By Chris Henry, Guest Contributor
It took me a good day and a half to digest what I had experienced from attending my first Cisco Collaboration Summit last week. I was attending in my role as Executive Advisor in ICT and Management with FOX GROUP Technology Consulting.
My mind was spinning non-stop throughout the global event which brought together leading consultants, analysts, integrators, partners and Cisco associates. I was constantly trying to figure out what I just saw, and more importantly, what it meant for customers, internal teams, extended/linked organizations as well as other ICT services and products going forward. As the plane took off from Los Angeles heading back to Toronto, it struck me - UC no longer stands for Unified Communications, it stands for "Unified Collaboration."
In fact, I believe we are moving into "The Unified Collaboration Age" #theUCage where organizations, governments and individuals will continue to grow their digital interactions with one another to create better outcomes for everyone, disregarding organization, location, device or media.
What's the difference between Unified Communications and Unified Collaboration?
To me, unified communications is about putting everything in "one place" to make work and life easier for the individual. This includes presence and IM, email, calendar, to do's, phone, long distance, faxes and web conferencing. On the other hand, Unified Collaboration is about bringing everyone together in the "same place" to make working in teams easier and more productive, whether the team is made up of internal members only or has external members, too – no matter their device, application or location.
I just couldn't escape seeing the unified collaboration approach to the new products and services Cisco showed at the 2014 Collaboration Summit. Here’s a summary of the major product and services we learned about, for your own education.
Cisco Jabber - Collaborate Anywhere on Any Device
Cisco WebEx Meetings - Improve Team Meetings, Improve Your Business
Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms - Video Conferencing + WebEx Cloud Conferencing - One Meeting, One Experience
Cisco Project Squared – Cloud-based Collaboration App for Team Based Collaboration
Cisco Intercloud Services - Hybrid and Managed Clouds based on open-standards for global infrastructure
Cisco Hosted Collaboration Services - Hosted Cloud Collaboration and Contact Center Solutions
Cisco, Google and Microsoft are Competing Head-to-Head on Unified Collaboration, with competition from Avaya and Mitel
With Cisco's recent announcements and as the simplified chart below shows, the Big 5 UC providers (by market share) have collaboration tools that are competing head-to-head. While their feature sets differ in approach, functionality and elegance, the good news for customers is they have choices in settling on the tools that work best for them.
Cisco is not alone in the interoperability approach, but it could be that theirs is the most stable and robust – time will tell.
(Note: I asked Cisco in the Summit if they would create an email, calendar and to-do solution to complete their own Cisco all in offering. They said no, but said they continue to support inter-operability with the major current IT desk solutions.)
Cisco is focused on "Integrated experiences in every room, on every desk and in every pocket"
Based on what I heard and saw from the different Cisco collaboration product and service groups at the Summit, Cisco cares about creating outcomes customers are looking for as their first priority. They talked about collaborating with customers on an on-going basis to get software, hardware and services just right. I didn't see them falling into the trap of creating a technology "that could be" for the technology's sake.
They appeared to be mindful of customer feedback and needs, creating and improving upon what "needs to be." A simple but often overlooked approach: take a customer's perspective and frame of reference to things.
If Cisco continues to co-create their UC solutions with customers in mind, they will find themselves on the "right" side of the old adage "the customer is always right."