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Collaboration Solutions

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mahfuzmcsa

MPLS VPN Configurations

Posted by mahfuzmcsa Jan 29, 2017

There are five core tasks we need to accomplish to get an MPLS VPN up and running:

  • Enable MPLS on the provider backbone.
  • Create VRFs and assign routed interfaces to them.
  • Configure MP-BGP between the PE routers.
  • Configure OSPF between each PE router and its attached CE routers.
mahfuzmcsa

VOIP_Basics

Posted by mahfuzmcsa Jan 29, 2017

VOIP_Basics

Together, IBM and Cisco are building an open, integrated “Intelligent Collaboration” platform that will capture and understand how teams work together to improve the way people work.


Check out Cisco and IBM's announcement...


What do you think about this partnership?

Since our announcement in August, engineers, user experience and design teams from Cisco and Apple have been working side by side and testing together to make sure you have a truly delightful experience with your iPhone and iPad on your company's Cisco assets.  And today, as Apple introduces iOS 10, we’ve reached a major milestone.When we announced the Apple partnership last August, we promised to change the way people work by:

 

  • optimizing networks to deliver improved performance for iPhone and iPad.
  • creating an even better experience for Cisco voice communication on the iPhone.
  • reinventing teamwork and meetings with Cisco collaboration tools.

 

Here's how we've done that by integrating into new capabilities and APIs that Apple has built into iOS 10 ...

 

Read the rest of Rowan Trollope's blog>>

 

Post a comment below or start a discussion here in the community.

The NBA and Cisco are taking the fan experience to the next level.  Learn why there's never been a better time to be an NBA fan.  Tweet using the hashtags below and get your customized digital jersey.  #NeverBetter

 

NBA_Social_Image.jpeg

Every year, Enterprise Connect is the #1 conference to hear informed debates and thorough analysis of competing collaborating technologies. Under one roof, you get to hear from industry leaders of all major equipment, software, and service providers. It is also interesting to gauge the hype over emerging technologies and trends.


Here are my top 3 key learnings from this year’s event:

 

1. Cloud and On-Premise will continue to coexist in hybrid consumption models:

In 2015 we heard about Unified Communication (UC) migrating from on-premise to cloud. This year, the notion is that Cloud is real, but it cannot fulfill its promises alone.


Jason Galanter of AirBnB shared during a panel discussion at Enterprise Connect 2016, how the company originally embraced cloud-based UC service. However, as the employee base grew and as acquisitions came along, the cloud only solutions failed to scale to AirBnB’s needs. The company’s   UC service provider could not customize UC services to meet AirBnB’s business needs.


Cloud adoption is successful where Line of Business within a company is utilizing business specific app from cloud that helps solve a hurdle, brings context to communication for rich collaboration and faster decision making. Cloud adoption can be driven if a team of third-party developers can integrate cloud applications for business-specific needs.


Following data from Nemertes Research highlights data for cloud adoption and changing skills for IT hires:

  1. 51% increase in cloud services spending
  2. 67% of IT budgets shifting from CAPEX to OPEX
  3. 21% increase in internal IT staff
  4. 51.5% report difficulty to find IT hires with technical, business acumen, contract and SLA skills

 

Cisco is the industry leader in Collaboration and has different solutions for customer needs such as Cloud Platform Solution that includes Cisco Unified Communications Manager-based offering (a cloud-based offering that can be deployed to make sense for your business) and Cloud Services such as Spark team room paradigm and cloud based WebEx.


2. User experience is the key to deliver wherever, whenever, whatever Collaboration:

Cisco Exec Rowan Trollope quoted Cisco CTO Jonathan Rosenberg: "Our key objective is that customers aren’t faced with a dilemma on whether they should buy collaboration services from the cloud OR use premise UC. But rather, how do they adopt cloud services which work with their UC, and make it better; all while protecting their investments. That is what we are building.


