Whether you’re a small or large organization, your employees are no doubt your most valuable assets. During my career, I’ve seen just how critical it is to unlock the full potential of each person to achieve great things. Today’s unique challenge lies in facilitating effective collaboration amongst a globally distributed workforce with the Internet at the center of everything.
I recently took the stage at Cisco Live! London where I talked about a new class of Internet-raised employees, their requirements for the next-gen workspace, and what Cisco is doing to facilitate this new way of working.
For starters, employees’ expectations today far exceed those of the past when it comes to communications. I can’t even imagine how my 7-year old daughter’s generation will be when they enter the workforce. Influenced by their consumer experiences, employees now desire (and need) much more than the corporate issued laptop: They want access to the devices—smartphones, tablets—and platforms of their choosing. IT departments now must figure out how to provide integrated collaboration experiences from any device and location. I’ve dedicated the past few years to finding a way for people to collaborate in a secure and scalable way while meeting these new expectations.
Government services and convenience are rarely seen within the same sentence; more often than not, the thought of making the trip down to city hall is a sure-fire way to increase one’s blood pressure. Cisco’s efforts around Smart+Connected Communities have continuously focused on identifying these types of pain points – advocating the need to design cities with technology at the core to improve delivery of new citizen services.
Citizen services in France
This month, efforts around the world in France, Spain, Germany, Canada and the United States have showcased the pivotal role of technology in the development of modern-day cities. More and more, the network has become an essential part of a city infrastructure – much like gas and water. When we’re able to implement a scalable intelligent network to create tangible service-delivery points for citizens, what we essentially create is an entirely new business model that promotes a shift in how public services are delivered.
The initiatives detailed throughout this post are not only exciting as an indicator of global acceptance from large communities around the world, but they also serve as a key initial step towards what we can provide with a full suite of transformational services. Through utilizing key technologies that bring access closer to the community, Cisco and its partners are transforming the means in which cities deliver government services.
Spot Mairie in Nice
Cisco is working together with the city and the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolitan Area to deploy the world’s first fully operational Cisco Remote Expert for Government Services (REGS) solution. Installed at the Nice Étoile shopping mall, a cabin has been fully equipped with a Cisco TelePresence system and collaboration tools to bring government services closer to communities.
Named the ‘Spot Mairie’, this deployment provides real-time access to key services such as certification requests, voter registration, requests for public services and a host of other offerings during regular business hours. Once inside the cabin, citizens interact face-to-face with a remote agent over video and are sent necessary forms remotely via a printer. A mailbox and document scanner is also provided for easy access. Spot Mairie aims to change how citizens perceive the delivery of public services and falls right in line with an agreement signed between the Nice Metropolitan Area and Cisco France for digital development efforts within the area.
Casa Del Mig, Barcelona
Traveling a little farther south, Barcelona City Hall and Cisco recently announced Spain’s first remote expert for government services deployment. As we’ve seen with Nice, Cisco TelePresence technology and collaboration tools have been installed in a booth at the Casa del Mig area of the city, providing citizens with remote access to a variety of government services (customized for that specific region).
This pilot program is a first for Spain and furthers Cisco’s collaboration agreement with the Barcelona City Hall to transform Barcelona into a global reference model for urban innovation.
Addressing the ‘blank spots’ in Germany
At the February meeting of the largest association of German telecommunications operators (BREKO), the Cisco Industry Solutions Group presented a live demo of the remote expert for government services solution to an audience of city and regional carriers – as well as municipal utilities. For a bit of background, the 140 members of BREKO help provide high quality optical fiber access to urban, as well as rural areas – covering the “blank spots.” As a result of the demonstration, we are working now to include the feedback from the association with ideas for improvement and more use cases. At the same time, a collaboration was announced between Cisco and ODR Technologie Services GmBH to help bring this solution to market; making them the first partner in Germany to do so. ODR TSG is developing an initial pilot in the county of Aalen. Stay tuned for more updates on how the solution could be rolled out in the German market.
Municipalities in Ontario, Canada
In Canada, the City of Stratford has been making major strides towards becoming a leader in digital media and infrastructure and was short-listed as one of the top intelligent cities by the ICF. Partnering with Cisco to help deliver the proper networking infrastructure, Stratford is focused on driving investment and innovation to transform the city’s future. Cisco has begun working with several progressive municipalities in Ontario to deploy REGS solution pilots. Forward-thinking municipalities – including Stratford – will trial remote expert for government services kiosks to deliver access to municipal government services/information and help further drive Smart+Connected Communities initiatives in the area. By utilizing technology to improve citizen services and provide greater ease of access, these pilots are another glimpse into what the future holds for a Smart+Connected Canada.
