The man in charge of Quad talks about how Cisco plans to break through in social software--and why enterprises should be focused on this area.
Murali Sitaram was named the VP/GM of Cisco's Collaboration Software Group responsible for Cisco WebEx, Cisco Jabber, and Cisco Quad last April. He is working to take a company that's been associated with physical networking, and move it more decisively toward social networking.
Murali currently sits on Cisco's Collaboration Architecture Board, Communications and Collaboration Board and the Customer Collaboration Advisory Board. He joined Cisco in 2007, and has over 23 years of leadership experience in software engineering and business management. Murali holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Bombay: one in physics, and the other in computer engineering and science. He also has a master's degree in computer science from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
Prior to Cisco, Murali held various senior management positions in software development and management at companies such as Narus, Aspect Communications, Avaya, and Quintus.
DM: How do you see social collaboration fundamentally altering the adoption and use of communications technologies?
MS: With advanced collaboration technologies like videoconferencing and enterprise social software, companies are rethinking the way they traditionally have done business. In today's post-PC era, employees no longer are tied to their desk or required to sit in a conference room to do their jobs.
Social collaboration adds a new layer to the communication experience, allowing companies to innovate, grow, expand into new markets and increase productivity. It can transform the workplace and provide unmatched benefits to an organization including:
* Easier access to resources and expertise, allowing employees to reach out to a large number of relevant co-workers, or even people outside the organization, and bring them into a searchable virtual discussion around a specific problem or challenge.
* Contextual, real-time communications through integration with voice, IM with presence, conferencing and video.
* Time and resource savings that drive better utilization of existing systems through pre-integrations with common IT infrastructure platforms.
* Social networking with less risk though built-in, rules-based policy management for sensitive content behind the firewall.
* Simplified content management with streamlined information sharing and search capabilities
* Serendipitous discovery of information that leads to efficiency gains in the organization
It all comes down to relevance. If we can deliver information, knowledge and expertise at the appropriate time to each individual we can make them more productive. If we can ensure that people are in the "know" without having to set explicit time aside to become "smarter," we can drive innovation. Social technologies, combined with real-time communications technologies, enable this perfect union.
As an example, imagine a manager scans an activity stream and notices a status message from a colleague indicating a supply chain problem. The manager can hover over the individual's name and be presented with click-to-call, click-to-IM, or click-to-conference options. They can immediately connect to discuss the problem and options; they can search for experts and bring them into a rapid response team; they can create a community space to share their findings; and they can rapidly develop an action plan to mitigate any risks from this supply chain problem.
DM: Cisco, and some of its competitors, are using the term "people-centric collaboration"--what exactly does this mean and how is Cisco's approach unique?
MS: Over the last two or three decades we have been living in the era of the "document" or the text embodied in "email". All of our legacy collaboration tools have evolved over the years to deliver the best experience based on this "content"-centric paradigm. However, if you think about it, people don't really collaborate or work in that way. We have conversations, we share in communities, we attend meetings, we make sense of things by networking with colleagues--documents have their role, but we make decisions on how we want to deliver products and services or innovate to grow the business by collaborating with each other. These interactions and activities are inherently people centric--especially in the modern world. My view is that the previous generation of tools have outlived their utility and we must rethink how people work.
In addition, our world today is inherently global. You may be working with people that you might only know peripherally or indeed not at all. To make sense of these interactions, we must put people in the center of the conversation to deliver the most productive results. Old techniques will simply not do anymore.