Earlier this year, I was super lucky to have the opportunity to visit some of our very important financial and federal customers in Washington DC and Baltimore. The goal was to conduct user research in order to understand their needs and challenges. It is always so valuable to hear customers’ motivations, opinions, and how they use our product first hand!
Of course, as a product manager, it is rewarding to hear the things that our customers love about Webex: how easy it is to schedule and join a meeting and to easily share content. But, it’s also important to hear the things they would love to see in the future and how they would like to see the product evolve. The customers we interviewed have end-users that use Webex Meetings for all types of different interactions: one-on-one meetings, team meetings, workshops, trainings, quarterly reviews, company all-hands. Most use multiple third-party applications before, during, and after their meetings, and the biggest pain-points they shared were around those transitions.
Simplifying customers’ day in the life
We asked our customers to tell us about their ‘day in the life’ and it was very interesting to see how many different applications they use to get their jobs done. For example, one manager told us that many of her meetings are impromptu as a result of a 1:1 or a group chat. So, for her, switching from her messaging app to starting a meeting on Webex happened many times a day. Everyone we talked to told us how important it is for them to be more efficient and ensure that the tools are simple to use and provide flexibility for their end-users.
Webex has one consistent and simple join meeting experience and the best mobile experience on the market, and now we are making sure that it is integrated with our customers preferred third-party collaboration tools. In my last blog, I shared how our integrations team has been building bridges for Webex and delighting our customers with a seamless end user experience. Today, I would like to tell you about another great project that has been in the works: the Webex Meetings for Microsoft Teams integration.
Boost productivity by bringing the power of Webex Meetings into Microsoft Teams
If you use Microsoft Teams to chat with your colleagues, you will now be able to schedule, start or join your Webex Meetings from without having to sign out of Microsoft Teams. This will definitely make the day in your life much simpler!
Watch the video:
Schedule, start, or join Webex Meetings directly from Microsoft Teams
We have created a Webex tab within Microsoft Teams that is super user friendly. You can schedule a meeting for the channel by selecting ‘Schedule’, then you can fill in all the details in the dialog pop-up. You can even schedule recurring meetings with daily, weekly, monthly and yearly frequency.
You can also start a Webex personal room meeting or a Webex scheduled meeting from the Webex tab. To make it easy, you can invite all channel members by checking the box right under the ‘Start Meeting’ button.
Webex personal tab
To make it even more user friendly, we also added your very own Webex personal tab, which you can quickly get to from the left rail in the Microsoft Teams app. From there, you can schedule meetings with anyone, whether they are in a channel or not.
Upcoming Webex Meetings list
From the ‘Upcoming Meetings’ list on the right side of the Webex tab, you can join your meeting by clicking on the ‘Join’ button, which will be visible once it’s time to join. If you are the host, then you will be also be able to start your meeting from the list.
Notifications in your Webex Tab and in your Microsoft Teams channel
In the Webex tab, in the ‘Upcoming Meetings’ list, if a meeting has started, you can see the meeting time elapsed as well as how many people have already joined the meeting. And when you hover over the ‘People’ icon, you can see their names.
In the Microsoft Teams channel, when a meeting has started from the Webex tab, you get a notification so you can join directly from there.
And when the meeting has ended, you get an end-of-meeting notification in the channel.
If you have recorded your meeting, then you will receive a notification in the channel when the recording is available.
Streamlining your day with Webex
By walking in our customers’ shoes from the first coffee and checking that first message of the day until they are ready to call it a day, I learned that streamlining the various transitions that they need to make throughout their day is definitely key to increasing their productivity. That’s why I am so excited to be able to announce this integration! The Webex Meetings for Microsoft Teams integration and many other integrations that we have been working are creating a cohesive ecosystem with the aim of enhancing our customers’ daily routines.
Webex Meetings update: Deep integrations with Slack and Microsoft Teams, Smarter background noise detection and suppression, and much, much, more…Dec 11 2019 — Connie Tang
You’ve probably heard us talk about building bridges, not islands. With this month’s Webex Meetings updates, you’ll see that we’ve done a lot to bring the power of Webex Meetings into the tools that you regularly use – like Slack, Microsoft Teams, iOS and Samsung devices, IBM Video Cloud, and more. These integrations, along with other features, will make your Webex Meetings experience more delightful, wherever and however you choose to have a meeting. And of course, simplicity of experience is always our top priority!
Checkout innovative updates with Webex Meetings:
- Webex Meetings integrations with Microsoft Teams lets you have a great meeting experience from within a Microsoft Teams channel – from scheduling to joining and recording. When users schedule a meeting, all channel members are invited and become notified of the meeting. All end-of-meeting and recording notifications will also be posted in the channel in real-time. This is pending availability of the new MS Teams app in the Webex App Hub.
- We recently shared integrations that let you experience the whole Webex Meetings lifecycle within Slack. These further improve your meeting experience from within a channel with features such as user status updates, list recordings for hosts, meeting reminders support, and the ability to launch a Personal Room via a dedicated call button.
- Smarter background noise detection and suppression gives you a better audio experience. Webex reduces background noises coming from room video systems while minimizing voice suppression. The balance of these new features allows speech volume to be preserved during noise suppression.
- Easily move your Webex meeting from your phone to desktop with Samsung’s DeX dual-screen support. We recently did a demo of Webex Meetings working on a DeX display at the Samsung Developer Conference. Samsung mobile users can switch between mobile or external monitors while in Samsung DeX Dual Mode and then share their screen to a monitor via HDMI cable. This creates seamless ongoing Webex meeting transitions. One more feature: You can also use Samsung’s Bixby voice commands to join a Webex meeting.
- Share your own video and rear-facing video with dual-camera support on the Webex Meetings Mobile app for iPhones and iPads. With the dual-camera feature, you don’t have to choose between front OR rear cameras. For example, you can have a video call with an expert to troubleshoot a problem at a remote site – like a manufacturing site – and then send your video and the remote site video with the expert in the same video panel. This feature is unique to Cisco.
- Livestream Webex Meetings: You can already live stream a Webex meeting to Facebook, which is a business-to-consumer solution. We’ve recently added the ability to more options to live stream to an enterprise audience. Webex Meetings’ recent integration with vBrick Rev and IBM Cloud Video means you have two additional channels to live stream Webex Meetings for large enterprise audiences, corporate townhalls, webcasts, and training, etc. This feature is currently in beta.
- Recover your video conference quality more quickly after network congestion and packet loss. Network conditions will not always be ideal. We have enhanced our algorithms so that whenever there is network degradation, Webex Meetings will quickly recover from latency and packet loss within a few seconds to maintain a smooth video experience.
- Improved user upgrade experience by decoupling the Webex Meetings desktop app from productivity tool plug-ins like Microsoft Outlook/Office and IBM Lotus Notes. Mac users who do not have administrative rights can now have Webex Meetings desktop app automatically updated. Transitioning to the O365 add-in requires the Outlook plug-in to be uninstalled, so decoupling allows Outlook plug-in to be uninstalled with no impact to the Webex Desktop App.
- Share pictures from the local device file system into Webex Meetings from Android devices. When presenting from your mobile device, you can share photos from your device’s file system and even annotate it on the photos.
10. Take a shortcut into your personal meeting room: Introduced in October, Webex.new is now officially supported with a quick and easy way to get into your Personal Room– right from the browser. Letsmeet.new and mymeet.new will also get you there.
For more details on the Webex Meetings 39.10 update, please visit the Webex Help Portal – What’s New in Webex Meetings Suite (WBS39)
See all the Webex Meetings updates here
As more employees access applications via their home networks, the corporate network perimeter is disappearing, making identity the control plane for effective and secure access across all users and applications. Thanks to integrations between Cisco and Microsoft, our joint customers can achieve seamless and secure access to Cisco Webex with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is Microsoft’s enterprise identity and access management service that helps organizations manage and secure access to critical applications, data and resources. Thousands of organizations use Azure AD to enable secure and seamless access to the applications their workforce needs, including Cisco Webex.
With Azure AD our joint customers can take advantage of capabilities such as:
- Single sign-on to simplify access to all their apps from anywhere
- Risk-based adaptive access policies that safeguard access to applications.
- Identity governance to ensure only authorized users have access to the right apps.
- Unified identity management that centralizes management of identities and applications across the cloud or on-premises.
