The documents my team produces aren’t solo efforts. When I build a presentation, for example, I’ll leave placeholders for colleagues to fill in, ask people to review, and maybe work with a designer. We have great collaboration tools at Cisco with Webex Teams, and with the new approach to bring Webex Teams with you wherever you work, I can use one platform in one place without losing my train of thought…

Cisco IT’s Collaboration strategy is to mirror the Webex Teams approach to building bridges between team collaboration and other solutions for a continuous workflow.  With Office 365, we continue with this theme, so you can efficiently collaborate whether you’re out and about on your phone in Webex Teams or writing a document on your laptop in Word.  As “Customer Zero” for the Webex Teams and Microsoft Office 365 integration, Cisco IT is trying out different use cases to give customers the benefit of our real-world experience.

We’re introducing the Webex Teams integration into Office 365 to Cisco employees in three phases.

Phase 1 – Email and Calendar Migration

We’ve worked on enabling Cisco collaboration in Outlook for years, and this historically has been a challenge in a mixed environment, we have both Macs and PCs and we never seem to get everything working on both – today though, we have all the features on all the platforms integrated with Webex Teams.  Click to Call, Click to Chat, and Presence all work in Outlook on Mac and PC and we enabled this as we migrated mailboxes to O365. We’ve also integrated Webex Teams into O365 calendar to get employees to their meetings faster. It’s all part of our continual effort to keep our everyday tools modern, user friendly, and making the collaboration experience seamless – after all, we are a global company and a lot of our teams span multiple time zones.

Phase 2 – Co-authoring and Co-editing

Say I want to edit an Office document that someone added to a Webex Teams space. Before, I’d have to download the document, open it, edit, save, and upload the new version to the space. Did I download the latest version? Not sure. We’ve made life much simpler by integrating Webex Teams with OneDrive and SharePoint Online. Now, I can add an Office document to a Webex Teams space from OneDrive using the file storage and sharing integration in Webex Teams.  I have the option to grant editing rights to those who have prior access to my document or to open it up to everyone in the Webex Teams space.

Once the document is uploaded onto OneDrive, no matter where I work, it’s the same document, whether I am in Webex Teams, or using any app in the Office Suite. The experience is seamless – and I don’t even need to re-upload.  Co-authoring and editing are a game-changer for us – especially when you can use these tools in our real-time video meetings. Our users are pretty excited about it, and it’s integrated right into Webex Teams. Watch this video to learn more about this experience.

Phase 3 – Social Collaboration

This final step is currently in progress. If I’m in Word editing a colleague’s document, I feel comfortable making little changes like correcting a date. But other changes require some conversation first—for example, “In paragraph 3, you said ‘service’ but I think you meant ‘architecture.’ Right?”  So, we wrote an add-in to the Office 365 menu that creates a Webex Teams side panel, allowing you to chat directly from within the document.  It’s handy for keeping all conversations about a document in the same place. Plus, the conversation is saved in real time in my Webex Teams, so I can stay in the loop even if I am on the go and don’t have the document open.  It’s another win for collaboration, and ultimately user productivity. I’m not sure how many minutes I have spent searching emails for documents, but now I don’t have to, and neither do our employees.

Next up: Adding Collaboration to our Other Cloud Services

In integrating Webex Teams and Office 365, we built what we’re calling the Secure Digital Experience platform. In addition to collaboration, it brings together Duo Security, Advanced Malware Protection (AMP), and our eStore (so that we can make sure we don’t exceed our license count).  Once we’ve finished the Office 365 rollout, we plan to connect the platform to other cloud services, including IBM Connections, Salesforce, and ServiceNow.

How did we manage this massive overhaul of tools with minimal user downtime? Migrating 118,000 mailboxes is not easy, but you can learn more about it from my colleagues Kelly Conway and Caroline Te Aika.

The platform has an interesting security angle. Since email contains confidential information, we allow access to Office 365 only from trusted devices.  But who wants to wait for a VPN connection every time they check their email away from the office? You can read more about our security considerations here, in a blog by my colleague Dave Jones and myself.

Questions? Ideas? Please share in the comment box.