8x8's John DeLozier: Features Go ‘Out The Door’ If Video Isn’t Secure

Channel-focused 8x8's channel chief John DeLozier talked about the firm's historical commitment to security and how its UCaaS platform is "saving the day" for its customers, which includes hospitals and educational institutions.

Growing With Gusto

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of employees and students globally to work remotely and distance-learn from their homes, which in turn, has prompted extraordinary video usage. Cloud communications and contact center specialist 8x8 has been on the receiving end of some of that unprecedented growth. The firm now has 11.5 million active monthly users on its video meeting platform across 165 countries-- a whopping 50x increase since before the outbreak.

Perhaps now more than ever, businesses and individuals are looking for communication tools that are easy to use, but not at the expense of security, John DeLozier, senior vice president of global channel, told CRN.

8x8 has always been a channel-led company and the firm, along with its partners, are coming to the rescue of customers, including hospitals and educational organizations, with a secure communication platform. Best of all, 8x8 didn't have to scramble to ready its services for the influx of users thanks to the pandemic -- the firm's cloud-based solution is ready for whatever comes next, DeLozier said.

Here are excerpts from the conversation about unified communications as a service adoption, the importance of security, and 8x8's thriving channel program, Elev8.

How has adoption of 8x8's meeting platform grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We've had our meetings platform called the X Series in play for a while now, which is everything from our voice and video, to contact center, and now [Communications Platform as a Service] CPaaS. One of the amazing staples of the platform is the meetings piece and the ability to collaborate remotely. Obviously with recent events in the last few months, it's just truly going through the roof. It's very secure and feature-rich, there's no hidden costs, and the world seems to really be taking notice.

We're targeting those in need, from the small business to the enterprise. We're seeing a lot of educational institutions, whether its K-12 or universities, and anything from state and local government to insurance companies and banking institutions. It's really been a matter of reaching the masses, and the channel has been very effective as partners are trying to put customer with the right company because security has become so important these days as everyone is working remotely. We're seeing big-time adoption. Customers are telling us about how the meeting platform has really saved the day.

How secure is 8x8's communication platform?

Our meetings platform has passed every security clearance needed at the very highest level, and that goes beyond what our competitors and competition are doing. What I do know is that our partners and our customers are very pleased with our security efforts. They know we are not passing data on to third parties. It's pretty great to work for a company that has that security approach in their back pocket.

We love the public internet and we do a lot of our business there. With that said, there is time and place for institutions that really want that secure, private, high-bandwidth network. For years, our company, like a lot of SaaS companies; we've never knocked on the dry wall. We take it right out to wireless network. But what we are seeing today, especially in the channel, is that partners want to see that solidified partnership with connectivity providers like Aryaka to run alongside companies like 8x8. We’re a SaaS company, we love software and we mostly care about delighting the customer, so coming to the market with partnerships like Aryaka and others is its critically important. I think you're going to see a lot more of it as consolidation happens, and we're ready for it.

Does security and data privacy issues from competing communication providers make things harder for other providers in the industry?

Absolutely, it does make things a little shaky for all of us in general if you're not educated in security. I've been on a few calls with some of our larger customers-- especially some of those that handle secure information for customers. Our partners are obviously very curious about [security] as they make recommendations around platforms and I've even had the opportunity to bring our chief security officer onto a few calls to provide those reassurances.

Businesses and customers want that continuity in a video offering and the ability to collaborate. Our customers love that the telephony piece that fits right into that -- it's persistent and consistent, and they need it to be secure. If they get a whiff that it isn't secure, you can get forget about any feature or functionality -- all of that goes right out the door. We're fortunate because we are so secure and always have been that we haven't had to deal with that.

What did 8x8 have to do to ready the platform for unprecedented growth at the beginning of the pandemic?

I think that's the beautiful thing. We have a lot of very smart experts and engineers, and they have been preparing for this -- not COVID-19 per say -- but they knew that our applications, collaboration and meetings platform in general would explode in the marketplace just like we've seen it explode in the channel. The answer is, we were ready for it. We have 17 global data centers all over the world. We use geo-routing which is unique to the industry and to our platform. Our customers , whether it's a hosptial in Italy, an insurance company in Australia, or one of our K-12 schools here in South Florida, we're seeing customers truly delighted in the platform. That's because we did the work upfront.

Have you seen an uptick in partner-driven adoption since the start of COVID-19?

Yes we have. 8x8 is company that is truly build for the cloud. Not a hybrid cloud -- we didn't decide we just wanted to play with cloud -- our software, our platform, was literally purposely invented for the cloud. About five-six years ago, our engineers built this amazing platform and then about two years ago, we took it to the world.

[8x8] talks in video. We literally meet together, very personally, daily, and our partners have embraced that because their customer are demanding that. Just in pipeline, we've seen significant increases as COVID-19 has hit and folks are stuck at home and trying to find a way to stay connected with their customers and employees. It's a big, big opportunity for our channel partners, as well as 8x8.

How core is 8x8's channel strategy to the company's overall approach to the market?

I came in about two years ago to [create] a purpose-built channel program called Elev8. That program is global and there's a place for everyone, regardless if you're in the master-sub agent word or most recently, we are going to market with VARs and even alliance partners. There are so many great companies that wants to go to market alongside us, like Aryaka, who is bringing connectivity to the table, while we bring the SaaS experience.

Nine out of 10 deals go through the channel here at 8x8 and I always tell my boss -- the CEO-- if you can find that tenth deal for me, I'll tag a partner to it. We are partner-first company and very focused on the channel. In Q3, we saw significant growth year-over-year to the tune of more than 60 percent. Ever since we started the Elev8 program a year and half ago, it's really gone through the roof.