The focus in 2016 is on simplification and integrating communication across, voice, video, chat and conferencing. This includes:

  1. Integrate work streams in collaboration solution
  2. Right type of collaboration solution for Contact Center, Field Agents, and Knowledge Workers

 

Cisco has been closely listening  to its customers’ feedback and has made it easy for end-users to connect from WebEx and a video endpoint with a single click with Collaboration Meeting Rooms (historically referred to as WebEx-Enabled Telepresence).


3. Digital transformation is sweeping through the industry:  digital business transformation will drive 60% of the total IT Services market growth in next 5 years. Digital transformation is accelerating change in business activities, processes, and competencies. Digital transformation is leveraged differently by different verticals such as Hospitality, Healthcare, and Finance. Hospitality and Healthcare need analytics -- Hospitality to understand end-to-end customer journey, and Healthcare to provide appropriate health care with new compensation model -- whereas Finance industry needs topnotch employee experience with productive environment.


Nemertes Research shares how Digital transformation is changing composition of IT:

  1. IT budgets are shifting to Line of business (LoB) and sellers are now engaging different audience focused on specific business needs. LoB IT spend is expected to grow in 2016.
  2. Buyers are increasingly self-sufficient through digital channels connecting directly to product development. Sales is entering the dialog at a much later stage of the buyer’s journey.

 

Cisco's Customer Experience, Workforce Experience Solutions are part of Digital Business Transformation portfolio.


These industry trends are happening as we speak. However, we should not lose focus on our primary communications business. Looking at Current Analysis research, North American end-user is 70% of global consumer of collaboration technology. Current Analysis reports indicate that Desk Phones lie at the heart of business, with every employee in organization having at least one desk phone:

  1. 52% of employees have desk phones. (~4% decrease from 2014)
  2. 10% of employees have only Desktop UC client with headset
  3. 29% of employees have both Desktop Client and Desk Phone
  4. Less than 1% of employees have only Mobile UC clients
  5. 3% of employees have mobile UC client and Desktop UC client

 

Cisco understands the value of integrating with legacy phone systems. Cisco is integrating existing phone system with Spark Hybrid Services.

Learn more from Rowan Trollope  and share how Cisco continues to help you with our Collaboration Solutions.  How can we be more relevant to your business needs?

Industry digitization is happening as we speak. Our customers are looking at areas where they can maximize benefits from digitization, and they are looking to Cisco as the partner with the expertise to guide their transformations.

 

At Cisco Live Berlin, Cisco launched three solutions around Digital Business Transformation (DBT). In the World of Solutions, the Workforce Experience (WX) Solution amassed interest from all types of attendees -- customers, partners,  and Cisco sales.

 

With each visit, customers brought additional peers to share the excitement of the live “Digitized Workforce Experience.” Customers across verticals such as energy, car manufacturing, banking, and government demonstrated tangible excitement about the potential for this solution to revolutionize how they do business. At the booth, our guests had the opportunity to:

  1. Browse through the Cisco campus on digital kiosks
  2. Understand the utilization metrics for Cisco campus buildings
  3. Check into Cisco’s executive headquarters in San Jose  using their Cisco badges
  4. View continuously updating floor plans complete with up-to-the-second information on checked-in personnel
  5. Experience the conference room panel displaying information of personnel checked-in
  6. Watch DX-80 in the demo conference room update to display the occupant’s phone number
  7. Experience automatic lights in the demo conference room changing to the occupant’s pre-configured settings
  8. Change the light setting in the demo conference room using mobile app to configure the white-soft-warm setting to the occupant’s liking

 

With this solution, selling is simplified, as both services and products are included under one Solution ID.  Cisco Advanced Services (AS) plays a prominent role alongside the product business unit as an advisor. Because AS engineers have in-depth exposure to customer problems this relationship also allows AS to incorporate the customer journey for the adoption of the solution into the development process.

