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Analytics to Identify and Strengthen Organizational Collaboration and Drive Innovation

Companies with many employees face various challenges w.r.t. their size. One of these challenges is to identify key people, skills and information across (and outside) the organization and use them in the most effective way to drive innovation, new initiatives, but also sales.

Situation Today

The natural way for employees to cope with such a challenge is to build social networks (I mean networks of people not software) and collaborate across the organization. This organic social network building happens through various activities such as projects with colleagues, social activities, company events, etc… However, such social networks take time to create, and are typically not that extended. The effectiveness of these social networks is hard to measure (unless perhaps you equip your employees with location trackers). This social network building, I call the qualitative approach to organizational collaboration.

Connect and Collaborate

Connect with the right people inside and outside the enterprise

Many companies have deployed technology solutions (tools) to cope with the challenge described above. Companies have personnel directories that show employees’ groups and the official organization hierarchy. Some of these personnel directories allow users to add more personalized information (but this information is not always up to date). More sophisticated personnel directories (or other collaboration tools) also feature timelines of activities/tasks, blogging, integrated search, etc…. .Video conferencing enables people to connect people remotely. Despite these new social tools, email and mailing lists still play an important role in connecting people and disseminate information as well as external social networks and resources. All these tools provide a wealth of information. In essence: collaboration is Big Data.

Do all these social/collaborative enterprise tools help us doing our job better and promoting innovation? From a personal point of view I am tempted to say yes, but much more can be done. My main concern with most of these tools is the lack of analytics features to quickly identify user-relevant information or contacts. New tools – and newer versions of already existing tools – are starting to provide some of these capabilities, but IMO that is still not enough (or not accurate enough) to fully understand the evolving social networks or the relations between people and information (documents, emails, etc…).

What can be Improved

The goal of exposing more of the right analytics to end users would be, for a user, to faster gather insights, new ideas, and enable quicker decision making and eventually translate these insights and ideas to new opportunities, projects and/or costs savings.

Analyze and Correlate

Correlate different sources to identify information

To achieve this goal, users should be able to identify patterns in their organization’s data, specifically on threads or evolving thoughts and interactions that can be relevant for their particular projects or questions. In essence, analytics should foster more and improved collaboration with like-minded people, or people that share a common goal. As mentioned earlier, people naturally do this already, but in large organizations it is humanly impossible to scale this effectively and fast, without the help of analytics tools. This type of analytics I call the quantitative approach of organizational collaboration, which I see as complementary to the qualitative approach.

When I look for example at mailing lists or video conferencing, a few questions always pop up in my mind that modern enterprise collaboration tools should be able to answer in just a few clicks:

  1. What topics are trending during the last week/month? Perhaps type a topic in and get trend information or have the computer generate topics based on a context analysis of your posts or email conversations.
  2. How are the groups and hierarchies evolving over time (who is talking to who)? Can software recommend groups of people that are relevant for me and my projects?
  3. What people can be considered as experts on certain topics, based on their posts, replies, published articles, etc…?
  4. For particular topics, who are the top contributors and how do they relate to the experts? Are people clustering around certain topics?
  5. Who are the influencers/thought leaders, and how do they relate to experts?

From a strategic point of view companies can leverage analytics from social/collaborative tools to answer questions like:

  1. Are best practices shared across the organization between the appropriate groups?
  2. Is there an alignment between strategy and direction of the company?

This is not an exhaustive list and as a software engineer I think that an additional relevant feature for any tool should be the ability to provide an environment to mashup and integrate data by employees, to answer some of these questions.

How can it be Leveraged

Various groups and people (MIT, Virginia Tech, …) do research on this subject and translate this research into strategic insights at the enterprise level. The next step will be to provide the insights to individual employees as well. Enterprise tools with more sophisticated analytics capabilities (many focused on machine learning) are beginning to emerge. Perhaps the biggest challenge is integration of such capabilities across multiple internal and external tools and platforms.

Organizational collaboration is for me not limited to an enterprise environment. Groups with different affiliations who organize themselves as “virtual organizations” to work together towards common goals (for example, Open Source communities or standard bodies) can benefit from this type of analytics too.

