“Collaboration” usually means “people working together productively by sharing voice, video, and data”. Inside Cisco, the standard idea of Collaboration includes a lot of IT Technology, like:

  • all voice-based Unified Communication (that is, all IP Telephony from hardware and software phones, and all Unity voicemail, and all Contact Centers)
  • all Video conferencing (from Jabber or WebEx clients, video phones, desktop video, room TP, and immersive TP),
  • all streaming video like Cisco TV (IP/TV) for large multicast events, and
  • software clients like email, web sites and blog sites and document repository sites, Jabber IM, voice and video, and WebEx voice, video and data

But sometimes Collaboration means more. For example, Cisco IT likes to say that we “enable people to collaborate with any device, from anywhere, at any time” which really expands the scope of collaboration.

“Any Device” means that we enable all these collaboration services on a wide variety of devices, and people can choose to use the best device available at the time for the collaboration they need to do their job, from anywhere, at any time. It explains the wide range of devices we have – to give options to people and let them choose the best. It allows employees to take advantage of consumerization, and the speed with which new features are developed for different devices or available on apps in the cloud. And it adds to the Cisco IT tech mix above two more devices:

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile devices, and
  • Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) laptops.

(By extending the boundaries of the corporate network to over 70,000 new endpoints, it also creates some security issues, but that’s another story. So let’s move on.)

“From Anywhere” adds the whole element of mobility. And that adds in:

  • wireless access with the same SSID at all Cisco locations, and
  • teleworking (VPN – AnyConnect and Cisco Virtual Office), which also enables a lower carbon footprint, and
  • VoIP Extension Mobility with the same phone number at all Cisco locations, and
  • Single Number Reach knitting together UC and BYOD with the same phone number across all devices, and
  • Cisco Collaborative Workplace with a choice of different workspaces giving people options for the best place to work at the time (which also reduces real estate costs significantly, and also reduces our carbon footprint).

“At any time” adds the aspect of time-shifting, since we can’t all collaborate globally at the same time with time zones being so far apart. We do that partly with teleworking, since working from home lets us meet with each other earlier or later in the day than we’d normally be able to get to work. But mostly it means asynchronous collaboration.

  • Sharing voice asynchronously usually means voicemail – we use Unity.
  • Sharing video asynchronously – we use Show and Share (which is also used for most of our training)
  • Sharing data asynchronously – we use email, and all our document repositories, and Box, and now Project Squared.

Each of these products has significant sets of benefits, primarily enhanced productivity and reducing costs. But in combination, collaboration and mobility and time-shifting provides significant business benefits that make the combining all the above together very valuable; benefits like:

Globalization: Collaboration, from anywhere and at anytime, enables Cisco employees all around the world to work productively together. This improves productivity, as we can build teams from the best people for any task no matter where they are. We can take advantage of people around the world who before we may not have been able to employ because of their distance from normal Cisco locations. We can integrate newly acquired company’s employees faster. We also increase employee retention, as moving to new locations no longer means losing your job.

Business Resilience: The ability to work with others from anywhere with whatever devices are at hand enables very powerful business resilience.

  • If the building needs to close – because of ice storms, snow storms, floods or earthquakes, or power failures, water or gas leaks, or just moving to new sites;
  • if employees can’t come in, because of pandemics, or personal issues that keep employees at home
  • they can still continue to work productively and collaboratively from just about anywhere. From other Cisco buildings, from home, from wherever they can get a good wired or wireless Internet connection.

Cost Reduction and Performance Improvement: Most of these technologies are in place today because they saved money and improved employee performance. For example,

  • Migrating to “wireless everywhere” campus from a predominantly wired campus in 2007, our employees found that they were able to be connected and work productively an (average) additional 90 minutes a day. Time that had been wasted waiting for meetings to start (or sometimes, waiting for meetings to end!), or all the time spent away from our desks, could be turned to more productive work time. They also included time during meetings when access to online information used to be unavailable and work had to be delayed until later.
  • VPN enables our employees to work from home, and on average Cisco employees spend one day a week telecommuting. Employees with “always on” router-based Cisco Virtual Office (and there are 29,000 of us using CVO today) work from home an average of 3 days a week. For those days we avoid an average of almost an hour commute (each way); and internal surveys showed that Cisco employees tend to “give back”, or work productively, about half of every hour spend avoiding a commute. This worked out to about 2.75 hours per week of additional productive time per CVO employee given back to Cisco because of teleworking.
  • Video conferencing has enabled Cisco to significantly reduce travel costs by about 2/3 every year. Over the past 7 years we can attribute immersive TelePresence with saving over $1.6 Billion in travel costs. We also calculate another $600M productivity cost savings with the time saved not having to travel (drive to the airport, wait in the airport, fly, wait to get baggage, drive to the meeting (or hotel), and then do everything in reverse to get back home).
  • Our use of mobile devices in our BYOD program has, according to user surveys, enabled employees to be productive an additional 13-15 minutes per day. And our self-service model has reduced support costs even as our mobile device usage has more than doubled. And of course Cisco has almost eliminated our costs of leasing mobile devices, as users prefer to buy and bring in their own mobile phones and pads.
  • Our mobile collaborative office design, based on a mobile and flexible workforce, enables us to use our building space far more efficiently, reducing total real estate utilization per person by over 30%. It also reduces our spend on office furniture and branch office switching gear and cabling by over 50%, while at the same time significantly increasing employee satisfaction. Today even as Cisco continues to grow, we are gradually selling off and closing leases for parts of our real estate portfolio, for real-dollar cost reductions of over $50M/year, and this number is projected to increase another $10-12M every year in the next few years.
  • Video-everywhere has enabled Cisco to hold virtual all-hands meetings (from several hundred people up to, so far, 20 thousand people), instead of in person. Although we don’t cut out all face-to-face large events, we have found that we can reduce the cost of these meetings by between 70% – 90% for those we hold virtually, using video and other collaborative tools.

“Green” Environmental Benefits: Reducing our need to travel by car or train or plane has significantly reduced Cisco employees’ production of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Early estimates of our reduction of flights due to TelePresence video shows several hundred millions of tons of GHGs avoided. Almost 30 thousand employees working from home an average of 3 days a week has reduced our portion of CO2 emissions by over 170 thousand tons per year.  And our more mobile collaborative office enables Cisco to reduce our overall building power by about 58% per person.

Flexibility, User Satisfaction and HR Retention: There’s one more set of benefits that these Collaboration tools bring to each and every employee: they bring freedom, flexibility, and choice to each each of us. We can choose how we work, where we work, which tools and places make the most sense for what we’re trying to accomplish. We have the flexibility to integrate our work and home life. We can be at home to let in the plumber, to take delivery of furniture, to greet a guest, or to care for a sick loved one — and still get work done. We can work when we’re coming down with a cold, or recovering from one, and meet with our colleagues face to face – and avoid sharing that cold with the office. We can work with the best and brightest people around the world, (nearly) regardless of where they are, or where we are. We can avoid rush hour traffic, and stay off the roads entirely when we need to. And the first people to notice how exciting all this really is are usually our new hires:  new college grads who notice that working at Cisco is a lot like working on a college campus – except the campus is now over a dozen time-zones wide. They appreciate the trust Cisco gives them, that enables them to choose how and where and when they work, more productively, and more cost effectively, and more comfortably.