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The New Telecommuters: Where are you going?

As the buzz around skyrocketing fuel prices and travel costs continues, it’s no secret that business people continue to turn to telecommuting as a viable alternative to offset costs and carbon emissions. As CIO.com profiled this week, companies like Chorus are allowing their entire workforce to work remotely, sparing employees from the hassle of costly commuting. And after saving over $400,000 a year, who could blame them? As Chorus demonstrates, more companies are realizing that remote training and knowledge transfer can be achieved using collaboration tools. Not a bad option when gas prices are almost hitting $5 a gallon in some U.S. cities. But businesses aren’t the only ones hopping on board the trend, as reported on by the Associated Press this week. We are seeing that lately, a new generation of telecommuters has begun to take shape, as travel costs have fueled a substantial boom in the number of students who are now telecommuting to class. According to the AP, a growing number of students are feeling the pinch of high fuel costs on their budgets, and are enrolling in online classes in record numbers. Work and school aside, where else can we leverage telecommuting to reduce the need for costly travel? As noted by CNNMoney.com this week, waiting until 2010 when the market recovers is a long time away -so where else can the technology take us when we need to offset our carbon emissions and find ways to cut travel costs? Well, it may not be all that useful to telecommute to your summer vacation in Bali, but it will be interesting to see what other destinations -other than school and work -that we can put on the map. Colin Smith, Dir., Public Relations, WebEx

Freedom from Your PC

Shortly after fellow-Canadian Douglas Adams published his acclaimed book”Generation X”, I ran into him at a party in Vancouver, British Columbia. I remember talking, not only about the book, but also its premise that Generation X society was about the dissolution of traditional themes-the nuclear family, the”fixed” home,”lifetime” employment. I remember posturing that Mr. Adam’s characters were pursuing a newfound freedom in a prosperous society-yet were isolated by their own pursuit of that goal. It was a conversation that influenced much of my own outlook on the world as well as has reflected my own experiences with my virtual family, my incredibly mobile lifestyle, and my own hopscotch through employment.For me the workplace has been rife with incredible experiences and wonderful people. What’s common to all these experiences is that they were dependent on a technology referred to as the PC. It was the hub for how we worked together. But now things are changing-and fast. I remember presenting to a group of investor bankers in 2000 who were more interested in the quakings of their BlackBerry pagers than my presentation. It is interesting that I remember their focus more than the content of my own presentation. As with the characters in Mr. Adams book, while the PC brought the gift of innovation and productivity, it also became a new barrier to communication and collaboration. How many times have you been involved in an email war that could have easily been resolved if you could just talk to the person. Or where you’ve sat in a meeting where people are so busy communicating with the outside world that they forget to communicate with the people in the room?It wasn’t until I joined Cisco that my conversation with Mr. Adams came full circle for me. Around me I was seeing constant dissolution. Cisco is remaking itself as a collaborative company where board and councils replace command and control. Where the mission statement is being replaced by twenty-three priorities. Office and cubicles are becoming flexible workspaces where people assemble virtually and physically to tackle the task at hand. And most importantly, we’re seeing the content of those workspaces chance dramatically. Printers, fax and copy machines-the legacy of the document era-are slowing disappearing. The mobile phone and the desk phone are blending. And most interestingly, the computer and email are becoming secondary to getting people together in real time and non-real time to collaborate. And this dissolution is giving us the freedom to become a more nimble, faster moving, higher performance company.As we think about American Independence Day, we think about”freedom” given to the world by the Founding Fathers of this great country. For me, this freedom is about pursuing my hopes and dreams without inhibiting others to also do so. At Cisco, I experience this freedom in being able to be the person I am, work where I want to work, using the tools I want to use. It is the freedom to develop my competitive advantage as an individual, not at the expense of others, but so that the strength of the teams and relationships to which I belong become stronger.Last year when Cisco created its second-generation vision for unified communications, we made a couple of important assumptions. We assumed the mobile phone was more important than the PC. We assumed that no one wanted more email. (Come on, someone disagree with me!) We built a vision where the best expertise from anywhere in the world could be brought virtually to the table without regard for device, operating system or network type. It was an expression of freedom-the freedom to choose. I’m proud to be working and living in the United States yet part of the global team that is delivering a vision where everyone, everywhere is included in the collaborative experience. Only when everyone is included in the discussion can we conquer the toughest issues that face us all. And many of those discussion will never involve a PC.by Chris Thompson, senior director of solutions marketing for Cisco Unified Communications