Remote Expert 1.8 Introduced
Building on the momentum we’ve seen globally with Cisco’s overall remote expert solutions across several vertical industries, we’re also excited to announce a solution update with Remote Expert 1.8. New capabilities continue our efforts around enabling partners to better connect customers with subject matter experts via immersive, virtual environments. These new features include scalable support, video in queue functionality for TelePresence and the integration of Cisco MediaSense to deliver audio recording, in addition to others. Furthermore, a newly enhanced Remote Expert Services Portfolio includes planning, building and management services to support a secure solution that effectively integrates with customers’ existing process and infrastructures – and to deliver the highest quality experience.
Connected Justice in Texas
Interactive Touch Pad. Photo: BILLY CALZADA, San Antonio Express-News
In other areas around the world, we’ve also seen how other Cisco technologies have been used to address the pressing challenge of delivering new citizen services. We turn now to the great state of Texas, where the Cisco Connected Justice solution is transforming the administration of routine court tasks and allowing city officials to improve court processes.
Connected Justice Kiosk. Photo: BILLY CALZADA, San Antonio Express-News
Last year, the city of San Antonio, Texas announced the deployment of interactive video kiosks for citizens to resolve Municipal Court offenses from right in their own neighborhood. Devised by Municipal Court Presiding Judge John Bull, court manager Jason Tabor and Cisco, these remote expert kiosks enable a live, interactive video feed where residents can speak with Judge Alfredo Tavera about their cases and the options available to them. The service allows up to 20 people to be linked via Cisco TelePresence to the court at one time and a touch screen with interactive pad is provided for ease of use.
This month, residents in San Antonio will find an up-and-running kiosk right in their own neighborhood grocery store. Resolving a traffic ticket won’t ever be pleasant, but at least it’ll be more convenient now. Additional kiosks are already available within a local community center outside of downtown. Collin County, TX has also explored the use of kiosks in their court system and is in the midst of deployment. All in all, these services are helping transform the means in which we deal with every day circumstances like traffic violations.
Delivering citizen services remotely in Barcelona
The Bigger Picture
The developments in these global regions provide a crucial step in the broader effort to transform cities around the world. Having the ability to access government services from somewhere as casual and accessible as a shopping mall is an important indicator of what’s possible. In Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities vision, the Internet can be the key platform in city planning and development efforts. As we see it, the Internet of Everything has a pivotal role in powering an amazing future – one in which the intelligent connection of people, process, data and things on the network will transform our cities and the way in which we conduct our day-to-day lives.
Europe’s leading home improvement retailer, Kingfisher, was looking for a way to streamline its supply chain and enhance their direct sourcing. As a company that makes do-it-yourself projects easier and more affordable, Kingfisher was facing increasingly difficult logistical challenges with key partners and offices spread out across the globe.
Employees from multiple locations had to travel frequently to meet with buyers and quality control teams in operating companies, resulting in huge travel costs and significant wasted time . Kingfisher found that these issues impeded design processes and the company’s attempts to adopt more agile ways of working.
Teleworking in emerging markets is on the increase. It’s helping businesses across Emerging countries to work and collaborate effectively, and be more productive wherever they are located.
In South Africa, 85% of companies offer flexible working*, which is a much higher proportion than some European countries. The next generation of workers in the Middle-East and Africa are expecting to have the option to work at home. In fact, only 9% think they’ll be in the office full time*, which suggests the days of a fixed workplace and 9-to-5 working are over.
At Cisco, we’re committed to offering choice to our workforce. We think this is fundamental to a positive and engaging employee experience. Teleworking here is encouraged and let me offer you a personal story from this week.
We had an Emerging Theatre ‘All Hands’ hosted by my boss and myself via WebEx. Let’s consider the numbers: we set this up giving our teams just 10 days’ notice; and we brought together over 500 of our colleagues from their desktops, workplaces and home offices to educate and inspire them using video collaboration: presentations, webcam and a Q&A via chat, text, email and audio. This was one of the largest assemblies of our team this year and it took place across 12 timezones for 90 minutes.
Those numbers are quite staggering, even more so when you begin to consider the wider benefits: minimal disruption, maximum attendance, no additional travel arrangements, venues, (catering, flights, taxis, or hotels) and the bonus for employees is minimal impact on their private lives. The value for us is not merely in having the capability and flexibility to host this kind of event but also the level of participation and commitment from our teams.
What employees need – as well as choice -- is sensitivity to their circumstances and flexible workspaces that match their needs. For companies, not only does finding the right solution help to maintain productivity levels, it can also motivate existing staff and help you attract talent from the next generation who expect teleworking to be an option throughout their careers.
On a daily basis the power of our teleworking is bringing our talented people from across the whole of Emerging closer together at Cisco and the effects of teleworking on our productivity at work and our quality of life cannot be underestimated. We look forward to seeing you on a screen near us soon!
*Regus, 2011, global research report based on responses from 17,000 businesses across 80 countries