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Working Smarter: The Paradigm Shift in Business Collaboration

For the last few years I have had a growing conviction that my workplace collaboration tools were fundamentally broken and needed to be reinvented. So, last year when I was given the opportunity to join Cisco as the leader of their collaboration business I jumped at it. The way we work has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. The expectation that you can work from anywhere, at any time, has become the norm. Change is always hard within IT, but, as you read in my last post, it is the companies that embrace these new models of work who will benefit from a more innovative, efficient, and happier workforce.

Let’s face it, our primary collaboration tools were invented over twenty years ago when “working” looked very much like what you see in the popular TV show Mad Men – what I call the “Don Draper era.” A time when you went into the office, sat at your desk, had a physical landline, and a desktop PC loaded with legacy business tools; an environment that assumed we would always be in the office during normal business hours and behind the walled garden of IT. Fast forward to 2013 and look around, the way we work today is fundamentally different than the way we worked twenty years ago, yet many of our business IT systems and tools have been slow to catch up. In frustration, many employees are turning to the collaboration tools they use in their personal lives such as Dropbox, FaceTime, Gmail, Evernote, and Facebook to get their work done.

The rise of cloud and mobility have driven an acceleration in consumer technology so quickly that today, ironically, the technology we use at home to connect with friends and family has gotten better than the collaboration technology we use at work.

Through disruption by these consumer technologies and the emergence of BYOD – laptops, cell phones, and tablets – our expectations of the tools we use to collaborate have changed. What was the exception twenty years ago now becomes the rule and we now want the same tools from home at work. Take Scott Berkun’s new book, The Year Without Pants, where he declares this new paradigm “the future of work.”  Backing up his claim, he gives a detailed account of WordPress.com, the 15th mosttrafficked website in the world, where everyone works from home and uses IM, wikis, and other social tools to get their job done instead of traditional email communication. Or we hear from Steven Sinofsky, former President of Microsoft’s Windows Division, who recently wrote about what he calls Continuous Productivity – an era that fosters a seamless integration between consumer and business platforms.

It was with these disruptive forces in mind that we have created a new philosophy and strategy in the Collaboration business at Cisco. As the leader in voice, video, and web conferencing, and with a strong track record of capitalizing on market transitions, Cisco has the assets, the talented engineers, and the market position to be able to make a massive impact. With that as the backdrop, we have embarked on a new mission here at Cisco collaboration to revolutionize workplace collaboration tools.

In four weeks, I’ll be unveiling our new vision and strategy at the Cisco Collaboration Summit in Boca Raton, FL. Please join me on October 23rd, 2013 at 8:30 a.m. ET – you can hear my keynote streamed live here: http://cs.co/vecs2013

Now, let’s get Don Draper and his friends up to speed on their collaboration tools!

rowan blog don draper 1rowan blog don draper 2

Photos by James Minchin III for Rolling Stone.

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2 Comments.


  1. October 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Interweaving Mad Men and Don Draper into the blog, gotta love it!

       0 likes

  2. Rowan I know that many ‘collaboration influentials’ are with you at Cisco Collaboration Summit but I can’t help but call out how the old-fangled technology of “Leave a Reply” undermines your whole approach.

    At the very least surely the bottom of this (excellent) article should have had a chat box – with a presence element indicating you were ‘at a Conference’ – allowing me to leave an IM for you to reply to personally on your handheld in between your duties in Boca Raton.

    Now THAT would have been a clear message that you truly mean to ruffle some feathers and disrupt the space with a totally new end-to-end approach to realtime collaboration.

    What say?

    Jeremy G. | @jg21
    President & CEO
    21st Century Internet Group

       1 like