Secure collaboration with Cisco Webex and Azure AD
Using standard protocols like SAML 2.0, OAuth 2, and SCIM, we’ve built integrations with Microsoft so that identity-related information and data can flow between Azure AD and Cisco Webex Identity Services. This can help ensure secure access to Cisco collaboration tools like Webex Meetings, Webex Teams, Jabber, and more.
With the Cisco Webex and Azure AD integration our customers can enable scenarios such as single sign-on and automated user provisioning.
Cisco Webex Identity Services can deliver single sign-on to all Cisco Webex collaboration tools using Microsoft Azure AD as the identity provider. End users can seamlessly sign-in to Cisco Webex collaboration tools alongside Office 365 with the same credentials. And admins can secure access to Cisco Webex collaboration tools by setting adaptive risk-based policies. For example, admins can set conditional access policies based on the user, location, device, and application to determine whether access to Cisco Webex should be allowed, limited, or blocked.
Automated user provisioning
Using the SCIM standard – System for Cross-domain Identity Management – our joint customers can use our provisioning integration to automate the lifecycle of user and group accounts for Cisco Webex. With our provisioning integration, you can quickly deploy Cisco Webex throughout your organization and keep user data up to date. With automated user provisioning, you can eliminate manual processes when it comes to creating, updating, or disabling employee user accounts within Cisco Webex based on changes in Azure AD.
Office 365 integrations
Many organizations rely on Microsoft 365 as their main productivity tool to get their work done. With our Microsoft 365 integrations, you can connect your calendar and files with Cisco Webex collaboration tools. The Enterprise Content Management integration with OneDrive and SharePoint allows you to view, edit and share files directly in Cisco Webex. You can also connect your Outlook calendar to quickly schedule, start, and join Cisco Webex meetings.
In the coming months, we’ll also be releasing Microsoft Intune support and single sign-on with Azure AD for our mobile apps across iOS and Android. Soon customers will be able to apply device based conditional access policies such as limiting or blocking access to Cisco Webex on an uncompliant device.
We’re excited about bringing these integrations to customers to help increase security while keeping users productive.
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Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series
The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams. Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your remote team into an engaged, creative and productive team no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.
Managing a digital team using Webex Teams
As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries. There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage a digital team using the Webex Teams Platform.
For this blog we will be covering helping unlock your team’s creativity and engagement with infinite whiteboards in Webex Teams.
If you haven’t guessed already, at Cisco Webex, we work remote…. ALOT. We can empathize with what it takes to work remotely better than most companies on the planet. So, when we set out to build tools for our customers, we strive to make the virtual experience just as immersive, engaging and maybe even better than being there in person. One way we do this is by bringing humanity and creativity into the collaboration workflow using what we call, Infinite Whiteboards.
In talking to our customers and looking at ourselves, we know that people collaborate in a lot of different ways. Inside Cisco, we use whiteboards everywhere, it’s just part of our culture. Many would agree that it’s easier to just draw out what you mean to communicate a new idea or a way to think about something different or just have fun. In many of our physical locations, whiteboards are prevalent everywhere, even most of the walls are whiteboards. So, we thought to ourselves, how do we reimagine that very human experience of collaboration and digitize it? Answer, infinite whiteboards.
Get started with whiteboards
Click on the space in Teams that you want to meet/chat in and you will see in the space categories (messages, people, content and schedule), click on Content (green arrow) and then Whiteboards where the maroon arrow is located to get to the whiteboards. From there you can select a new whiteboard from whatever device you happen to be using (laptop, tablet, phone etc) and just start drawing. If you happen to be in a meeting, everyone in the same meeting (virtually or in the same room) will also see and be able to engage with the whiteboard using whatever device they have in their hand or in the room.
Once you have opened up your whiteboard and started working on it with your team, all of the changes you make are automatically saved. Anything you draw, add/remove stickies, etc all are saved magically. Anyone that is invited into the space can pick up where you left off in the whiteboard and continue. This makes working with teams really dynamic and fun. Why is this important? As a manager, you can be much more inclusive with your team members when the tools can help facilitate everyone’s input when and how they want to contribute.
On the bottom right corner of each whiteboard there is a share button. When you select that button, you will be able to Post a Snapshot of that whiteboard into the Teams Space you are in or you can send it out via a text message, email or post to another site as a PDF.
Examples of where to use whiteboards
With my team we often use whiteboards in many of the planning and strategy sessions we do both internally and externally (yes, you can do this too with people outside of your company). However, some other examples of using whiteboards:
- Daily / Weekly stand ups or reviews with the teams
- Project kick offs
- Customer discovery sessions
- Network topologies
- Marketing Events
- Storyboard design
- Executive Workshops
- eLearning / Concept development
Hopefully whiteboards was something that you are able to incorporate into your next remote team building session. Stay tuned for Chapter 4: Webex Teams and Microsoft, the sweetest thing.
Creating digital teams in Webex Teams series
The “Creating Digital Teams in Webex Teams” series we will spotlight techniques in managing and inspiring remote and #WFH teams. Learn how the Webex Platform and Webex Teams can help transform your team into an engaged, creative and productive no matter if people are across the hall, town or globe.
Managing a digital team using Webex Teams
As a people manager at Cisco, I manage a team spread across multiple time zones and countries. There are many #WFH resources out there these days but for this series of blogs I thought I would focus on how to build and manage a digital team using the Webex Platform with Webex Teams.
Connecting your team
First, what is Webex Teams? Webex Teams is what I consider my collaboration “nerve center” where all of the people I work with, the apps I use, and the meetings/tasks/workflows associated to getting work done are located. Its where all of the activities before, during and after meetings can live, and, if done right, you can shorten your meetings and maybe not have as many meetings throughout your day but everyone can be on the same page regardless where they are located. Here are just a few pointers to get you started.
Get some space
Go here and learn about and setup your Webex Teams account. Next, you will need some Space. Yes, everyone needs a little space. A space in Webex Teams is like a virtual huddle room you can have with 1 to as many people as you want where you can message each other, share files, co edit files you have in OneDrive and Google, post pictures, GIFs, and capture all of the activities before, during and after a meeting on Webex. At Cisco, we use Microsoft OneDrive, Sharepoint and Smartsheet a lot and within Webex Teams it brings everyone’s ability to co create content, materials and projects in a much more efficient manner. (screen shot of ecm integration or video link)
Create a space and a meeting in one step
As a best practice I setup a space in Teams, in this case “Joshua Tree Project”( highlighted in a yellow box in the picture), that could be about a particular topic/idea/outcome with a group of people (which could include partners and suppliers – notice the external user in the invite) and schedule the initial meeting in just a one step process.
If you have Calendar services enabled with Webex Teams you can create a Webex Teams space automatically from your meeting calendar invites from Outlook or Google:
1. Create a meeting invite in Outlook / Google and invite the people you want to the meeting
2. In the location field, type in @webex:space
3. Hit Send.
Then, auto”magically” your Webex Teams space will have all of your participants and meeting title as the name of the space. That’s it, chat, message, call, meet, share with your team.
Create a virtual watercooler with your team (internal and/or external members)
In this time of uncertainty, people are feeling isolated at times and that can cause stress and anxiety. To help bring a sense of community and togetherness, at Cisco we have leveraged Webex Teams to create “Ask Rooms”. An Ask Room is just like a virtual watercooler in your office. People can post messages, questions and others can respond with reactions, answers etc. At Cisco we have found the level of engagement in these rooms is pretty high and people love to keep in touch with each other. And better yet, create an ASK space with your customers/partners too, you will be surprised how much a little TLC can go! As a customer and partner obsessed organization, we on average have 30-40% of our spaces with external, outside of Cisco, participants. This helps diversify our community and accelerates new ideas.
Simply create a space with a topic that you feel would have a wide audience, invite people to it and invite the EURL bot (email@example.com) to help provide a URL link for users in your company to discover and join by sharing the link on an intranet page or email. For smaller groups, you can create a Team within Webex Teams and add people as members, then as you add more Ask spaces, everyone will get invited and aware of the space.
If you have a watercooler type room with your immediate team, keep things light. On my team we often share pictures from our weekends, family event and we even have a goat farmer in the tribe that keeps us updated on best practices in raising goats (and yes, I mean real goats).
Be genuine and be yourself
In work, as in the rest of our lives, being recognized is just an important as the work itself and having each other’s back is important. This idea is even more with working remote where giving the extra pat on the back or seeing someone in the hallway and letting them know you appreciate what they did doesn’t happen easily when everyone is virtual.
