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Cisco Braces for Hybrid, But It’s Not Alone


A sign that says Hybrid Working Future
Image: AWD-
With a fresh Webex logo and a new suite offering, Cisco might appear to be just doing a branding refresh. However, it's more than that; Cisco is preparing for a hybrid future — one that includes but goes beyond video meetings and office buildings.
As enterprises plan for the future, some of the habits formed during the pandemic will stay with them. In fact, 92% of meetings will have at least one remote participant post-pandemic, Cisco shared in a survey. And from the physical office standpoint, 87% of executives are re-evaluating real estate strategies given how well remote work has gone, as PWC shared. So, as Cisco expands its focus, the company will need to provide tools for both in-office and remote users and tools for events, large and small.
Cisco Retools, Looks to Take the Market
Cisco believes that its combination of architecture, capabilities, endpoint devices, and security puts the company in a position to create differentiated services, which will translate into market share. Cisco is also bracing for this hybrid world with its contact center resources and recent acquisitions in customer experience. In fact, the word experience was a major focus in Cisco’s announcements this week. As enterprises further embrace this hybrid future, teams and employees will need improved communication and collaboration experiences, which is where Cisco’s acquisition of Slido comes in.
While Cisco looks to gain market ground, Microsoft and Zoom continue to bolster their offerings. With all the major vendors now firmly ensconced in the cloud, feature development has drastically changed. No longer is there a 12-month release stream with a nine-month release and validation cycle. In the new cloud world, development sprints last six weeks, and features emerge multiple times per year, if not monthly. Release fatigue is now an issue for end users, IT departments, and the channel.
One key message from the Cisco announcements is meetings and calling are now table stakes. While the Cisco team discussed seamlessly moving between communication modes (form text to voice to video), it’s increasingly clear that the new comparisons are in areas outside these basics.
Enterprise Connect 2021: Reevaluating the Leading Providers
Cisco’s latest announcements track analysis Brent Kelly, president and principal analyst at KelCor, and I will be doing during the Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom comparison session at Enterprise Connect 2021 in Orlando in September. In this year’s session, we are focusing on the new areas of differentiation. During the session, we will analyze new announcements from all of the companies and how that is changing the market landscape. We will also include analysis of the three companies in these emerging areas of differentiation:
  • Hybrid work — Learn how these vendors have transformed their solutions to enable the hybrid work environment and how each is building out their device ecosystem to support this. You’ll get each company’s vision and roadmap, along with an analysis of their capabilities and functionality. We will share our thoughts on how compelling these capabilities and devices really are for hybrid workers.
  • AI in the platform — The three companies have strategies for extending platform breadth, and a key differentiator among them is how and where they implement AI processing. A decision to perform AI processing in the cloud versus in the endpoints will define overall solution capabilities and features.
  • Adjacencies — An emphasis on re-engineering supply chains and business processes with an ever-increasing focus on cost and efficiency creates significant adjacencies in today’s communications system. This portion of the session will look at three in particular:
    • Frontline — Applying advanced communications and teaming capabilities to the frontline workforce to transform business processes and the workplace. We will examine each company’s focus and efforts on frontline workers, and they will examine whether telephony still has value for these workers as opposed to other communications mechanisms.
    • Business processes — Many business processes are moving to cloud platforms. But does it make more sense to integrate these processes with a communications platform, such as those offered by Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom? Integration can be simple widgets, or it can be as complex as embedding the business process within the communications app or embedding communications as a subcomponent of the business process.
    • Contact center — Microsoft and Zoom don’t provide contact center directly, while Cisco does. The enhanced capabilities of customer care management are a significant focus for many organizations, either as part of a frontline focus or as a continuation of a typical call center. The session leaders will explore whether there is an advantage to having an integrated contact center offering directly from the UCaaS vendor.
  • Enhancing meetings — The rapid adoption of advanced collaboration tools has shown both their business value and their deficiencies. This analysis will focus on the on the tools each vendor provides to enable better interactions and outcomes before, during, and after the meeting, with an eye on improvements to the overall experience and flow, including how these vendors are using AI to improve their offerings. The solutions each provider offers for large meetings (i.e., broadcasts and webinars) will be analyzed and compared.
As we emerge from the strange COVID world and return to normal, many companies will have to decide if the technologies and solutions they choose during the pandemic make sense for the future. During the pandemic, it was all about simply enabling remote work and staying in business. But now, enterprises are focusing on a long-term solution. And a key part of the analysis will be how the communications platforms can support transformation in the business. With video and meetings now table stakes, technology vendors are differentiating with new features, which will be key for enterprises moving forward.

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To learn more about Enterprise Connect 2021, make sure to check out the conference schedule here. Register today with promo code NJAL200 and receive $200 off your registration!