I am pleased to be back for my sixth Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Here is a link to a summary of last year’s notes. During the event I interviewed Raj Gossain, VP Product Management on their go-to-market strategy. They have released a lot of new functionality, as well as some smart re-branding.
The new capability are part what's now called Cisco WebEx® Social (formerly known as Cisco Quad™) and build upon existing offerings that help employees share knowledge, find experts and information and form effective virtual work teams. With this release of WebEx Social, Cisco is introducing the following capabilities:
Cisco now provides integration with WebEx Social and Microsoft Office that enables workers using Word, PowerPoint or Excel to jointly edit and post updated documents, presentations and spreadsheets back to WebEx Social.
Email no longer has to be a siloed application. With enhanced e-mail integration, workers can stay in e-mail clients such as Microsoft Outlook while also creating and posting updates to WebEx Social.
Cisco is introducing mobility enhancements to the WebEx Social iPhone and iPad client that will give workers the ability to transition from social networking to real-time IM, Web conferencing and voice calls directly from their mobile application.
With new browser-based video calling, people can seamlessly escalate to a high-definition (HD) video conferencing session, without going to a separate application. These sessions are compatible with a wide variety of video endpoints, including Cisco TelePresence®, IP video phones, mobile and soft clients.
They are also offering flexible deployment models: With this release, customers will have a choice of deployment models. WebEx Social is available as an on-premise (WebEx Social Server) offering, partner-hosted (through Logicalis, ACS and Alphawest) and a Cisco-hosted cloud-based solution.
I noted to Raj that while all of these great efficiencies in synchronous and asynchronous communications can lead to tactical improvements, I wanted his views on how they can be used for strategic transformation. He replied with three main themes.
First, one of the major trends is the mobile worker and decentralized, disaggregated enterprise. WebEx Social is designed to support this transformation in how enterprises operate. It enables flexible working and gives the worker access to the company activities and culture with an immediacy of interaction and access as if they were co-located. There is the ability to participate in explicit and implicit communities of interest and practice. Through activity streams, you can subscribe to topics and individuals and gain access to information and expertise. So the first major theme is bringing the organization together virtually where physically it has been dispersed.
The second theme is breaking organizational silos. Many firms are still managing the organization in very hierarchical, siloed information and interaction flow. Hierarchy helps to manage certain business processed but can be a real impediment to the demands of market acceleration and globally engaged work group. Collaboration is a non-linear, iterative, people process. It involves exchange, and worked-empowered course-correction.
Up until recently many software vendors have focused on automation of those repeatable process, HR, ERP, etc, that operate in hierarchies. But now 85-90% of corporate assets are intangible. It is a whole new game. Accelerating innovation is where collaboration can really add value. I added that's kind of productivity on steroids - innovation in the day-to-day work context.
Raj continued that WebEx Social allows you to stay on top of topics and relationships to your day job. It is a mixed model, you have conversations, you check data and are able to reduce the distracting context switching of your modalities.
I agree, and for companies where decisions were made at the lower level of the hierarchies, the higher the operating margin (see McKinsey report 2010). WebEx Social empowers tools actually empower them to do it.
Raj said this is how you flatten the enterprise with collaboration tools like WebEx Social.
The third theme is scaling and capturing knowledge. You can now connect knowledge, scale knowledge beyond old school confined networks and have new people with common interests discover each other and interact. Raj said that now you can more easily create knowledge and knowledge capture is inherent to the collaborative process.
Raj said that the new capabilities are along these 4 vectors:
How do you bring social into the contexts people are working in every day - WebEx Social helps broaden participation by enabling employees working on mobile devices, email and personal productivity applications to easily engage in social collaboration with their colleagues.
How do you maintain and advance your leadership in integration? In addition, flexibility deployment is a hallmark of Cisco's overall collaboration strategy. The tools can used on premise or hosted through partners, or the Cisco hosted cloud.
There is more simplification with a user experience cleanup, streamline, enhanced flow. They are also bringing social to where people work as you can see from the new integrations with tools like Microsoft Office. Now you do not to have to worry about how to get hold of a person, just click to connect by video, telephony and chat.
Raj said that their customers are asking for integrated suites - integrating these workloads - IM, meetings social are all part of a unified offer. This market direction builds on WebEx leadership in meetings business. It is the number two cloud provider for business applications. They understand what it means to run a secure application. There are 6.5 million users that are licensed to host a meeting and 31 million people a month attend a WebEx Meeting. There are also 3 million mobile downloads and I ma sure this is growing.
Raj offered some sample use cases of WebEx Social impacting productivity. One is arming the sales teams. To better collaborate on an RFP. What if you have a complex customer RFP and you are a member of a distributed organization. You have two weeks to prepare a comprehensive response to the customer. In the old days it was fire an email out to 25 people and pray. You had no visibility into what the progress has been made and who's involved, lots of follow up and redundancies.
Now with WebEx Social you can create a post and share it with an initial list of 25 people with the RFP document, maybe a spreadsheet and allow those people to share it with appropriate people, and now you have an activity stream that shows you where it is in the process, new information that's been brought in. You've got transparency, visibility and you've captured all the knowledge that's been involved in the process. You've got a more comprehensive artifact and you can share it with other sales teams.
Raj offered another example - his own staff meeting. He can post the staff meeting agenda. All staff can edit the post and you're not wasting time on disseminating information you're focusing. People do not have to engage in information updates at the start of the meeting and everyone can be up to speed and ready to solve problems at the start.
The world is changing and business tools like WebEx Social enable companies to move towards the promise of the connected enterprise. I like the improvements and the more streamlined market positioning.