The Apple iPhone 2.0

With the recent introduction of the Apple iPhone 2.0, 35% of Fortune 500 companies have gratified Apple iPhone fans and signed up for the Apple iPhone 2.0 beta. The fact that Apple is now supporting enterprise-class security features such as Cisco IPSec VPN and WPA2/802.11x makes the business case for the iPhone even more compelling for companies with mobile workforces.Cisco’s vision for unified communications is to bring rich, compelling, and collaborative interactions to every workspace -- independent of preferred device, operating system, or location. With that vision, we are excited about iPhone 2.0 for a couple of reasons. First, our goal is to extend a superior unified communications experience to as many business applications and devices as possible. In addition, through our open interfaces, provide our customers and partners with the ability to integrate Cisco Unified Communications with an even greater number of platforms and devices critical to their businesses. Since the iPhone seems destined to be a popular device, we are eager to provide our customers and partners with the most compelling unified communications experience possible on it. Second, as we have worked with the iPhone, we have gotten very excited by its programming capabilities. The robust operating system, powerful hardware, and great programming tools allow us to consider some exciting applications and experiences for the iPhone.Over the next year or so, I look forward to bringing a series of user experiences to our customers that combine Cisco’s open, unified communications solution with many of the devices people use including the iPhone. Our engineers are already demonstrating some compelling applications. I can’t wait to use them.by Joe Burton, chief technology officer of Cisco’s voice technology group

Multi-tasking – virus or just endemic human trait?

I’ve been in a good number of training sessions and meetings the past few weeks, so in catching up on my reading, I saw this apropos post from Nicholas Carr about the multitasking virus. Josh Waitzkin (of Searching for Bobby Fischer fame) initiated the discussion on Tim Ferriss’ blog. Christine Rosen also weighs in at The New Atlantis. The idea behind Josh Waitzkin’s post, his experience watching today’s students multitasking during a lecture from one of his favorite professors, has strong correlation to meeting behavior both in-person and online. We’ve all seen people bring their notebook PCs into a meeting. The rest of us are left wondering if they spend the time checking email, chatting in IM, and watching YouTube. Bringing a notebook PC to a meeting is akin to chewing gum in same, so if you bring one, plan on sharing. Last week I participated in a couple meetings in which all the participants hunkered down for a couple hours at a stretch in a conference room to work on a project. We all brought our notebooks, but we actively used Meeting Center to share content, co-edit and transfer files. It definitely streamlined the process. Michael Caton, Collaboration Evangelist, WebEx

Gas Prices — City Preparedness

City Preparedness for Higher Gas Prices What do you think these 10 cities have in common?Virginia Beach, VAForth Worth, TXNashville, TNArlington, TXJacksonville, FLIndianapolis, INMemphis, TNLouisville, KYTulsa, OKOklahoma City, OKAccording to Common Current, a California-based economic sustainability group, these are the 10 major US cities least prepared for gas prices greater than $4/gallon. It turns out that residents of these cities are disproportionately prone to long solo work commutes by car.How are high gas prices affecting your budget? Have you started to explore collaboration tools to reduce travel and control costs?I ran the numbers on my own modest commute (less than 20 miles round-trip, 26MPG, regular gas at a delightful $4.59/gallon here in the Bay Area) and found -when all car expenses are taken into account -that Cisco’s WebEx PCNow remote computer access software pays for itself when I telecommute just one day per month. (And that doesn’t even include what I save by eating lunch out of my own fridge.)The ROI on other WebEx collaboration services that eliminate travel expenses is even higher.What are your commute mitigation tools of choice? Are you spending more time collaborating online and less time in your car or in Seat 28F? Is $4.00/gallon your personal”tipping point” to alter your behavior?David Bockian, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Cisco WebEx