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Cisco Shows Off Collaboration

I would say no. While the plenary sessions certainly emphasized collaboration rather than UC, it becomes clear when speaking with Cisco management that UC is an essential element of collaboration, and that collaboration expands on the promise of UC.

According to Joe Burton, CTO of Unified Communications, when Cisco talks about collaboration it refers to all the technologies that allow people to interact across the business. It includes IP telephony, contact center, web and audio conferencing, unified messaging, IM, etc. (all of which fall under Cisco's definition of UC), as well as the full spectrum of video products - from desktop video to telepresence. And--it includes all of the Web 2.0 technologies that let people interact across distance to get projects done. According to Burton, this includes social networks (Twitter, etc.) team spaces, Cisco WebEx Connect, and so on. Burton notes that unified communications technologies let people interact across distance in real time or near real time to get things done, and are an important part of Cisco's collaboration vision. (You can hear my podcast with Joe Burton discussing collaboration, UC, and social networking at

Those of you who've been reading my articles know that I'm an advocate of integrating UC with social networking technologies (see this post and this post). By tying in UC capabilities with social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, or with blogs and wikis and with enterprise-grade social networking offerings like IBM's Quickr, it will be much easier to interact with colleagues and find the appropriate resources in an organization, regardless of location.

While Cisco doesn't have a commercial social networking product on the market today, it uses many Web 2.0 tools internally. Cisco's goal is to make collaboration part of the corporate DNA. What's really impressive is that the move toward collaboration using UC and social networking tools is coming from the top--John Chambers has been the champion of collaboration and is the driving force at Cisco for using telepresence, video, and other collaborative tools. Cisco's leadership has evolved from command and control to councils and boards, which distribute leadership to address more opportunities that come to Cisco. This new management model is a key enabler for collaboration. As the company went to a more collaborative style, it placed all its documents in team spaces, and uses technologies such as streaming video to share information.

Examples of collaborative tools used throughout the organization include MyCisco, a web page that aggregates information where users can view their tasks, voice and email messages, blogs, podcasts, WebEx Connect spaces, communities, news, etc. Users can set up their presence status on that page, and can go to their community page where they can interact and collaborate with people in that community. Users can see the stored documents that people uploaded, blogs, videos and podcasts recorded, etc., and click to see who's in the group or community, and interact with them in real time (click to connect).

Cisco sees collaboration as an end-to-end architecture, and presence/location, call control, voice, video, IM and chat, etc. will be web services built into the network. This will require an architecture that combines routers, switches, and other technologies to enable everything to work together, and things like Cisco's WebEx Connect will be the hub of next gen workforce experience. It's no wonder Cisco is placing so much emphasis on collaboration--it will allow Cisco to sell more of its core products.

While it is not selling a UC/social networking product today, I expect Cisco to acquire a Web 2.0 company in order to develop a commercial product that can be part of its overall collaboration offerings. The question is--who will be the acquiree?