Cisco’s Golf Game – Collab 10

With Collab Release 10 Cisco has hit a par, birdie, and one ball is still in the air.

The par is Collaboration Edge.  Candidly – this capability is required to be on an even playing field with Microsoft Lync.  This capability allows an employee to take their client from the office to their house, to anywhere in-between – and have it just work.  Cisco’s previous position was to require users to use a VPN client – whether theirs or someone else’s, to connect to the on premise equipment including Unified Communications Manager, Unity Connection, and more.  I’m thrilled and relieved that Cisco has finally relented on that view to allow employees to have a client that just works regardless of where they are.  Matt Rehm did a fantastic write-up about that here.

The birdie – at least in theory is Intelligent Proximity.  Intelligent Proximity is the name given to a set of features including the ability to dynamically synch your mobile device contacts with an endpoint, the ability to use a mobile device to dynamically control an endpoint, and the ability for an endpoint to know you are near and use your mobile device as a second screen for content sharing.  Features like these are what customers ask for, that previously we’ve had to nod and smile in agreement that that would be cool.  Now we have the ability to say yes – you can make video a personal experience, using your personal mobile devices.  Let’s face it – would I rather have an interface for a endpoint on my personal device that I’m attached to and carry everywhere – or on an interface that everyone shares.  Intelligent Proximity is using technology not expected today – it is not bluetooth, it is another technology that has not yet been announced.  Imagine for a minute, the experience Intelligent Proximity offers you.  You walk into a conference room, and launch an app on your iPad.  The app automatically pairs with and figures out which room you are in, so when you call the person or bridge using your iPad, you are automatically controlling the endpoint you are sitting in front of.  You place a call using your call history, or by searching in a directory.  Once on the call, the other party starts presenting.  The slides being presented are not only pushed to the conference screen, but to your mobile devices as well.  If you want to grab a copy of a slide – you simply capture it on your mobile device.  This is fantastic functionality – that has the potential to give users a new and intuitive experience – something lacking in video conferencing for the last 20 years.

For now – Intelligent Proximity is:

  •      Sharing of contacts with a room system video endpoint
  •      Sharing of contacts with a personal device like a high end phone/video endpoint
  •      Ability to dynamically control an endpoint from a phone app
  •      Ability to view and interact with content while on a video call
  •      Ability to control cell phone from a desk phone device – just like you would in your car

I say this is a birdie in theory because until the product ships, it would be naive to call it a success.  I can say the demo was a smashing success at the Collab Partner Summit, and will be the focus of much of the “buzz” at Enterprise Connect in March.

The ball still in the air is Jabber Guest.  Jabber Guest is Cisco’s long anticipated offering to match and surpass Skype’s simplicity for connecting consumers with enterprises.  The vision is simple – connect people using a web browser.  No more need for specialized hardware.  Instead use native browser capabilities across any device and any platform.  Skip the need to install special software, or even plugins.  Connect grandma and her investment advisor as simply and richly as grandma calling her grandkids on FaceTime.  Connect your customers to your support staff as easily and richly as they call their kids.  The reason this ball is in the air is we’ll need to see how the market really reacts to this in the short term.  I have no doubt this will be important in the future – but neither was Apple doubtful about tablets when they launched Newton.  Is the market ready to adopt this NOW?  We’ll know better in 18 months.  Amazon is trying it out with Mayday, but they have the advantage of owning all the assets in the conversation.  Cisco is looking to provide the platform, and wants their customers to provide the use cases.

The Eye of the Storm

I’m looking forward to the Cisco Partner Collaboration Summit this week.  Not only for the technology, but also for the interaction with key Cisco Execs who are setting the vision and driving the strategy.  Cisco seems to be in an interesting place right now in Collaboration.  To be honest, it feels like we are in a lull, kind of like the eye of the storm knowing that things are about the change drastically just like they did in the past.

