Cisco Customer Collaboration Day - Quick Thoughts

I just have time for a quick post about this event in Phoenix. Technically, it was over 2 days, and nobody was in a hurry to leave - except me to catch my flight home. This was a nice, comfortable mix of analysts and Cisco's collaboration team, and it was a great way to share updates and get our feedback on their direction.

Clearly, Cisco keeps trying to move higher up the value chain, and while some still view them as a network plumbing vendor, they are clearly well beyond that. We've been hearing a lot about the "human network" from Cisco, and more recently the next big curve - Internet of Everything. While these are very lofty and abstract end games, what we heard about in Phoenix was much more nuts and bolts.

They have a clear vision of what today's contact center and collaboration platforms need to look like, and if you weren't paying attention, you'd think this was Bain or McKinsey talking. For Cisco it's all about tying technology value to business outcomes, and while IT is a key part of the conversation, the sell here is further up the ladder. Cisco has been on this track for a while, but the roadmap we saw seems pretty credible, and they brought out some great customer and partner success stories to show us how it's done.

In short, the mantra now is along these lines - deliver collaborative customer experiences that drive business outcomes. My MBA days are well behind me, but I sure hope this is what they're teaching now, because that's what I'd be looking for as an IT buyer and/or an executive decision-maker. Historically, these have been difficult worlds to bridge, but today, technology is so powerful that it pretty much has to be this way now.

The cloud is driving everything, and we got a taste of how they're working with Big Data and predictive analytics. There sure is a lot of promise here, and it's too soon to know if Cisco will get it right, but they certainly understand the role they can play. From all accounts, they're posting great numbers in the contact center and collaboration spaces, so the momentum is in their favor.

If there's one area where it could all fall apart, it's in the partnerships and maintaining control over the customer relationship. As with any Tier 1 vendor, Cisco wants to own the customer, and we had some interesting dialog around the challenges of keeping technology partners happy as Cisco tries to build out their vision. These partners sell directly to their customers too, and balancing all this to deliver a tidy solution that Cisco can control is a tricky business.

This is just a high level summary, and I'll have more to say in a review I'm writing next week for UCStrategies, where I contribute thought leaderhip regularly. Look for it then, I'll post here as well once it's on the site.

John Hernandez, VP/GM Customer Collaboration
Willem Evert Nijenhuis, PLM, Unified Contact Center
Tod Famous, Director, PM, Customer Collaboration