Within Webex Teams we have the ability for people to add GIFs and reactions to messages within context along with notification of who left the reaction etc. Keeping things light within the Team is important these days, don’t you agree? (pic of reactions in teams, thumbs up, celebration emoji etc).
Stay active, have fun
It can be really hard to balance communicating to others if you are available or not and where you could be located at any one time. Many times, I am in a meeting or sharing my desktop or other times I need some quiet time to get some work. The problem that occurs is then people start messaging/interrupting/calling it can be really difficult to get anything done. This is where Webex Team’s presence really shines.
Webex Teams can automatically show if you are away from your app, if you are in a Webex meeting, sharing your desktop and even on a phone call. Secondly as a user I can create custom statuses (screen shot below) to my community so they know either where I am located, if I need some quiet time or if there is an important message I want them to know. For me personally this has brought much needed balance back into my workday as I can feel connected to the team and vice versa without having to sacrifice my mental well being.
Well, that’s a few pointers for now. The next blog post will be Chapter 2: Stay (Faraway, So Close) covering co creation tools built right into Webex Teams.
Pop out chats and spaces (Windows and Mac)
We all love multi-tasking, and this feature will help us do exactly that. Now, you can pop out multiple chats and spaces into new Webex Teams windows. This allows you to focus on those important spaces and conversations without getting distracted by other unread spaces or notifications. This option will be available in the right click menu in your space list, as well as being a quick double click away!
Links! Get your links here! (Windows and Mac)
No more scrolling through chats and spaces in search of those important links or URLs. We’re saving everyone lots of time by collecting all links sent in a space and putting them into a dedicated place. You can find this fantastic new feature by going to your in-space menu (the three dots button menu on the top right or every space) and selecting ‘Links’.
Peek in a Space (Windows and Mac)
Catch up on those unreads later! This feature is for those situations where you see you have an unread message in a space but know you don’t have time to follow up on it yet. You will now be able to right click and select ‘peek in space’ to view the space without marking it as read or sending a read receipt. Performing any actions in the space will take you out of peek mode, as will opening the space as normal.
Out of sight, out of mind – Hide Spaces (Windows and Mac)
We all have those spaces that we no longer need to be part of, but don’t exactly want to leave them just yet either. This month, we are introducing ‘Hide Spaces’, a feature which will allow you to apply a filter to those spaces. This means you can remove a space from your main space list and into a dedicated filter ‘Hidden Spaces’ where you can find it again later if you need too. Doing this means you will no longer receive notifications from that space, allowing you to focus on the important things.
Link your Online Folders to a Space (Windows and Mac)
Webex Teams users now have the option to link existing Microsoft OneDrive and Sharepoint Online folders to spaces. This means we can quickly get to files that are important to your team. Depending on how your admin sets this up, all files shared in the space could be automatically uploaded to the linked folder. Or, you can choose whether to share in the space, or upload to the folder.
Jira Cloud Bot – now with Buttons & Cards (Windows and Mac)
Keep your projects running on schedule with the newly updated Jira Cloud bot for Webex Teams. Now supporting the Buttons & Cards framework, creating and updating Jira issues directly from Webex Teams using the Jira Cloud bot has never been easier. Add it to your Webex Teams and try it out today!
Trello Bot – now with Buttons & Cards (Windows and Mac)
Due date changed? Comment added? With real-time notifications from the Trello bot for Webex Teams, all members of the team can stay in the know. Now supporting the new Buttons & Cards framework, the updated Trello Bot easily allows you to update and create new Trello Cards and Lists directly from Webex Teams itself. Add it to your Webex Teams and try it out today!
Join Meetings Using your Cisco DX Series or your Desk Phone (Windows and Mac)
Is your DX or desk phone registered to Unified CM? You could already make calls using your personal device and now with this update, you can use it to join your meetings. Connect to your personal device and use it to connect to meetings. You can control the meeting from Webex Teams and share content into the meeting.
Share Your Screen While on a Call using Calling in Webex Teams – Webex Calling (Windows and Mac)
If your organization supports this calling integration, you can now share your screen when you call someone else with a Webex Teams account.
Organize your Spaces (Windows and Mac)
Now you have the option to choose how you view your spaces. You can keep spaces all in one list or you can add tabs to organize your spaces. The tabs allow you to view all your spaces, to see a list of spaces with just one person, or to view a list of spaces with groups of people. You’ll be able to easily switch between these views using a new preference in the Filters list.
Quick Access to Preferences (Windows and Mac)
We’re adding some appearance preferences to the Filters list. You can already show your favourite spaces on top and now we’re adding this preference to the Filters menu list. You can quickly switch to see your favourite spaces on top or not and select to separate chats and spaces.
Buttons and Cards (iOS and Android)
A few months ago, we introduced buttons and cards, a feature that makes it much easier for Webex Teams users to share complex information with bots and applications by using form-filling features like drop-down menus, radio buttons, and free from text fields. The response to Buttons and Cards has been overwhelmingly positive, however, the same question keeps getting asked: “Where are they on my mobile client?”
This update sees Buttons and Cards now rendering on both iOS and Andriod. If you are a developer who creates Webex Teams bots, take a look here: https://developer-portal-intb.ciscospark.com/blog/new-buttons-cards-webex-teams to see how you can enhance your bot for greater usability with this convenient feature. It now works on all Webex Teams clients!
Calling in Webex Teams – Unified CM (iPhone, iPad, and Android)
If your organization supports this calling integration, you can use Webex Teams with your work number. So, you can call co-workers within your organization using their phone numbers (or mobile numbers) wherever you can make calls in the app. Or, call other people outside of your organization directly using the phone keypad. People can call you at your work number, and you can answer while on the go.
Calling in Webex Teams – Webex Calling (iPhone, iPad, and Android)
We’re bringing our cloud calling features available in Webex Calling to Webex Teams. If your organization uses Webex Calling, you can use the Webex Teams mobile app for your basic calling needs. So, you can call co-workers within your organization using their work numbers (or mobile numbers) wherever you can make calls in the app. Plus, you can call other people outside of your organization directly using the phone keypad. People can call you at your work number, and you can answer while on the go.
Create, Annotate, and Share Whiteboards (iPhone, iPad, and Android)
We’re excited to bring these beloved whiteboarding features back to our mobile apps! You’ll be able to create, annotate, and share when you’re in a meeting or if you’re just sharing them in a space.
Show Previous Space Name when Space Name is changed (Windows and Mac)
Now when you rename a space, the previous space name appears in the note in the message area. This helps anyone in the space to see a history of the space name changes.
Support for Local Calendars (iPhone, iPad, and Android)
If your administrator enables Cisco Webex Hybrid Calendar Service, you can view your local calendar on your mobile device to the calendar in Webex Teams.
Buttons and Cards (iPhone and Android)
We released support for buttons and cards on desktop a couple of months ago, and now we’re making it easier for you to interact with bots and integrations in Webex Teams for mobile too. When your bot sends information in a space that includes a card with buttons, you can now easily interact with it. For example, with a Jira bot, you can quickly create or update tickets right from Webex Teams.
Automatically Reduce Video Sizes when Sending Messages (Android)
We’re adding a setting to let you reduce the video sizes so you can limit your data usage when connected over your cellular service rather than Wi-Fi. (We released this for iPhone and iPad on July 31, 2019.
Try team collaboration tool, Webex Teams, today!
Calling in Webex Teams – Webex Calling (Windows and Mac)
Cloud calling features currently available in Webex Calling are coming to Webex Teams! That’s right, if your organization uses Webex Calling, you can now use your Webex Teams app for those basic calling needs. This means you can call teammates and colleagues within your organization by using their work or mobile phone numbers. You can also call people outside of your organisation directly just by using the phone keypad.
Find your Filters Faster! (Windows and Mac)
Filters just became a lot more accessible! Before this update, filters for your space list were found under the search box in the app. They have now been moved to a new position on the top right just above your space list and under the search box. This means that it will be that much easier to filter your spaces by unread, mentions, and so on.
Link your Online Folders to a Space (Windows and Mac)
Webex Teams users now have the option to link existing Microsoft OneDrive and Sharepoint Online folders to spaces. This means we can quickly get to files that are important to your team. Depending on how your admin sets this up, all files shared in the space could be automatically uploaded to the linked folder. Or, you can choose whether to share in the space, or upload to the folder.
A New Look for Webex Teams (Windows and Mac)
We are introducing a new default theme in Webex Teams. This theme makes the app easier to use as well as improving readability and helping us to expand inclusivity to all our users. If you want to choose from one of our other themes, you can find them all under Settings > Appearance (Windows) or Preferences > Appearance (Mac).
