Cisco Partner Summit - Final Thoughts/Photos

I've had a chance now to get some photos uploaded as well as reflect on the past few days. An interesting part of the summit was the Technology and Solutions Forum, which had an array of vendors exhibiting all kinds of applications/solutions that are supported by Cisco. The variety speaks to the breadth of their partner ecosystem, and I got a chance to get a few short demos. I've included some photo highlights at the end of this post, courtesy of my Nokia N93.

Before getting to that, I wanted to comment on the presentations made on the last day of the summit. One of the things that stood out for me during these was the thesis put forward by author Marcus Buckingham earlier in the day. It took a while to understand how his message was relevant to the audience - Cisco channel partners - but it did sink in, and it has a lot of merit. Basically he's saying you should focus on your strengths - that's what's going to make you successful - as opposed to devoting a lot of timing improving on your weaknesses - which he contends will always be weaknesses, so don't bother. Well, maybe - but I do agree, you can't be great at everything, so might as well be exceptional at what you're good at.

That's the feeling I got walking about at the Technology and Solutions Forum. This was where the event seemed very alive, and you could just sense there are a lot of really good companies doing interesting things things under this umbrella. Of course, Cisco does a lot of things very well, including putting on a great event, and on such a large scale.

Reflecting on this, though, Cisco isn't exceptional at everything, and a couple of things came to mind here on the marketing front. I don't know their CMO, Sue Bostrom, but it looks to me like she had a lot to do with Cisco's new branding, which for the most part is pretty good. Definitely like how they�ve dropped �Systems� from their name � it�s all about selling the company and the Cisco brand, and not IT systems.

She actually talked about how Cisco is now looking to come up with a sound that people can associate with their visuals - an audio logo, so to speak. A bit like the sound Windows makes every time you log on, or the bootup chime that Nokia phones make. Those are instantly recognizable, and are a big part of those brand identities. Cisco is looking to do the same, and I can see the logic there. It will be interesting to see what kind of a sound they come up with. Nothing really comes to mind for me right now - any ideas out there?

On that note, however, there were some other marketing/branding nuances at the summit that didn�t really work for me. It�s clear that Cisco is positioning itself to be a major global brand, and well they should. After all, this is a global summit, and a lot of channel partners in attendance were from outside North America. That said, there was pervasive imagery at the summit in their posters and visuals with global themes, but they were very heavy on third world images. Lots of exotic looking people, vibrant colors and rustic/primitive settings. There was lots of first world imagery too � astronauts and wide-eyed kids, but that�s not what I�m getting at here.

Some images showed people in far away places using cellphones and laptops, but a lot didn�t. They could have come straight out of National Geographic. Cisco may have a global reach, but I can�t see them being that relevant to people working in rice patties or standing at the edge of a river. I think it�s 3-5 years too soon for Cisco to be seen as a company that touches this many lives around the globe. To me, they should have just stuck to imagery from urban settings in emerging markets, showing shopkeepers, merchants, teachers, etc. � people who are more likely to touched today by the human network Cisco is evangelizing.

This is just my opinion, and I wanted to state it in the context of Marcus Buckingham�s thesis. In other words, stick to what you do best, like the Technology Forum � that�s clearly a strength. Cisco seems to do this better than anyone, along with many other things. Global branding is much trickier to do, and I think Cisco is trying too hard right now to come across as this warm, benevolent enabler of human potential for the entire planet.

That didn�t work for me at the event, but I can see them getting there in a few years time. It�s not a weakness in the sense of what Marcus is saying, but this type of global branding doesn�t strike me as quite right yet. I think you had to be there to have heard Marcus�s message amidst all of Cisco�s messaging from their executives and visionaries to follow what I�m saying. So, if they�re listening, my suggestion is to keep the global branding ideas a little closer to today�s reality.

If you get that right � as John Chambers says about what�s happening now to Cisco � �the market has come to us� � then the rest of the world will follow. I think he�s right � the market has come to Cisco, and I�m certain that if they execute on their vision, they will become that truly global brand that makes the world a better place.

And that ties in nicely to the motif of the whole summit event that ran through all the presentations � �Aspire. Achieve.� Two simple words, but a powerful message, and if you dream big, anything is possible. And that�s what the human network is all about.

I do see that, and actually think there�s something to this, and yes, Cisco seems to be the right kind of company to make this possible. As any die-hard Red Sox fan would say, �you gotta believe�. I know � I just know - that these ideas will work here in Las Vegas, where the distinction between fantasy and reality is almost impossible to make. The true test for me will come when I get home and tell all this to Max, my 14 year-old cyber whizkid. If he thinks it�s for real, then it�s time to buy Cisco stock�.


The UC500 - Cisco's SMB UC solution-in-a-box, announced at the summit.


Very nice demo here with IBM, showcasing their Sametime integration with Cisco, and supported by Radvision for videoconferencing. My photo of their display screen shows two video screens and a softphone during a video call we did on the fly. I'm in the bottom video inset, taking the picture of the screen.


Demo of Cisco's UC capabilities for mobility - which worked very well.


Digital signage - something Cisco is talking up quite a lot, and I think is going to become popular. It's pretty neat to see how these signs can change content on the go, depending on how they're programmed.


IP video surveillance - another example of how Cisco is extending to all forms of media


Lots more to explore here...


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