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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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Fast IT: Sourcing Disruptive Innovation

Change is accelerating at a speed and scale never seen before, and disruption is constant.

The explosion of network connections among people, process, data, and things, now called the Internet of Everything (IoE), is the driver behind much of this change. It is making innovation more accessible and affordable, while presenting enormous opportunities.

At the same time, IT organizations are contending with significant challenges. Operational costs are rising as budgets fall. Pervasive mobility and an explosion in connected devices are intensifying complexity. Business users are bypassing IT to access cloud-based services while new security threats arise daily. These conditions can stand in the way of greater innovation and agility, and prevent companies from capturing the opportunities in the IoE economy.

The foundational technologies behind IoE — cloud, mobility, collaboration, and analytics — may be disruptive, but they also usher in an era of significant IT improvements. Fully leveraging these opportunities requires an entirely new IT operating model, with new outcomes. IT organizations must become the source of disruptive innovation — and at long last assume the role of transformational business partner. Cisco is calling this new model Fast IT.

Fast IT addresses the following core areas across IT:

  • Simplifying the infrastructure across silos and driving automation to reduce operational costs
  • Using strategically automated policy to build agility and intelligence to fuel growth and respond to changing conditions
  • Connecting the right people to the right information and process at the right time
  • Evolving security to defend against attacks before and while they happen, and to run analysis after they end

Essentially, Fast IT is an adaptive, policy-driven approach that accommodates today’s and tomorrow’s pace of change. A well-executed strategy will bring together the right resources — which ultimately include infrastructure, applications, data, and people —- at the right time to take advantage of the IoE economy.

One of the key areas in which to create Fast IT is the data center.

In keeping with this approach, Cisco announced today new Unified Computing System (UCS) products and capabilities. UCS is a perfect example of the kind of integrated infrastructure that is eliminating complexity and enabling agility. Its blending of network, compute, and storage provides the foundation for automation and orchestration for physical and virtual systems as one, significantly reducing the management burden on IT.

UCS offers:

  • Greater Automation: UCS Director Express for Big Data enables simplified operations and lower costs
  • More intelligence at the Edge: the UCS Mini enables computing at the edge, which is essential for leveraging Big Data and data in motion
  • Improved Agility: UCS is a foundational element of cloud via the Cisco UCS M-Series Modular server. UCS also dovetails seamlessly with Cisco solutions such as ACI and Intercloud, underpinning an overall hybrid-cloud strategy.

In Creating Fast IT, a 20-25 Percent Cost Dividend

Because the pace of change is so dynamic, it is important to examine just where IT stands today. To that end, Cisco Consulting Services (CCS) recently conducted in-depth research.

Cisco surveyed more than 1,400 senior IT leaders in Brazil, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We interviewed leading industry analysts, authors, academics, IT executives, and IT practitioners. We compared this data with conclusions from numerous customer engagements.

A key finding was that implementing the key elements of a Fast IT model could potentially result in a 20 to 25 percent reduction in costs, which can then be reinvested in new capabilities to drive innovation and business outcomes.

Fast Innovation Requires Fast IT

FastIT-RJacoby

What Our Research Found

Here are key insights from the research. In creating a Fast IT model, organizations will:

  • simplify operations at a time when complexity is mounting — and IT budgets are flat.
  • move seamlessly through a “fabric of clouds.” Workloads and infrastructure tasks shift as business (application) conditions warrant.
  • drive much faster provisioning of enterprise applications. Time to provision and scale can decrease from months to minutes.
  • build processing capabilities at the edge of the network, capturing “data in motion” for real-time decision-making and contextual insight.
  • evolve to a more platform-driven security approach in which visibility is improved across all infrastructure domains, devices, applications, and services — enabling protection before, during, and after attacks.

Full study findings can be found here.

I have no doubt that implementing the elements of a Fast IT model — including Cisco UCS — will help organizations to be more agile and innovative. By moving to a policy-based IT approach, IT can free resources and people to realize the longtime goal of becoming a true partner in driving business outcomes.

