Today I’m publishing this post from Heathrow Airport in London. That’s not unusual because I work away from the office probably 50% of the time, either at home, my local café, or hotels and airports. I’ll collaborate with people across different time zones and luckily for me, working at Cisco means I am given the flexibility to choose where, when and how I work. Just so long as the right results are being delivered.
To deliver results as a knowledge worker, my key tools are the people I collaborate with, my laptop, the collaboration suite from Cisco Webex, the Office productivity suite from Microsoft and the internet. I’m also part of Cisco IT’s Customer Zero program where we test out new Cisco solutions and integrations before general release to customers.
As part of this Customer Zero testing, I’ve had a chance to use an integration for Cisco’s Webex Teams and Microsoft’s Office 365 , bringing the strengths of both solutions together for a greater user experience. Let me talk you through this new experience by using the creation of this post as a working example.
A WORKING EXAMPLE
I started chatting about this blog with my colleague Sarah, in Webex Teams. We messaged about the idea of a blog, when it might be needed, and she shared some additional background.
There wasn’t high urgency at the start so no need for real-time conversation. Instead, we could both read or write as our schedules and priorities allowed.
Once we had the idea of what the blog might cover, I was ready to get working in Microsoft Word to draft the post. Whilst drafting, I messaged my teammates to refine the content and a week later I shared the final draft with Sarah to get her help in having the right people review and approve the proposed post. That workflow – from creation to editing to approval – all occurred using Webex Teams and Microsoft Word.
Maybe you’re wondering, “how is this any different than what I currently do?” or maybe you’re thinking, “what’s new with this user experience?”
Well, I’m now able to work within Microsoft’s Office 365 version of Word, PowerPoint or Excel and on the right-hand side I have a panel for Cisco’s Webex Teams. Within the Webex Teams panel I can search for any existing conversation and chat or share files. I can do this within either the installed Microsoft Office application or its browser version.
So, let’s break down the key aspects of this user experience and why it’s got me so excited about being productive at Heathrow Airport.
Before this integration, I would have had to switch between applications – breaking my concentration. Now, I’m staying within just the one application – but using both functions of content creation and collaboration. This preserves my flow and is an instant win for productivity.
Whilst I’m working, I’m extending my workflow to include other people because there is very little we do these days that should be done in isolation. I may want to include other people for brainstorming or to help me where I might be losing momentum or facing challenges. Perhaps I’ll need someone to help me with research, or to get some sort of sign off or agreement for next steps.
Being able to have real-time connections while working on the document helps me stay focused.
So, getting engagement is great but to really help make it worthwhile I’m going to want to share the file as well. Like writing this post, I wanted to have a new set of eyes read through. The great thing with our Webex Teams + O365 integration is that I can natively share my files stored within OneDrive or SharePoint.
Maybe you’re thinking, “why is this interesting, Campbell?” Well from a user’s perspective it’s not just sharing a link. It’s a thumbnail of the file and when I click on it, the file opens in a browser and I can start immediately editing it because Office 365 provides browser-based versions of its O365 applications. Of course, this does need me to have enabled editing for the file in OneDrive or SharePoint, but then that’s also a good reminder about the other neat thing. You have one place to control access to any files you share.
A sort of flipside of this is that if I am in the Webex Teams application, I can open the file shared from OneDrive/SharePoint and it pops open the file in a browser window. No need to download the file and have the native application open. We are a culture of instant access, and this is a great way for fast reviews or quick edits.
Do you ever get to a document and think, “what was I thinking?” I do, and it used to be infuriating trying to remember the exact thought that sparked my initial idea and what followed. Now I can come back to the conversation in Webex Teams and they remind me of what I was thinking about when working on the document. Just like brainstorming, it can spark new ideas.
By using Webex Teams I can pick up this conversation and my train of thought across any device and any connectivity option. This is possible because Webex Teams is a cloud service that I can get using cellular, Wi-Fi and without the need for VPN because it uses other forms of encryption for data in transit and data at rest to maintain security. This means it’s easy to squeeze out productive moments whether I’m in the office, home or queuing to board the plane.
Perhaps now you understand why you might have seen me happily humming and smiling ear to ear at Heathrow this afternoon.
I was able to accomplish in just a few days of focused work what would normally have taken me much longer, all because I could stay in the flow, share my work and creative process with others, manage access to that content and stay in context whilst working at different times and locations, with different devices and people.
Sounds like a productive day, and I’m hoping yours is too.