To be more successful in capturing the value of collaboration, companies not only need to deploy the right tools, but also need to foster a mashup environment to leverage the organizational insight and tacit knowledge of its employees through analytics.

Special thanks to Marco Valente and Yannik Messerli for the discussions and insight on this subject.

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Ready for #SuperMobility?

It’s no longer a question of whether mobility best practices and policies are required, it’s a matter of when your strategy will get ahead of the unstoppable trend. Business and IT leaders alike are not just witnessing the movement of everything mobile, but guilty themselves: who isn’t on their devices for both work and play anymore?

User experience, performance, security and management are key red flags that shoot up when we think about mobile. Getting these four totems right will help organizations keep employees or customers happy and productive, while protecting the business. This is no piece of cake: mobility is a journey and you need a strategy.

Thought leaders and innovators across industries are converging on #SuperMobility Mobile Con this week in Vegas to discuss best practices and ways for organizations to tackle these key issues. We’ll be there too to discuss how to move beyond BYOD and develop an enterprise mobility strategy.

Session: Embark on Your Employee and Customer Mobility Journey
Time: Sep. 09, 2014 from 3:30 PM to 4:29 PM
Location: Sands Expo − MobileCON Show Floor, Stage 3 Read More »

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Building Relationships over Distance –Tips for Success

I recently read a great article that talks about how midsized companies can take advantage of slow periods to visit customers, partners, and others to better understand their needs.

The article comes from Erik Sherman from the National Center for the Middle Market. Part of Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, the center provides knowledge, leadership, and innovative research on U.S. midsized businesses.

Sherman provides is great advice, but in a fast-moving, highly competitive economy that never seems to slow down, I would add the following points:

  • Getting to know your stakeholders shouldn’t be just a once-a- year activity
  • Engaging with them shouldn’t be limited by the ability to travel due to time or budget constraints

Let’s take the case of engaging with employees and co-workers.  As middle market companies continue to lead economic growth and job creation, Read More »

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Simplify Sales with Remote Product Demonstrations

I spent the last eight months on the front lines of the virtual demo world for Cisco. Working from our headquarters in California, I met with people from all over the world to demonstrate our latest products — without a single plane trip. Using collaboration technology sales teams can avoid travel expenses, sell more, and increase productivity.

Most significant business purchases require some form of travel. Companies need to send sales experts out in to the world to demo their products. Or, depending on the products or the situation, customers often travel to the vendor’s site. Although travel involves expense and time, personal interaction is important to customer relationships. Travel can make the sales process more cumbersome and time consuming. But without travel, you limit the degree of direct engagement you might have before a customer makes a buying decision.

How Can Remote Demonstrations Add Value to the Sales Process?

Remote product demonstrations are providing companies with a less-expensive option to engage with customers. And the best part of it is that neither customers nor your technical experts have to travel as much. Just as video is changing the nature of meetings, it’s also a fitting solution Read More »

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Gartner Recognizes Cisco as a Leader in Unified Communications…Again

For the seventh year in a row Cisco was positioned as a leader in the August 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications. In the accompanying Critical Capabilities for Unified Communications document, published July 2014, Cisco also received the highest ratings in Full UC with Strong Telephony and Ability to Offer Hybrid Solutions use cases. We believe our continued recognition in these key industry assessments demonstrates that the focus on simplicity and user experience across the Cisco Collaboration portfolio is delivering our customers the productivity gains they are looking for through a collaboration experience that only Cisco can deliver.

According to Gartner,  “The primary goal of unified communications (UC) is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes. Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that goal…UC products integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.” Cisco shares this vision for UC and continues to deliver key innovations and integrations to ensure our customers are clearly benefiting from the full suite of Cisco’s leading  telephony, video , web conferencing , messaging , IM/P and contact center offerings.

In the 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications, Gartner once again positioned Cisco as a leader for ability to execute and completeness of vision.  The report identifies strengths and cautions for individual vendors and we feel the strengths for Cisco UC offering are: Read More »

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