Cisco's Barry O'Sullivan: 2012 Collaboration Predictions
What's ahead for social, video, the cloud, and other top issues? Barry O'Sullivan offered some ideas, and answered our followup questions.
Cisco recently sent me a piece penned by Barry O'Sullivan, the company's senior VP and GM for the Collaboration and Communications Group; the topic was "Collaboration Predictions for 2012." It was a pretty interesting list, but I wanted to ask some follow-up questions. Barry was kind enough to respond to these follow-ups in an email exchange. So below are the original predictions, with follow-up questions in italics and Barry's responses below the questions:
1. Post PC-era will explode
Fewer people will use desktop PCs to collaborate. Boundaries between families, workers, and friends will continue to vanish as people's lives become intertwined with their mobile device. As a result, IT managers will look for options that enable workers to collaborate on their own terms. Employees will increasingly access presence, instant messaging, voice, video, voice messaging, desktop sharing, and conferencing capabilities via apps built for their mobile device, and insist on a consistent user experience (whether Android, iPhone, RIM, or another). As a result, businesses will go from managing multiple company apps to managing apps for a single employee across multiple platforms, including PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones. The enterprise app store model will take off since businesses can track, manage, and deliver applications to workers, and developers can bill based on actual usage.
Does this mean a single interface like Jabber, Lync, Flare, or the new IBM Connections release—i.e., a single portal that runs all the apps the user has permission to use? Or does the "enterprise app store" mean the user will run any enterprise-approved app, any way he/she chooses? And will the device itself be a dedicated enterprise device like Cius, or a general-purpose, dual-use device like iPad?
We see a mix of devices including different tablet OS and different device form factors. The UC apps like Jabber will work across all the devices including fixed and smart phones and be a single interface for communications ("unified communications") with a consistent user experience. However, the app management capability is different. We are talking about two different things here. This app management capability is talking about being able to distribute and control applications out to mobile devices that includes communications apps but also the hundreds of thousands of apps in the Apple store, Google Marketplace, AppHQ as well as enterprise developed "private" apps. This app management platform will be able to optimize and manage apps for an employee based on their role in the enterprise but also based on the device they are using at that time and place.
2. Video will break through
Intercompany collaboration with video will become more pervasive as companies of all sizes--from big enterprises to small/mid size business--share in-person experiences inside and outside their companies with customers, partners and vendors. We will see product innovation to support demand for interoperable intercompany collaboration with secure text, voice, real-time video, and presence capabilities across multiple device platforms. Video will capitalize on the ease of use of touch-based and gesture-based devices in the marketplace, enabling greater adoption of video for collaboration and business transformation. [With systems] simplified through automation, employees will be able to instantly capture video and those videos will be automatically uploaded to their company's intranet. How will intercompany interoperability come about? What processes/initiatives will drive it, and what will persuade vendors to go along?
Intercompany interoperability will be driven by consumer demand to support video across the vast range of new devices and form factors employees are bringing into the workplace. Organizations are also creating more employee-generated videos than ever before, creating a need to manage and house all this video content and make it accessible across a range of devices and applications. Enterprises will look to vendors that can provide an end-to-end video network that can simply and automatically translate any type of video to any type of device or application with minimal end-user involvement.
3. Contact Centers will evolve as customers choose to interact with companies in radically new ways
This is the year customer service centers will enable more proactive communications to their customers, and where customers will interact with agents through a variety of consumer-type mobile applications. Customers will use voice, video, chat, social media, and the web to interact with agents to resolve their issues. Mid-sized and smaller companies will provide world-class customer care enabled by packaged customer collaboration solutions and cost-effective hosted solutions. Agents will enjoy working from anywhere as collaboration-enabled virtualized desktop environments become viable, cost-effective alternatives for enterprises. Companies will increasingly demand desktop virtualization solutions.
Most contact centers still have dedicated agents for different media--voice calls, email, web; how will contact centers accommodate all of these new communications channels with a workforce that's still highly specialized?
New collaborative solutions like the virtualized desktop environment and social tools embedded in the contact center will make it easier to cross-train agents. Using more than one form of media is the optimal approach to increase agent utilization as it also makes it easier for agents to access the multiple back end systems they need to do their jobs.
4. Companies will use the cloud and desktop virtualization to provide collaboration capabilities across the enterprise
Enterprise adoption of cloud-based collaboration will continue at a record pace in the post PC-era as partner offerings become more attractive. Unified communications will become one of the top elements for enterprise cloud strategies as part of a hosted collaboration offering. Companies will increasingly demand desktop virtualization solutions that enable employees to access data when they need it, from any location at any time. Video-conferencing cloud services will enable small/mid size business to use video to collaborate inside and outside their company without the infrastructure investment required for video.
Who are the likeliest providers for cloud-based collaboration offerings—traditional carriers? Specialized service providers? Others?
We are seeing both. Certainly most of the traditional carriers are highly interested in offering these cloud-based collaboration offerings and are already starting to launch services to do so partnering with Cisco. It is a great way for them to offer more value to their customers as well as creating a tighter, "stickier" relationship. We also see a mix of several other types of service providers setting up services to do this, including groups like system integrators that have up until now, traditionally deployed on-premise collaboration solutions.
5. Social business processes will become mainstream for many
In 2012, employees will use social business tools more often to be more productive at work, as business applications are "collaboration-enabled" by social software platforms. For example, from within structured, task-driven applications like CRM, people will be able to see their colleagues' activity, find experts and ask questions. This type of social interaction will proliferate with the advent of HTML5 and as more developers use open standards such as XMPP and public Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to support platform services. Micro-blogging and instant messaging will also come together, connected via a "unified follow model" that combines today's "buddy list" with the enterprise social graph.
Does this suggest that Quad, rather than Jabber, will be the unified portal/interface for many knowledge workers using Cisco communications systems?
Depending on the worker role and communication needs, some companies will use Quad, as it will incorporate Jabber in addition to activity streams and relevant integrations to task-driven applications like CRM. Other companies will look to embed collaboration across all of their business applications (e.g., embedding click to call, click to video, click to conference, and presence within the business application screens), although this will be much more complex than deploying Quad due to the large number of individual applications. Some companies will primarily use Jabber. The key is to have this unified collaboration environment easily accessible from anywhere the workers are working: whether it is their desktop, a mobile device, or within a business application. In this new paradigm, it is not one silo or the other but rather the ability to access the same UC experience and have the same ability to instantly contact and collaborate with co-workers no matter where you are.