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Making interoperability work in unified communications and collaboration

As we kick off this year’s Enterprise Connect conference, one subject I am discussing a lot with customers is interoperability. This topic is always evolving, but our customers’ need for interoperability has remained the same. So what are the customers telling us about their interoperability requirements and concerns within unified communications and collaboration, and what is Cisco’s approach to addressing those?

What customers want:

At its heart, interoperability is about enabling the free flow of communication across boundaries – whether those boundaries are geographical, across firewalls between businesses and their ecosystems or customers. Customers want to be able to share information quickly and easily across different systems from multiple vendors.

Customers also stress the need for protecting their investments in existing systems and extending their capabilities to new types of work scenarios. These systems include infrastructure (such as Active Directory or Exchange or Notes), voice and video systems (such as Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager and TelePresence and competitive products from other vendors), and desktop or enterprise productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office, IBM Lotus, SAP, Salesforce.com and others). They must work within heterogeneous environments and accommodate new solutions as they come to market.

But that two systems work together is not enough. They must come together as seamlessly as possible to ensure an uncompromised user experience

Finally, this all needs to happen across platforms and devices, particularly as we move toward a post-PC era of many different devices -- from smartphones and tablets in the field to desktop computers and immersive room-based systems. These devices need to be blended into customers’ existing collaboration environments while providing a consistent and compelling user experience.

This is what customers want.

What the industry needs to do:

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Making the jump to IP Telephony

March 7, 2012 at 4:32 am PST

It had been 2009 when we first did a show breaking down the ‘how to’ for making the move from a traditional PBX (TDM) to a IP based system.  The industry has come a long way and we are well past the days of trying to make the technology argument. Its the only way to go these days thankfully but questions still come up on where the gotcha’s may lie…so we did what we do best…we made a video.

The episode itself is long gone but I always think its fun to look back.  Here is the promo for that first show we did..

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Ask Cisco: How do I improve collaboration among multiple offices and remote users?

Q: My company has been trying to figure out how we can do better at connecting our remote users to our main site, as well as making our other location seem like it’s right next door. Any advice?

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Four Ways Social Software Collaboration Technology Can Change Higher Education

New media and collaboration technologies have the potential to transform higher education in terms of the classroom, the learning process, the relationship between students and instructors, and how institutions conduct academic research. While much of the industry discussion revolves around use of consumer tools and social network sites like Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, Cisco’s educational customers also see tremendous opportunity to increase student engagement and drive their own institutional strategies with “enterprise class” social software as well.

Since Cisco first announced Quad, we have had conversations with dozens of colleges and universities regarding the role enterprise social software and Cisco Quad can play in transforming education. Cisco Quad is an enterprise collaboration platform that brings people together to share ideas and content, collaborate on projects, and interact using chat, voice or video, regardless of where people are located.

Below, we’ve outlined four ways in which educational institutions are telling us enterprise social software is helping, or can transform the way learning, research, and academic advisement is crafted, delivered and consumed:

1. The 24/7 interactive classroom: Instructors often struggle to deliver a collaborative environment for their students that is secure and supports multiple access methods such as mobile.  Technology like Quad can enable students to interact in a secure, policy-based manner that extends the classroom conversation beyond physical walls. Courses partially or wholly targeted at off-campus students can similarly benefit from enhancing the class-like experience for remote students. For example, at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the cross country MBA students based in the US, England, India and other countries are using Quad to create virtual working groups, find people with common interests, share files or videos with other students working on similar projects and instantly start video conferences or chat sessions. Quad provides students with the ability to interact, ask questions and share ideas with professors/faculty/tutorial assistants anytime, as opposed to only during fixed faculty office hours. It can also drive improved accountability on team projects, as content and comments are tracked in activity feeds and in project communities by both participating students and faculty leads.

2. Serendipitous Research: Quad contains several features, such as an activity feed that compiles microblog posts from students and staff and allows a snapshot view of a person’s current activities. These dynamic updating functionalities can facilitate broader cross-departmental collaboration, for students and researchers alike. Security features ensure that research that needs to be confidential is shared in a secure and safe manner.  As researchers update their statuses with exciting discoveries or frustrating problems, or create posts, upload videos or otherwise document their work, this content becomes accessible to hundreds of fellow university researchers through activity feeds and searches, making it possible for providential inter-disciplinary connections to be made and new insights to be generated. Read More »

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How Cisco IT Organizes Its Voice Operations

How many people does it take to manage the service infrastructure supporting over 150,000 hardware phones, 50,000 soft phones, and 10,000 room and desktop video devices. That’s the size of our UC infrastructure at Cisco, and today we manage all our voice, voicemail, and video services with an integrated voice and video Tier 3 operations team of 25 people, and another 5 people supporting contact center applications and services. We do this by continually finding new efficiencies – learning new ways to support existing services so we can spend more time learning how to support the new technologies.

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