Recently, Ovum attended Cisco’s Collaboration Analyst Conference in Singapore and saw the evolution of its collaboration strategy on multiple fronts.
Examples of UC features deployed in business-to-consumer (B2C) environments highlight a new dimension of possibilities for enterprises in delivering customer service, and may rebalance the way they distribute their workforce.
Mobility was finally considered as part of its core strategy, but a lack of carrier-based mobile solutions may prevent Cisco from delivering its mobility vision via carrier networks.
Cisco’s new Integrated Workforce Experience combines the company’s acquired social network, Quad, with other UC functionalities through a single user interface that provides users with all the collaboration tools they need to perform their tasks in a simple and efficient way.
However, it still doesn’t address the major barriers for UC adoption in the business-to-business (B2B) environment. CIOs have to justify their investments, and building business cases for UC based on cost savings continues to be difficult, with few enterprises able to quantify the business benefits that these tools can bring. Furthermore, the adoption of collaboration applications still requires behavioral change, which is normally the hardest part of the implementation process.
On the other hand, B2C collaboration can represent a much greener field. Investing in serving customers is normally better perceived by enterprises and more likely to gain a CEO’s support. In addition, while few companies train staff to collaborate more effectively with internal peers, training is almost always a significant activity for any customer service team.
Ovum was impressed with the real world examples of UC functionalities presented by Cisco, all of which illustrated the ways that enterprises can serve their customers remotely. Some of the deployments that most impressed us were: a WebEx customized solution that allows customers to virtually interact with a financial institution about their services; a remote clinic where doctors can use HD video and connected instruments, such as stethoscopes, to remotely diagnose patients; and a college that delivers remote lectures.
We think the potential is enormous, and that these new capabilities may change the way enterprises distribute their workforce. Faster networks, HD video, and collaboration features can reduce geographical barriers and help global organizations to concentrate their staff in places where certain skills are more available and cost less. This will set the stage for competition between countries and may have significant implications around service regulations, salary levels, and employment rates.
With a growing number of connected mobile devices of all types finding their way into enterprises, it is not surprising that Cisco considers mobility to be one of the core elements in its collaboration strategy. It has expanded its portfolio, and the Borderless Network Architecture vision now also includes routing, switching, and security solutions, which gives it a more comprehensive approach to mobility.
However, mobility beyond premise and WiFi products is an area where Cisco will need to rely heavily on partnerships with other vendors and carriers. The lack of mobile access solutions may prevent Cisco from offering mobile video with end-to-end service level agreements in the public domain.
Cisco emphasized B2C collaboration, which we think is good. There were also some interesting video-enabled applications that we think are innovative and provide more evidence that Cisco is a leader in video as a channel for collaboration. But we would have liked to see more use cases of mobility. Cisco’s lack of carrier products may limit its ability to develop and deliver mobile collaboration applications from a public network, and the company will need to address this to complete its collaboration vision.