For more information on this check out this blog.
Cisco Headsets Support (Windows and Mac)
If you have a Cisco Headset 500 Series, you can now use it to handle your calls or join Webex Teams meetings. You can mute or unmute yourself directly from the headset during calls or meetings, as well as put yourself on hold while on a call.
No more interruptions – Unified CM (Windows and Mac)
With this update, you will no longer get interrupted by incoming call notifications in Webex Teams. This will come in handy if you’re on a call and sharing your screen. This will also work if you have set your status to ‘Do Not Disturb’.
Sit back and enjoy the ride with our Webex Teams June update. There is so much happening this month within our team collaboration tool…
Threading – chat within a chat!
It’s here! With our June update comes the highly anticipated Threading feature. We understand that sometimes context can be lost within a space with a lot of participants, especially if the message relevant to you was sent hours ago. Now, it will be possible to reply directly to someone’s message, no matter where or when it was sent in a space.
Replies in threaded messages are composed similarly to normal messages, you can include rich text formatting, emojis, and GIFs. These replies are written in an overlay which appears when you click ‘reply to thread’. Take a look at what’s coming below:
Unified Communications Manager in Webex Teams
In March of this year, we saw some Unified CM features appear in Webex Teams in preview-only. This month, the integration is complete, and Cisco Unified Communication Manager native Webex Teams registration will be made available to all, allowing you to seamlessly re-use your existing infrastructure to link your Webex Teams to your work phone. This means you will be able to use Webex Teams to call people inside or outside of the organization using their phone (or mobile) numbers.
Numbers can be input directly into the desktop app using the keypad. This means you can put calls on hold, merge, or transfer calls without needing to leave the app.
Now, your team can use Teams to order that Friday pizza!
Cognitive Collaboration is here!
We are all very excited to announce the release of People Insights in Webex Teams. People Insights allows you to see relevant and useful information about people before you meet them. Without leaving Webex Teams, you can get an insight into who this person is professionally, where they are based, and much more. Having this information at your fingertips allows you to collaborate more effectively when you meet someone for the very first time, thus allowing you to builda better relationship right from the beginning.
To access People Insights in Webex Teams, you hover over some’s avatar or name to bring up their contact card. The contact card will have an extra option now, right next to ‘Message’ and ‘Call’, which will allow to you view a user’s ‘People Insights Profile’.
People Insights only displays publicly available information in these profiles, similar to what can be found with a quick search engine result for a person’s name. If you’re meeting someone from your own company for the first time, you’ll get lots of additional information like their title, contact info and reporting structure.
See Your Favorites First
Get to those important spaces faster! We’ve split out our space list view to place your ‘Favorite’ spaces at the top of the list, while the others will appear below. This will allow you to see at a glance if there are any unread messages in these favorite spaces. Please note that this feature is off by default and can be enabled through your app settings!
Introducing On-Premise Webex Devices
‘On-Premises’ and ‘Cloud’ are confusing words which we hear thrown around way too often nowadays. Why does it matter if my device is On-Prem/Cloud? I just want to join the meeting on the big screen! Now, we’ve made it easier for you do just that, without having to worry about how everything is connected.
We’ve been able to use cloud-registered Webex devices along with Webex Teams, and now you can automatically connect to on-prem Webex Devices in the same way, using the same Wi-Fi network.
Connect, wirelessly share content, and use the device to join meetings quickly and seamlessly. You can share content and control the device microphone during the meeting.
To see info about how to set this up in your organisation, see Allow Users to Connect to On-Prem Devices.
Emoji Support on Windows 7
It’s time to turn that frown upside-down 😊. Our Windows 7 app now has access to a new emoji library allowing those users to have a similar great messaging experience to our Mac and Windows 10 users.
Even Smarter Presence
If someone’s status shows as inactive in Webex Teams, it is possible they could still be at their computer, just not in the application itself. With this improvement to presence, users will be active in the application as long as they are active on their computer. We’ve also brought some additional fields to our DND status menu allowing you to be more specific as to how much quiet time you need.
We’ve Redesigned our Mobile App
Our teams have been working hard on redesigning out iPhone, iPad and Android apps, so that they share a common code with our desktop apps. What this means is that we will be able to:
- Release more features for both desktop and mobile at the same time
- Create mobile-specific features that let us take advantage of the power of the platform!
You’ll be able to see a lot of these benefits already with some of the new features being released this month, such as threaded messages and appearance themes.
Microsoft Cloud App Security
With Microsoft’s Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) you can gain greater visibility and control across user and admin activities, as well as files in Cisco WebEx Teams. This feature is now in Public Beta.
It enables you to create policies to identify sensitive files and risky activities, so that you get alerted when policies are violated, and automatically apply controls and actions, such as deleting messages that contain sensitive files. These CASB capabilities can be implemented via an API connector.
Analytics and Diagnostics improvements
We’ve added support for Webex Share devices in the Device utilization page and also utilization tracking for the new Digital Signage capability.
For IT Administrators in charge of troubleshooting Webex meetings, now, you can search for these meetings based on Participant email as well as previously supported Host email, Meeting ID and Conference ID.
Check out Webex Teams for free: https://www.webex.com/pricing/free-trial.html.
Early this year, you may have read how to share, save, or edit the latest OneDrive and SharePoint Online files from Webex Teams. With this, there is no more versioning trouble and no need to leave your favorite app for a meeting, messaging, or whiteboarding.
And now, with Office 365, Webex Teams evolves your collaborative experience in another context.
You now have the ability continue your Webex Teams conversations within the Office application of your choice including Powerpoint, Word, Excel. This functionality is brought to you by the new Webex Teams add-in for Office 365.
You may have seen and enjoyed it at Cisco Live San Diego, but if not, here’s a glimpse:
So, when should you use the add-in?
These are a few of our recommendations/real life scenarios on the best uses of this add-in:
- When you’re so “in the zone” or extremely focused in the Microsoft Office application that you don’t notice what’s happening around you
- At times you want to reference messages from Webex Teams
- When you want to send a quick clarifying question to a teammate
We are committed to eliminating app switching.
And there are messaging capabilities:
To get the info you need to finalize your Office document, you may chat with teammates over Webex Teams in different ways:
- Search for an existing space with them
- Create a new space dedicated to the Office file work and add participants
The beauty of this experience is demonstrated at the next opening of that Office file. The same persistent space will be opened magically so that users won’t have to search again for the most contributing teammates.
You can open or close this handy add-in at any time, allowing you to see what you need, when you need. Any messages sent or received via the add-in will be consistent in your Webex Teams application.
And we are not stopping there. Stay tuned for continued updates and as always, let your imagination go- keep asking us for more!
Free to use:
To enjoy this experience, all you need is both an Office365 and a Webex Teams account.
If you don’t have a Webex Teams account yet, no worries we got you covered with our free trial.
If you have a Webex Teams account already, get the Add-in and enjoy it.
If you want to learn more, you can do so here.
I hope that you’ve been keeping up with all the exciting news from Cisco Collaboration in the past few months. We’ve had a ton of announcements about new capabilities and experiences. Like how we’re changing the way work gets done, from the Huddle space to the biggest of boardrooms and how we’re changing the way people join meetings with the a single button to join across all of these spaces. Most recently we showed you how our work to integrate file sharing and storage solutions has made the day-to-day lives of end-users so much better! On the heels of that, we wanted to make sure that we also gave you a quick round-up tour of some of the new things that help administrators as well, with a deep dive on security and compliance. Security and compliance are critical aspects of any long-lived and useful collaboration solution – admins want to rest assured that their users are doing the right things in the right places with the right people. So let’s take a quick peek at some of the new capabilities we’ve released in just these past 2 months that further our promises to you, our customers:
Securing your Uninterrupted Workstream
In addition to Webex Teams native file sharing and storage, Cisco Webex Control Hub now allows IT administrators the flexibility to enable Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint Online as an integration with Webex Teams. With this, users can share and co-edit the latest OneDrive and SharePoint Online files right within their Webex Teams work spaces.
Setup requires just a single toggle in Webex Control Hub. And no changes are needed to your existing file sharing permissions and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies. IT administrators also have full control over which Office 365/Azure AD Tenant they want to enable. This ensures that only IT approved domains are available, and users cannot use personal OneDrive or SharePoint Online documents. This not only eliminates Data Loss risk but also protects against Malware threats. And for the highest level of control, IT administrators can even turn off native file storage in Webex Teams so that all content is routed through their existing enterprise file storage service.
