Cisco Blogs

5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration

- April 21, 2009 - 30 Comments

How many of you use Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Do you believe that your ideas get stronger when you share them with others? Collaboration enables us to connect with experts and people with like-minded interests.The tools we use to link people, information and communities are evolving at lightening speed. That’s especially true in these turbulent economic times, as organizations aim to do more with less. Business leaders and IT decision-makers alike recognize that collaboration is a way to boost productivity and gain competitive advantage within tight budget constraints.Given the rapid pace of change and our industry leadership, what is Cisco’s vision for Collaboration?Well in the spirit of Collaboration, I want to share my ideas with you! Throughout the week I will post my top “predictions” for the future of Collaboration. I am looking forward to hearing back from you, as we build this vision together.Prediction #1Collaboration Networks will be to Enterprises what Social Networks are to ConsumersIt’s an understatement to say that social networking is a rapidly growing consumer phenomenon. Twitter’s recent surge in popularity is just one small indicator. Visits to Twitter have increased about 1,400 percent since last year. Meanwhile, Facebook has seen a 566% surge from December 2007 to December 2008, surpassing 200 million users worldwide (Nielsen). It’s worth noting that 35- to 44-year olds now represent 51 percent of FaceBook’s membership, and 70 percent of FaceBook’s users are now located outside the U.S (Hitwise). Driving this explosive growth is a natural human tendency to build relationships. We instinctively seek to share information, broadcast our preferences and contribute our expertise. The goal of technology must be to fulfill this human affinity as naturally as possible.So how does this translate to the business world? At Cisco, we believe that the rigidly structured silos that were traditionally put in place in most enterprises will give way to more fluid, ad-hoc communities of experts. Increasingly, companies will rely on Collaboration Networks that bring together “clusters of experts” to get critical projects completed. These groups will form dynamically to achieve a shared outcome. This self-organizing cycle repeats itself on an ongoing basis, as the need arises. It’s both efficient and effective, in part because experts are drawn to projects and are thus motivated — rather than being “assigned” in a top-down fashion. Here’s just one example of a collaboration network: About 17% of Cisco’s employees use Macs, even though the Mac platform is not officially supported by Cisco IT. Responding to the need at hand, members of the community developed a comprehensive Mac wiki that provides critical self-support for this base of users. The wiki has enabled Cisco to avoid approximately $1.6M in annual help-desk costs while improving productivity and increasing uptime. In total, this wiki has delivered an estimated $2.6M in value annually for Cisco. As collaboration networks evolve and proliferate, our challenge as an industry is clear. We need to develop Enterprise Collaboration Platforms that provide the same ease of use, speed and ubiquity that social networks offer in the consumer world. But we need to combine those qualities with the high level of security, availability, quality of service, and reliability that enterprises require.Prediction #2Prediction #3Prediction #4Prediction #5

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  1. Good point right now social networks are being used by many businesses right now because they seem to be more popular among many businesses because callaboration networks have not really made their way into their lives yet. But I think that will change in the future.

  2. Twitter have increased about 1,400 percent since last year. Meanwhile, Facebook has seen a 566% surge from December 2007 to December 2008, surpassing 200 million users worldwide (Nielsen). It’s worth noting that 35- to 44-year olds now represent 51 percent of FaceBook’s membership, and 70 percent of FaceBook’s users are now located outside the U.S

  3. Interesting post/prediction.I must admit, untill recently, I didn't see the 'point' behinde all these networking site especially regarding privacy and other online security issues. But having been convinced of their benefits (business wise) joined all the major networks and I must say, so far so good.I like the idea behinde your prediction #1. If 'clusters of experts' are drawn to a project out of motivation, rather than being assigned and formed dynamically (as the need arises) there's every likelihood that whatever they put their mind to will success. A good example is the one you gave about Cisco.It'll also be nice if it can be applied in other aspects of society because it 'might' help to improve things.And as you rightly pointed out we'll need to combine those qualities with the high level of security, availability, quality of service, and reliability required either in the Enterprise or other settings.Looking forward to your other predictions.

  4. Mobility will be more and more important. It’s evident that the current adoption rate of mobile computing is increasing. In addition, the mobile platforms continue to increase in power and capabilities. For these reasons, it is a natural extrapolation that collaboration tools and services will evolve to take better advantage of mobile platforms.

  5. I and my crystal ball heartily agree. Businesses and governments are already utilizing social networking"" tools like Twitter and Facebook for their own purposes.Case in point: The Singapore Government has for sometime a Facebook (Reach Singapore) as well as a Twitter presence is not far off to imagine what a ""C-book"" application can do for partners. New apps or updates to the C-Book can be ""pushed/fed"" along with news, promotions, events. Small apps can prompt them when certification, registrations are up for renewals or have a call to action to enroll in an incentive program. At the same time, partners are empowered by taking those that are relevant and nixing irrelevant ones. The networking aspect would allow them to seek partner to partner collaborations and alliances - useful in all economic climes.All these packaged in a seamless ""common platform"""

  6. You specify precisely a collective intelligence among employees to solve an internal problem. If you study crowd sourcing and intelligence summary, there is the traditional role of people play to enable collaboration quite exceptional - the thinkers, skeptics, referees, etc. how this principle applies with customers and partners will be very different than intra-firm. From the media, I compare a group of writers of a show or a movie - a synthesis of thoughts, ideas, desires, needs, etc. all in one product that will - hopefully - Predictive Demand. Although the filtering tools are based, people with those skill sets in vertical markets will be invaluable."

