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What’s YOUR Mantra?

“Put your oxygen mask before others.” I have heard this mantra again and again this year in different women’s conferences and seminars.  And this was the first message from Adam Grant, the opening speaker at last month’s Massachusetts Conference for Women (CFW).

This seems logical if you think in terms of plane emergencies. If you are able to breathe, you can help the person sitting next to you, whether they’re family, friends or anyone else who needs help. In day-to- day life, this holds true too.Mantra1

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Immersive Telepresence Still Enthralls on Tenth Anniversary

This October will mark the 10th anniversary of the immersive telepresence segment – one that we pioneered with the Cisco TelePresence System 3000 Series.

And as if by kismet, on the eve of this tenth year, demand for immersive systems soared as never before. Just last month, we shipped the 1,000th IX5000 system, our latest-generation immersive telepresence product. This is the fastest ramp in the history of the immersive segment, happening within the first year of the IX5000’s introduction. That’s no small feat for a product with a $300K list price (a price that’s unchanged since the 2006 introduction, despite significant innovations.)

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What makes this milestone even more interesting is that some predicted the demise of the immersive segment just a couple of years ago. But we persisted despite the naysayers. Why? We were driven by the same vision we had 10 years ago:  To take a meeting table, cut it in half, and add 5,000 miles in between. And yet, it still feels like everyone is in the same room – life-sized, effortlessly, and almost magically.

As it was ten years ago, users today are awestruck the first time they experience immersive telepresence. For globally dispersed businesses, the benefits very quickly become real. Organizations become enthralled with how it can transform their business. Travel avoidance is an obvious benefit, but the immediacy of decision-making, the relationship- and trust-building, and the power to collaborate over thousands of miles are the true assets. This is why more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies have purchased our immersive systems. Read More »

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Feb. 2: NRF16 Wrap Up at Live CiscoChat

Retail’s Big Show offers ideas and insights into the ever-changing industry of retail. This year’s NRF 2016 drew a large and influential group of the most innovative retail leaders. Throughout the show, these leaders held extensive one-on-one conversations and hosted general sessions by some of the industry’s starring professionals.

If you missed the show (or if you want to discuss it with your peers), please invite your accounts to join us at #CiscoChat on Twitter next Tuesday, February 2, at 10:00 am PST/1:00 pm EST to talk about the changes trends emerging out of NRF and during the next year.

Together, we’ll provide highlights and consider questions such as:

  • What were the latest and most influential gadgets you saw at NRF16?
  • Where should retailers focus in this fast-changing economy?
  • How can retailers better compete with e-commerce retailers?
  • What are the most important upcoming trends, and where should you put your money in 2016?
  • And many more

I’m especially happy to be joined in this live discussion by Janet Schijns, Vice President at Cisco partner Verizon Enterprise Solutions (@channelsmart).  Janet brings a unique perspective to digitization and innovation in retail.  Whether you want to join in the chat or just listen to the discussion, it promises to be a lively and informative hour.

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To participate in the Chat:

  • Make sure you’re logged onto your Twitter account.
  • Search for #CiscoChat, and click on the Live tab.
  • The @CiscoRetail handle is the moderator and will welcome guests and post questions.
  • Please submit your answers in the following format: ex. A1: Write Answer. #CiscoChat

Follow @CiscoRetail and me @techguyshaun – you don’t want to miss this. Be sure to bring your questions!

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Digitization Offers Hope to Besieged Retailers

These are especially difficult times for the retail industry.

For starters, several of retail’s marquee names announced store closings or layoffs following a disappointing holiday sales season. Retailers simply haven’t benefited from cheaper gas and a relatively strong overall U.S. job market —retail sales declined 0.1 percent in December from the previous month, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Making matters worse, brick-and-mortar retailers are quickly losing ground to online giants like Amazon. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Amazon captured almost a quarter of all U.S. retail sales growth last year.

