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Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Some Things Are Better Together

Collaboration is an inherently social concept. It’s about people and connection. It’s about communicating, working together, interacting to meet goals, accomplishing tasks, innovating, and creating. Just as people have unique personalities, so do the ways they collaborate for business, whether 1:1 or in groups, in structured meetings or hallway conversations, sitting at desks or on park benches, in real-time conversations or long-term interactions.

As technology evolves and geography becomes less relevant to connecting with others, the options for how we collaborate multiply. And multiply again.  But technology itself is an enabler of collaboration, the value is in the connections that people make – with each other, information, and ideas.

Finding ways to improve the connections between people and the information they need to share is critical to improving business. From our perspective we want the technology to disappear; providing the ability for people to interact in the ways they interact best, wherever they are.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”―Helen Keller

We see great value in providing social solutions to our customers. Bringing together social networking with communications technology provides people with the means to collaborate and gives them flexibility to do the best work they can. Like Helen Keller, we believe people working together can achieve extraordinary things. We believe the same is true of companies.

Increasingly, organizations are looking for ways to integrate social solutions into their collaboration tools and business processes. Throughout the past decade, Cisco has continued to weave social into the fabric of our own collaboration portfolio.  At the same time, we continuously looked for opportunities to collaborate with other companies to integrate new technologies and improve what we can offer our customers – bringing the best of the best together to provide our customers with the ideal solution to fit their business needs.

Today I am happy to announce that we are entering a relationship with Jive Software
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Cisco Collaborates with Partners to Provide IT Skills and Career Opportunities to Veterans in Michigan

Each year, thousands of U.S. veterans return from the battlefield with exceptional leadership, technical and other skills they have acquired overseas. Even so, many experience difficulty finding a job, and return feeling overwhelmed by the high unemployment rate they are up against. Today, in a program to assist veterans in transferring their military experience into successful careers, the Michigan Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and Cisco are teaming up to pilot IT training and certification programs aimed at connecting veterans with in-demand job opportunities.

Vets“We’ve got all these young people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, have made incredible sacrifices, have taken on incredible responsibilities — you know, you see some 23-year-old who’s leading a platoon in hugely dangerous circumstances, making decisions, operating complex technologies. These are folks who can perform, but unfortunately, what we’re seeing is that a lot of these young veterans have a higher unemployment rate than people who didn’t serve. And that makes no sense.”

 - President Barack Obama

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White House and IT Industry Partnership Prepares Servicemen and Women for the Workforce

Approximately 1.2 million armed forces personnel are expected to transition from the U.S. military to civilian life over the next several years, with as many as 300,000 in the next 12 months.  Many of these veterans will look to move quickly into the next phase of their careers and need to find fulfilling jobs that will enable them to build upon their military experience and support themselves and their families. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 10.1 percent jobless rate for post 9/11 veterans and exceeding 30 percent for veterans ages 18-24. It is imperative that, as a country, we come together to fix this. We must provide the training, certifications and jobs that our veterans have earned and deserve.

As an example of what we hope public private partnerships will do for our veterans who have given so much for our country, I look at Courtney Beard, a Cisco employee, who transitioned from active duty Air Force service in September 2011 with very little IT training. Coming from a family with a long history of military service, she knew at a young age that she would serve her country but she did not think much about what life would look like after she returned home. Highly skilled, and capable of excelling in the most difficult of circumstances, she still faced challenges finding a meaningful job aligned with her future goals; the process included resume critiques, regular attendance at job fairs, and participating in the Warrior to Cyber Warrior training and mentorship program with other veterans.

People like Courtney are the driving force behind the White House IT Training and Certification Program – an initiative to help transitioning military personnel make the difficult shift to the civilian workforce by obtaining the necessary training and certifications needed for high demand IT jobs.  Debuted today by First Lady Michelle Obama, the program – in partnership with Joining Forces and the President’s Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force – will actively engage 1,000 transitioning military personnel in training, certification and career resources. The concept and platform behind the program was developed with leadership from Cisco and Futures, Inc. This public-private partnership exemplifies business and government working together to make a difference in our economy, our businesses and our country.

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The Cisco – SP Partnership: How Proactive Planning Drives Service Quality

By Carlos Cordero, Director, Service Provider Internet Business Solutions Group

In my previous blog I explained the importance of collaborative testing between telecommunications service providers (SPs) and their network vendors in order to achieve higher service quality levels. I’d like to start where I left off and move on to exploring how this type of collaboration can extend into the planning process.

SPs with the highest service quality tend to have a strong planning capability within both their Network Engineering and Operations organizations, which is directly coordinated with their vendors. Leading SPs establish a joint Program Management Office (PMO) with their network equipment vendor, whose scope of responsibility includes early bug identification, bug remediation, and new feature deployment. This includes structured, joint planning meetings and performance reviews which are attended by VP-level engineering and operations executives, as well as senior members of the vendor’s account team, services organization, and the development organization.

The joint SP-vendor PMO performs several critical activities.  First, it drives requirements gathering with senior network designers, and then works with them until actual code is released.  The PMO also develops network architectures with the vendor and the SP’s engineers using “Plan-of-Record” (POR) documentation.  Next, the PMO jointly prioritizes feature functionality with the vendor, keeping track of critical features needed by specified timeframes.  It works closely with the vendor’s development organization to understand any design limitations, testing issues, and special conditions.  In addition to performing classic management functions, the PMO makes use of “Bug Workbooks” to track all major, critical, and minor bugs and trends.

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The Cisco – SP Partnership: Best Practices for Lifting Service Quality

By Carlos Cordero, Director, Service Provider Internet Business Solutions Group

Service providers (SPs) often face a number of service quality challenges. These challenges, more often than not, result from hardware failures, software bugs, network outages, packet loss, and capacity issues. The majority of these challenges may not be new, and may have already been resolved by SPs’ technology partners, or by other operators. Indeed, SPs could capture significant operational benefits simply by adopting well-established best practices.

However, adopting these best practices requires a proactive and open relationship between SPs and their technology partners. Without open cooperation, adopting these best practices and continuous improvement will always prove to be a challenge.

To explore the relationship between an SP’s culture and the adoption of best practices, I will be writing a series of articles on the SP360 blog covering operational and engineering best practices, challenges, and benchmarks observed in the course of working with major service providers worldwide.  The specific topics I will cover include: operational practices such as testing, certification, engineering rules, go-live, and incident management; as well as organizational capabilities (planning, program management, culture, management practices, IP skillsets, and staffing levels).

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