Cisco Webex Control Hub Admin controls allow you to:
- Enable Webex Teams native file storage or Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint Online, or both
- Block personal or shadow IT OneDrive or SharePoint Online folders, and only permit approved instances
- Enable or disable the entitlement to a subset of users or for your entire organization
Get more information on file storage and sharing Admin Control [link].
Compliance gets easier with Legal Hold
In order to help you with data retention requirements to support legal investigations, we now support also support “Legal Hold”. This makes it easy for your organization to preserve any Webex Teams content related to litigation or investigation, all without impacting end user experience. During a litigation proceeding, you may be required to preserve data for a period that may be longer than your retention policy. In this case you can use legal hold to ensure that relevant information is not purged, but instead but retained until the litigation or investigation is completed.
Get more information on Legal Hold [link].
Better visibility with Admin Audit Logs
Today you can monitor and manage what your end-users do via our Events API, or through some of the powerful DLP and CASB products that integrate with Webex Teams such as Smarsh or Symantec. But equally important is managing administrator actions. Whether it be to prevent accidental changes, carry out root cause analysis or prevent malicious actions. For example, you may want to see:
- Which admin made a change to an org setting?
- Who deleted the CIO’s device?
- Who recently updated Jane’s profile to be an org admin?
The admin audit log provides the data you need for this type of investigation, and even archiving purposes. You can now view significant change actions, such as changes to your organization’s settings. Admin audit logs can be viewed in Control Hub where you can search for actions that have taken place within a specific date range, or for specific actions, or view the actions of a specific administrator. You can also download the logs to a comma separated values (CSV) file. And, to make things easier, we’re working on providing an API so that you can tie this information into your other management experiences.
For more information on the admin audit log feature, see [link].
We keep growing the compliance ecosystem
We know that it’s expensive to get started and set up with security and compliance tools, so we want you to be able to keep using the services and apps you already use. To further this promise, we’re excited to announce that we’ve recently finished our integration with Palo Alto Networks to enable admins to use this app too to monitor and manage their Webex experiences! And ICYMI, Cisco Cloudlock works with Webex too!
Last but certainly not least, do register for our joint webinar with Smarsh [link here], one of our oldest and dearest partners in the Compliance space! Mike Pagani, Senior Director of Product Marketing from Smarsh, and Niraj Gopal, Director of Product for Cisco Webex Security & Compliance offerings will be talking about how Webex and Smarsh make for a better together story for our customers in heavily regulated environments!
By working with an abundance of ISV partners, we’re adding more value to the Cisco Webex team collaboration tools ecosystem to further help you and your team. From time to time, we’ll share a roundup of thought-provoking content from our partners’ blogs. Here’s the first one for your enjoyment!
#1 – Interoperability between collaboration messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams
Mio provides interoperability between collaboration messaging platforms, such as Webex Teams to Slack and Webex Teams to Microsoft Teams—with more on the way.
Check out this short video of the Mio Webex Teams to Slack interoperability to see it in action:
Mio is a great example of a developer who engaged with our Innovation team, developed a cool product, got invited to our Integrator Program, and now has just been added to Cisco’s resale program in Cisco SolutionsPlus. Read more about this here: dispatch.message.io/mio-cisco-solutionsplus/.
Want to learn more? You can also visit Mio’s website at m.io/.
#2 – Immersive room experiences for better team collaboration
Oblong provides multi-stream content layered on top of Webex in an immersive room experience—all integrated with Cisco Webex Teams, Webex Board, and Room Kits. Their founder, John Underkoffler, was the tech genius behind the computer interactions in Minority Report and Iron Man. It was so cool, that he started a tech company using those innovative principles.
Check out an overview of their Webex and Oblong Mezzanine integration: www.oblong.com/blog/have-you-seen-webex-mezzanine.
And then read what John Underkoffler had to say at Wired Live: www.oblong.com/blog/next-gen-ui-comes-into-focus-at-wired-live.
#3 – The nexus of team collaboration tools and digital signage
You may know Appspace from their industry leading digital signage, but they are much more than that. They’ve created a digital content management system that allows you to create channels and subscribe to them from any Cisco endpoint or Cisco Webex Teams space.
Appspace is in quite a few of Cisco’s global Customer Briefing Centers, so you can see these integrations live.
Check out this video on Appspace’s integration with Cisco at the Cisco Collaboration Open House in Malvern earlier this year. Be sure to watch for the Webex Board running their web app on its interactive touch screen:
Appspace also recently hosted a customer event in New York City. Check out their recap of Day One (blog.appspace.com/2018/10/appspace-meetup-new-york-one/) and Day Two (blog.appspace.com/2018/10/appspace-meetup-new-york-day-2-recap/).
#4 – Leveraging collaboration tools for multi-casting video and video management
Vbrick is the leader in live-streaming content for town halls, leadership calls, and meet-ups. Anytime you need to get the word out to all your employees at scale, you need Vbrick.
Vbrick has been a Cisco partner for a long time, with an extremely close relationship with our product management organizations—that’s what makes their solution so scalable and reliable.
And, because they’ve been a partner for so long, their Webex and Webex Teams integrations keep getting better and better. Check out Vbrick’s recent updates on this subject in their blog: vbrick.com/vbrick-rev-cloud-webex-integration-updates-december-2018/.
In recognition of this great partnership, Vbrick was named the Cisco Collaboration ISV Partner of the Year (vbrick.com/vbrick-recognized-as-cisco-global-isv-partner-of-the-year/).
You’ll also find many excellent articles on thought leadership by visiting their blog. Check out this recent post on content management governance: vbrick.com/why-you-need-a-video-content-management-system-to-ensure-governance-success/.
#5 – Customer intelligence driving amazing customer experiences with collaboration tools
Understanding your customer can make a huge difference for your brand. Local Measure is a leader in aggregating customer social intelligence so companies can deliver exceptional experiences to their guests.
Local Measure embraced Cisco Collaboration because it provides real-time information to the employees, who can then take that information and turn it into an amazing experience for the guest. Check out this blog post from Local Measure for more details: www.localmeasure.com/post/collaboration-software-plus-customer-intelligence-can-extend-your-operational-capabilities.
And, for some thought leadership content from Local Measure, read this blog post about identifying the “shadow guest.” You’ll find it here: www.localmeasure.com/post/identifying-the-shadow-guest.
#6 – Analytics to optimize the collaboration experience
Vyopta is a leader in providing actionable intelligence on unified communication, video, and meeting room usage to make sure your communications infrastructure is delivering for your employees.
They can help provide answers to questions like, “Did your employees have a great audio experience on the call yesterday? If not, where/what was the problem?” Or, “Am I at max capacity for my conference rooms? Are they being used? Should I add more huddle spaces?”
Check out this blog post from Vyopta on how they’ve integrated with Cisco endpoints: www.vyopta.com/blog/video-conferencing/getting-data-cisco-collaboration-endpoints/.
And then read their latest post, which is on collaboration spaces: www.vyopta.com/blog/video-conferencing/the-current-state-of-conference-rooms-and-workplace-transformation/.
#7 – Collaborate with your employees in an emergency
Singlewire is a leader in the emergency notification management space, as related to industries such as education, health care, government, and more.
Check out our latest Webex4Developers blog post, which highlights the Singlewire solution that includes Webex Teams and Meraki integrations: developer.webex.com/blog/emergency-communications-with-cisco-webex-teams-and-singlewire.
Delivering value by integrating with Cisco collaboration, Cisco endpoints, and Cisco APIs
There you have it! Seven great companies delivering critical business value.
We’d also like to invite you to check out our Webex4Developers portal and our collaboration APIs. Come build an app. We’re looking forward to hearing from you. To get started go to developer.webex.com.
If you’re interested in hearing more about any of these solutions, reach out to our ecosystem team at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask your Cisco reseller sales contact.
And finally, check out how Webex Teams can help your team work together more efficiently and productively. Try it FREE at www.webex.com/pricing/free-trial.html.
Quick poll: Who loves the waiting room? Quick answer: No one.
With its stale coffee, old magazines, and daytime television, waiting rooms are a bastion of lost productivity. Everyone from clients, to your support staff, could be doing something better with his or her time. And then there are no-shows, who cost time and money.
Participants can attend workers’ compensation hearings right from their homes or offices.
Life shouldn’t have to be like this, so fortunately it’s all about to change for the better.
Learn how Cloverhound used the robust Cisco Webex Teams, team collaboration platform to solve the waiting room conundrum once and for all (stale coffee not included).