 

The Workforce Experience solution keeps the main focus on the employee experience by highlighting the following capabilities for employees:

  • Workspace Productivity
  • Workspace Management
  • Workspace Mobility

 

After speaking to many customers at Cisco Live!, I arrived at two  primary conclusions about how these Workforce Experience solutions can transform the life of the modern employee and organizations’ lines of business:

  1. The Workforce Experience Solution fundamentally shifts the paradigm for the entire employee experience:
    1. Flexible workspaces:
      1. Collaborative workspaces for creative interaction amongst employees
      2. Focused rooms for accomplishing a task
    2. Personalized workspace that  facilitate mobility:
        1. Extension mobility enables 80% of employees to use their desk phones for collaboration. Extending the office wherever they work will allow employees to be true mobile workers.
        2. Digital lighting, pre-configured lights of the room for personal experience.

 

2. The Workforce Experience Solution maximizes the utilization of space to make  LOB workstreams more efficient:

    1. Develop floor plans to satisfy the work culture of business:
      1. X number of focus areas
      2. Y number of meeting spaces
      3. Z number of collaboration zones
    2. Integrate collaboration tools for specific business needs
        1. Video, Voice, Conferencing to reduce travel, faster decision-making
    3. Develop floor plans for mobile employees (millennials, work from anywhere)
        1. With more employees coming into office for only 1:1 interactions, office space is planned for 2 employees to 1 space utilization bring in huge real estate cost savings

 

Digital Business Transformation is Cisco’s alignment to industry digitization.

Different industry verticals are looking at digitization to solve different problems. For example, the hospitality industry is looking for analytics around customer experience, while manufacturing is looking for supply chain analytics. Finance is looking to increase space utilization, while focusing on employee experience and productivity with personalized, collaborative workspaces in addition to tools that facilitate mobility. Each of these industries will benefit from digital business transformation in their own unique ways, and Cisco is uniquely positioned to help them make these sources of advanced business value into realities for their employees and customers.

 

The interest we saw at Cisco Live! Berlin reiterates that a robust market exists for these digital workforce solutions. The opportunity for our customers to experience these solutions firsthand made the impact real for them in a powerful way, which will certainly continue to help ramp up interest and excitement (and sales!) around these solutions into the future.

 

For more information on the Workforce Experience Solution, please go to the following Sales Kit:

https://salesconnect.cisco.com/c/r/salesconnect/index.html#/global-saleskit/134253

Cisco has historically advocated separate data and audio/video VLANs. This is a great best practice as it enables Access Control Lists (ACLs) to be easily added at the Layer 3 boundary to control both signalling and media traffic. This has worked well for many years, but unfortunately the proliferation of mobile soft clients, such as Jabber, has somewhat broken the traditional design guidance. Whether it’s due to Jabber deployed on laptops using the wired infrastructure, or on smart phones over wireless, the topological demarcation between the data and collaboration environments has disappeared. This can make it very complex to use traditional VLANs to secure access to core collaboration services; as Jabber enabled devices can roam the Enterprise and often share the same VLAN with non-Jabber enabled data devices.

 

From a security perspective this creates a problem, which the traditional VLAN approach doesn’t really provide a good answer for. What is really needed for modern security conscious collaboration deployments is a dynamic policy based enforcement solution. Hence, it’s a good thing that Cisco Security Technology Group invented TrustSec!

 

For the uninitiated TrustSec is Cisco’s software defined segmentation technology embedded into its network infrastructure equipment. TrustSec uses contextual data about whom and what is accessing the network, and enables role based access using Security Group Tags (SGT) to segment the infrastructure. To learn more about TrustSec please click here.

 

The rest of this Blog discusses a recent Proof of Concept that was put together to demonstrate to partners and customers how a Cisco Collaboration deployment could be integrated into an Enterprise’s TrustSec implementation. The following diagram shows simplified lab topology with the associated functional components.

 

Figure 1 – TrustSec POC Lab Topology

 

Lab_Topology.png

 

Note: Everything described below for Phones is equally applicable to dedicated Personal or Room based Video Systems.

 

One of the advantages of TrustSec is that it allows an organisation to map out their policies for device to device, or device to service communication, and then implement these by the allocation of SGTs to ensure the infrastructure is correctly segmented.