The retail industry’s comparatively low IT spending has also placed it at high risk of disruption by technology-savvy incumbents and digital-native upstarts. In fact, according to the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center), retail ranked third among 12 industries studied in terms of potential for digital disruption over the next five years.

Clearly, all of this should send a strong message to the retail industry. Yet, at least from a “digital transformation” perspective, the industry doesn’t appear to be listening. Although 56 percent of retail executives say digital disruption is a board-level or CXO concern, fewer than one-quarter are doing anything about it by actively disrupting their own businesses.

It is not altogether surprising, then, that according to a new Cisco study, retailers captured just 15 percent of their potential Digital Value at Stake in 2015. By comparison, financial services realized almost twice as much digital value.

There are, however, some excellent examples of effective digitization in the retail industry.

Digital Transformation in Retail from Cisco Business Insights

A perfect case in point is F&F, the clothing brand of U.K. grocery retailer Tesco.

F&F needed to address multiple challenges: limited floor space, little visibility into what customers did in stores, and poor customer awareness of F&F online.

Using a combination of in-store Wi-Fi and integrated mobile and tablet access for shop associates, F&F management can now track customer journeys and gain insight into customer behavior. Free Wi-Fi gave F&F the ability to track customer journeys in greater detail. It also provided a means to deliver curated content and context-specific offers directly to customers’ mobile phones, incorporating connected advertising.

Over three months, the number of customers logging onto Wi-Fi increased 50 percent. Customers spent roughly 30 to 50 percent of their physical dwell time online on personal devices, while also engaging with push offers. This engagement changed customer behavior, increasing dwell times and sales.

F&F was also eager to build its online customer base to augment its relatively small physical floor space. Key technologies in the store made this possible. Interactive kiosks allowed customers to order items online and have them delivered to the store or their home. This reduced the number of customers leaving empty-handed because their size or preferred style wasn’t in stock at the store. It also offered a strong introduction to F&F online—and to styles customers might not otherwise have seen. The brand has experienced a steady increase in online sales as a result.

F&F has also piloted “remote expert,” a means of providing virtual access to a style advisor who isn’t physically present in the store. Although associates on the floor are armed with tablets to help advise customers, remote experts offer personal styling advice. Using the same kinds of technology tools as next-generation workers, remote experts employ video conferencing to increase customer engagement—supporting sales, especially on higher-ticket items—and to promote F&F as a fashion brand.

For many retailers, the biggest challenge in becoming a digital business is figuring out where to start. Here are three steps to take:

  1. Evaluate where you are on the journey—are you using digital capabilities to enable operational efficiency, differentiate through improved business processes, or define new business models? There’s a good chance that you already have key elements of the required digital foundation.
  2. Build an investment plan to meet your business objectives. Prioritize the biggest areas of payback and plan short-term gains that can fund ongoing investment.
  3. Finally, use this investment plan to close the gap between the
digital capabilities you need and the outcomes you want. While the fundamentals will remain the same, your objectives and priorities may change over time.

The time for retailers to act is now.

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The Hierarchy of SaaS Testing Needs

Software testing. For a long time, software testing was one of those dark alleys of the software development process. Often ignored, considered as an afterthought, and staffed by “someone else” who did an important job but was outside of the core development process.

Well, that has all changed.

In the SaaS world – especially one governed by continuous delivery – testing is not just an afterthought. It’s a core part of the development process. And like many other engineering processes, there are differing levels of maturity that SaaS development shops can evolve through. In a lot of ways, these different stages of maturity are like Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. You really, really have to execute on the stuff at the bottom. As you succeed with that you move up to higher levels and achieve greater levels of happiness – in this case through greater quality of software. In the case of testing, each layer is like a filter – each of them catching bugs. The layers at the bottom catch the most basic, easy-to-find bugs. As you go up the stack, the technology helps you catch problems that are rarer and more troubling to identify, reproduce, and fix.

Here is my view on the layers of the hierarchy of SaaS testing needs:

heirarchy of SaaS testing needs Read More »

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