Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar is the Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, where he manages research operations, develops and manages...
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Irwin Lazar | July 14, 2016 |


Cisco Gets its Digital Transformation On

Cisco Gets its Digital Transformation On Cisco focused this week's annual customer and analyst gatherings not on products, but on digital transformation.

Cisco focused this week's annual customer and analyst gatherings not on products, but on digital transformation.

Coincident with the Cisco Live annual customer conference wrapping up today in Las Vegas, Cisco is hosting its accompanying analyst event, C-Scape. Attending as a collaboration-focused analyst, I gained useful insight into Cisco's overall vision for its products and services.

As covered elsewhere on No Jitter, Cisco's theme for the event was "Your Time Is Now," highlighting ways in which digital transformation will enable personal empowerment. CEO Chuck Robbins, in his opening keynote, noted that Cisco sees executive sponsorship; IT and line-of-business (LoB) alignment; pervasive security; Internet of Things (IoT) strategy; and speed, agility and innovation as core components of a successful digital transformation strategy. He, along with other execs, tied these themes into Cisco's orchestration and management, software, hardware, and cloud offerings to support these efforts.

Sparking the Digital Journey
From the collaboration perspective, Cisco execs shared how Spark has gone far beyond its initial position as a team messaging app and is now an open platform. Leveraging Tropo APIs, the Spark platform enables the extensibility that allows partners to integrate Spark into digital transformation-focused products and services. One example on the show floor was Tagnos, which has integrated Spark into its hospital bed management system to support real-time chats among care givers as patients transition from one hospital area to another. Speakers from FANUC, an industrial robot maker, the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police,and Voith, a global manufacturer, discussed using Cisco technology to support machine automation, video recording and video conferencing, and to deliver new services to help their own customers embark on their digital journeys.

For me the big takeaway is that Cisco is trying to answer the question that we are increasingly seeing collaboration leaders ask, that being: "What is the business value of investments in collaboration applications?" All too often IT leaders tell us that their abilities to deliver cutting-edge collaboration capabilities are stymied by the lack of demonstrable ROI. Business cases like "reduced travel" typically don't play out, and quantifying "better collaboration" is generally impossible unless "better collaboration" can improve a specific business outcome. Measuring utilization is helpful (and the norm), but is ultimately useless if you can't translate higher utilization to improved business outcomes.

Digital Leadership
As Nemertes completes our first-ever study on digital transformation in the enterprise, we are already seeing IT leaders begin to think about digital technology and get a seat at the table with marketing, sales, and other LoB groups to plan digital strategy. Collaboration leaders specifically have a renewed opportunity to apply tools like team chat, embedded/API-based communications, video, and more to positively support digital transformation plans, leading to new or improved customer services, internal processes, or new service or product capabilities.

Collaboration leaders must revamp their thinking away from being service centers providing dial tone, email, conferencing, and so on and toward becoming business enablers. As such, they must lead the rest of their organizations in understanding how emerging collaboration capabilities can drive business value. They must increasingly engage with developer communities (or hire their own developers) to take advantage of APIs and or communications-platform-as-a-service offerings with the goal of embedding communications in business applications or aligning communications with workflows to support creation of team chat rooms by an associated event, for example. And, they should increasingly look to take advantage of automation capabilities like bots that can ease access to information, support simplified task management, and provide enhanced customer service.

The collaboration market is on the cusp of a radical transformation to better align with digital transformation initiatives. Now is the time to apply strategic, business value-focused thinking to your collaboration strategic planning.

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