When Microsoft first entered the UC market a few years back, there was a lot of noise, positioning, and preparation for “The coming battle of platforms”. The initial hype and excitement seems to be behind us, and Microsoft looks to be positioning on several fronts.  Do they finally become a hardware company? Who is their new chief and what is the long term vision? How do they keep desktop relevance?  I continue to be interested in what their next move is because it is now a fact that they are in my accounts, positioning for the same platform as I am.  This is no longer “news” – it is simply the competitive landscape.  I’ve watched Lync give their best pitch and understand that it isn’t some magical software that is going to have my cake and eat it too.  The market seems to sense that Lync isn’t ready, but they still aren’t committed to Jabber.

Our clients continue to move forward in deployments, however all deployments wrestle with the “on prem or cloud” decision at some level.  This too is slowing the market down as manufacturers, partners, and organizations reassess the overall delivery of IT Services.  Talk about big questions for an IT Consultant.

As we exit the eye of the storm and move past this “reassess” stage, what do you think will be top priority for Cisco and others?  (Martin deBeers just walked past, and while I could have asked him, I figured he’d be badgered with questions starting soon enough, so I let him off the hook.)

Everyone is Missing the Boat

After sitting through keynotes by nearly all the main manufacturers at UC Strategies this week, I come away saddened that collaboration vendors are startlingly blind to the obvious.

Three quick questions for you to answer:
#1 – How many times have you used text (SMS) messaging on your cell phone?
#2 – How many people do you know that use SMS as their primary communication medium?
#3 – How many large UC vendors are embedding SMS into their solutions to allow employees to use SMS as a medium for normal communications?

Now let’s compare your answers to industry stats:

#1 – SMS is huge, and getting bigger. While some argue that apps on top of phones are overtaking SMS, that report includes apps (notably iMessage) that emulates a SMS interaction, and falls back to SMS in the event the app’s message doesn’t go through.
Informa estimates that SMS Messaging to reach for 19.5 BILLION messages per DAY in 2013.

#2 – In ALL age categories – CNN reports that Americans are sending and receiving more text messages than phone calls on their mobile phones. The younger the age group, the more dramatic the ratio (88 text vs. 17 calls for ages 18-29).
Interestingly a TIME survey shows that 32% of respondents would rather use text messages instead of voice calls. Either that means people wish they could use video as well, or not everyone realizes how much they actually are using texts!

#3 – According to my research – no manufacturer has embedded SMS into their native chat clients, or included SMS capability in their “Single” number forwarding/forking/etc. capabilities. Know of any that I’m missing?

Planning to upgrade to the iPhone5?

You may be planning to upgrade to an iPhone 5 on the rumored release date of September 21st (announcement expected September 12th).
If you don’t know what to do with your existing phone, check out www.gazelle.com which buys used tech.

As you know the current phones will drop in value as soon as the iPhone 5 is available, however what has me interested about Gazelle is they will commit to a price now, and let you ship it up until the end of September after you have your iPhone 5 in hand.

Can’t give them the total vouch as I haven’t gone through the process yet but I’m planning to on this go around and will be happy to report back to anyone else interested!

Has anyone else used this service before?

What is your Return on Luck?

Perhaps my favorite chapter in Jim Collins and Morten Hansen’s recent book – “Great by Choice” is his chapter titled “Return on Luck”.

“Great by Choice” is Jim’s latest book that attempts to answer the question – “Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?”
If you’ve read any of Jim’s previous books (How the Mighty Fall, Good to Great, Built to Last) you know that his research is thorough, insightful, and compelling.

In his typical leave no stone unturned research style, Jim and team researched the impact of luck to see if luck caused either the success of failures of the companies his team was studying.
The evidence shows that bad luck can not be blamed for the comparison companies that faltered in rough times.
Likewise, the evidence also shows that good luck can not be praised for the “10X” or good example companies that thrived during rough times.

The book does discuss however, a concept called “Return on Luck” which I find to be very compelling.
Essentially the companies that thrived were able to turn bad luck into something positive, and capitalize more completely on good luck.

