Cisco, Salesforce Form Strategic Alliance
Partnership includes joint development and marketing across a number of areas, including collaboration, Internet of Things, and the contact center.
When Chuck Robbins assumed command of the Starship Cisco (analogy to commemorate Star Trek's 50th anniversary), he promised the company would move faster under his leadership. Cisco had been rolling along at warp 6, but the digital era required it to accelerate to warp 10. Captain Robbins understood that accomplishing this meant changing the way Cisco innovates.
Toward that end, Cisco has revamped the way it handles internal innovation, and is relying more on strategic partnerships than trying to go it alone. Historically Cisco liked to do everything itself by either building or bringing inside, the latter through acquisition. Sometimes, though, relying on a partner makes more sense.
Over the past few years, Cisco has formed strategic partnerships with Apple, Ericsson, and other companies. These aren't just marketing announcements but real partnerships with meat on the bone. Cisco today announced another partnership of this ilk; this time with the CRM market leader, Salesforce.
Similar to the ones coming before it, this partnership includes joint development and marketing across a number of areas, including collaboration, Internet of Things (IoT), and contact center. Details of the integration are as follows:
- Collaboration - The potential in this area is almost limitless. In the near term, the two companies will work together to natively integrate Cisco Spark and WebEx into Salesforce's Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, leveraging the Lightning framework. The combined solution will allow customers to invoke Spark or WebEx services, such as chat, video and voice, without having to leave the Salesforce portal. It's important to note that this is native integration; it requires no plug-ins or custom code. The real benefit to the customer here is speed gained by not having to cut and paste and flip between applications. This should be of particular value when users are mobile. Toggling between different applications on a desktop is certainly annoying, but most people can get by. However, when mobile, the process is much more cumbersome and the native integration should make the tools much more usable -- which in turn will drive up value for both companies' products. The integration should create a way for Cisco to attract new Spark and WebEx customers. When Salesforce administrators turn the collaboration capabilities on, workers will be able to try them out immediately. The Salesforce-Cisco collaboration integration is expected to be complete in the third calendar quarter of 2017.
- IoT Services - Earlier this year Cisco acquired IoT platform vendor Jasper Technologies to move up the stack. As a networking vendor, Cisco plays an important role in connecting devices, but with Jasper, it can provide customers the ability to launch, manage, and monetize IoT services. The integration between Cisco Jasper and the Salesforce IoT Cloud will provide greater visibility and control over connected devices, as well as enable companies to gather information and perform analytics aimed at deriving recommended customer actions. The Salesforce IoT Cloud is a powerful analytics engine that companies can use to unlock new insights, and the seamless integration with Jasper gives it more data to analyze. Post integration, Jasper can be thought of as a "single pane of glass" into the IoT ecosystem, and will provide real-time data into launching and managing IoT devices at every point in their lifecycles. For example, a transportation company that manages its vehicles with the Jasper IoT platform can automate the passing of data to the Salesforce IoT Cloud. It can then analyze the data for insights needed for use in building new features like a vehicle location map or real-time delivery updates. The IoT integration is available in beta today, and is expected to be production-ready sometime in 2017.
- Contact Center Integration - Both organizations have strong customer service tools, and this piece of the partnership is currently limited to joint go-to-market activities. However, the two organizations are working toward integrating Cisco's Unified Contact Center with the Salesforce Service Cloud to help joint customers manage call centers more effectively. The companies haven't provided details around the integration or time frame. It's my assumption that they are trying to understand what the most effective points of integration will be.
The digital era is shaking up almost every industry, and businesses do need to move faster to maintain a leadership position. Cisco has been aggressive with taking partnerships to the next level. The partnership with Salesforce brings together the #1 collaboration vendor with the #1 CRM vendor, and can provide joint customers with new ways of collaborating, servicing customers, and gaining new insights through the analysis of IoT data.
Working together, as we know from watching Kirk and Spock all these years, will result in faster, better innovation than is achievable when doing it alone.