VirtualCourts™: Solving the problem through video conferencing
Every month, tens of thousands of people are involved in workers’ compensation claims in New York State. There are dozens of people involved in a single hearing: the judge and claimant, of course, but also the stenographers, translators, facilities crew, and many others who make the system work.
The wheels of justice turn slowly, especially when each hearing relies on long commutes and high travel costs.
The New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) realized the loss in productivity—not only for their workforce, but also for the workers, employers, and lawyers they serve. Their desire to increase efficiencies and modernize how they do business drove them to look for a solution to reduce hearing no-shows, streamline the check-in process, and create a virtual-hearing experience.
To accommodate this, Cloverhound developed an easier way to conduct these hearings that Cisco’s Webex blog calls,“a first-in-the-nation solution, built on the Cisco Webex Teams collaboration platform, that allows injured workers and other participants to attend workers’ compensation hearings right from their homes or offices. This solution is a critical piece to removing obstacles and reducing the inherent stress accompanying the hearing process.”
The Cisco Webex Teams collaboration platform: Empowering online meetings
Powered by the Cisco Webex Teams, team collaboration platform, VirtualCourts leverages Cloverhound’s VirtualQ™ framework to seamlessly integrate robust case management with Webex APIs to provide an intuitive and efficient solution, requiring zero administration by court staff.
VirtualQ is built using the latest web technologies available through a collaborative agile development process. At the center of the application is a cloud native backend service that uses WebSockets to send real-time updates to a react-based web application. By leveraging a modern cloud architecture, the backend is both scalable and resilient. All processing is stateless and balanced across multiple nodes across multiple data centers, allowing for dynamic scaling (by adding additional nodes) and seamless recovery from failures in any single node. All data is replicated on the fly and is automatically recovered and re-enabled in the case of failures.
The backend is responsible for maintaining the hearing schedule through the court’s case management APIs, enforcing the rules of the check-in process, and routing updates between participants and the judges and support staff. As participants check in to hearings, their information is automatically captured and broadcast in real time to the judges’ dashboards.
Using Cisco’s Webex API, judges can then click to launch their hearing’s Webex room, simultaneously notifying all participants with a link to open Webex and join the hearing. The current implementation requires participants to install the native Webex application to conduct hearings, but the forthcoming iOS (2018) and Android (2019) apps employ the Webex Teams SDK to seamlessly embed WebRTC video conferencing directly within the app.
Once both mobile apps have been officially released, the teams plan to integrate the same SDK into the web application, eliminating any need for web-based participants to install any software.
The application’s core users—judges and court-system support staff—authenticate using SAML Single Sign-On, which allows verified users to securely access the application using their existing corporate login and password. Account metadata from the court system’s Microsoft ADFS site allows the application to route judges and court-system staff to the correct dashboards and to control access to administrative features, such as site-wide messaging and report generation.
The application frontend uses Google’s translation service to support 100 different written languages and variants. All web content complies fully with NYS Policy NYS-P08-005 as described in Federal Government Publication Section 508, which specifies that all web applications used by the state should meet or exceed the standards set in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.
Collaborative video conferencing: Four huge efficiency wins.
New York State has rolled out VirtualCourts across 22 of 26 sites with a target of 24 sites enabled before the end of 2018. The remaining sites require architecture changes that are outside the scope of the current project and will be rolled out once their respective changes are performed. This platform has streamlined multiple processes for the State of New York.
First, the hearing check-in process is completely digital. Participants no longer need to check in at a front desk, provide their information, and then wait to be called. No-shows have fewer excuses, and productivity is no longer lost to the waiting room.
Second, judges no longer have to check in with courtroom staff to see which hearings are on the docket. Judges log in to their hearing dashboard quickly and securely to see the status of each hearing.
Third, it increases the accessibility of the hearing process by allowing employers and claimants to be part of the hearings without having to leave their offices or homes. For claimants who suffer from debilitating injuries or are living out of state, the benefits of VirtualCourts are invaluable.
Finally, the virtual hearing solution is now handling 90% of all of NYS WCB hearings with plans to beat 100% (1,250 hearings per day) in early 2019. To date, over 100,000 hearings have been scheduled within the VirtualCourts platform with more than 33,000 of these involving at least one party who appeared remotely–successfully connecting injured workers, law judges, and representatives from all over New York and nationally.
The chart above shows the total number of hearings over time with the 2018 and 2019 numbers as projections based on the data that is currently available. We’re not only talking about the court system benefiting from being able to process more claims; we’re also talking about claimants getting their settlements faster, employers being able to resolve disputes quicker, lawyers being able to provide services to more people in a single year, and fewer people on the road traveling to and from WCB sites.
This platform benefits everyone in the State of New York. You can read more about this implementation of VirtualQ’s VirtualCourts here.
The Cisco Webex Teams collaboration platform—revolutionizing how government connects with citizens by using video conferencing.
Cisco and Cloverhound continue to work with the customer to bring new sites online and increase functionality. Other New York court systems are following closely to see how they can leverage the same Cisco technology.
VirtualCourts was praised for revolutionizing how New York handles hearings: “This state-of-the-art, secure technology removes obstacles and stress for hard-working New Yorkers who were injured on the job, as well as for business owners and the professionals who participate in the system,” New York State Workers’ Compensation Board Chair Clarissa Rodriguez said. “Virtual hearings allow injured workers to remain in their homes and other participants to attend from their workplaces. Our successful pilot and now statewide launch demonstrate New York’s commitment to helping people hurt on the job.”
Cloverhound’s VirtualQ framework, powered by Cisco Webex Teams collaboration platform, is ready for education, healthcare, banking, and other verticals. Parents who struggle to make parent-teacher conferences can make the meetings that matter most, and educators can make the most of their office hours. Patients with mobility issues, who may otherwise struggle to make hospital visits, can still receive care. The applications of the Cloverhound VirtualQ framework are limitless. Visit cloverhound.com to learn more.
And don’t forget to experience the Cisco Webex Teams collaboration platform for yourself. Sign up for FREE here at www.webex.com/pricing/free-trial.
New features and capabilities to enable a more inclusive way of working
Welcome to what’s new in Webex! This article highlights new Webex features and capabilities that we have recently introduced, as well as a preview of new features coming in early 2021.
We’re excited to introduce the all new Webex!… If you are an existing Webex user, When you’re ready to make the switch to the new Webex, we’ll be here to help you through the transition.
Animated meeting reactions
In-meeting animated reactions emojis gives users more freedom to express themselves non-verbally with emoji’s for clap, thumbs up/down, smile, laugh, sad, surprised, and celebrate.
And for the holiday’s we’ve introduced a few seasonal options too.
Enhanced video layout controls
We’ve optimized the layout controls to a single button, labeled Layout. And now we’ve added the option to hide non-video participants to this menu as well for easy access, so you can select the view you want. We’re just getting started, stay tuned for more customized layout options coming in a future release.
And to be more consistent with your experiences on Webex devices, we’ve updated the layout views too. Active speaker and thumbnail video view is now called, Stage view. Active speaker video view is now called, Focus view. Video strip view is now called, Stack view. Floating panel view is now called, Fullscreen view.
Hide names in video
For a more immersive meeting experience, after a few minutes of inactivity name labels now hide for participants not speaking. Forget someone’s name? No problem, name labels will reappear when moving the mouse.
New meeting experience when mobile
We’re continuing to introduce new meeting experiences for mobile users. Recent meeting feature addition for mobile include Webex meeting streaming support for IOS user via Airplay and Apple TV, and iPad users can temporarily mute or unmute by long pressing the bluetooth keyboard’s space bar.
Improved post meeting share experience
Now participant e-mails are also available in the post meeting experience for Webex Assistant making it easier to share transcripts and highlights. On the post-meeting web page, you can now quickly select from participants and invitees to share the post-meeting content with them for view or edit access. This option applies to both the entire post-meeting content as well as just the highlights, if any. Click Select people from participants and invitees.
Webex now enables VMWare support for Linux (Ubuntu and eLux) thin clients.
We’re creating more personalization and adding more intelligence to enhance team collaboration.
Happy holidays – new Seasonal Emoji Reactions
To add some festive cheer to your messaging, we’re giving reactions a seasonal makeover. You’ll see these changes for all reactions on Windows and Mac from December 8 to January 7. (On mobile, reactions use the Android or iOS emojis so we aren’t updating those reactions.)
