During our intense one-day conference att the Cisco Customer Collaboration Analyst Day in Boxboro, MA, a dozen or so analysts got to hear about Cisco’s new contact center offerings and releases.


First John Hernandez, VP & GM, Customer Collaboration Business Unit, described how Cisco can reuse development from other parts of the business and scale development larger using a wider range of Cisco developers so that that products like Cisco Pulse can be used for assigning Expert Agents in the contact center, for example. Tools and people from other areas of the company can be leveraged so that capabilities developed and used in one part of the business can be used in other parts of the company.


Customer Collaboration – the term that Cisco now uses - is about Cisco’s whole portfolio and how it evolves together, including things like a collaboration agent desktop, video-enabled customer care, social media customer care, etc. For example, Cisco’s Quad is being used with the Customer Collaboration products so that Cisco’s “traditional” contact products like Unified Contact Center Enterprise, Unified Contact Center Express, and Unified Voice Portal can leverage Cisco’s social media tools. Quad will replace CTI desktops, and will simplify the contact center operations for things like screen pops.


While social media is an important part of Cisco’s Customer Collaboration roadmap, only 30% of the company’s resources are focused on web 2.0 and social media, while 70% are focused on its core contact center products. Tod Famous discussed the new Release 8.0 capabilities in the Customer Collaboration portfolio, including a new Cisco and branded cloud service that will be delivered by TeleTech (in the U.S. only), coupling together Salesforce CRM and Cisco contact center in a hosted fashion with simplified administration. The new cloud service is aimed at 30-300 agents or knowledge workers.


Unified Contact Center Enterprise 8.0 and Hosted 8.0 added 15 minute interval reporting, new install and setup, UC Analysis Manager, SIP Dialer with gateway-based call progress analysis, and virtualization support. Cisco notes that it will have a 4:1 reduction in servers through virtualization. New features for Unified Contact Center Express 8.0 include high availability over WAN, simplified install and upgrades, UC Analysis Manager, new Cisco 8900 phones and cross cluster extension mobility. For the Unified Customer Voice Portal 8.0, Cisco added the UC Analysis Manager, enhanced SIP capabilities, Courtesy Callback, and virtualization support. Replacing WebView is the new Unified Intelligence Center (based on Cisco’s Latigent acquisition), providing real time and historical dashboards.


I was most intrigued by Cisco’s new social media customer care solution – an appliance that searches the web, and then captures, analyzes and prioritizes the work, and assigns and distributes the work. Taking work events and filtering them through business rules, the appliance will decide which work items should be distributed to which resources. As a virtual machine appliance running inside VMWare, the new appliance uses the existing universal queue interfaces on UCCE and can feed the media through UCCE.


I don’t expect to see companies start running out to implement these new social media capabilities, but I was glad to see Cisco positioning itself in this area, displaying thought leadership while preparing for the future. Cisco can leverage its social media capabilities in its customer collaboration offerings, and will have product offerings that will be ready when the market is ready.

With all due respect to Cisco’s commitment to the contact center market over the years, I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone by stating that the contact center industry was not central to Cisco’s business strategy in the past.  While always a market participant, Cisco did not hold the same sort of commanding presence in the contact center world as it did in, say, the networking and communications infrastructure world.  The contact center was something akin to a side business for Cisco.  Not any more.


While Cisco as an entity has migrated toward a more collaborative style of management, company resources have also been realigned to enable a pan-corporate go-to-market strategy that can best be described as “One Cisco.”  Rather than having a dominant product business unit complemented by a number of lesser business units, Cisco is pursuing a holistic approach that is realigning company resources and enabling Cisco to offer an entire solution rather than piece parts of a solution.  Cisco’s contact center business unit is included in this mainstreaming strategy.


Cisco’s contact center business unit has now been fully integrated into the Cisco Collaboration Suite.  That’s good news for those tasked with moving Cisco’s contact center products in that the contact center business is no longer a poor cousin to Cisco's high profile business.  It’s also good news for customers in that Cisco’s contact center development organization now has at its disposal an arsenal of resources that were, until recently, not available because they belonged to another business unit.  The One Cisco concept means that success will be measured at the solutions level rather than at the individual product level.


This represents quite a shift in business strategy for Cisco but it appears to be one that is embraced wholeheartedly by management.  Cisco has been able to implement their new strategy without the industry-typical management shake-out that companies often point to as proof of their commitment to change. Cisco management remains stable.