  7. Sharing knowledge, collaboration and economic forms of communications are possible by Cisco that push forward the enterprise collaboration and help them as backbone equipment.

  8. It's already the next generation of collaboration. In order to ensure success going forward, organizations will need to adopt the next generation of technology, plan for future innovation and collaboration, reinvent to stay current and use new R&D to stay a step ahead.

  9. I think a company like cisco can bring innovation by collaborating with smaller companies which have innovative solutions. But i even think other companies will have that too and it will be hard to beat.So how can you predict a thing like that?

  10. One way to think about this is 'getting more minds working on the problems at hand.' We need to tap all the smart people around to help solve our problems and address our opportunities. Collaboration networks that use inside and outside resources to solve problems are definitely going to be the way to solve problems faster and with less friction than how we've done in the past.

  11. @Sai Nallapaneni, well said. IMHO, the shift in thinking will come when corporations truly place a value on their human talent -- ironically it's the one asset that currently doesn't appear on company (large and small) balance sheets.While most enterprise

  12. Social Networking is a great phenomenon in itself. But I am still thinking on how it is going to change the Business productivity. IMHO social networking was born out of the stress and high productivity that people already have. The last internet revolution rode on this productivity increase itself. Now people started building relationships to share their thoughts and indirectly relate to others to reduce their stress. So I am not sure about the existing social networking technologies helping increase productivity. The MAC wiki thing is a great example, but I feel it is an incremental improvement.If we really need to take this technology to the next level of productivity, we need to think new. You gave an excellent idea (I understood this way) where there will be pool of experts who will be dynamically working on different projects and not stuck with a single project at any given time. May be their responsibilities can be split as 60-40 ratio with the employee spending 40% of his time on these projects outside his regular project. Employees might want to form dynamic team to come up with new products and use the expertise all over the company with no specific team responsible for it. This is a crude idea and I still don't know if this is feasible, just a thought.I really feel that social networking is beyond the technology and it is actually about a paradigm shift in the way people live, work and play. I still do not have a hang of it, but I think that we need to catch that shift in the people's mentality. Social networking in one way makes everyone their own boss and the subject matter expert. People today want to do what they really like and these technologies gave them a chance to do it. I think the next wave of productivity(increase or decrease..not sure.. :-)) will come out of this shift in people's thinking rather than the technology itself.

  13. Thanks Padmasree for your thoughtful response. I am glad to hear that collaboration with small innovative companies is supported by leaders like you at cisco and forums like this can help foster relationships that cross company/industry lines. I am part of a early stage start-up which has new technology that is very synergistic with cisco, and addresses the need many service providers have articulated in the mpls-tp forum (if you are familiar with that standards work).I would be happy to post or email a few pages to you, if you are would be great if we could break the barriers to entry in the marketplace! Thanks again and keep the great dialog going.

  14. You accurately indicate a collective intelligence among employees to solve an internal issue. If you study crowd sourcing and synthesized intelligence, there are traditional oles"" people play to enable truly exceptional collaboration - thought leaders, skeptics, arbitrators etc. How this applies with your customers and partners will be very different than intra-company. Coming from the media business, I liken it to a group of writers for a show or movie - synthesizing thoughts, ideas, desires, necessities etc. all into a product that has - hopefully - predictive demand. While filtering tools will provide the foundation, people with these skills sets in industry verticals will be very valuable."

  15. Thanks to all of you for your comments, lots of great insights and valuable input! Mark posed an interesting question in his post: Cisco is in a great position to bring innovation by collaborating with smaller companies that have innovative solutions, but cannot ‘break into’ the current vendor mgmt/procurement process…can you comment on Cisco’s readiness to help in this domain?""Thanks for your comment, Mark. We agree wholeheartedly on the need for the providers of collaboration solutions to work together to solve customers' problems. Cisco offers several programs for companies of all sizes to partner with us on UC and collaboration solutions such as our Technology Developer Program and the Cisco Compatible Extensions program for Cisco wireless infrastructure products:'re also offering a Developer Community for partners to share information and ideas in a multi-vendor world:'d be interested to hear your ideas on what else we could do help smaller businesses to join us in Collaboration."

  16. Attended my MBA alumni session this past weekend. There was a great preso from Marc Ross ( that opened my eyes that social networking goes far beyond Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn:

  17. Great series, Padmasree. Your described ad hoc communities of experts"" will also be successful because they are playing to their strengths - doing what interests and excites them, which is a powerful predictor of success and engagement."

