Analysts talk all the time about drinking from the fire hose when we attend vendor analyst briefings, but I think that Cisco had that fire hose on stun this week. They claimed they were announcing 61 or more (I lost count) products this week, and I’m sure they weren’t kidding. Granted many were perhaps features, sub products or new releases, but the overall feeling was more of I get the big picture, but I’m confused as to the dividing lines.
Of course, it was video, video, video, across every product line, with several new products being announced. These included the Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform (ECP) that Blair spoke of in her Cisco blog, Medianet, which is a platform for delivering any media, anywhere, Intercompany Cisco TelePresence Directory, which is a hosted directory of TelePresence people and endpoints between companies, and Cisco TelePresence WebEx Exchange, which is a one-button initiation and scheduling solution with video integration between Cisco TelePresence and Cisco WebEx conferencing (the demos were pretty slick on this one).
Conceptually, I personally liked two products in this new line up; Show and Share and Pulse. Show and Share is a social video system that allows users to generate their own video content quickly and easily and share it with others in video communities. What I found most appealing about the product was the ability to not just edit and share, but also that the system can create speech-to-text transcriptions of the videos that are searchable and taggable. This means that you can search for something in the text, click on it and go to the portion of the video where it is at. Video can also be commented on, both publicly, or portions tagged with private comments as well.
Pulse is search platform that dynamically tags content as it crosses the network, such as blog and Wiki postings, or other content. Pulse essentially looks at real-time information “chatter”, across and entire organization, and “takes a pulse”, on what types of things are being discussed, researched, looked at, and who those people are that are creating or looking at that content. The resulting intelligence from Pulse can be used to accurately locate those people that are subject matter experts on things, and then lets the user easily connect with them.
One of the thoughts put out by Cisco is that tools such as Show and Share and Pulse, combined with ECP could eventually be used as a way to get real-time information as to which agent to route a call to in a contact center, instead of relying on static skills-based routing tables based on infrequently updated information on individual agents. The idea would be that information on which agent has which skill or attribute could be updated automatically, rather than waiting for an agents profile to be updated by an agent or supervisor. It would also eliminate “yellow stickyville”, that agents use to track which other expert in or out f the contact center can help them with a particular problem. That is an interesting concept.
However, this does lead me to some of the things that I felt were sort of unresolved, and therefore put out there for future observation. For example, just as there is a virtual world Second Life, using some of these tools, such as Pulse, seems like Naked Life because unless proper policies and procedures are in place, the user really is naked because everyone can see what they are up to. Along with this is the question of how do you change the culture to something so collaborative in the first place.
Lastly,there is the overhead associated with some of the products. As one of the presenters pointed out, “Cisco does a good job of content creation, but not content management”. They aren’t alone. Business is rife with email users that don’t ever delete, let alone video and all manner of documentation and information. In this case creation and aggregation of mass amounts of information leads to issues of storage, security, privacy, entitlement, and lots of other issues.
In all, it was a very interesting summit with products that are very appealing. The key for Cisco is in how to make those cool ideas and products have broad appeal, as it will involve both culture change, and sorting out how to position a lot of products that appear to have overlapping components. We have already seen this issue occur with the feature set of UC, but with Cisco’s announcement of more video and collaboration features, this issue is has become a magnitude more complex.