In today’s episode, I cover a few of the day’s panel discussions and provide an overview of the latest Cisco product announcements.

There’s nothing like waking up with the alligators in Orlando. Actually, from the look of the little guys here at the Gaylord Palms, I was far more alert than they were as I wandered to my first sessions this morning. And that was without coffee.

Panel Discussions

I appreciate how Enterprise Connect manages panels. The analysts put a lot of energy into the session planning and moderation. Discussions are organized and panelists are prepared. There’s little chance of a hockey brawl breaking out on the podium. It’s just not that kind of conference. I caught three good sessions this morning.

The Essentials of Team Collaboration: Moderator Dave Michels started out by exploring the true meaning of team collaboration: “If team is two or more people working toward a goal and collaboration is two or more people working toward a goal, does that mean team collaboration is four or more people working toward a goal?” The math works for me.Javed Kahn, VP in the Cloud Collaboration Technology Group, talked about Cisco Spark, explaining “to create a seamless end-to-end experience, you have to create from the ground up vs. trying to adapt existing technologies and applications.” An audience member asked whether user experience causes problems for IT. Not all vendors consider IT teams as another user group. Cisco does.

Is Cloud Changing the Contact Center? Led by Sheila McGee-Smith, there was a natural focus on cloud vs. on-premises approaches. Not everyone agreed (surprise). Chris Botting, GM of the Cisco Customer Care group, brought the conversation around not to vendor opinions, but business needs. “You need to think about what you’re trying to accomplish with your business when you decide whether it’s cloud, public cloud, or on-prem.” He emphasized creating connected experiences that are contextual and continuous. Most important, he stressed that it’s not about the deployment model – it’s about providing the best customer care experience.

What Role (If Any) Should Cloud Communications Play in Your Enterprise? Conference co-chair Eric Krapf assembled a hefty panel of seven UC execs. (Apparently, the dress code specified blue-gray blazers.) My favorite quote, directly addressing the session title, came from Jens Meggers: “The cloud is just a really great tool – not to use the cloud would just be stupid.” He was careful to clarify that cloud is not the only answer. For example, “if you have a beautiful 100gig network, you want to use it for video.”

The more you hear from Jens, the more you get his focus on the experience. “Our goal is to make technology invisible,” Jens explained. “You don’t have to worry about how it works.” And not just for end users, but for IT. Digital transformation is real and happening in the workplace, and Jens feels that helping IT address it should be a vendor’s task. Cisco is focusing on great experiences for IT administrators, making tech secure in cloud, and ensuring it’s simple to manage. His example: The IT experience should be easy, just as “when you listen to music, you don’t worry about the type of MP compression.”

Did Someone Say New Products?

It wouldn’t be Enterprise Connect if we didn’t have new products to announce. Today’s announcements focus on further innovations to the Cisco Spark platform and providing more advanced capabilities for even better end-to-end experiences — for the user, IT, and the enterprise. If you want the whole enchilada, read the full press release. Here I’ll try to distill things:

Smarter Meeting RoomsCisco Spark Room Kit
Designed to work with Cisco Spark, the new Cisco Spark Room Kit Series helps bring Cisco Spark meeting experiences to small, medium, and large conference rooms. Two new products attach to standard HD screens to convert them into powerful video conferencing systems. Both are designed to connect natively with Cisco Spark but can also register on-premises. Check out Snorre Kjesbu’s “Making Every Meeting Room Smarter” for a closer look.

Enhanced Cisco Spark Content Security Options
We designed Cisco Spark with security and information protection as a priority, with end-to-end encryption for data in transit, at rest, and in use. Encryption and decryption are handled using dynamic keys from a Cisco Spark Key Management Server (KMS). This server creates, stores, authorizes, and provides access to the encryption keys that Cisco Spark applications use to encrypt and decrypt content locally. If you need additional information-protection options and controls, such as in regulated industries with specific security requirements, you can now have the ability to own and manage your encryption keys by installing Cisco Spark Key Management Server on-premises. This option will be available in early June.

Meetings from Any Device
All Cisco Spark spaces will have a persistent SIP URI, allowing people to join from any standards-based SIP hardware or software client, such as third-party softphones, Cisco video conferencing products, and even other video conferencing endpoints. We’ve also extended this capability to Cisco Spark Hybrid Media Services. You can place a Hybrid Media Node onto your network to provide local media processing for on-prem attendees of Cisco Spark meetings. This gives them the video quality they’d expect from an on-prem solution and saves on bandwidth costs. Another benefit: Transition to or try Cisco Spark meetings with your existing infrastructure, endpoints, and conferencing solutions.

New Customer Care Capabilities
Help desks and small teams can now provide customer care to both external and internal customers, using web chat and callback via Cisco Spark care. Designed for companies using or considering Cisco Spark, this option can help you give your customers faster, more focused service. With it, you have history and context from a customer’s previous interactions, a user workspace for agents, and integrated reporting with customer feedback. Cisco Spark care is an optional license on the Cisco Spark platform.

On Tap for Tuesday
Jens Meggers delivers the Cisco keynote at 10:00a ET. If you’re not here, watch live on Cisco.com or catch the replay.
Keep watching @CiscoCollab on Twitter for conference highlights.

More Tuesday Things

  • 7:00a ET: If you don’t consider “fun run” an oxymoron, meet kindred spirits at the hotel entrance area for a 5K – that’s distance, not the 5K video quality of the Cisco Spark Kit.
  • 11:30a – 6:00p ET: Visit us in booth #1806 to check out the latest products and get fingerprints on a Cisco Spark Board
  • All day and beyond: If @CiscoCollab highlights aren’t enough, follow me at @ciscokima for a lot of live tweeting and maybe a bit of humor – or valiant attempts. 

P.S. A few panelists could use a quick refresher in Slideware 101. Hint: If you have a slide with a higher word count than this blog post, you may be in trouble.


Kim Austin

No Longer with Cisco