LifeSize video evangelist aims to conquer culture problem

Simon Dudley, video evangelist at LifeSize

Simon Dudley, video evangelist at LifeSize

Simon Dudley officially stepped into a role he has filled for the nine years he has worked at LifeSize, but before now, he has always worn the video evangelist hat along with others. Now that the enterprise videoconferencing market is growing to the point of becoming a “need to have” instead of a “nice to have,” Dudley is taking on the video evangelist role full-time and hoping to solve the one remaining obstacle to major adoption — business culture.

“The problem with videoconferencing is technically we solved the problem and culturally we haven’t solved the problem,” Dudley told “My primary role is to make certain that users or potential users, customers of our technology, know how to use it.”

That’s not to say Dudley is there to show them how to press buttons. Quite the opposite, in fact. In his new role, which Dudley is very enthusiastic about, having spent two decades in the videoconferencing space, Dudley’s goal is to show existing and potential customers what videoconferencing can do to transform their businesses and how they can take advantage of the tools available.

According to Dudley, the technical challenges of IP-based videoconferencing have been solved, but business culture is still an inhibitor at times to full adoption of the technology. Simply put, people aren’t aware of what they can do with it or how it can change their day-to-day businesses. That’s a culture problem that Dudley intends to work towards solving.

“The industry is sick of the technical talk about video and wants to engage with clients and the world in general how this affects people’s lives,” Dudley said.

Of course, it’s no secret that culture around video adoption is being driven largely by consumers and gadgets like smartphones and tablets. With video now pervasive in everday life, people are asking why they can’t get the same functionality in their business lives, Dudley said. That’s mostly true of Millennials, who have grown up in a world where video is accessible at their fingertips. They also expect it to just work, he said.

Dudley noted there is some belief that because of the rise of video communication on mobile devices that videoconferencing meeting rooms are heading towards the grave, but he doesn’t believe that. While out and about, the video quality of a smartphone or tablet is good enough, but when workers are in the office, he said they would prefer to use the higher-definition of videoconferencing rooms. He compared it to watching a movie on an iPhone while there’s a widescreen TV in front of you.

Another major inhibitor Dudley plans to speak to potential customers about is the cost. One of the big myths about video is it has to cost $100,000 to get it up and running, but Dudley said that’s only true of big telepresence systems.

“You can get fantastic quality video with LifeSize at very inexpensive costs,” Dudley said, adding that a LifeSize room-base videoconferencing system can be had for under $3,000 — and for as low as $1,500 if need be.

In some cases, businesses are foregoing enterprise-grade solutions for free conferencing solutions like Skype, but Dudley warned businesses that they don’t get the security, manageability and reliability with a free consumer-grade system like Skype. There’s also nobody to call when something goes wrong, he said.

Looking ahead over the next five years, Dudley said the amount of video and videoconferencing will increase significantly, and it will become “enormously pervasive” in business. Some businesses have already moved video into the IT department as an application, and that’s a trend that will catch on throughout enterprises, he said. Additionally, virtualization is going to become a huge topic in the videoconferencing space.

“I do feel that the industry needs me or people like me, and I feel that the industry has solved the technical problem and hasn’t solved the culture problem of video. My job is to solve the cultural problem of ‘why video,'” Dudley said.