Two examples show what I mean, first an example of bad luck.
Progressive Insurance (and all insurance companies in California) were hit with an extreme law in 1988 that essentially forced them to lower their prices by 20%. This law was passed by voters because of incredibly negative perceptions of insurance companies. As Ralph Nader (who helped the bill be passed) told Peter Lewis (then CEO of Progressive) — voters hate you.
Having a law passed that forces you to slash your prices by 1/5th due to an outrage against your industry can be called bad luck.
What Progressive did with this, helps show why they thrived during rough times.
The CEO of Progressive took the message directly to his company. “Our customers actually hate us.” What a good way to start a meeting.
Progressive turned their focus to making auto insurance claims as easy and painless as possible.
They rolled out mobile claims adjusters to come to you for an adjustment.
They rolled out a simple policy – 24x7x365 service.
Over the next 14 years, Progressive took this turn of bad luck, and literally capitalized on it – going from 13th in the industry in 1987 to 4th in the industry in 2002.

On the flip side, good luck can be squandered if you are not ready and disciplined to be able to pounce on it.

AMD had several bouts of good luck in the mid 1990′s.

* The market was desperate for an alternative to the dominant and monopolistic Intel.

* AMD was given rights to clone Intel’s x86 architecture by a federal judge

* IBM stopped shipments due to a PR nightmare for Intel – errors in the 1994 flagship Pentium 5 chip.

* They were able to buy a competitive chip maker and turn out the AMD K6 which was rated faster than the competing Intel Pentium Pro
* The entire PC market moved toward sub $1,000 PC’s which favored AMD’s price conscious marketing

Even through those luck windfalls, AMD wasn’t able to capture more than spurts of momentum due to lack of readiness for success.
According to Great by Choice – AMD’s stock over 70% behind the general market from 1995 through 2002.

I’ll close with two calls to action:

1. Apply discipline and consistency to your life and organization NOW, so that you can fully capitalize on good luck when it happens
2. When hit with bad luck, ask how you can use the bad luck to your advantage

What’s next for Jabber?

From my view, it seems like Jabber is starting to really take hold in the hearts and minds of the customers I speak with.

Getting a clear picture of Jabber is the first step in this, so if you are fuzzy on what exactly Jabber is, spend 3 minutes on this post and watch the quick video.

 

I’ve been spending more time traveling recently, and as I flew to Texas for meetings, I had some time to reflect on what capabilities are most lacking in Jabber.

By the end of the year I expect Cisco to be nearly complete on their vision of the same core capabilities across device platforms.

That begs the question – what should Cisco focus on for their next phase of development on Jabber?

That is the question I would like to to consider with this capabilities request.

It is great that Jabber runs on so many platforms – either natively or using third-party products (like Polycom, Apple, and more).

The biggest downside to that however is, my experience and history doesn’t move between devices.

The Jabber clients need to have a shared MEMORY, and be LOCATION aware.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

 

SHARED MEMORY

I was at a Cisco office a few weeks ago, and meeting up with a co-worker for lunch following the meetings at Cisco.

Naturally I was logged into Jabber on my Mac, and got the address and name of the restaurant we were going to be meeting at.

After I left Cisco, I realized I wanted to double-check the address as I was unfamiliar with the territory.

Out came my phone, and I logged into Jabber IM on the iPhone.

Unfortunately – all the messages from the Mac…were on the Mac, not on my iPhone’s client.

As we use mobile devices more, it will become more and more intolerable for information to be tied to the device it was created on.

Therefore – my feature request for the Jabber brand is that you add a SHARED MEMORY to the list of capabilities.

Let the products (Jabber for Mac, Jabber for PC, etc.) be aware of each other, let them inform each other of my preferences, behavior, and communications.

Let them sync my messages so that I have access to my communication history across the Jabber brand, not in a single product.

Products that sync across products/devices already exist and are widely available today – Evernote, DropBox, Box, VMware’s Octopus, etc.

Worst case – Cisco should buy Evernote and stuff it inside Jabber! :)

 

LOCATION

For a long time I was reticent to embrace location capabilities in my personal and work apps, however I’m quickly finding new uses for this capability and look forward to it making its way to enterprise applications.

For instance, this morning I met with a co-worker at Starbucks, but was unfamiliar with the area.  I got to the Starbucks I thought we were going to, and checked in on Foursquare.  My coworker texted me to let me know he was running about 10 minutes behind, and I was able to have him verify on Foursquare that the location I was checked in at was the right Starbucks.  Location quickly accessible on a mobile app is very useful.

