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Where’s Waldo? Getting Past “Go” with Mobile Workers

Organizations today face many challenges when it comes to providing an optimum work environment. How can you turn your office space into a next-generation workplace? The answer is collaboration technology. Collaboration technology enables you to create workspaces that meet the changing needs and preferences of your employees. You can connect the unconnected, improve employee engagement, and address the realities of an increasingly virtual work environment.

In my experience, keeping pace with rapidly changing employee preferences and aligning technology requires organizations to update network infrastructure design. They need to expand employee capability and flexibility while strengthening overall network security. As more devices come online through the Internet of Everything (IoE), the workplace must evolve. And evolve in a way that meets employee needs and encourages collaboration, especially across global teams.

Business Challenges

Our organizations face many challenges when it comes to providing optimal work environments, including:

  • Enhancing employee collaboration within geographically dispersed teams
  • Encouraging more efficient work
  • Minimizing the cost and disruption of deploying new IT hardware and applications
  • Retaining the best employees

As I covered in a previous post, I think it’s important for Read More »

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Video Collaboration Matters in the Millions

How can a global company make the most of its talent all over the world? How can teams of people collaborate productively no matter where they live and work? While email helps and phone calls help even more, video is critical.

Cisco IT supports our global teams with a successful integrated suite of video options. Cisco employees made nearly 6.5 million video calls this year. What are the most popular video solutions for calls or meetings, and how it has changed Cisco culture? Find out in my short video.

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Cisco helps to advance Health IT Collaboration and Communication

This is an exciting week for Cisco and for the Health IT industry at large.  Two big industry events are taking plan this week: Epic’s Users’ Group Meeting and National Health IT Week.

Epic’s 2014 Users’ Group Meeting: Down on the Farm
If you are planning to attend Epic’s 2014 Users’ Group Meeting from September 15-19 in Verona, WI, be sure to visit the Cisco booth (#316) to see solutions that improve the patient experience and facilitate collaboration, including:

  • Epic UGMCisco Virtual Sitter Patient Observation: Video-enabled, centralized approach that allows trained staff to monitor multiple high-risk patients while also delivering two-way communications to alert clinical staff about potential patient situations.
  • Cisco JabberAll-in-one collaboration application that brings together video, voice, and IM on any device.
  • Cisco Extended CareA personal health and wellness collaboration platform, enabling patient engagement and care team interactions at any time and from anywhere.

Also, drop off a business card to register for a chance to win a $250 American Express gift card.

National Health IT Week: One Voice, One Vision
NHIT WeekNational Health IT Week (NHIT Week) is a collaborative forum and virtual awareness week that assembles key healthcare constituents dedicated to working together to elevate the necessity of advancing health through the best use of information technology. Cisco is one of 425 healthcare partners helping to bring this important cause to the forefront of the nation’s attention through events in Washington D.C., at the HIMSS 9th Annual Policy Summit, and other events throughout the week.  Follow tweets at #NHITWeek.

How the Internet of Everything enhances the quality of care
Both of these events highlight how hospitals and healthcare providers are now using the power of the Internet of Everything to expand their outreach within and outside their healthcare organizations.  From connecting patients with chronic medical conditions to using mobile technologies to help remind patients to take their medications on time, hospitals are incorporating new and innovative ways to improve the efficiency of care-delivery.  Cisco is here to help you adapt to these changes in accessing quality care and bringing expert care to your patients.

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Journey to the Cloud: a Smooth Transition

I speak with many business leaders about “the cloud” and how best to use it to improve collaboration. Quite often, discussions end up getting into specific services and technologies but I always try to ensure that some basic considerations are a primary focus – namely People, Processes and Culture. This video is a great overview and insight into how important it is to get the foundations right, and what questions you should ask before you start looking for a specific solution or ‘technology’.

The Three Considerations

People

People

People are your company’s greatest asset and you need to enable them fully and effectively. Increasingly, they “vote with their feet.” They use their own solutions or those provided directly by their departments instead of official IT options (shadow IT). For many reasons public cloud services are a big hit, but you can’t afford for the virtualized environment you have painstakingly created to be used only for functional or legacy workloads.  Nobody can afford a discrete, separate underutilized platform -- unappreciated and with hidden value. Read More »

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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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