Verrex’s Charmaine Torruella Talks Managed Services

Verrex’s Charmaine Torruella Talks Managed Services

Name: Charmaine Torruella

Position: Global Managed Services Executive

Company: Verrex

SCN: How long have you been working as a global managed services executive at Verrex, and how has your background prepared you for the role?

Charmaine Torruella: I’ve been working as the global managed services executive since October of 2017. I’ve had a long history in technology, since 1998. I started out working for phone companies in New York, resellers of Verizon, dealing with PBX and Centrex phone systems and circuits. Then from there, getting into conferencing solutions for enterprises that needed audio conferencing On-Prem and/or hosted conferencing solutions. As communications started to develop I got into video and I started working for AV integrators like AVI-SPL and RTS, and working with Yorktel and some others, and then also working with networks, working for Global Crossing, which later became Level 3, which I think is now CenturyLink today.

So, I kind of touched a lot of a lot of IT technology predominantly in the beginning, and kind of grew into the AV side, where customers needed help when video came onboard, to really integrate that into their sites. That prepared me a lot for doing service on those different levels—for business phone service customers, for IT cloud solutions customers—I dealt with a lot of service plans and training for those customers.

SCN: What are some of the latest developments in collaboration spaces, and why is ongoing service of them important?

CT: Collaboration spaces, for example huddle spaces: there’s a sharp rise in that. A lot of enterprise clients are really not looking to put a 44RU rack in their spaces, because it’s a lot to maintain, so they’re simplifying their rooms. In the simplification of their rooms they’re taking, say, one big integrated room, and they’re cutting it up into five or six different rooms. It’s creating more rooms, and it’s happening a lot through the huddle space. Also, we see a lot of clients who are using soft video clients, so they’re integrating whatever equipment with a soft client, as opposed to a hard client like Cisco or Polycom. So the service then changes, and becomes a different kind of service required to maintain those rooms, and it can be more of a cloud solution service that has the ability to look into all these different rooms, and not necessarily have someone come onsite to do that.

Ongoing service for these spaces is very important because, again, there’s so many more of them because they’re a more economical solution for the enterprise that they can multiply much faster and set up much more quickly. But they have so many more rooms to manage now, and the resources and staff internally are still the same. So they rely on an integrator like myself more to help them with the management service, to help them to oversee that. And a lot of the companies that we deal with at Verrex are global or national. We do jobs in Dallas; we do jobs in California—all over. So those clients, their teams, do not have the ability to travel, but we do. We have the ability to touch those points, those different areas and regions and help them with that.

SCN: What factors do you take into account to structure maintenance and service plans?

CT: I start with their workflow. People usually ask how much it costs, and I say ‘That’s really last on the list.” So I have to take into effect how their technology team or department works: what their responsibilities are, what they’re doing. In a lot of cases, you’ll have a technology team internal to the company that really is, say, their facilities people mingled with some telecom people and resources, and they are just now taking on the AV side because that was the initiative directed through management. Not that they’ve always done this; but now AV is becoming a place in a lot of these companies that was an afterthought but now has to be factored in somehow with the IT department’s thinking and strategy. So I have to understand the people internally in that enterprise—what their workflow, day-to-day is—and from there I can structure the maintenance plan.

For example, there’s a very large financial client that I’ve worked with for a very long time. They’re a global client with a very small team that manages over 1,000 rooms. So over a 1,000 AV groups, managed by fewer than 10 people. So I have to look at that and say, “Out of these people, who does what?” and out of those less than 10 people, only two are responsible for making sure the service is there. So I have to look at where their offices are, the type of offices that they have, which offices are the older offices. Then I take into account the age, if they’ve done a refresh, if they’ve done an upgrade or not. Some have started the process of upgrading these spaces; a lot have not. So I’ll come into a situation where the space has not been serviced for nine years, in some cases—15 years in some scenarios. And I’m finding that occurring quite frequently with a lot of clients I’m working with on a service level. And so they are the optimal service clients because they don’t always refresh. And because of that, they need to pay more attention to the service and maintenance of their rooms.

So that’s how I approach it when I start to structure that service plan. I also determine if they need a high-touch type of service—in other words, do you need 24-hour access to my service guy to come on site? We have a transportation client that needs never to be down, so we have to be very responsive, under 24 hours. So I have to take that into account also. Those are just some of the main things we take into account when I structure the maintenance and service plans for the clients.

SCN: It sounds like you must never have time to sleep!

CT: You don’t and you do; you don’t have time to sleep but you know what, this is one of the pieces of advice I give to a lot of my clients: Always think about service as you’re thinking about the integration piece; think about it hand in hand. Because that’s what a lot of clients don’t do, and that’s why a lot of clients’ service expense is high, and you want to manage that. I tell a lot of clients, “Yes, it’s part of my job to make revenue from selling service, but it’s also my job to help you get the right plan that makes it cost-conducive to your effort—not to just charge you.” You want to manage it to where the expense is manageable, and doesn’t get out of control. So that’s what I’m teaching clients now. It’s a very hard lesson for a lot of clients, but it’s a lesson that they’re starting to learn.