 

The SUM is GREATER.

The real power comes when you can combine both location awareness and a shared memory.  As a simple scenario – I could walk into a conference room, “check in” on a mobile device or my laptop, and have a video call that is scheduled for ME, not for a ROOM, appear on the telepresence unit in the room.  This takes Cisco’s vision around Quad – “collaboration activities should center around people, not documents” and extends it across the overall portfolio.

At this point, we could add one more capability to Jabber’s repertoire - INTELLIGENCE.

What is Cisco Jabber?

I’ve seen (and admittedly spread) some confusion about Cisco Jabber in the past couple of years.

About 6 months ago I built a quick training for my team to try to provide a clear and simple answer to the question – “What is Cisco Jabber”?

Since then we’ve added several people so I wanted to make the pitch clear, concise, and…available on demand.

I captured a recording of me giving the explanation and posted my first draft on YouTube.

Imagine my surprise when the video quickly went “mini-viral” hitting 1,000 views within a few days.

Take 3 minutes to watch the very brief, and hopefully very clear answer to “What is Cisco Jabber?”

The power of open standards – Cisco Jabber and Apple OS X Mountain Lion

As you may or may not have heard, Apple has a new OS on the way – “OS X Mountain Lion“.  In this new OS, they are including an updated application for IM/Presence/Chat called Messages (although it may be changed to iMessage to match the app on IOS devices).

Of course this app focuses on FaceTime and iMessage communication to iPads, iPod Touches, iPhones – however like iChat before it you can use it as a client for IM services that use open standards….like Cisco’s Jabber services!

The power of open standards is this.  Use the application you want to use.  When a new one comes out from your favorite computer maker, use it!  If you want to have a single client that ties FaceTime (an Apple proprietary environment) and IM with customers, partners, and co-workers, go for it!  If you want to use the applications from the manufacturer, go for it.  If the manufacturer doesn’t have an application for your desired OS (yet), go for it!

Don’t box yourself into a corner.  Choose open standards.

If you want to try out the new Messages app you can download a beta of it from here.

Below is a quick video of how to setup the Messages app for use with Cisco’s Jabber Connect service.

 

Windows 8 Quick Look

I’ve spent some time with Windows 8 over the past week and have my brief thoughts to share below.

What I Like:

  • Windows 8 natively looks to connect to my total digital world including Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn, Exchange and Facebook.  This is very similar to what Palm OS did several years back which I *loved*.  Palm seemed to pull off the execution better, perhaps because they didn’t have a horse in the race (i.e. MSN).  I would also like to connect to XMPP servers (i.e. Jabber), but Microsoft doesn’t seem to be too willing to share their playground at the moment (more on that in my summary).
  • Dynamic Tiles – this feels like Unified Inbox from Cisco on the Cius which I’m a big fan of.  The Cius version is a bit unpredictable, hopefully that improves and Windows 8 takes cues on algorithms to make it feel very active and predictable.
  • Connectivity to cell phones – LOVED this concept.  If I lock my home computer and can’t remember the password, I can use my cell phone to help reset my home PC’s password.  I expect this is leveraging my MSN account and SMS out capabilities in MSN.  EXCELLENT example of blending of PC’s and mobile devices in real life ways.  Kudos Microsoft. Below is a screen shot.

Dislike:

Disclaimer on the dislikes.  I don’t really mind the technical issues.  This is a preview, and I commend Microsoft on hanging their laundry out on the clothesline before it is completely dry.  I mention them simply to caution – Windows 8 is clearly not yet ready for prime time.

Technical issues.  Clean install wouldn’t work for me with Fusion 4 using 32 bit.  Neither would the 64 bit version which I just attempted.

For those keeping track, here are the two errors I saw on the 32 bit.

And the error seen on 64 bit.

 

Also while adding my Google account the wizard initially failed and required a server address.  Are you kidding – I have NO idea of any google server address!?  After canceling process and trying later it finally worked.