New Personalization Options
New Webex personalization features let you insert images and colors to fit your style at work. Select a cover photo for your space, choose your favorite color theme for 1:1 and group spaces, and cobranding options.
Set a Cover Photo for Your Profile and Spaces
For a personal touch, choose a background image for your profile, contact card, and spaces. You can select from a set of predefined images, but we’re planning to add support for custom images soon. Available on Windows and Mac.
Choose a New, More Colorful, Theme
Add more color to your views by choosing one of the new themes—Bronze, Jade, and Lavender. Find these new themes in your settings, along with the Light and Dark themes you already had. Supported across —Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android
Watch the video to get a quick preview of all three.
Consistent user experience for call and meetings
The call and meeting windows on the Webex desktop app now have a fresh new look with modernized icon style, plus an easy to recognize and simplified experience. Now your active calls and meetings have similar user interfaces. This includes duration call timer, an animated microphone icon that indicates your voice input level, a call control bar with text buttons and new icons and more.
Hunt groups are calling groups that can distribute a single call across a specific group of users. You no longer have to go to the Calling Admin portal to set up and configure hunt groups for your locations. You can complete application services configuration in Control Hub under the Features section. For more information, see Hunt Groups in Cisco Webex Control Hub.
Now you can make and answer calls on your boss’ behalf with Webex Calling Boss-Admin (also known as Executive Assistant feature). If you have more than one boss, you can select the appropriate line when making a call. And you’ll always know which boss an incoming call is intended for. Learn more here.
With Webex Calling, call recording is supported if enabled by your admin. Depending on your setup, your incoming and outgoing calls may be recorded automatically, or you may be able to decide which calls you want to record. You’re presented with a visual indicator letting you know when a call is being recorded. Find more details here.
Webex continues to add features to enable common app and device experiences to support more hybrid work scenarios.
Custom background options
Looking for a more personalized option for your office? The Webex Desk Pro already supports standard virtual background options. Now we’re giving you the option add your own image with the new custom background upload feature.
Whiteboard black canvas feature
Now you can change between black and white canvas when you’re using the whiteboard. Webex Boards, Desk Devices, and Room Devices.
INTEGRATIONS AND INDUSTRY SOLUTIONS
Microsoft Outlook BOT
Stay on top of your inbox with notifications from the Outlook Alerts for Microsoft Office 365 bot for Webex. Create custom rules based on subject lines and email recipients and never again miss a business-critical email. For greater efficiency and fluidity, you can even have those insights sent directly to relevant Webex spaces and teams.Pager Duty Bot
Automatically create a War Room space with the team responsible for a service. Add service owners, acknowledge or resolve, and escalate incidents quickly using the bot. Learn more here.
All new Webex Contact Center
Webex is introducing a next-generation, fully customizable cloud contact center solution for digital-first engagement. Inspired by customers and architected for business, Webex Contact Center delivers the future of customer experience – today. Available in December, learn more about powerful new features and capabilities here.
CONTROL HUB, SECURITY AND EDGE SERVICES
If you are an admin, Webex Control Hub places management, monitoring, troubleshooting, analytics, edge and hybrid services across all your collaboration resources in one pane of glass.
Proactive Notifications with ability to add thresholds
Webex Control Hub admins can now enter custom thresholds on latency, jitter, and packet loss to help control the quality of collaboration experiences.
Revamped Meetings Analytics Quality Page
We’re redesigning the Meetings Analytics Network Quality page with a new user-friendly layout – this also means faster load times with higher data resolution and real time data capabilities. IT admins can view real time data (up to 10 minutes lag), identify users with repetitive network quality issues and cross launching into trouble shooting. We’re also introducing new network quality KPIs and metrics for VOIP, video and join meeting time (JMT) plus trending charts with summary statistics. Analytics in Cisco Webex Control Hub give administrators access to interactive data visualizations that show important information, such as usage and adoption trends and explore data as it automatically adapts to parameters that you specify in real-time.
New Reports: High CPU Usage, Peak Meeting Usage, Microsoft Teams and Slack Integrations Usage
Webex Control Hub now allows admins to build custom reports by selecting dimensions and metrics to generate a CSV or continue to leverage the standards reports. They also have access to new standard reports including high CPU usage, peak meeting usage, and integrations from Microsoft Teams and Slack.
Headset Analytics in Webex Control Hub
Updated Device Analytics page in Webex Control Hub includes usage and inventory information about Cisco Headsets – enabling IT Admins to track how Cisco Headsets are used, what is the geographic distribution of headsets and which models are popular.
Webex Calling events API
The Webhooks API in Webex for Developers has been enhanced to support Webex Calling Call Control events. With this enhancement for user specific calling events developers can provide insight to users on the state of their call in realtime — answered, held, forwarded, recording paused and more. Learn more here.
The all new Webex is bringing new feature innovation to your collaboration experiences. Here are a just a few examples of coming soon features:
In early 2021 real-time translations will be coming to Webex, breaking down language barriers in meetings. Webex Assistant will soon offer live translation from English to top 15 languages spoken by 80 percent of the world population including Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Dutch, and Japanese. We will be working to quickly expand this list over time so everyone can participate.
Webex is making it easy to stay on top of your most important messages. Leveraging Webex Graph and AI technology, Webex will prioritize the most important messages for you based on the people and spaces you interact with the most – coming soon.
Webex is making it easy to elevate your calls to rich audio & video- bringing calling from hearing, to seeing & doing. Easily move a 1:1 telephone call into a Webex video meeting and take advantage of AI transcriptions, notes and action items, and recordings.
The Webex team is reimagining the desk for our new hybrid work environment and expanded our integrated devices portfolio to include products that help with things like virtual meeting fatigue, and support the need for a powerful, professional experience no matter where you work. Click here to learn more.
The Webex Desk Camera will be orderable next month. An intelligent, powerful and affordable new camera built to enhance the remote meeting experience and enable small, safe in-person meetings in the office. It delivers up to 4K ultra HD video with vibrant color and incredible low light performance. Plus, it’s simple to manage remotely with Webex Control Hub. Here’s a sneak peak at the new Webex Desk Camera:
For more information on all of these features and upcoming update to Webex, please visit the What’s New Articles for Webex Services.
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Webex integrations to keep connected and productive
At the beginning of the pandemic, I introduced my family to Webex Meetings for our Sunday get-togethers. It was fun to see the grandparents, cousins, grandkids all using our amazing collaboration platform.
In the past months, we have shifted to getting things done completely remotely and have relied on Webex more than ever to keep us connected and productive with the highest level of security in the industry. We haven’t been in the office in over six months, but we have not missed a beat — whether it’s attending large conferences, team meetings, classes, virtually visiting our doctor or having family reunions, we have been able to carry on with our life and business, while socially distancing.
Webex has been at the center of all of these activities, but we’ve also had help from our partners. We’ve worked to integrate Webex with some of the most popular productivity tools on the market today and that has been instrumental in bringing great Webex meetings to broader audiences.
Remote Life on Webex
Nearly everyone is now using multiple collaboration and other types of apps during their daily life to stay connected and get work done. But if they want to have great meetings, the most popular apps are integrating with Webex, for scenarios like the ones we featured in this video:
Our kids may use Slack for messaging with their teacher and classmates and then have the need to jump into a Webex session to get clarification on a specific problem.
Our doctor could be chatting with colleagues on Microsoft Teams about a medical issue, and then escalate into a Webex instant meeting to continue the conversation in more detail.
A CEO may decide to livestream a company-wide townhall from Webex into Workplace from Facebook.
Streamlining daily workflows
Features within our deep integrations include real-time notifications that alert us at various parts of the process to ensure that we remain productive throughout our workday. For example, a Zendesk support agent can start an instant Webex meeting with the incident ticket submitter who will be notified to join the meeting and discuss the issue in more detail. These types of real-time communications empower workers to take action and speed up incident resolution time.
These types of interactions are made possible by deep integrations with our most trusted partners. We have been creating and improving our integrations with the goal of empowering frontline workers, streamlining workflows, and making transitions between apps seamless. We have many more great examples of how Webex integrates with your favorite tools. Webex continues to enhance integrations with other tools we use every day including CRM, learning management systems, software management, and productivity to provide the most efficient workflows. By improving workflows, we become more productive and are empowered to work smarter!
Get started with a free plan on Cisco Webex today!
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We are already at the end of May! I hope everyone is staying safe and sound. The RoomOS team have been working hard to release a mix of features for you, to enhance your personal mode experience, up your co-creation, and make life a little bit easier for administrators.
