Business Video at Cisco: Our Not-So-Secret Strategy
Business video is playing an increasingly visible role in our strategy for efficiency, effectiveness, and trust building at Cisco.
Efficiency refers to making our existing business processes faster, less expensive, or both. Replacing some of my business trips with videoconferencing and Cisco TelePresence, for example, has reduced my travel costs and reduced the unproductive time I spend in airports and planes. And recording a high-definition video in the nearest Cisco TelePresence room instead of a professional studio saves travel time and studio rental fees.
Effectiveness, in contrast, refers to getting a better outcome.
When our Chief Operating Officer had to request a major policy change, he created a video on demand instead of sending an email. His facial expression and voice made us understand the importance of the change in a way that the written word could not have. Business video also helps us more effectively use our talented workforce. Just a few years ago, if I had a question about a Cisco product, I’d look for a sales engineer. Today, I just go to our Cisco Show and Share web portal to quickly find a video by the engineer who actually designed the product. Using video to share the intellectual property in our coworkers’ minds will become increasingly important as Cisco continues to grow by acquisition. Helping people in different parts of the world share ideas in a natural way encourages innovation.
The third reason we use business video at Cisco is to build trust, both within our global teams and with our customers. Just knowing what someone looks like brings you closer. And I’ve observed that when people make a commitment to someone face to face using Cisco TelePresence, they tend to feel more accountable.
The exponential growth of business video use at Cisco shows that employees accept that it helps make them more effective and efficient. In fiscal year 2009, we built 360 Cisco TelePresence rooms in 365 days, and each is occupied about five hours each day. The trigger was a travel reduction initiative, helped along by the in-person experience, and call setup that’s literally as easy as making a phone call.
A Car in Every Garage, and a Video Endpoint in Every Pocket?
We want every employee to have video, but even at Cisco it’s not cost-effective to install a Cisco TelePresence System 500 in every office. So we match the cost of the endpoint with the business value of the interaction. Our most basic video endpoint is a desktop with Cisco WebEx. Next comes our Cisco Unified IP 8900 and 9900 Series Phones with built-in 5-inch color video displays. Mobile executives who need to join customer meetings from a hotel often want a large display and high-definition (HD) video, resolution, so we give them a Tandberg PC client and clip-on HD camera. Of course, the top tier is Cisco TelePresence, which delivers the ultimate in-person experience.
Our current focus is continuing to integrate our different business video endpoints. If I want to have a video interaction with you, I don’t really care whether you’re using Cisco TelePresence, WebEx, a videoconferencing system, or a video IP phone. I just want to connect, without jumping through hoops. We’ve completed a successful proof of concept for Cisco employees in any global office to join the same call using Cisco TelePresence, Cisco WebEx, Cisco Tandberg videoconferencing, and another vendor’s videoconferencing. Joining is just as simple as joining a voice-only conference.
What Next? Looking to the App Store
As I think about the future of business video here at Cisco, my thoughts keep turning to the iPhone. Its popularity has less to do with the device itself than the apps, the vast majority of which are developed outside of Apple. I envision the same evolution for business video at Cisco. As creative people inside and outside Cisco develop new business video applications, our video endpoints will become increasingly valuable. This trend has already begun, with applications like HealthPresence, Virtual Lobby Assistant, and Live Desk Concierge. I believe we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the possibilities of video for business transformation.