In the IoE economy, Fast IT is the way forward.

Join us in the social conversation on Twitter at #FutureOfIT.

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Launching Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence in Europe

I recently wrote about how we are extending Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR)  and our open innovation strategy beyond Silicon Valley through local incubation partners in Chicago, San Diego and Berkeley.  Our presence in these innovation hubs will enable us to discover, influence and learn from new ideas and talent at early-stage startups with potential to disrupt our industry.

Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of Cisco EIR Europe, extending our program to a non-U.S. innovation hub for the first time.  Cisco EIR will be located initially in Vienna, where we plan to launch a small cohort of early-stage European startups by January 2015 – to be supported & incubated by Cisco – drawn from across EMEAR.  As with Cisco EIR in Silicon Valley, we will look for game-changing entrepreneurs in IoE, security, Big Data/analytics, Smart Cities & other transformational opportunities that are in Cisco’s strategic line of sight.  Also as in our Silicon Valley program, the startups will be supported by Cisco engineering & product teams as well as our EMEAR partner ecosystem.  The Vienna-based program is intended to serve as the beachhead – our “Phase 1” – for a broader EU-wide footprint for Cisco EIR.

Key to our success is how we leverage the startup ecosystem that already exists in Europe.  To this end, starting in Vienna, we have partnered with Pioneers, a leading startup community organization in Europe.  More partnerships are in the works.

I know all of you will agree innovation knows no national boundaries.  Europe, with its deep entrepreneurial talent, large market and history of innovation, presents a unique opportunity for usEurope is also one of the key regions for our Smart Cities – as you saw from our recent announcement of a new Smart Cities initiative in Copenhagen, following similar projects in Barcelona, Amsterdam Chicago and Hamburg.

We are thrilled to forge relationships in the European startup community – and support entrepreneurs as partners in open innovation.

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Cisco Invests in Developers

One of the marvelous things about community and teamwork is that it allows us to engage with people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and work together, we can create something in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the philosophy of our Cisco® software developer strategy.

As Cisco adds powerful software and services to our market-leading hardware portfolio, we recognize that developers are critical to creating value for our customers. With the advent of so many market transitions—mobility, cloud, the Internet of Everything (IoE), the application-centric infrastructure; driving and accelerating innovation-- the value of our networked platforms is greatly enhanced by the applications that run on them.

Cisco is enabling customers to unlock intelligence from the network using applications, and help drive new business models and benefits including improved customer experiences, faster time to market, and increased efficiencies.

To fuel software innovation, Cisco has created DevNet, its new developer program, to enable an open community of software developers – including ISVs, customers and Systems Integrators/Channel Partners – to help them easily and rapidly build Cisco-enabled applications to sell and use, on top of Cisco APIs to enhance or manage Cisco networks and platforms. Cisco is encouraging the adoption of APIs across our products and fostering integrations with third-party products.

Read More »

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Cisco Focus: The Year in Review

July 21, 2014 at 5:59 am PST

Everyone loves “year in review” articles, slideshows and wraps, right? Well, I do. Cisco’s fiscal year ends July 26, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to give our fiscal year in review for the Cisco Social Media team and all the great content that we produce week-in and week-out.

We created and run “The Network: Cisco’s Technology News Site.” This is where we have great journalists writing stories about the impact that technology has on your life or your business. We also create short, informative videos that highlight Cisco Innovators, our Leadership team, and other video series like “My Networked Life” or “City of the Future: Songdo, Korea.” And, whether you are a customer or partner…or are just interested in technology, we invite you and encourage you to take our content for your own site and re-use it or share it.

Last August, we launched our monthly digital magazine entitled “Focus.” Each month we do a deep dive on technology topics that we care about and that the industry cares about. You can see all the issues here.

Our Top 3 Issues this year:
1.       Technology in Education
2.       Women in Tech, and Read More »

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