There are a lot of new services being developed for Unified Communications – integration with applications like Webex and MeetingPlace, internet B2B video calling with Cisco IME, HD video with new phones, and a lot more. But the one feature that has changed more lives at Cisco – and saved more money for Cisco – is an old classic: Extension Mobility.
Extension Mobility is a Cisco Unified Communications Manager feature that lets me go to any Cisco IP phone and enter my user name and password – which takes about 10 seconds — to temporarily make it my own phone.
As soon as I log in, I see all my speed dials and settings on the new phone, which now rings whenever people dial my office number. When I call out, people see my caller ID on their phone. When I log into a new phone, I’m automatically logged off the previous phone. And, since “my office” is pretty much defined as where I do my work (on my mobile laptop), and where I get and make calls … well, any place can become my office, thanks to Extension Mobility. (Along with big thanks to two other unsung heroes, wireless LANs and wireless-enabled laptops!)
Right now at Cisco, we can use Extension Mobility on any phone served by the same Unified Communications Manager cluster. My home office is in Bedfont Lakes, England, and all 70 of Cisco’s European offices are served by one cluster. Not only can I go to any IP phone in Bedfont Lakes and work from there, I can go to any Cisco office on the continent and log into any Cisco phone, and it becomes my own.
That’s changing this year because we’re migrating to Cisco Unified Communications Manager version 8, which supports Extension Mobility across clusters. So, this year, I’ll be able to log into any Cisco phone, anywhere in the world, and make it my own – at least, for as long as I need it. Cisco has over 400 office buildings, and they’re all mine. (Add in a softphone and a VPN client, and ANY place in the world with decent Internet connectivity can become my office – but that’s another story.)
So – how is Extension Mobility saving so much money? Extension Mobility is enabling Cisco to migrate our traditional cube office space to the Cisco Connected Workplace. Not only does this move improve productivity, it also saves more money per employee for Cisco than any other IT program I can think of. At any given time at Cisco, about 60% of office cubicles are unoccupied, because people are in meetings, traveling, meeting with customers, or working from home. Connected Workplaces have no assigned seating; we can sit and work anywhere, so at least twice as many people can work comfortably in the same space—sometimes 4 or 5 times as many—and real estate costs per person decrease significantly. So does our overall power use, as we dedicate less equipment and less building resources per person.
In one case study done at the Cisco San Jose headquarters location, real estate costs per person were reduced 37%, utilities and maintenance costs per person were reduced 42%, since more people were using the same space. Furniture costs were reduced 50%, since cubicle furniture is surprisingly expensive. And, since people were using fewer switch ports (partly due to extensive wireless LAN use, and partly because there were fewer IP Phones needed, each of which provide a cabled LAN hub for laptop connectivity), IT spend and cabling costs dropped 40% and 60% respectively.
When I come into a Cisco office building, I might sit at a desk…or maybe a couch, or a meeting room, or a quiet area. Whichever seating I choose, I use Extension Mobility to log into the Cisco Unified IP Phone where I’m sitting so that I can make and receive calls as usual. And with our upgrade to Unified Communications Manager 8, I will be able to do this from any Cisco office anywhere in the world.
Cisco IT is considering putting Extension Mobility on every phone at Cisco, and requiring employees to log into the phone even in dedicated office spaces, to help reduce phone fraud. If we do this uniformly across locations we may be able to stop some expensive, non-business-related long-distance calls. This is an interesting twist on Extension Mobility: not only can we turn any phone, anywhere, into our phone, we can also make sure that we are the ones using it.