POLY = Plantronics + Polycom: A Different DNA

Genetic engineering and digital technology concept.

Darren Knapp Talks About What’s New With The POLY Brand and Their Partnerships

This year at Vectors 2019, Darren Knapp, Director of Global Cloud & Service Providers Group at POLY talks with Erik Linask, TMC’s Editorial Director, about what’s new at Poly. He gives insight into the new brand that has emerged from Plantronics plus POLY, new products and their partnership with SkySwitch. He also talks about the features of POLY’s new Device Management service and how they give that as a value-added service for their endpoints. 

Darren Knapp talks about POLY’s new products, services and their partnership with SkySwitch. 

#Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #TMC #POLY #Plantronics #Polycom

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask: Hi, we’re coming to you live from Vectors 2019, Orlando and joining me now Darren Knapp from Poly. Darren, thanks for joining me.

Darren Knapp: Hey, thank you very much, I appreciate being here, with this group. It’s been amazing. Great crowd.

Erik Linask: Good. Well, glad to hear that. It looks like it’s been a great show so far, absolutely. So Poly, company or combination of two companies that pretty much everybody in our audience has heard of. But tell me about that combination, the rebranding and you know, sort of what’s happened?

Darren Knapp  Yeah, so listen, it’s been fun for me. I come from the Polycom side, that started in 2013 and you know, we focus on phones for the telephony space. But now with the combination of playing Plantronics plus Polycom, I mean, for me as a tech guy, it’s a lot more fun. We’ve got so much more to talk about. And you know, gadgets to play with and show off. And so it’s been really neat. But part of the story is that you’ve got two well-established companies in Plantronics and Polycom with decades of experience of doing unified communications.

And  now bringing it together and saying, look, really, it doesn’t matter what you’re using, who you’re connecting with, right? So if it’s you and me on a phone call over headsets, or if it’s me, calling the boardroom, and they’re on video, so you know, one to one, one too many, many, too many. We’ve got that solution covered from a voice and video perspective. And then we’ve got some cloud solutions in the middle that help manage it all. So things like our device management service that gets in there and lets your knock, on a live phone call, begin running a packet capture, looking at live call stats, and things like that. And really, those are game changers and the big revelation for the crew here at Vectors is we don’t even charge for that, you know, we just give that as a value-added service for our endpoints.

Erik Linask: So what’s changed? You know, you talk about some of the great things, some of the great things that happened when you combine two companies with such a rich history in this space. You know, there’s got to be some new stuff as well.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s, it’s a different DNA, it feels different. The biggest changes I’ve seen from my position, you know, I’m a director of our sales team, our global sales team for the internet, telephone service providers, ITSPs. And, for me, the biggest changes I see is this passion to create and innovate, and we’re coming up with things that are different that nobody a year ago, nobody neither envisioned or certainly didn’t bring to market.

Like our Alara 60, I take my cell phone and connected to this device. It’s my headset, it’s my speakerphone, it’s my dial pad, it’s my charger, everything for my cell phone. It’s just built around it and it’s the perfect solution if all you want to use is your cell phone. Two devices were developing for call center, plug and play USB devices for video that are sub $1,000 that act like and feel like a $10,000 video system. So it’s a different DNA and looking at, hey, everybody’s known us for quality, that’s never been the problem. But value, I would challenge that neither Plantronics nor Polycom were considered value companies. And so what you’re seeing now is this, hey, we need to be aggressive on making sure that the customer has all the value-packed in right, so they’re paying a reasonable price point for devices going to just absolutely do everything that they need and provide that quality. That’s the biggest difference in the DNA of the company.

Erik Linask: You’re right, I think that both brands were, you know, pretty much across the board recognized as being higher end product providers. Does that kind of evolution you know, that’s been software-driven, you’re able to do so much with the product.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, and there’s so much. I mean, you think about the phone, it always blows my mind. So Polycom IP phone had 9 million lines of code in it. It just, you don’t even think about that. But there’s stuff in there that people have no concept of regarding security or something like our acoustic fence that does noise cancellation on steroids. And when we could be in a concert hall, and I can pick up a Polycom phone on a handset and start talking to somebody and they might hear a little bleed, but really not. So I mean, and we’ve done this before, had it in front of a DJ booth, and pick up our phones and start doing these demos, and people are just blown away with how good the noise reduction is. That’s all software. I mean, those are algorithms built in to leverage the high-quality microphones, one on the speakerphone one on the handset, and doing these crazy things that you can’t even, you know, envision until you actually hear it.

