Welcome to another in our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. Susan Hayden, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Go-To-Market Organization for Polycom, spoke with Brent Leary in this interview, which has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, page down to the loudspeaker icon at the end of the post.
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Small Business Trends: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Susan Hayden: I have been in the technology space my whole career and joined Polycom about a year ago to spearhead our SMB initiative.
Small Business Trends: Unified communications was something that, about five years ago, seemed more suited for larger enterprises. Help us understand what unified communications is today and how it fits with small and midsize businesses.
Susan Hayden: Unified communications is a set of technologies and solutions that allow people to collaborate more effectively. [It] typically spans from voice to video solutions that are completely integrated. You sometimes hear about unified communications being at the desktop level with other applications including IM and present desktop sharing.
Over the last couple of years, small enterprises have started to drive adoption of unified communications solutions because they see them as tremendous opportunities to increase productivity and performance, avoid having to travel, and have a great working experience at the same time.
Small Business Trends: A couple of years ago on the Super Bowl [they demonstrated] telepresence, which showed somebody who is not physically present looking like they are there. Where does telepresence fit into the unified communications landscape?
Susan Hayden: It’s at the heart of it because what allows us to collaborate most effectively is when we can actually see each other. We’re taking visual cues, we’re nodding, we’re agreeing. Telepresence is something we refer to as Real Presence within Polycom. It allows us to have a very real interactive collaborative experience.
Small Business Trends: What are some of the main drivers moving SMBs to unified communications and telepresence?
Susan Hayden: Our society is accustomed to communicating visually. Today we have [everything from] immersive room systems or conference rooms with telepresence and video capabilities, and desktop applications for video communication and collaboration, down to mobile tablets.
Adopting UC solutions like Real Presence Ready allows SMBs to take advantage of these new technologies. What’s important for SMBS is that it be easy, affordable and interoperable. So if you are on a tablet and I am on a desktop and someone else is joining us from a room system to participate in video collaboration, we want interoperable solutions.
SMBs tend to not have many IT resources, so we wanted to offer a variety of options to to deliver return on investment from day one.
Small Business Trends: Your solution has at least two different ways an SMB can use unified communications. Can you explain each?
Susan Hayden: Generally speaking there are two deployment options: on-premise or hosted. On-premise is what we call our Real Presence Ready solution. It is real presence, as we talked about before, that gives that user experience of really being there. It’s also ready – meaning it’s affordable and easy to use. It’s comprised of software, as well as services to get customers up and running.
For customers who are more accustomed to a demand model, we also make our UC services available through service providers and the cloud, which allows customers to have that same real presence experience anytime, at a predictable price, without having to think about the infrastructure or the backend.
Small Business Trends: For business users on the road, you work with companies like Regus to enable people [at Regus facilities throughout the country] to use this service too.
Susan Hayden: You can, on a per-room, per-hour basis, take advantage of a Polycom-enabled videoconference room. Whether that is just you and I speaking or a hundred associates, we can all be in [partner] locations across the world having a seamless, integrated video collaboration experience.
Small Business Trends: In a year or two, how will small and midsized businesses be leveraging unified communications and telepresence?
Susan Hayden: My prediction is they will do it in a completely ubiquitous way, just like you and I today automatically reach for our PDA or smartphone. Our primary approach to collaboration and communication will be visual, and we will do it on a combination of a tablet, a desktop, room system or purpose-built room system, like the ones we talked about with Regus. So we have a seamless way of collaborating on any device to anyone, even if they are not on a Polycom-specific system. In two years, we won’t remember not having communicated that way.
Small Business Trends: Where can folks learn more about Polycom?
Susan Hayden: Come to Polycom.com  to read more about our solutions or click to chat with someone who can speak to you and deploy some trial options.