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Cisco, IBM Team to Bring Intelligence to Enterprise Collaboration

IBM and Cisco today announced they would be integrating their enterprise collaboration solutions and, in a unique twist, building in an intelligent layer with insight from the IBM Watson advanced analytics platform.

Specifically, the companies will integrate Cisco's Spark team communications and WebEx conferencing tools with IBM Verse email and Connections social network platform solutions. However, in the typical fashion of such large, high-profile announcements, technical details on what these integrations will look like are sparse. But with Cisco Live just around the corner and an IBM World of Watson event slated for October, executives have promised the companies will release details in the next several months.

The partnership will result in a combined platform that each company will take to market, Ed Brill, VP of product management and design with IBM Collaboration Solutions, told me in a phone briefing this morning. Overtime, that combined solution will apply Watson cognitive abilities to improve the collaboration experience in context. Being able to pull analytical insight from the collaboration environment will help improve decision management systems and live action support, for example.

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"This platform will capture and understand not only our documents, but also the way we work," wrote Jens Meggers, SVP and GM of Cisco's Cloud Collaboration Technology Group, in a Cisco Blogs post. "This integrated platform will leverage the power of Watson to analyze the unstructured data in our conversations, content, and workflows, providing insights and expertise to continuously improve the way we work. Together, we're creating an intelligent fabric that connects all collaboration workloads. I like to call it 'Intelligent Collaboration.'"

Once this combined solution is available, a team of doctors collaborating in a Watson-infused Spark room could tap into health analytics knowledge as they work on their patient diagnosis. Or, an engineer working on a product design through IBM Verse email could click to launch a WebEx meeting with team members. Everybody on the email thread immediately gets the WebEx call, and when the meeting launches the context from that thread, including the latest design mockup the team needs to discuss, comes along with it. The discussion can move seamlessly from email to a collaborative conference call, and Watson intelligence can be carried throughout the progression.

"Customers generally ask for simplification and great experiences. Intelligent collaboration brings this to a new level," Meggers told me via a Spark conversation.

In a press release, the companies said they expect new classes of solutions to emerge out of a partner ecosystem built around the joint solution. "For example, a financial advisor could meet with a high value investor over Cisco video with a Watson service offering real-time advice and handling tasks, while files would be securely stored and available in IBM Connections, shared through WebEx for a seamless transaction."

Mutual customer demand for integration led to this partnership, the executives said. "From the IBM side, our aim here is to get to the next generation of cloud collaborative solutions ... so, taking what we've been doing in messaging and social engagement and now bettering that with the best-in-class video capabilities, meeting capabilities, etc. to enable employees to use the tools available and the data available to make better decisions," Brill said. "We're trying to improve how employees collaborate with each other to make that more productive, more efficient, [and] improve the flow of their work in a cost-effective manner."

As Meggers told me in a Spark conversation, "Customers generally ask for simplification and great experiences. Intelligent collaboration brings this to a new level."

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