Yes, it’s still true – collaboration continues to be hot, even more so last week at balmy Boca Raton, Florida, site of the 2013 Cisco Collaboration Summit. For the fourth consecutive year, it was again my honor to host over 30 customers – collaboration IT experts in their respective companies. They represented every vertical from healthcare to retail, from manufacturing to aviation, and entertainment to education.

And my thesis on the five pillars of collaboration – mobile, video, apps, social and content – continues to resonate with this group. But what are even more top of mind is how important security is in collaboration deployment and how the cloud will change how collaboration is consumed in the enterprise.

It is remarkable how the collective thinking about collaboration among these customer companies has advanced. Collaboration today – the intersection of voice, video and IM – is now a reality not a future vision and, in fact, is used as much as email. That’s a major evolution. Four years ago I would not have suspected Cisco would hold 120 million video meetings a month and chat is also growing at an ever-increasing rate. This advancement reinforces how much employees, as consumers accustomed to great technology at home, are looking for new ways to communicate and collaborate at work.

At the conference keynote and in smaller breakout sessions, Cisco’s new leader for our collaboration business, Rowan Trollope, shared his vision for Cisco collaboration products and services. His objective is to greatly simplify the way organizations communicate, interact with outside parties and manage their collaboration tools, ensuring everything is highly integrated and interoperable. Rowan promises to deliver collaboration tools that won’t require a user’s manual – music to my ears! And his top priorities are mobile and cloud. Given that Cisco now has 60,000 employee-owned mobile devices connected to our network, this approach is absolutely on target. 

Rowan was quoted saying this to The Wall Street Journal:  ““The goal of these products has been to substitute real-life in-person interactions with ersatz ones located in two-dimensional, sleep-inducing virtual environments – almost as good as real life, and controlled enough for people to share documents in,” adding that Cisco needs to aim higher. “Good enough isn’t good enough. We live in a world of excellence – I want to get to ‘great’.”

Rowan’s message was generally well received among analysts, partners and journalists. I heard more than one attendee declare that Cisco has regained its collaboration mojo. Business press focused on the CIO audience, highlighting Rowan’s strategy for collaboration and how he intends to excite the market and end users. IT trade reporters focused on how Cisco’s latest offerings will enhance security and improve workplace efficiency.

Aragon Research analyst Jim Lundy tweeted:  “Rowan Trollope is a real product guy” and “Good buzz from Cisco Partners. They know Cisco the best – the overall story here is making things work better together.” Frost & Sullivan analyst Roopam Jain tweeted: “Great keynote and demos by Rowan Trollope – ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’ signals a new direction for @Ciscocollab.”  

My only regret was having to leave the conference early, but for good reason: to participate in Cisco’s global CIO Summit on the West Coast. The focus and discussion on collaboration continued here for the next three days among the world’s 90 top CIOs.

Happy Collaborating!