Erik Linask: So with that said, you know, you’re here at Vectors. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with SkySwitch.

Darren Knapp: Yeah, so we were a partner-driven company, right? We don’t really do anything direct, everything we do is through partners. And for us, SkySwitch, number one great group of people, just love the people who run the entire company. But second, their strategy of providing a platform to their partners, gives us you know, strategically it gives us a lot of leverage, right? If we are providing a good solution and a good partnership, to SkySwitch, well, that is imparted to all of their partners. Being here at Vectors, we’re seeing that you know, people are coming in and the message resonates at an event like this where we’ve had a steady stream of people at our command center, we’re signing up partners, and we’ve got a list of right now you know, 30 new partners, you know, you just don’t do that by cold calling, right? So for us, it’s just phenomenal to come and be in front of people and talk to them and get to, you know, kind of evangelize the message.

Erik Linask: So with that said, what is the opportunity for Poly? What do you see for the growth of the UC market and how that’s going to impact Poly?

Darren Knapp: Yeah. So it just keeps going up. We started seeing some changes in, 2006 to 2008. You started to see it start to elevate and people started moving off-prem and going to the cloud. And then we had some issues, right, the broadband wasn’t as good as it could have been. Remember, the iPhone was invented in 2008, right? So we’re not talking about that long ago, but yet technology’s changed crazy. So the broadband is gotten better. The cloud platforms have gotten better, the stability has gotten better. And so you’ve got this realization now that the tipping point has happened, and people are saying, okay, time to get rid of this antiquated system and move to the cloud. 

So we’re seeing on average at least 16% growth for partners who are looking to grow. Now there’s plenty of partners out there that are happy to just to kind of, you know, chug along and add a couple of partners or customers per year. But for the most part, anybody who’s interested in growth is looking at double-digit growth. That’s great business. And so if you’re looking for a business model for growth, this is a great place to start. We’re talking to managed service providers, we’re talking to rural telecoms that only offered pots lines, and all of them are coming to an event like this to say, Hey, this is a fast path for me to start, I could put in my information, do my partnership, and within a month or two, I’m up and running, selling Voice over IP and, you know, hosting unified communications.

Erik Linask: So it’s been about half a year. So a little bit more than that, since you emerged as the new brand. What is the response to the reception been, particularly from your partner community?

Darren Knapp: I mean, there’s always a couple of wisecracks right you know, “Polly want a cracker.” So we’re always going to get something funny like that. But you know, for the most part, I think everybody’s light bulb goes off and they go, wow, it’s a one-stop-shop for a company that gives me everything, that’s gives me you know, the headset, the video, the phones, and all these new things that we’re developing. And it’s the brand power, even though it’s a new brand it’s caught on quickly. Everybody gets Polycom, Poly, Plantronics, it’s all one. And so the brand power also helps you as a smaller provider, get to market and get in front of a medium-sized customer and say, my solution is built on this enterprise-grade product. And so we’re able to, you know, help them sell and help go upmarket. We also do things like we invest in our partners, we spend joint marketing funds, like here at this event with SkySwitch. But also a smaller partner, we might give them $5,000 to go to an event or do an ad campaign or something like that.

Erik Linask: Is it just me or does the new logo have a distinct resemblance to the traditional Polycom conference phone?

Darren Knapp: That’s sharp man, you’re on it. I’m not in the marketing department, I can’t take any credit for it, but they had a few ideas. The Poly logo is based off the conference phone but it’s also based off the propeller, and the Plantronics side got its roots in the aviation industry. So Plantronics, the big fame is that we were the ones that went to the moon on that first lunar trip, that was a Plantronics headset. And if you look throughout the FAA and everybody who’s using professional-grade headsets, that’s all Plantronics. So it was a homage to the propeller and to the conference phone. So that’s where that logo came from.

Erik Linask: Very interesting. You learn something every single day, but Darren thank you so much for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your week here at Vectors. 

Darren Knapp: Appreciate it man. Thank you very much.