For a large company, Cisco has always been able to move quickly.  That speed has recently been turbocharged by the formation of small work groups or teams that are tasked with working through and solving product marketing or development challenges in a short period of time.  If the team can’t solve the issue among themselves it is passed to the team leader who has to resolve the issue within an equally short period of time so as not to impede progress.  I’ve seen these groups in action and I was impressed.  These groups are the definition of efficiency in action.


Cisco’s timing for the One Cisco strategy is also ideal.  With one major competitor now relegated to the annals of history and the other major competitor in a state of relative disarray, the market is ready for a fresh approach.  The One Cisco strategy offers such an approach.     



Enter "4i1a" on The Collaboration Code game  page to put you one step closer to winning an iPad! For more  information (and another code!) read about The  Collaboration Code.

but a host of rouge hotspots does a wireless network break.


Earlier this week at the WWDC conference for Apple during a live demonstration of the latest iPhone 4 capabilities, Steve Jobs experienced a "Wi-Fi meltdown" of epic proportions.  However, this is not a unique situation as there was also a demonstration failure of Google TV and from personal experience at many a conference wireless connectivity is problematic and as according to Murphy's Law at the worst possible time.  The tragedy is the network is both responsible and not responsible at the same time; responsible because it couldn't handle the load and adapt to the interference and not responsible because it was never designed and intended to handle the load and vast amount of available hotspots placed on it.


So what can be done?


First and foremost is planning.  Define the purpose and users of the network.  Understand and speculate worst case scenarios and build a foundation designed to support them.  Consider needed coverage and with the number of wi-fi enabled devices a single user may carry on them.  Far to often the network is an afterthought and planning is minimal with the belief that another box or two added to the network will fix everything.


Second is compare and select a wireless standard and with that it's best to select a single vendor.  This ensures that IT personnel are trained and often certified with the skills to administer and troubleshoot the network.  In an open environment such as a tradeshow you will find many different vendor products, but a single vendor foundation will provide a greater level of control and allow you to set the standard for the clients to access the network.


Finally do not discount the network and the services it has to offer.  You may be of the mindset that a network, especially one with a lot of activity, should be a big, fat, dumb pipe, but you'll find network-based services bring a lot of value such as:

  • RF spectrum analysis for automated adaption against radio frequency interference.  The main issue at the noted conferences.
  • Context aware services to locate WAPs and client devices, as well as deliver presence information which has endless possibilities in a mobile environment.
  • Security and policy services to ensure not only your wireless network is secure, but also protect the clients accessing it.  In the case of our WWDC example policies could have been implemented in the network that would have ensured a desired quality of experience for Mr. Jobs.


In closing, enterprise architecture is more then just design, it's strategy.  If you want best practices for designing a wireless network there are plenty of resources such as Cisco Validated Design guides for mobility  If you want a strategic wireless deployment, even if it's only for a short time, understand the capabilities you require, determine the best way to deploy, make available and administer those capabilities and bring in the expertise to roll them out the right way the first time so you can build upon them and extend them to deliver greater business value.


Enter "uaby" on The Collaboration Code game page to put you one step closer to winning an iPad! For more information (and another code!) read about The Collaboration Code.


****** Background Information about the   Collaboration Architecture Blog Series ******


This blog is part of the  Collaboration Architecture  Blog series.  View the brief  video below to find out what  this blog series is, and why you should  read, subscribe, and post your  feedback. View   all posts in this series.


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For that last year, I've been spending a lot of time talking about Cisco Services' approach to developing holistic collaboration strategies and architectures.  Overall, the conversations have been great, filled with a lot of positive feedback.  So the thought occured to me that I should probably spend some time taking my presentation and the accompanying talking points and organize them into a white paper that could be shared with whoever was interested in reading about the topic.


I gathered up my various presentations and notes, set aside some signifcant blocks of time in my calendar and dedicated myself to completing the paper - which I eventually did over the course of a few long days (and some even longer nights).  After a couple rounds of internal peer review, I had my completed draft.


So off to marketing I went with hopes of having a polished, published version available to share with the world in just a matter of weeks.  Marketing's response:  "content looks great, we'll look to have this go through the publishing process in time for November."


"November?!", I said,  Wow, that was a reality check in Cisco publishing logistics I was not expecting.


I'm working some angles to see if we can get my paper moved up in the schedule, but needless to say I am looking at months, not weeks, before it gets published.  So while the world anxiously awaits, I figured I would provide a small preview.


One of the first things I discuss when speaking about collaboration is why it's different than other technology initiatives.  By focusing on the considerations that an organization must account for when evaluating collaboration initiatives, it creates an interactive dialogue that allows stakeholder from Business and IT to realize that they must both play an active role if they are going to develop a successful collaboration strategy.


