I have written extensively on Cisco’s I-prize efforts (see Cisco Announces I-Prize Winner and Results of Their Global Collaboration and Cisco Announces Second I-Prize Winner) but have not yet had a chance to look at their enterprise collaboration efforts. So I was pleased to recently speak with Murali Sitaram, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Cloud Collaboration Applications Technology Group (CCATG), to discuss Cisco’s cloud collaboration strategy. It includes leading enterprise cloud applications for web conferencing (WebEx), instant messaging (Jabber) and enterprise social software (Quad) but goes much beyond that.
Murali began by noting that we have entered the post-PC era. It is not longer a single operating system on a single device. Now there are multiple smart devices, many mobile, that have more capabilities than the PCs of a few years ago. There are also multiple operating systems and thousands of apps that you can download from the cloud through app stores. This is occurring both on the Web and within the enterprise where BYOD is spreading. Now we have mobile devices, social applications, visual media, and virtual storage. This has certainly transformed the challenges faced by IT departments trying to keep up with their user’s requirements.
Cisco’s strategy in this post-PC world is to deliver collaboration on any device, anywhere and at anytime. Key to this strategy is a cloud offering that can deliver these services over any network and support all of the popular PC, tablet and phone operating systems that users bring into the workplace as a part of the “BYOD” pheonomenon.
Murali introduced a useful collaboration quadrant (see image below). In the upper left is Communications where Cisco a market leader. It has 37% of enterprise voice, 52% of telepresence, and 45% of SaaS webconferencing, leading each of these three categories by a significant margin. They are also the number two SaaS service with 5.8 million registered hosts worldwide. In the upper right is the People side with social capabilities and identity management. This is an area that Cisco is making some serious moves. It is the right direction as people, rather than documents, are becoming the center of collaboration and the means to create connections within the new social enterprise. As Murali expressed, it now more “who” than “what” than shapes communication.
In the lower left is Business Processes such as CRM and ERP. Here Cisco is taking an integration and partnership strategy. In the lower right is Information Management where they have also adopted with same integration and partnership approach. This makes a lot of sense. Build on your strengths in communications to add social and other people related capabilities that are a natural fit and extension of communications. Then, do not re-invent capabilities where there are plenty of strong partners to work with and where new options for integration are opening up with increased API functionality.
As part of their move into the People quadrant, the next generation of Web Ex is designed for the complete meeting cycle. It offers a centralized meeting space to streamline items before, during and after a meeting – from meeting agendas, presentations and notes shared during the meeting to follow up actions and meeting recordings. The solution that now supports HD video is interoperable with Cisco TelePresence and supports two-way video on the Cisco Cius, Apple iPad and Apple iPhone. The solution also supports a set of common APIs that can integrate third party applications such as CRM offerings. There is also integrated calendaring and scheduling.
Cisco has also expanded its collaboration platform, Quad with a comprehensive set of features. There are profiles and you follow people with a single click. There is an activity stream and watch list capability and you can share comments and ideas. You can create rich content with micro-blogs, wikis, documents, and videos. Real-time collaboration is available and recordable for future use. Backend applications such as calendaring, document management, and custom enterprise apps are accessible. You can search for experts and determine presence. Mobility is supported for both smart phones and tablets. Here is a sample Quad screen.
All of these features provide a totally integrated user experience taking email down to the role of a relatively minor player as the rich nature of communication options, including presence and the ability to switch quickly to real-time communications, provides a much richer set of options. You can even bring email into Quad if needed.
To supplement these communication capabilities Cisco is offering a new freely downloadable Cisco Jabber Web browser plug-in that lets companies and developers embed UC collaboration capabilities into any web-based application. The kit is highly customizable, and with just a web browser, users can connect, communicate, and collaborate with presence, IM and click-to-call or click-to-video capabilities within line of business web applications or general purpose, public-cloud web applications.
One example of Cisco’s new approach to collaboration can be found at Virgin Media that recently announced they are deploying Cisco Quad, Cisco WebEx, Cisco Unified Communications as part of its Flexible Working Initiative. By putting people and not the device at the center of collaboration, Virgin is now able to support a more flexible work environment. People can co-work from a variety of office locations or from home. Virgin Media’s employees will now be able to collaborate and work remotely with video calls and shared documents from the device of their choice: PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone.
I like what they are doing. As Murali mentioned, people, rather than documents, are becoming the center of collaboration. Cisco is well positioned to make its strength in communication more social to address this shift in how work is being is done in the connected enterprise. I plan to speak again with them to take a deeper dive into the specifics of the relevant products offerings.