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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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Unleash the Promise of Cloud: A Strategic Perspective – The Landscape

If you are reading this blog hoping to get a universal recipe for your cloud strategy, I believe you will be disappointed. But then, you already know…. there are no ‘universal’ cloud strategies. You have to formulate a cloud strategy that best fits your business objectives and IT priorities (among a number of other factors.)  Our Cisco services team for Cloud Strategy, Management and Operations has various tools including our Cisco DomainTen™ framework that will help you formulate the right cloud strategy for your organization. Parag’s blog is a great source of information in this regard.

This blog series instead will offer a set of perspectives on how I view the evolution of the World of Many Clouds ™ and what steps we are taking to align our cloud strategy to capitalize on it. This first blog will put our strategy in ‘context’ outlining our point of view in light of some important market dynamics.

The primary market research study that we conducted in collaboration with INTEL, along with additional secondary market research studies, clearly indicate that Line of Business (LoB) leaders have been playing a more important role in driving requirements for IT solutions and services. The reasons behind this trend are many, including and not limited to increasing market and competitive pressures, an uncertain business climate, variability of macroeconomic factors and a relentless need to innovate at a faster pace to stay ahead of the competition.  What’s more, LOBs now have greater ability to access IT solutions – such as Software as a Service -- outside the traditional enterprise IT value chain, creating “shadow IT” initiatives. In response, IT organizations are looking for new ways to retain their leadership, control, and at times, even relevancy. Furthermore, IT organizations are now expected to support strategic business objectives and enable business growth while also harnessing new technology trends, leading to innovation and new customer experiences. To remain relevant to the business, IT must become a “change agent” and be perceived as a true strategic enabler. The question is how?

We envision IT organizations transitioning to new roles as trusted ‘brokers of IT services’. This model enables IT to add value to one or more public or private cloud services on behalf of its users. IT does this by dynamically bringing together, integrating, and tailoring the delivery of cloud services to best meet the needs of the business.

In a wide-ranging study, Cisco, in partnership with Intel®, sought to pinpoint just how these powerful trends are impacting IT. The “Impact of Cloud on IT Consumption Models” study surveyed 4,226 IT leaders in 18 industries across nine key economies, developed as well as emerging: Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. The study supports our point of view. Up to 76% of the survey respondents signaled that IT will act as a “broker” of cloud services across internal and external clouds for LoBs.

In other words, when formulating their sourcing strategies, IT organizations repeatedly face service-by-service, “build-versus-buy” decisions. Therefore, IT needs a plan and a set of governance criteria that support the consistent evaluation of their IT services sourcing options (e.g., time to market, value, sustainable differentiation that the service can provide, SLAs, cost, risk profile and the experience the IT department intrinsically has with that particular service etc..)

This “IT services sourcing flexibility” enables greater levels of business agility, transparency, and speed of deployment to help LoB leaders unlock innovation and achieve core business objectives.

However, let’s step back and see how this is all fitting together. If we rewind, we introduced the concept of the World of Many Clouds ™ a couple of years ago. You can view the evolution of this world as the outcome of the intersection and progressive integration between traditional IT environments and IT services offered by public cloud providers. The roads (in our metaphor) are converging. Lines are blurring. In theory, nothing is preventing a company that consumes IT services from becoming a cloud provider itself (public or private.)

I also believe that the debate regarding private versus public cloud is over. It is about having both at the same time. And to be able to bridge and take advantage of both; hybrid cloud is the new ‘normal.’

In turn, the ability to combine and dynamically aggregate cloud services from private and public clouds can truly occur if IT organizations can rely on an open and secure hybrid cloud environment. And for that to take place you should have the ability to move your cloud workloads (and more broadly your IT services) around. Both data and applications.

You can easily envision a scenario in which a workload -- based on a set of specifications -- ‘automatically discovers’ the best infrastructure to run on.  An exchange could facilitate the allocation process. An XML based standard could emerge along with a set of processes used by exchanges to match demand and supply of IT services based on SLAs, costs, data locality requirements etc… On the supply side you can also envision a scenario in which federation or capacity aggregation among suppliers of cloud services would enable increased economies of scale, consistency and a broader set of choices.

Ok … coming back to earth … our Cloud strategy intends to capitalize on some of these market dynamics and enable IT to retain control, relevance and increase its strategic profile by leveraging the evolution of the World of Many Clouds. In my next blog I will provide an overview of the actual strategy and begin focusing on it in more detail. But first I wanted to share the context.

And as always, to learn more you can begin here.

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What’s New in Cisco Domain Ten Framework 2.0

 Earlier this week, we announced the Cisco Domain Ten framework 2.0, enhanced by great input from customers, partners, and Cisco’s well-earned experience of strategizing and executing IT transformation.

The enhanced Cisco Domain Ten framework helps customers drive better strategic decisions, providing greater focus on business outcomes, providing deeper analysis of hybrid cloud implications, and extending the framework beyond data center and cloud to include all IT transformation initiatives.

You may have read Stephen Speirs earlier blogs about Cisco Domain Ten for cloud transformation. Today, let’s look at key changes in the Cisco Domain Ten framework 2.0 from the original version. These changes have been adopted to enhance discussions on three themes:

  1. Highlight importance of public clouds as part of IT transformation and solutions using IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS within the data center and across the entire business.
  2. Addition of “Organization” in Domain 10 to bring together the business and technology focus for strategy discussions.
  3. Name changes for some domains to facilitate ease of alignment and discussion on overall IT transformation across multiple architectures and technology solutions such as ITaaS, collaboration, mobility, video, etc. for both enterprise and provider perspectives.

Read More »

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A Chapter from My Unwritten Book: Social Media Planning (Part 2)

September 24, 2013 at 10:01 am PST

Last week, I shared basic enablement, intelligence, engagement and measurement practices. This week’s presentation focuses on some advanced practices in the areas of intelligence, engagement, advocacy and measurement. By no means is this list complete so please feel free to add your two cents in the Comment box below. The more we share, the more we can influence how companies and even industries are viewing and adopting social media. Collectively, we can shape its evolution. So please, share away!

And without further ado, here’s another chapter from my unwritten book in slide deck format:   Read More »

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