  18. With all the explosive social networking and collaboration technologies, it always makes me think of one big question: How sustainable are these technologies?Collaboration technologies if used correctly, won't just solve the enterprise issues but a lot of socio-economic and environmental issues by bringing the people around world together and to work together. It is great to see that industry leaders like Cisco are heading towards that path - future of collaboration.

  19. I think its more than infrastructure, its been there for quite some time. Its more of evangelism and adoption. Cisco is one of the big entrants in this market

  20. Absolutely agree that enterprise collaboration networks are efficient and economic forms of communications, collaboration and knowledge sharing. But sadly, the adoption within the enterprises has been tardily slow in past few years for reasons such as security risk, accidental sharing of IP and confidential data ( reasons I have heard from enterprises in last couple of years). This is apparent from how wikis are deployed in most of enterprises - no IT support and every department and groups create their own deployments. I think it will take a lot more education and aggressive push by large vendors in this space to drive further adoption.

  21. I agree collaboration is essential for enterprises, and leader like cisco are in a great position to bring innovation by collaborating with smaller companies which have innovative solutions, but cannot ‘break into’ the current vendor mgmt/procurement process…can you comment on cisco’s readiness to help in this domain? Collaboration among suppliers..hows that for a prediction???

  22. I agree collaboration is essential for enterprises, and leader like cisco are in a great position to bring innovation by collaborating with smaller companies which have innovative solutions, but cannot 'break into' the current vendor mgmt/procurement process...can you comment on cisco's readiness to help in this domain? Collaboration among suppliers..hows that for a prediction???thanksmark

  23. Peter Drucker wrote that there is no one right organization design nor one right way to manage people. For tasks that benefit strongly from diverse opinions and backgrounds, collaboration software (in any of its forms) is a huge driver for productivity, because it allows immediate human connection of insights. The vast majority of FB and Twitter comments are quite inane, but a well-posed request for assistance will bring out tremendous insights from direct network connections as well as 2nd or 3rd order connections. These bridges are what networking is all about.The business leader will still need to own the responsibility to harness those diverse opinions and craft a clear objective and strategy. The tools now at our disposal are certainly more flexible and powerful than the traditional call a meeting"" or ""reply to all in email"" tools, but the principles at work are very similar to those employed by mgmt consulting and advertising teams a generation ago. Clusters of small entities have been the greatest engine for economic growth in the developed economies. Secure but open collaboration tools help these entities both to build awareness of their capabilities and services and to refine the output they provide by harnessing the creative insights of others. It isn't FB per se, but the multidimensional human network that comes from the stimulus of n

  24. I believe the way to express the ROI of this kind of approach is via its contribution to Organizational Intelligence.I have added Collaboration Networks"" to my slideshare presentation on Technologies for Organization Intelligence, and I'd love to discuss this further with you."

  25. Nice post!The keyword to me is collaboration..Platforms. Socialprise is the term I heard when social platforms meet the enterprise. We have seen WIKIs and Blogs in the wave-1. Now it's Twitter and LinkedIn in wave-2.Apps. Also part of the wave-2 is Google Apps. Especially Google docs enable great collaboration, embraced initially by Small Businesses now seem to be ready for prime time for Enterprises. Google teaming with companies such as Cast Iron Systems to open up the Enterprise data securely to the cloud.It would be great to see adoption of socialprise across various LOB - Marketing, Sales, IT, Services..Looking fwd to the other 4 predictions.

  26. I think instant conferencing and voice interfaces are ready

  27. I agree with the functional aspects of an analogy between consumer social networks and organizational collaboration networks.I’d just like to add that in adapting technologies to these collaboration networks, enterprises can draw upon lessons learned from Internet based online communities. To draw a parallel to the example of Cisco’s Mac Wiki and the “clusters of experts”, online support communities on the Internet have been providing “similar” services for years… and there are many best practices that can be applied to internal virtual communities of practice. The difference in my opinion is that while Internet based virtual communities can perhaps be best described using a collective intelligence motif, internal virtual communities of practice should be geared towards fostering collaborative intelligence.I’m looking forward to your other predictions Padmasree – esp. “Innovation will be redefined by operational excellence”.P.S. I should mention that I found your predictions though twitter - collective intelligence… real-time.

  28. Padmasree, Your thinking on the evolution and proliferation of collaboration networks resonates especially re. mobile learning. I think it was at Mobilize that you described the potential of video, telepresence and collaboration, in essence, uniting or coming into their own in 4G. I would love to hear more about your thoughts on these developments and learning and how mobiles will inspire/shape a new thinking about the way people learn. I am also presenting at Mobile Monday Boston (Governor Patrick, etc.) and would love to quote you on the topic, if you felt especially compelled. Thanks.

  29. Yes, it's Cisco that will push forward the Enterprise Collaboration by providing all critical network backbone equipments.Web service and SaaS etc. are the software models to support the development.

  30. social networking is very important,Enterprise Collaboration Platforms is very necessary