 

As can be seen from the above diagram each element of the collaboration deployment was assigned a different SGT. In the case of the endpoints, Jabber (Emp_Mgd_Assets – SGT20) and Phones (UC_Endpoints – SGT21), the SGTs were allocated upon a successful 802.1x authentication. The core devices (UC_Servers – SGT50) and the Cisco Unified Border Element (UC_Supp_Services – SGT51) received their SGTs based upon static IP address mapping. In a real world scenario additional SGTs might be used due to factors such as topology and availability of additional collaboration services. A key strength of TrustSec is its design flexibility.

 

The basic lab set up only allowed media traffic to pass between the collaboration endpoints and signalling only from the endpoints to the core (Unified CM/IMP) servers. Where appropriate, access was also granted to LDAP and DNS services. The general lab policy was to not allow anything other than collaboration media streams between any access layer endpoints. A summary of the permitted traffic flows is shown below:

 

Figure 2 – Collaboration Traffic Matrix

 

SGT_Table.png

 

At the time of writing, the specific signalling and media ports permitted were obtained from the latest, Unified CM and Jabber port guides.

 

From a Security perspective, large unsegmented networks are a significant risk. Segmentation helps limit lateral movement in the event of a successful attack and shows compliance with regulatory and audit requirements. Hence, given the requirements for peer to peer and client/server Security Group Access Control Lists (SGACLs) the Nexus 7K, Catalyst 4500 and the Catalyst 3650 switches were enabled as TrustSec enforcement points. This not only allowed for segmentation policies to be created and enabled between the Branch/HQ and the Datacentre (DC), but also within VLANs at the access layer. This is important because in Figure 1 the Jabber enabled Employee Managed Assets share the same VLAN as BYOD Contractor laptops that don’t have Jabber deployed on them. This did not create a segmentation problem because the BYOD Contractor devices were issued with different SGTs. The downloaded policy from the ISE ensured that the Contractors had no access to the core UC Servers in the DC, were isolated from the Phones in the Voice VLAN and also segmented from the Jabber clients that shared the same network.

 

In keeping with traditional best practice the POC phones were allocated their own Voice VLANs, and as mentioned previously, 802.1x authentication was used to allocate the appropriate SGT. This is undoubtedly the most secure approach but it is also possible to statically map Voice VLANS to a SGT, if for any reason, an organisation was unable to implement Network Access Control (NAC) for either phones or video endpoints.

 

In the lab the UC Supplementary Services (SGT=51) category was represented by a Cisco Unified Border Element Session Border Controller (SBC). In reality additional supplementary services could be provided by other types of devices such as MCUs and DSP farms. These could either be distributed across the infrastructure or centralised in datacentres depending on the system design. In the POC it was decided to give supplementary devices, such as Cisco Unified Border Element, their own Security Tag so that their individual signalling requirements to and from the core collaboration servers could be appropriately locked down.

 

Figure 3 – Looking at the Bigger Picture

 

BusApps_Topology.png

 

Figure 3 shows the addition of three different classes of data application servers. The Collaboration SGACLs, with their implicit deny statements ensured that Phones and Jabber devices could not access these servers.  Even though a Jabber client shared the same VLAN with a BYOD Contractor laptop that had been granted permission to connect the application server types; TrustSec policies enforced the correct segmentation.

 

Part 2 of this Blog will provide the configuration details associated with the lab, including 802.1x settings, details on the ISE TrustSec deployment and the SGACLs used for the Collaboration signalling and media. In the meantime if anyone has any questions or comments, please feel free to post them.

In his most excellent book Collaboration, Morten T. Hansen identifies several barriers to good collaboration. One of these barriers is cultural in nature and is called hoarding. Hoarding is where an individual or team keeps knowledge to themselves. This means that others have to ask them to ask them to do something for them, or to they'll tell them how to do it with minimal information. I am constantly surprised that when I share this barrier to collaboration with customers, how many of them look at each other and say "That's Dick" or "That's Jane." It's then followed immediately with "They call it job security."


You're Not That Important

 

In the words of my mother "Eat a Twinkie and get over it."

