Cisco Live! 2016: Partners, Bots and Spark, Oh My! – Cisco’s Yellow Brick Road to Magical Experiences

T. Banting
T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Cisco is partnering with IBM (enhancing e-mail social networking, collaborative team spaces, cognitive computing and analytics) to compete more effectively against competitors such as Microsoft.
  • Cisco’s partnership with Apple will bring native dialing through iOS release 10 and integrate the iPhone within the Cisco infrastructure, thus improving business communications.

In L. Frank Baum’s first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy follows the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City, where everyone wears green-tinted eyeglasses to protect their eyes from the “brightness and glory” of the city. What it actually does is make everything appear green when the Emerald City is, in fact, “no more green than any other city.” At Cisco Live! 2016 in Las Vegas, Cisco’s vision for the future appears crystal clear and in little need of eyewear.

Modern companies understand they need to react to a rapidly changing business environment, address customer demands quickly, respond to competitive threats and improve profitability. This is largely dependent on the way employees, partners and customers interact and engage. Cisco aims to address this need for effective collaboration and communications through partnerships (IBM and Apple), automation (web API platforms, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing) and its persistent team space application, Cisco Spark.

At Cisco Live! 2016, Cisco emphasized two key strategic partners: IBM and Apple. Cisco and IBM are looking at ways both companies can improve the collaboration and communications experience by integrating e-mail and enterprise social networking (IBM Verse and Connections) with Cisco’s portfolio: Cisco WebEx and Spark. A phased integration plan will see IBM Connections and Verse interoperating with Cisco WebEx, with IBM cognitive computing (Watson) incorporated into Cisco Spark in the second phase.

Apple, which has strategic partnerships with both IBM and Cisco, has worked with Cisco to make improvements to iOS 10 so that Apple devices can work natively with Cisco Spark. An on-stage demonstration showed that the iPhone contacts list in iOS 10 has a Cisco Spark button, which allows calls (both voice and video) to be made over the Cisco service without the need for a separate app, therefore simplifying the user experience.

Finally, Cisco Spark has been augmented with bots and digital assistants: a task bot that can assign action items to team members; a mail bot that forwards e-mails into Spark rooms; and Monica, a digital assistant akin to Siri for the enterprise. In the opening of Cisco’s collaboration keynote, Rowan Trollope (Senior VP and GM of Cisco’s Internet of Things and Collaboration Technology Group) described his vision to make collaboration “simple, magical, open.” After a quick online search of the definition ‘magical’ – “beautiful or delightful in a way that seems removed from everyday life” – I think Cisco’s use of the word is appropriate.

The workplace has long been in need of delightful ways to collaborate and communicate, and Cisco and its partners seem determined to bring that to fruition. Seamlessly integrating devices, consolidating functionality and augmenting collaboration with digital assistants is certainly a unique and differentiated approach within this market segment.

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