Cisco Quad Update – One Year Later

Cisco Quad is an important and interesting component of Cisco’s Collaboration portfolio. I say interesting because when we first saw Quad a year ago there seemed to be a lot of potential, but Quad was a work in progress. The product had the potential to tie a lot of work and communication capabilities together in one cockpit or dashboard for a regular business user. Imagine Outlook combined with Twitter, Facebook, and select business applications you might use, all on one desktop. Quad is also similar to what contact center agents have experienced for years, with multiple functions on one screen, or the ability to get to them through one screen. Not surprisingly, Quad also has potential for use in the contact center to makeover what an agent in a contact center would use as the agent desktop, by providing a lot more functionality than what is currently available (particularly in the social media realm).

Yesterday, Cisco provided analysts with an update on Quad – one year later, by Murali Sitaram, who runs the Collaboration Software Group, where Quad now sits. We also had the opportunity to hear what Cisco has learned after trialing Quad on 64,000 Cisco users over the past year. Talk about a proof point of “eating your own dog food.” Murali showed us a live demo of Quad running on his desktop, rather than showing us a canned demo.

Collaboration is one of the key offerings at Cisco. In case you aren’t familiar with the portfolio, collaboration includes enterprise social software (such as social media and monitoring, e.g.; SocialMiner), conferencing, messaging, TelePresence, mobile applications, customer care, and IP communications. Even though these are separate product areas, Cisco has developed them with a continual eye on process, culture, and the interrelationship between these areas. Collaboration is truly people oriented, and as Murali explained, Quad is an enterprise collaboration platform that integrates the places people “live” at work; the social aspect, content, communication, and business process.

As he pointed out, as workers we are always dealing with different types of content, whether it is a spreadsheet, web page, word file, PDF file, presentation, etc. We also communicate through voice, video, and file sharing, etc. Different types of workers “live” with different applications. HR professionals live with applications such as Oracle or PeopleSoft; sales people spend part of their day with Salesforce.com, while customer service agents deal with an agent desktop, for example.

Cisco integrates with Microsoft OCS for instant messaging, SharePoint, Active Directory, and Exchange for calendaring. Quad also integrates with Documentum and other content repositories. Cisco is also looking to integrate with Lotus Notes for calendaring and Lotus Sametime for instant messaging, Cisco wants to continue to improve upon building a platform that integrates the Cisco components together, but over time with other third-party products, to provide an integrated experience. Quad is rooted in the social element, putting the user at the center of the conversation and bringing information to them.

Murali’s demo highlighted the four main areas of Quad. The first was Myview, which the user configures to highlight how they want to work during the day. Myview is rooted in the user’s activity feed, much like you would have on Facebook and Twitter, with a stream of content of interest to the user. The user can follow people or be followed, comment on posts, add photos, etc. Myview also can have calendar items, directory with presence capabilities, voicemail, etc.  It gives the user a sense of what is going on within their groups or teams.

The “watchlist” area is for those items in the activity feed that are of special interest or importance to the user. Think of it like Twitter and Tweetdeck. In Twitter you get a feed of everyone you are following, but with Tweetdeck you can have separate columns for subjects of interest. In Quad’s case, the activity feed is everything from documents posted about things you follow, or activities, blogs, posts, etc. or people you follow.

The Watchlist allows the user to add and remove things from the list, and shows a trail of things that are happening related to a subject or activity. The user can search, and refine the search using parameters such as more recent activity, etc.

The second area is Myprofile, which is a profile, of course, but one that the user can add content to, including photos of what they are doing – once again, like you would do a mobile upload to Facebook. It also shows content such as the user’s latest blog (excluding restricted or private information). In addition there is a tag cloud area as well.  The person’s reporting structure within the organization is also available.

The third area is communities, which includes communities of interest, such as a product area they are involved or working in. It includes things like discussion forums, content (including videos), directory, etc. The search function allows the user to search on anything, and lets the user narrow down the search to groups, activities, etc. that are pertinent to their work life.

The last area is instant messaging, which allows the user to search in a directory, for someone in their group, area of interest or the company, see that person’s presence status, and then and instant message with them.

Cisco is only about 18 months into development of Quad (they launched in June 2010 and rolled it out to Cisco employees in November), and I’m pretty amazed at how useful the platform is. Cisco also has dozens of customers at various stages of development or deployment, as well as dozens of partners that they are working with on the Quad product.  Cisco offered partners a program enabling them to use Quad internally to determine if it is something that they would like to sell.

From a product perspective, Cisco created an open platform, and added a mobility aspect. When Cius ships in May or June, Quad will ship as an application with the Cius device. Additionally, flexible deployment models are important to Cisco, so they are looking at all options including private cloud and public cloud deployments.

In summary, I think that Quad is fairly impressive. It is hard to convey how useful or visually appealing Quad is without seeing it in action. If you get a chance, take it.  I also like the fact that Cisco is developing Quad by learning from the company’s internal use of the product. After the initial launch, Cisco experienced a high user adoption rate, from which Cisco is continually learning. Cisco’s main goal is to learn from their experience and create a useful platform that combines social application and portals into a user experience platform.

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