If you're interested in the following passage from the paper, you'll most likely also be interesting in reading about why we consider a holistic architecture approach to be critical to any collaborative analysis and the steps we feel are crucial to developing a collaboration strategy which is both business AND technology relevant.  Enjoy:


Considerations for Collaboration

As a domain, Collaboration is unique in its potential to impact every employee, business partner and customer.  While recent advances in collaborative technologies have brought an increased awareness and focus to the discipline, it is important to recognize that the process of collaboration already exists within every enterprise, large and small.  Collaboration has been occurring long before personal computers, smartphones and video solutions entered the workplace.   However, today’s environment is providing an extraordinary opportunity to reevaluate and transform the ways in which enterprises collaborate.


Collaboration is much more than just technology.  Collaboration is more than a technical architecture, a solution, or product—it’s the transformational journey and experience that integrates people, processes, and technology.  Collaboration is the catalyst for evolving from simply using technology to re-thinking business; changing process; and adapting culture.  As a result, holistic collaboration strategy and architecture must account for and address not only the technology, but how solutions impact an organization’s process and culture.


Successful collaboration cannot be viewed as a ‘One Size Fits All’ proposition.  It becomes critical to evaluate and understand both internal (e.g., Executives, Sales, Knowledge Workers, etc.) and external (e.g., Customers, Suppliers, Vendors, etc.) roles in order to develop strategies and architectural solutions which meet those unique communication / collaboration requirements.  For example, a highly mobile sales force will likely have a very different collaboration profile than your typical desk-bound knowledge workers.  Additionally, understanding the complexities within a given industry vertical must also be considered.  For instance, collaborative solutions effective within Media and Entertainment enterprises may have minimal, if any, applicability within the heavily regulated world of Financial Services.


User adoption is the true indicator of collaboration success.  Unlike other technology based initiatives, simply deploying a collaboration solution does not signal success.  Successful collaboration relies on the ‘network effect’ which states that a product or service’s value increases as more people use it.  Before a collaboration initiative can deliver any value it must have active participants – the more people using, the more potential value.  However, without a clear alignment to business imperatives / objectives, collaborative technologies risk becoming isolated islands of functionally.  The result: deployed capabilities struggle to gain traction and adoption within the organization; anticipated benefits fall short of expectations; increased operational complexity and overhead for IT organizations.



****** Background Information about the  Collaboration Architecture Blog Series ******


This blog is part of the  Collaboration Architecture Blog series.  View the brief  video below to find out what this blog series is, and why you should  read, subscribe, and post your feedback. View  all posts in this series.


Posts to the Collaboration Architecture Blog are made at least once a month.   Subscribe  via RSS feed so you don't miss the next one.

This past weekend Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) proposed legislation that will require companies to inform their customers when their calls are being transferred to a location outside of the U.S.  The companies that transfer those calls to an offshore call center will be charged an excise tax of $0.25 per call.  The result of the bill, according to Senator Schumer, will be to keep call center jobs in the U.S. as well as to provide incentive for those companies that have already outsourced jobs overseas to bring those jobs back home.


The use of off-shore contact centers has had its share of controversy over the years and legislators have not missed the opportunity to tap into public sentiment.  Several years ago it was discovered that a few agents in an off-shore contact center were using callers’ personal information to run an identity theft ring.  Once the ring was discovered and broken up there was a great deal of public concern regarding the safety of information provided to call centers.  As a result, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced Senate Bill S.2553, known at the time as the “Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act of 2006.”


Senate Bill S.2553 required employees at a call center to disclose their physical location and offer a domestic alternative to an offshore customer service agent.  In other words, callers had to be told that their call was being transferred to an offshore facility but if they wanted to wait, their call would be transferred to a domestic agent.  The expected trade-off was timeliness in that it was thought that the queue would always be shorter to speak to an offshore agent.


Despite public pressure for more legislation to protect private information, Senate Bill S.2553 never became law.  The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation but no further action was taken and it was eventually cleared from the books.


In March of 2007 a similar bill was introduced in Congress.  H.R. 1776, the “Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act” was worded almost exactly the same as Senate Bill S.2553.  H.R. 1776 was brought before subcommittee for hearings in September of 2007 but failed to be referred to the house for vote.  Similar to its Senate predecessor, H.R. 1776 was eventually abandoned.


The bill introduced this week by Senator Schumer may stand a better chance of a different outcome than previous bills.  With U.S. unemployment hovering at around ten percent, contact center jobs have much greater appeal than they once did.  Senator Schumer may find himself with the power of a recession-weary population supporting this bill to bring American jobs back to the U.S.  In the case of call center legislation, the third time may truly be a charm. 

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