SCN: How are data and analytics shaping the solutions you provide?

CT: One of the things I do a lot of is the analytics of huddle spaces, the kinds of purchases customers use. For example, Cisco has a great solution in terms of security and the equipment, and I know when it comes to Cisco equipment, maintenance is very important and can also be a little bit complex. Crestron is another one.

You also have the analytics of what your clients are buying into in terms of manufacturer, what types of technologies—those analytics basically help me shape the type of solution. So other than just sending an onsite person, I also have the other type of solution, which is virtual—having a remote person who has a certain expertise, and a certain knowledge, that can probably resolve the issue without even touching your site, which is economical for the customer, and time-conducive to their efforts and their end users’ efforts.

It’s also very important in dealing with service to look at market trends, what’s going on in the market. As we noticed in the last week, the market has been going through quite a bit of fluctuation and some uncertainty in some sectors, especially in FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google). Looking at that and where customers are going to and how those markets are doing determines if you’re an environment that’s more of a service environment, or more of a build-out, integration market. For this market, there’s so much uncertainty that certain customers, depending on how their valuation is, may rethink upgrading or doing new technology. In that instance, if that customer is in that position, or in that thought process, they’re more of a service client than they are a “let’s refresh and move to the next thing” [kind of client]. So that’s one of the things that the data analytics and the market can tell you.

SCN: Do you face any challenges in working with clients’ IT/technology managers?

CT: When it comes to AV, a lot of people in the technology world know what AV is; they don’t understand what AV does and where AV fits. And that’s predominantly because there’s really not a school or a degree of some sort that teaches you AV. The only one that really does is AVIXA, that really has structure into the education of the AV integration world. In the IT world, they have different areas of study, whether that be programming, networks, or security, and it’s pretty straightforward to them in their world what needs to be managed from an IT perspective. For them to learn the AV perspective, they don’t have a starting point.

So they basically learn through their resources onsite, if they have a colleague who has done an AV space, or an AV partner learning what is involved in AV. AV, as I like to say, is a combination of the construction and the technology worlds. A lot of your knowledge comes from the onsite touch and feel and experience of the equipment, of knowing how the different vendors work together—that’s where a lot of your training comes from. So the challenge with the IT and technology managers is not always understanding what it takes. And thinking that it can be minimized in terms of cost—“Oh no, that’s too expensive; can’t we make it less?” “If we make it less,” I tell some of them, “it’s going to cost you more in the end because you’re not factoring this.” There’s so many different components to the AV world that make up an integration and they don’t always understand it at first glance. But now that they’re taking it on more and more, they’re starting to understand it a little bit better. But there are a lot of IT managers that don’t, and they think that whatever their IT solution may be can always fit into the AV solution and rectify the problem with an AV room. And that’s not necessarily the case.

And in terms of service, IT deals with a lot of service contractors, so I don’t have the challenge in getting an audience with the technology manager; I just have the challenge in having them understand the importance of AV service and the difference between that and regular IT service.

SCN: What’s the next big thing in managed services?

CT: I’ve always thought of cloud managed services as the next big, big, big thing—Utelogy specifically. Because Utelogy works off of the standards, it doesn’t have a closed system. In other words, you could have any type of equipment, it will interoperate with pretty much anything. And I think [a big area will be] cloud and network managed services, in terms of security. We all know that a lot of clients are concerned with having a display or camera in their room, and being concerned as to whether someone has access to the camera and if it’s on when it’s not supposed to be on, and it’s capturing information that it shouldn’t. I think managed services in terms of security, and checking whether your equipment is vulnerable or not, is another path that is probably going to come along very soon, and Cisco is definitely on that path.

Also, another thing that used to be “a big thing” but there’s a resurgence of right now: managed professional services. Actual physical people, not performing maintenance, but performing the management of an event, with all of the equipment, with the cameras, setting up a video call—setting up a multi-divisible event space with all the AV and managing that, and managing the content on the display. That’s another thing that I see coming back.

SCN: Anything you’d like to add?

CT: I think customers should see service and managed services not just as another overhead expense; it’s guidance as well. In a lot of cases, service has been able to educate a lot of the customers on the next best step in treating their room, or the next best technology to use. So a good service partner can be a very good educator to the customer, because that person is looking at all different types of service aspects, and not just one scenario within one client. And that’s a good education for a client to have and work with in order to help them with their technology roadmap.

Matt Pruznick

Matt Pruznick is the former editor of AV Technology, and senior editor for Systems Contractor News and Residential Systems. He is based in New York.