 

If you're one of these people hoarding information and not collaborating, trust me on this, that little bit of information you control is not the linchpin of the company success. If you are abducted by aliens tomorrow, the company won't fold without you.  Your coworkers won't be happy and they may struggle with a few things. But in the end, they'll figure it out and things will progress. Ironically, this will actually force them to collaborate. They'll collaborate with vendors. They'll collaborate with teammates. They'll collaborate with coworkers in other departments. In the end, not only will they learn what you were hoarding, but chances are pretty good that they'll learn even more -- and use that knowledge to better the overall system and processes.


You're Not Quality Control

 

Most often, the reason people hoard information isn't bad intent nor "job security," it's a matter of pride because of expertise. It's because you have become the de facto Subject Matter Expert (SME) and it's always flowed through you. Nobody can do it as good as you. This scenario is typical throughout enterprise organizations where expertise is prized. The problem is it won't scale. Sooner or later there's an inflection point between the number of requests for information and how many you can handle. Instead of being the quality-control checkpoint, you've become the chokepoint.

 

This is where you might put in a request for headcount, hire, and train people on the information and duties you continue to hoard. Having that fiefdom doesn't remove the chokepoint nor improve quality, it stalls growth and development.


You're Not Going to Advance

 

You may believe that hoarding knowledge creates job security such that management doesn't want to deal with losing you and your knowledge. I would advise against putting too much faith in that philosophy. And, if you do, you have just provided yourself with job security for that role and only for that role. You've become too valuable as the checkpoint to ever see your career path advance beyond management of your fiefdom.

 

You'd better hope new technology or company acquisition doesn't make you redundant.


Become a Practitioner of Best Practices

 

What's the opposite approach? Demonstrate more value to the company by sharing your knowledge with more people. This will:

  • Provide you with more time to advance your knowledge
  • Expand your skill set into other ancillary areas that support your primary duties
  • Elevate your status from SME to Trusted Advisor

 

This will ensure that you have educated personnel to support your efforts when needed. You'll have the opportunity to move into adjacent areas, or oversee the merger of departments. You'll be leading the organization in your areas of expertise instead of holding it hostage with your hoarding. There are many ways to share the knowledge and best practices you've developed:

  • Participate in team meetings. Request time in other team meetings that rely on your services.  Tell them what you do and why. Tell them how they can help. Answer any questions they have.
  • Use internal vehicles such as web pages, blogs, team workspaces, online meetings, etc. to bring together different teams and people of interest to further your outreach and Transfer of Information (TOI).
  • Use those same vehicles for external communications, along with social media activities. Simply dropping tips and tricks to other like-minded individuals can elevate you from trusted advisor within your company to a trusted advisor within the industry.

 

These practices will gain visibility for you internally. People will look to you as a trusted advisor who is proactively delivering value to the company. Once you gain trusted advisor status in the industry, not only have you elevated your visibility, but you've elevated the visibility of your company. You will be associated as the person who is behind the best practices for the leading-edge company in your industry. Now that is what I call job security.

 

Are you hoarding information now and why? Were you a hoarder who has seen the light and is now in a better position? Do you have to deal with knowledge hoarders at work? How is that experience for you? Tell us your story here.
Kim Austin

Why Cisco Champions Rock

Posted by Kim Austin Nov 6, 2015

As part of my job at Cisco, I get to spend time with Champions. Specifically, Cisco Champions.

 

As the Collaboration architecture lead for the Cisco Champions program, I get to interact directly with this select group of customers and partners on a regular basis. And it’s a chance for me to connect people on our technical teams directly with the people who use Cisco products every day.

 

Cisco Champions at CLUS
Cisco Champions at CLUS 2015, San Diego

 

I learn a lot from them. The technical level of conversations and threads in Spark sometimes threatens to melt my brain cells, but I get great perspective on where their interests are and how they use Cisco technology to do what they do. They’re always ready to tell me what works – and what doesn’t.


There’s an amazing amount of technical talent – and genuine camaraderie and humor – among this bunch. But don’t take it from me, see what a current Cisco Champion has to say about his experience. 


