus, I think this pandemic has changed the focus and the importance of communications. We’re in this remote work, work on the fly, work from anywhere, work on mobility first, work on any kind of equipment environment. You and I are having this great conversation today and while we probably spent a little money on this equipment here, this is not a $100,000 studio.

Are there any stories you can share about RingCentral providing solutions during this pandemic crisis? Any feel good stories?

We had a really great client that’s been with us for years and years and years. The CIO there is an advisor in our customer advisory group. They provide elderly care, and are a preemptive care service who sits between GPs and the emergency rooms. It’s a very niche, but it’s also a very important world.

Their story before COVID was they could cut costs down 90% by handling issues that come into their doctors’ offices. They have 40 or so offices around the East coast. In the span of a couple of hours, they changed their business to a telemedicine focused one and these septuagenarians and octogenarians went right into it. They were ready. That switch kept the elderly from going into emergency rooms. Not bringing a lot of elderly people into centralized patient care where they might have been exposed was a really smart move.

The human side of this pandemic is that a lot of the country was (or still are) sheltering in place and some of them don’t have families. They don’t have people hanging around them. They’re by themselves. I love stories of seeing the social gatherings online, the ability to connect with colleagues and other people that we just didn’t have before. The most important piece being the expectation that you would have every day that you’re going to be connected to someone else in the world and not just alone in an apartment or in a house. So those are the stories that really warm my heart and hopefully we can carry those lessons forward and return everything back to a good normal.

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