Collaboration: A Key Driver for Digital Transformation and the Cisco Story


As I walk around the conference floor here at Cisco Live talking to customers and partners, I’m reminded how exciting it is to work with innovative solutions that are driving real, impactful change in businesses. For my team and me, collaboration platforms and solutions have reached that pivotal stage. Seamlessly connecting people to people, people to systems, systems to systems, ultimately connecting information and accelerating the velocity of quality decision making at organizations. We see this transformation at Cisco, and I also hear it from customers that are working to leverage collaboration platforms to solve their biggest challenges – attracting top talent, improving their team’s ability to collaborate easily, providing a consistent experience anywhere, anytime, and connecting platforms to be able to access the data for decision making while making sure appropriate security and privacy concerns are addressed.

This year, the research firm IDC predicted that “by 2021, 65% of G2000 companies will offer coworking and remote-work options that leverage pervasive access to enterprise and collaboration applications.” That is a meaningful milestone in the Digital Transformation paradigm because it represents three critical changes that are in motion: how technology has changed our expectations in our day-to-day lives; how the workplace environment has unfolded; and how technology has evolved to break down barriers that have historically challenged that progress.

Technology Enabling Workplace Transformation

At Cisco, my team and I are responsible for providing core technology solutions to a workforce of over 140,000 across the globe – employees and contractors. In recent years, collaboration has proven to be a valued tool in our daily work. However, it’s only in the past two to three years that we see just how impactful it can be, including helping to bolster the bottom line by digitizing our business, increasing productivity, attracting and retaining top talent, and reducing the business risk in areas like security and data privacy. The results are significant and measurable and articulate how technology is an enabler of the transformation.

Webex as the Workstream / Webex in the Workstream

The center of our strategy has been Webex, including Webex Meetings and Webex Teams. It functions as the technology hub driving how we share and distribute information and how we meet with one another. It is pervasive across all our devices and buildings around the world. Our primary goal in IT is to create and support a consistent user experience, no matter where and how the technology is used.

More significantly, it’s engineered and integrated with other technologies throughout the workstream to help bind the experience. So, as a user moves from application to application (e.g., Salesforce, GitHub, ServiceNow), the Webex experience breaks down the traditional silos and acts as the common thread, connecting data and information. Plus, its integration with the productivity applications that we use helps our users by simplifying tasks. We’ve integrated Microsoft Office 365 to help simplify everyday tasks like scheduling, correspondence, and content storage.

Managing Change with Data and Insight

One of the key questions I often hear from customers is how Cisco IT plans for and makes decisions about technology rollout and life cycles. I’ve made it a key point in most of my talks here at Cisco Live.

My team and I have molded and follow an outcome-based, data-driven strategy. At the center of that, we work to understand business and workforce needs, and extract and analyze data coming from our systems to understand usage and adoption. We’ve opened up visibility into every detail to help inform our decision making, including more information around how people work, device usage in physical spaces, the number of video calls, and which integrations are critical and which solutions may be laggers.

Through this analysis, our teams can better plan for technology acquisition, rollout, and implementation. However, more essentially, it informs our teams on how to train our workforce in using the technology to improve its adoption – and better understand where the technology may not be the best fit. This approach has helped us drive adoption and usage to the higher percentile of usage of collaboration technology among our workforce.

Finally, through a close partnership we have with our business and product units, our teams are testing, piloting, and implementing Cisco products while they’re still in development. Through this “Customer Zero” program, we’re able to co-create, deploy, and drive needed changes in the Cisco solutions to improve the enterprise readiness and operational manageability.

What Should IT and Business Leaders Watch Out For?

As the backdrop to our planning and strategy in Cisco IT’s Business Collaboration and Software Platforms group, we have identified seven key pillars that help drive our thinking, planning, and analysis:

  • Scale: Can the solution easily and effectively scale to accommodate our needs across usage, cost, and footprint, not just now but also in the future?
  • Performance: Does the solution provide the performance capabilities we need with needed quality throughout the infrastructure, whether we’re concerned with our data centers, campus, remote, or the cloud?
  • Ease of Use: Is the solution easy to use? What type of training is required? Moreover, what are the barriers to our users’ adopting it effectively?
  • Analytics: Does the solution provide the data and analytics we’d like to see to help inform our decision making and understanding the solution’s effectiveness?
  • API-Enabled: Does the solution provide the needed APIs to allow systems to connect programmatically, integrate easily with other platforms, and enhance our ability to digitize our business?
  • Localization: Can the solution effectively address localization issues across our population that must be addressed? For example, can it be calibrated to comply with regional compliance standards like GDPR
  • Security: Does the solution have in place security capabilities to respond to security threats proactively, and provide data privacy and governance needed?

    Your Collaboration Journey

    In a conversation I had with an IT leader at a large enterprise firm yesterday here in San Diego, we were sharing our experiences with addressing the challenges of deploying collaboration solutions that will be adopted by users, while striving to foster the company’s growth. Although we come from different industries, we found ourselves in agreement on what we believe to be essential advice about collaboration we’d give to other IT leaders. It also reflects what I’ve included in my talks.

    • Understand the business needs and how work gets done across the organization.
    • Focus on simple, easy-to-integrate platforms that are cloud-enabled.
    • Leverage the intelligence in your solutions to manage the entire ecosystem, adjusting for capacity and performance.
    • And finally, keep security top of mind.

This is an exciting time for collaboration. It’s more powerful than ever and is having a bigger effect on our organization. For more stories about Collaboration at Cisco, visit Cisco on Cisco.

I’ll see you in the cloud!


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