Meet Steve, the WifiJanitor

Steve Rodriguez is a second-year Cisco Champion who specializes in networking – wired or wireless -- at CDW. (His Twitter handle @wifijanitor may give away which one takes more of his time.) His Cisco experience is pretty extensive – something about spending five years in Cisco Technical Assistance Center might provide that. But let’s not worry about things being too serious. If you see a gregarious guy in a kilt at Cisco Live US, there’s about a 25% chance it’s him.


How do you benefit from being involved? I get to stay engaged with peers that I normally only get to see once a year at Cisco Live US. The information provided on the Cisco Champions Radio podcasts can be useful as well, although I've had a hard time joining most of them this year.


What activities give you the most value? Cisco Champions Radio, Twitter... I probably get the most value out of Twitter and a few offline chats that happen. Spark is nice, but with that many people in the room I have to mute it otherwise my phone/laptop are constantly notifying. Harder to remember to check Spark when it's like that as there is no messaging at all. (Now if Spark would still show a message count/bubble but didn't audible, that would be better.)


Has participating helped you in your professional gig? Hard question. Mostly it's more the fact that I'm big on Cisco products. Even without Cisco Champions, I prefer Cisco over other vendors. Right now, the program is really more a "badge." The program is still low-key so most businesses don't know what it is.


For someone not currently involved, why should they apply? Great people, great conversation, and good information shared between everyone and on the CC Radio podcasts.


Do you have a story of a particular event with other CCs from being part of the program? I’m not sure I can really share my CLUS stories… they might be incriminating. Honestly, having the group we have, it makes CLUS fun the whole way through.


How would you describe the program in your own words (not carefully crafted phrasing from a marketing twerp)? A group of networking people who love to learn and share their knowledge. Be prepared to become friends with people you wouldn't normally think to talk to or associate with. We are open, honest, and at times blunt, but we genuinely love what we do and the people we get to connect with.

Are you a Champion? Do you have a passion for technology, plus a desire to share your perspectives. Cisco Champions are all over the world and represent segments across the IT industry. And they offer their time to help others learn about Cisco and connect with Cisco in unique ways.

If it sounds like you, check out the community page and submit your nomination. Nominations close November 15th.

The first thing you may wonder is how can you have a mobile workspace.  After all, the point of being mobile is that you can be anywhere and if you're anywhere, you may not have a physical workspace.  This means your accessories must also be mobile.  They should fit in your pockets, or at the very minimum your laptop bag.  Most people will argue that a laptop is a portable device, not a mobile device.  Even if it is equipped with mobile connectivity.  Consider what device(s) you use most when on the road.

 

The first piece of your mobile workspace is your mobile phone or tablet.  I don't own a tablet.  I prefer something that fits in my pocket. When I'm on the go, I use my mobile phone as my primary means of communication.  Today I have the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active and I'm happy with it.  The phone is the foundation for the mobile workspace.  There are some key collaboration applications that need to be installed to realize the most value of the mobile workspace.

Screenshot_2015-09-01-13-37-31.png

 

My collaboration user persona is that of a mobile worker.  I spend time in the car.  I spend time among the buildings on the Cisco campus.  And I spend time with customers and attending events.  The applications I use most are: Jabber, WebEx, and Spark.  Jabber is my Unified Communications (UC) client.  I use it primarily for 1:1 IM's and calls.  WebEx is my meetings client.  I use it for groups participating in scheduled or ad-hoc meetings.  Spark is my team client.  I use it for working together with others to complete a project.  Each of these applications have features that are specific to their use case, but they also offer integrated real-time communications and a consistent user experience of voice, video, and content share.

 

It's the voice, video, and content share experience that drives the need for the final piece of the mobile workspace.  The screen.  There are going to be times you won't be able to view the screen and be limited to audio only.  Being a mobile worker doesn't mean you need to be limited to audio all the time.  There are quiet rooms all over the Cisco campus and I often find myself jumping in one to attend a meeting with just my mobile phone.  Well, just my mobile phone with a stand and headset.

