cisco spark board
You can draw right on Cisco Spark Board. And on the wall…

Things were a bit quieter at Enterprise Connect today as the event came to a close with a few morning sessions and the final summary panel concluding at noon.


Bots, AI and IoT: Will They Transform Customer Care? Sheila McGee-Smith brought together the panel to discuss some of the latest forces in the evolution of customer care. Tod Famous represented Cisco on the panel. And he gets credit for my favorite quote of the session: “Bots get smarter over time. That’s a nice way of saying they start out kind of stupid.”

The panelists talked about their current use of bots and AI within customer care solutions, as well predictions and use case examples. Cisco technical assistance uses Cisco Spark‘s “care assistant,” which automatically connects people to subject matter experts, making it ideal for internal support and help desks. The assistant (I’m pretty sure he called it Kara? Or Care-a?!) uses keywords in the query to connect the customer with the proper Cisco Spark with the right support agent or team. If it’s a common question, Kara can use an FAQ library to answer the user directly.

Natural language processing becomes a natural input system for artificial intelligence and voice transactions. I must have been regretting missing breakfast at that point because my notes read “Think Alexa ordering your pizza.”

Sheila closed by asking panelists whether bots will eventually replace humans in contact centers. As with many conversations things tied to automation, there’s a consistent rumble about displacing people. But the panelists generally agreed that bots and AI will augment, rather than replace, people. Agents will be more effective with AI making the information they need more readily available.

I think Tod’s answer makes a lot of sense: “There will be more agents in 10 years, but they’ll be doing very different things.” As long as my pizza order is correct and on time, I’m good.

Lego = connecting. Get it?

IoT & UC: Connecting Things to People in Your Enterprise: Cisco’s John Elliott joined the conversation moderated by Michelle Burbick and Dave Michels. A good amount of the conversation focused on customer care. One perspective: When it’s about making a decision, is it thing-to-thing data or does it involve people evaluating information?

As for Cisco, John explained his current focus as putting together the right assets to help our own customers. And looking to APIs as a way to “really personalize” IoT. He detailed a use case example in which a city electric grid fails during a storm. Based on the data, the AI system identifies which people the system should notify, then creates a Cisco Spark room with those people to resolve the issue.

Like many things, it starts with the business case. There’s a need for vertical and line-of business IoT solutions that impact ROI. While some organizations will want to create very customized solutions, “not everyone wants bespoke.” John explains. “Some want a repeatable solution that leverages capabilities Cisco has in cloud and unified communications.”

Are we there yet? No. As an industry, we have to go faster to provide IoT solutions that people can take advantage of quickly. And for that, standardizing APIs and making them simple is really key.

Quote of the Day
It’s time for IT to act as ambassadors for their users.
More Yoda less Darth Vader. “Productive you are.”
–Tim Banting, analyst (via Twitter)

Final Session: Town Hall

For the last session of the day – and the entire Enterprise Connect 2017 experience, it was time to give the analysts and consultants the whole stage. With so many sessions, speakers, and exhibitors during the week, there was a lot of informational territory to cover. Here are my six favorite topics/quotes from the session, in no particular order. (Apologies to the speakers for any paraphrasing — I type fast, but I’m only human.)

On disruption: Disruption is taking place both within the UCaaS industry and it’s coming from outside [the traditional space]. –Elka Popova

On the future: If you really want to know about the future, start thinking about your user groups and workflows. –Marty Parker

On humans: People and processes are harder to change than technology.  –Melissa Swartz

On contact center tech: The space has been disconnected. The industry is selling customer engagement, but customers are buying cost reduction. –Dave Michels

On infrastructure: We live in a world that’s more dynamic and distributed. Your IT has to reflect that. –Zeus Kerravala

@ciscokima Has Left the Building

Thanks to all who read my posts, followed me on Twitter, and generally contributed to the Enterprise Connect experience this week. It was great to talk 1:1 with people to hear perspectives on technology, vendors, and even obscure music. I appreciate that people take the time to share their ideas with me at these events.

It didn’t get the crown for today’s Quote of the Day, but I like the final statement from (the ever-quotable) Dave Michels: “We’re in the early innings of this game. It’s going to be a long game. And it’s going to change the industry.”

Yeah, the bits and bytes and shiny new this and that of hardware and software are great, but as many of the panelists and speakers repeated this week – it’s about the experience, it’s about the people, it’s about what technology allows us to do that makes the difference.

That’s as close to greeting card sentiment as I ever get. And with that, I’m over and out from Orlando! (Besides, this place is being overrun by giant chocolate bunnies. I’m kinda scared.)


Learn more about all things Cisco Spark and Cisco Collaboration on Cisco.com.


Kim Austin

No Longer with Cisco