Cisco Live 2023: New Hybrid Work Collection Takes on the Return to Work with Mixed Success

G. Willsky

Summary Bullets:

• Cisco is launching the hybrid work collection in response to the migration of workers back to offices.

• The collection is well-positioned, but its contents are for the most part commonplace.

While the ‘Cisco Live 2023’ event was underway, Cisco quietly launched a hybrid work collection. The collection consists of design guides for renovating office workspaces, documentation for IT managers to deploy work from office solutions, and a three-piece hybrid work offer set consisting of a software offer (made up of collaboration, security, digital experience monitoring, and mobile device management all under a single agreement), a work-from-home offer (featuring three device ensembles plus networking expertise), and a work-from-office offer (assistance in building in-office workspaces that are both optimized for hybrid work as well as sustainable).

One of the most striking, consequential chapters of the future of work is unfolding as we speak. After a lengthy, pandemic-induced hiatus, workers are returning to offices in significant numbers. Cisco is introducing the collection with this migration in mind, and a key goal of the collection is to provide an antidote to a dilemma that has become inherent in that migration. By capitalizing on this moment and addressing the struggle within it, Cisco is hoping to differentiate. But does the collection separate Cisco from the pack, or is it business as usual?

As the pandemic has evolved, the return to offices has only accelerated and will, as occupancy rates in office buildings continue to climb, gain momentum. Cisco is therefore wise to formally latch onto the trend.

In some cases, workers have returned under a management directive while others have voluntarily made the leap. Which path companies should follow is currently a matter of great debate and a decision that Cisco posits as ‘mandate vs. magnet.’ Cisco has placed itself on the ‘magnet’ side of the argument, with the collection offering the allure of meeting-oriented office designs and technology, enhanced productivity, and increased security to incentivize employees to work from the office. For companies poised at the ‘mandate vs. magnet’ fork in the road, Cisco is making the decision to take the ‘magnet’ route an easy one. This is an astute marketing move.

An equally astute marketing move is that Cisco has highlighted the fact that it has implemented all the collections’ features and capabilities itself and reaped great benefit in return. So rather than rely on the tired ‘take our word for it’ approach, Cisco has chosen the far more compelling path of ‘the proof is in the pudding’.

While it is evident the collection is well-positioned, whether it supplies differentiation for Cisco is less clear. In a market where UC&C platforms have become homogenized with a core set of features (e.g., meetings, chat, calling, and events) and with interoperability between competing platforms becoming the norm, the lines delineating rivals are quickly blurring. Separating from the pack is thus a necessary move. By reaching beyond being a purveyor of hybrid work tools and adding credentials as a consultative authority on implementation, Cisco is attempting just that.

However, on the differentiation scale, the collection falls a bit short. The trio of hybrid work offers provides capabilities that while critical, are standard fare. The design guides and IT manager documentation are uncommon, which plays in Cisco’s favor, but they are not unmatched. Google for example, supports a ‘Future of Work’ site that contains a variety of hybrid work handbooks among other documentation. Cisco is by no means alone.

Bottom line, Cisco’s new hybrid work collection provides scintillating sizzle, but common steak.

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