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The (Social) Road Ahead For Unified Communications, Video & Mobility

One of the new themes at this year’s Enterprise Connect conference is “The Social Enterprise”.  The topic should be viewed as a welcome addition to the event. Until now, the Enterprise 2.0 conference has been the primary community gathering for those interested in collaboration, communities, and social networking. While I have been a long-time advocate of the Enterprise 2.0 event, I am also enthusiastic about the topic covered at Enterprise Connect. An in-depth conversation regarding the synergies between Enterprise 2.0 with unified communications, video, and mobility is long overdue.

Virtually all technology commonly associated with Enterprise 2.0 is asynchronous. Whether you are talking about blogs, wikis, or social network sites – the response from the IT industry has mostly been to improve different aspects of asynchronous work. That’s not a bad thing. People cannot always work together in real-time. Being able to post information to a community or public audience can be a powerful way of making information more visible. Having the ability for employees to network across the organization or create communities where they can share best practices can be a powerful solution for discovering talent and scaling expertise. However, our beliefs regarding how social tools can help organizations should not be constrained to asynchronous work. The industry has created an unfortunate perception that there is a divide between Enterprise 2.0 and synchronous work.

Micro-blogging and activity streams are examples of a near-time user experience for social tools that have synergies with unified communications. We can easily imagine how presence and click-to-(call / IM / conference) can be added to these experiences so we can immediately connect with someone. We can also imagine how a micro-blogging hashtag (e.g., #ciscocollab) might provide a great way to make “group chat” within a web conferencing event more public. And there’s more – the Instant Messaging “buddy list” is treated as a private list of colleagues we are following. That hidden list could very well be turned inside-out and made public – similar to how micro-blogging tools show “following” and “followers”. Even video can become more social by making it easier to capture and share rich media content – including support for transcription, comments, and ratings. These are some possible ideas on how social, unified communications, and video can be combined. However, when we consider integrating tools associated with Enterprise 2.0 with tools associated with unified communications and video – we need to think beyond simply connecting one set of tools to another set of tools, or crudely plugging them into a monolithic, document-centric platform.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to Cisco Quad. Quad will be one of the Cisco solutions highlighted at Enterprise Connect. While Quad itself is not a unified communications or video solution, it represents a compelling framework for integrating and delivering those capabilities as part of an enterprise collaboration platform. Not only does Quad contain the expected features found in other social platforms on the market that focus on asynchronous interaction, it has been designed from the ground-up to include video and unified communications as a core architectural service. Quad’s integration model enables it to integrate with the other systems employees use to get work done. That’s what organizations should expect from an enterprise collaboration platform. Standards-based integration helps Quad add critical business context to its social capabilities and makes collaboration more immediately actionable through its integration with unified communications. In addition, support for mobility has not been an after-thought but included within its design as a first-class end-point in terms of user experience and functionality.

The business need for people to connect, share, learn, and collaborate has been inhibited by the technology silos we’ve created over the past decade. Organizations undertaking strategic business initiatives involving unified communications, video, and mobility are now meeting up with parallel efforts focused on “social”. We should not be heading down the same path as we’ve done so many times before and create additional technology silos. What attendees will learn at Enterprise Connect is how Cisco Quad enables them to bring unified communications, video, collaboration, and Enterprise 2.0 initiatives together within a common architectural framework that leverages existing investments and emerging IT standards (e.g., OpenSocial).

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