Cisco Collaboration Summit – New Social Software Tools

I spent a few days in San Francisco at the Cisco Collaboration Summit. John Chambers, as always, did an amazing job of positioning Cisco as a leader and innovator. I totally agreed with Chambers when he said that the technology for collaboration is the easy party, but changing a company’s culture is hard, and it’s especially hard to change the way people work. He noted that collaboration needs to be driven from the top down to match a company’s business goals. It also leads to new business models, such as how to respond to a hurricane, or how you move operations to the data center.

Jim Grubb, Demo Master, demonstrated the Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform (ECP), which lets users create and share social content and expertise. ECP brings together people, information, and communities in an integrated collaboration experience. Customers will have to wait for this, however, since ECP is just going into beta trial today with some key accounts.

Here’s the basic idea behind ECP. Similar to IBM’s Lotus Connections and products from smaller Enterprise 2.0 companies like Socialtext, ECP is a social software portal application that lets users form team spaces and communities of interest where they can search for individuals with specific expertise, share information, and collaborate and communicate. As Grubb demonstrated, communities can be dynamically created based on a project, for example, and people and resources can be brought into the community quickly and easily. Based on tags and other criteria, users can search for individuals based on skills or expertise and bring them into the community. Using Cisco’s UC tools, users can integrate real-time voice and video capabilities, and send IM’s, initiate real-time voice and/or video calls using click-to-call capabilities. They can also invite other people to join the discussion. Community members can share blogs, wikis, videos, documents, and other information within the shared community workspace.

Cisco acknowledges that other vendors have similar social software tools, and they’re not the first ones in this area. However, there is a gestalt that occurs when ECP can be integrated with Cisco’s UC tools, allowing for a richer collaborative experience, with real-time voice, video, and chat capabilities.

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