 

The stand I found at Bed, Bath & Beyond in a bin and it cost me next to nothing.  The need for the stand is stability. 20150903_171116.jpgUse a stand so you can easily view content and so your video to others doesn't become shaky.  We don't want The Blair Witch Project  affect.  My headset is the Plantronics Voyager Legend with case.  This is the must have accessory.  Every interaction is video enabled.  If you hold the phone to your ear, you can't see the video and they can't see you.  To be most effective at collaboration you want to have a consistent experience of voice, video, and content share.  The headset gives me that experience.  I'm not advocating you walk down the street with a selfie-stick(or is it a narciss-stick?) and your headset on while collaborating away.  However, find an Audio Privacy Room (APR), or even a quiet corner as I did in this photo and you can make it your mobile workspace.  One of the other things I really like about the Voyager Legend headset is the little USB that is already synched with the headset.  Now I can easily connect to my mobile device or to my portable device, wherever I am.  Furthermore, if I'm using a hard endpoint that is USB enabled, I can use the headset with that as well.

 

The way we work is changing.  The workspace is no longer the office with a desk, computer, and phone.  Rather, the office is where you are at any given time.  You can have the same collaboration experience in the office, at home using your laptop, or remote using your smartphone.  In today's mobile world, you're going to find more and more collaborative activity happening over your smartphone.  Have the right tools to make your mobile workspace the most effective and productive workspace it can be.  Take advantage of voice, video, and content sharing no matter where you are, without disturbing others.  What tools do you use today for your mobile workspace?  What would you like to see in the future for the mobile workspace?

Interested in learning more about #CiscoSpark? Find out what’s new with the messaging app and what the Spark team has been working on in our next #CiscoChat. Tune in live here to A #CiscoChat with the #CiscoSpark team

 

Join us on Thursday, September 10 at 10:30 a.m. PT for a live video #CiscoChat moderated by @CiscoCollab with some of our Spark product managers. Learn about new features to the app, and how you and your teams can get the most out of them.

 

Cisco_Chat_SPARK_FB (1).jpg

 

If you haven’t yet, be sure to download Cisco Spark and check it out!

There are many different ways that we collaborate.  We may collaborate in person.  We may collaborate over the phone, through e-mail, using video, conferencing, or social.  These are just a few examples.  Generally speaking over the course of a collaborative exercise, we'll use most if not all these modes of communications.  What remains constant with collaboration is driving toward a common goal.  Identifying the desired goal will align collaborative efforts to ensure everybody on the team is focused and striving toward the same results.

 

Universal Motor Agencies (UMA) has the vision.  They believe (and I agree) to achieve the vision of a customer-for-life you must put the customer experience first.  Customers will become loyal if they trust you to have their best interests at heart.  The first step was improving the customer care experience.  Customer contacts are handled faster and more efficiently then ever before.  UMA centralized the contact center on a single toll-free number, so the right agents were always available to the customer.  Complaints are resolved quicker then before with an integrated escalation process.  Finally, the quality of experience for customers calling the help desk was vastly improved by consolidating the communications infrastructure.

 

While the goal of customer-for-life continues to see tangible results because of the efforts already completed by UMA, they have found additional internal results directly attributed to smarter communications. UCA Icon 2.jpgThe most significant result is employee satisfaction is up 20%.  If your employees aren't satisfied you won't have customers for life.  Productivity for employees is up 10%.  Not only has productivity and satisfaction increased, but at the same time expenses associated with travel have dropped 40% while IT costs have dropped 30%.  These are the results that show innovation and transform the business bringing it to the next level.

 

Sherif Wahba, IT Director at UMA sums it up perfectly when he says "We achieved a culture change.".  By boosting collaboration, UMA has accelerated decision-making and problem solving.  The UMA contact center is able to handle more calls.  They solve customer issues faster by having the right experts available to best meet the customer needs.  UMA understands that in today's digital world the technology used is important, but more important is a culture that puts the needs of the customer first and does what it takes to continually strive to meet that vision.