 

UI Issues:

  • No clear search from home “tile screen”? – There should be clear icon (spotlight in Mac anyone) that is visible at all times for search.  My data is far too unwieldy at this point to not use search as a primary and most efficient function.  As it stands, if you hold the mouse (and I assume your finger on a touch screen) in the bottom right – you are rewarded with a search icon.
  • ESC should be a universal “back up one level” button.  I’m actually unclear on what it does, it seems to be sometimes back up one level, and other times akin to Alt-Tab.
  • Likewise, the Windows key seems to be a toggle button which is confusing – I prefer it doing one thing only regardless of where I am.
  • In the mail app – Pressing Delete on a message icon doesn’t delete it.  I have to use the Trash icon.
  • Also in the mail app – there is no “All Mail Accounts” view.  /cough – Microsoft – we are in 2012, not 2007!
  • Also in the mail app (which appears to need lots of work) – there is no “move message to folder” option.

Summary Observations:

  • Windows 8 feels very “consumption” focused.  The tiles update with information about what is happening, there doesn’t seem to be a focus on tiles to create content.  When I sit down in front of a Windows or Mac desktop, I’m doing so to create content.  When I sit down in front of a tablet or mobile phone, I’m doing so to consume content.
  • My final word – As I mentioned above, Microsoft seems to want to force consumers into using their products.  This was cute back in 1997, now it is just stupid and annoying.  The result of the lawsuits Microsoft has suffered have trained consumers that equal choice is expected – trying to now not show common messaging platforms (Google, other XMPP, etc.) and force users into MSN is just begging for another anti-trust lawsuit.

Bonus Tips: (they are tips because they are not obvious in the UI)

  • Right-click on main tiles page brings up “All Apps” at the bottom.  This seems to be essentially the equivalent of the Start Button – without a command line or search still.
  • Hitting the “Desktop” tile – brings you back to “Windows 7″ mode

Get the Windows 8 preview for yourself at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/home

 

Barriers to Collaboration

As more executives look to collaborate to gain value across their organization and not just within individual silos in the organization, it is important to review the most common barriers for collaboration.

Dr. Morten T. Hansen was interviewed for The Collaboration Imperative and spoke about his research on this subject.

He boiled it down to four common barriers for collaboration:

  • Not Invented Here” mentality – and the resulting lack of motivation to collaborate.
  • Hoarding of information
  • Lack of ability to search information
  • Lack of ability to transfer information

When defining a strategy to overcome these barriers, it is important to use the right weapon on the right barrier.

The first two barriers are more cultural in nature, and are best overcome through changes to compensation and cultural norms.  Both changes come as a result of leaders setting the example of the desired behavior.

The “Not Invented Here” mindset can be overcome with compensation tweaks.  For instance, instead of focusing a sales VP with only metrics related to sales, incent their behavior with metrics that tie them to performance in other related areas (i.e., an “On Time Orders” KPI for a manufacturing organization).  This sets the leadership requirement to work outside of their silos, which in turn increases the strength of the overall business and embeds the need for collaboration into the culture.

When looking to attack a hoarding mindset, it is important to start with the basics.  Are there real barriers to sharing of information such as concerns about confidentiality for sensitive information?  I’ve worked with organizations that would not share information outside of the department for fear of that information being leaked to the public or their competition.  For both real legal and compliance and perceived legal or compliance issues, it is crucial to set up clear rules on what information CAN and SHOULD be shared.

The ability to search information is related to the technology or toolsets in use.  Enabling enterprise-wide search of shared documents and e-mail distribution lists is a good start.

Transferring or sharing information is also a technology capabilities issue; however, for seamless transferring and sharing of information, new toolsets should be considered.  Specifically, toolsets that allow sharing of all types of content and discussion, feedback, and prioritization of that content based on an individual’s preferences should be considered.  Cisco Quad is a toolset that allows for simplified information transfer AND excellent search capabilities.

Consider also that you will most likely not face one barrier, but a combination of barriers that need to be dealt with accordingly.

Clearly identifying the barriers should be the first step.

Figuring out which weapon to use to overcome the barriers — and in what order — comes next.