 

If you'd like to learn more about Universal Motor Agencies, the full case study is available at: http://cs.co/9005B1Xz1  Let me know your thoughts on the customer-for-life.  Are you seeing success in the same?  As a customer do you feel companies are not doing enough to maintain your loyalty?  I look forward to your comments on this very important topic.

Video codecs remain an area of active research and development. The current generation video codec is H.264 – in widespread usage on the Internet. Cisco has actively worked towards making H.264 the foundation of real-time communications on the web. The next generation codecs are just beginning to emerge. There are two of note – Google’s proprietary VP9 codec, and the industry standard H.265 (HEVC) codec, which is the successor to H.264 (AVC).

Unfortunately, the patent licensing situation for H.265 has recently taken a turn for the worse. Two distinct patent licensing pools have formed so far, and many license holders are not represented in either. There is just one license pool for H.264. The total costs to license H.265 from these two pools is up to sixteen times more expensive than H.264, per unit. H.264 had an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, whereas H.265 has no such upper limit.

These licensing terms preclude usage of H.265 in any kind of open source or freely distributed software application, such as web browsers. They also preclude its usage in freemium products – like WebEx or Cisco Spark – which have versions that users can use for free. Thus, while H.265 is still a good fit for hardware products like our telepresence room systems, it is not something that can serve as a universal video codec across hardware and software. Thus, we believe the industry needs a high quality, next-generation codec that can be used everywhere.

To further those ends, we began a project to create a new video codec which would meet these needs. We call this project Thor. The effort is being staffed by some of the world’s most foremost codec experts, including the legendary Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth, both of whom have been heavy contributors to prior video codecs. We also hired patent lawyers and consultants familiar with this technology area. We created a new codec development process which would allow us to work through the long list of patents in this space, and continually evolve our codec to work around or avoid those patents. Our efforts are far from complete, but we felt it was time to open this up to the world.

As a result, we released project Thor to the community two weeks ago. We open sourced the code, which you can find here: http://thor-codec.org. We also contributed Thor as an input to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which has begun a standards activity to develop a next-gen royalty free video codec in its NetVC workgroup. Mozilla has also been active in that group, and they have been working on technology as well (called Daala) towards the same goal. As more technology gets contributed to this cause, the greater its chance of success.

We will continue to develop Thor over the coming months, constantly evolving the codec as our patent analysis continues. We invite others to work with us – to help develop the codec, to participate in the patent analysis, or to contribute their own Intellectual Property Rights on a royalty free basis.

If you or your company would like to help, please contact netvc-inquiry@cisco.com.

After too long, business is becoming more immediate and visual.

 

Think of it this way – a couple of thousand years ago business was often done in a market place or trading post, face to face in person.

Technology meant supply lines and trade was able to extend geographically so business had to be conducted in part, with asynchronous delayed communication by post and then the telegraph.

 

Then in the last century real time communication was introduced that could reach as far as our global business. The telephone gives us an audio channel to work anywhere with a sense of immediacy but lacking the richness of seeing the other people.

In the last decade we have closed the gap, enabling people to conduct business globally, in real time with voice and video to see and hear the people they are doing business with.

 

Now we can, yet again conduct business face to face everywhere that the global market takes our business. Communication has caught up to the distance and speed of business and set the stage for a powerful and pervasive collaboration culture.

 

In my most recent Inside Cisco IT webinar I spoke about enabling the collaboration culture. The webinar provides a technical taster of how Cisco IT is powering the collaboration platform for its employees. The talk focuses on video conferencing for mobile and remote workers using a VPN-less solution to deliver a simple, seamless video collaboration experience for the user. I will continue exploring this theme from both a technical and people perspective to illustrate the business benefit in today’s global market place.

 

Cisco on Cisco Inside Cisco IT Webinar Recordings:

Inside Cisco IT: Enabling the Collaboration Culture- Americas Session

Inside Cisco IT: Enabling the Collaboration Culture – EMEAR Session


What questions do you have about Cisco IT?  What topics would you like to hear from me about?  Reply to this post and let's start a conversation.

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