Ever been in an interactive whiteboarding session and wondered who is annotating or drawing? We thought so. With Activity Indicator, the initials or the avatar of the people who are adding to the whiteboard will pop up next to their input. This is especially useful when you zoom into an area and want to be aware of the bigger picture. Click here to learn more.
No auto wake-up for personal mode devices
Room devices in personal mode can often be found in open office areas or home offices. These devices often turn on automatically when they detect movement – something that is useful at the office, but can be distracting at home. Imagine your device turning on every time your child runs past it, or your cat jumps on top of your desk? Pretty annoying. To fix this, we’re turning off by default the auto wake-up feature for personal mode devices.
Participant list improvements
We also made some improvements to the participant list display when in a meeting. Now, you can see the domain of external participants on the roster list, and see who is paired to a shared Cisco Webex device!
Webex Edge for Devices – Read only configurations
We want to make sure that all our customers get to experience cloud benefits, no matter their deployment type. Webex Edge for Devices allows customers to view their configuration settings directly in Control Hub. This allows for greater flexibility, as customers with an on-premises registered device can see the configuration in Control Hub, which is a cloud feature. This brings more value into the single pane of glass for all administrators, regardless of deployment type.
Webex Edge for Devices – Proxy support
We also added proxy support for Webex Edge for devices, the same as for devices registered to the cloud.
That’s it for this month – but stay tuned, as we have loads more in the pipeline.
Learn more about Webex Edge for Devices
Webex Meetings is evolving every day to meet the needs of our customers especially with the rise in remote working. New features being released this month span from enabling more live streaming capabilities to support virtual events, to control hub enhancements for more secure meetings, to short cut integrations with Slack for improved usability, to enabling a better mobile meeting experience with more intelligence. In addition, we’ve expanded language support to now include Czech, Polish, Romanian and Hungarian – starting first on the mobile app and will soon to the desktop app.
Live stream your virtual events
One of the most significant features of this update is the ability to live stream Webex Meetings and Webex Events to more streaming platforms. In addition to existing support for Facebook Live, IBM Video Streaming and Vbrick, we are now also support streaming to YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Workplace for Facebook, and any other platform that supports the Real-time Messaging Protocol. With the number of virtual events on the rise, Webex Meetings and Webex Events are providing many more options to help you reach the widest possible audience. You can read more details in my recent blog on planning large virtual events.
Control Hub enhancements: Have you ever experienced an issue during a meeting and then have it disappear when IT comes to help? I think we all have, so we created a solution for this. As a new feature in Control Hub, IT admins can now join an “in progress” meeting from the troubleshooting page and experience the problem for themselves. Since more and more business-critical meetings are taking place via video conferencing, there has been an increased need for IT to be able to monitor those meetings and jump in to assist if things are not going well. This gives the IT admin more insight into the problem that the meeting participants are experiencing, ultimately allowing for a quicker resolution process.
Refining Webex integrations for better usability
Slack just recently introduced new shortcuts that provide simple, visual ways to interact with apps from anywhere in Slack. Users can quickly access shortcuts using a new lightning bolt icon next to the message input field, which gives you a pop-up menu with the following Webex actions:
- List recordings
- Schedule meeting
- Show upcoming meetings
- Start Webex meeting
- Version information
When you select the action you would like to take, for example Start Webex Meeting, you will choose which channel or 1:1 conversation in which you would like to start the meeting, and then the Start Meeting/Join Meeting buttons will be displayed in the selected conversation. These shortcuts make it easier than ever to access Webex Meetings within the Slack channel – and it means no more slash commands.
We’ve also done more refinement with the Microsoft Teams integration, including the ability for hosts to share recordings directly within a Microsoft Teams channel. All meeting participants who are also in the MS Teams channel will be able to play the recording once it has been shared. This convenience means attendees will have recordings at their fingertips rather than having to go searching through email for recordings. In addition, meeting start/end notifications for meetings taking place in a Webex Personal Room will appear in the channel conversation stream.
Smart mobile enhancements
This month, we’re bringing a number of features to make your mobile Webex meeting even more intuitive with low battery detection, People Insights on mobile, deeper Ford Sync 3 integration and video pin capabilities:
- Webex Meetings will detect when your phone battery is low, proactively offering to turn off video and switch to audio only mode. This is available for iOS and Android devices. This feature is created to minimize disturbances during a meeting
- Mobile Webex Meetings users will now be able to view People Insight profiles in the mobile app instead of being redirected to a browser. You now have everything you need to be prepared for a meeting in the mobile app. Meeting with a new co-worker or customer? Join the meeting prepared with some background information that will help break the ice.
- You can already start or join a Webex meetings from any Ford vehicle with Ford SYNC® 3 AppLink® enabled. While listening to a meeting, users will now be able to view who is actively speaking from their Ford SYNC 3 touchscreen without touching or looking at their phones.
This feature will help you be more in tuned with whoever is speaking while you’re participating from the road.
- Video pin support: When hosting a meeting, it can be important for everyone to view the same speaker or content. Now on mobile, hosts can now pin a specific video for all the attendees to view. Keep everyone on the same page and help your meeting participants follow along.
For more details about Webex Meetings, please visit the Webex Help Portal
Bring productivity back to your meetings
The prospect of having to sit through a meeting doesn’t always excite everyone. Although meetings have the potential to be fun and collegial gatherings that also help move projects along, many of them don’t live up to that promise.
What can go wrong in a typical meeting?
Sometimes, meetings can consume a lot of time and make participants feel disconnected from what’s going on across the company at large:
- In fact, unnecessary meetings are the No. 1 time-waster in most offices, accounting for untold hours and billions in wasted productivity every month.
- As much as one-third of all meetings in a given month are deemed unproductive, and it’s not hard to see why: Between late starts, unfocused agendas, and outdated collaboration tech, many participants can’t stay engaged.
- Unproductive meetings exact steep costs in other ways, too. For example, a “1-hour meeting” is actually much longer, since it takes that amount of time away from everyone who joins it. So, if there are 10 attendees, the meeting is actually consuming 10 hours that could be channeled elsewhere.
- Along similar lines, traditional meetings require office space. A conference room that someone might be using to take an important call instead has to be devoted to a big gathering that could end up not being all that productive anyway.
- Remote workers can feel isolated when meetings aren’t engaging. Inadequate communication/collaboration as well as loneliness are among the most cited drawbacks to working remotely, and how meetings are run is a big reason why.
On the bright side, meetings don’t have to be unproductive. With the right tools in support of a coherent strategy, you can run meetings that cover everything you want while keeping everyone engaged. And now, with so many people working from home, it’s important to understand how to help employees feel connected. Here are four proven tips for taking your meetings to the next level.
Tip #1: Send a written agenda in advance and establish context
Why are so many meetings unfocused? Because no one, other than maybe the host, really knows what’s going to happen or who is participating.
That’s why it’s important to send out an agenda containing the main points you want to cover in the time allotted. In Webex, you can add an agenda directly to your meeting invite.
Having an agenda creates structure and helps you maximize the time you have. Once you write everything down and ensure it’s covered point by point, you might even find that you have time left over and can end the meeting early, which is good news for everyone’s productivity as they can get back to other tasks.
As for establishing context about who will be in the meeting, this is where cognitive collaboration solutions can make a real difference. These AI-driven platforms can pull information from multiple sources, such as public social media profiles and various directories, to create context and enable more seamless collaboration
Tip #2: Make it easy to join the meeting
How much meeting time is lost to simply trying to get the session started? Invitees may have to dig through their inboxes to find the dial-in or link, and even when they have it ready they might need to jump through a few hoops first.
Downloading applications and plugins, entering a PIN, finding a compatible device – these complications make meetings overly complex and less useful. To get things back on track, think about simplifying the join process.
A collaboration platform like Webex lets you invite anyone and everyone with a simple set of steps. Most of the time, it’s just a singular “step” – tap or click the button to join when it’s time. Whether someone is using a PC, Mac, phone, tablet, or standard-based video conferencing system, participation in straightforward.
Tip #3: Use video technology, if appropriate
Video conferencing provides benefits that no other meeting technology can:
- First, it’s the best way to feel like you’re in the same room as everyone else despite being physically far apart. HD video and audio allow for high-quality interpersonal connections in meetings.
- Second, it lets attendees see reactions and body language in real time. Those insights are missing from conversations that happen over email, chat, or traditional phone call, and they are valuable for bridging cultural divides.
- Third, it goes hand-in-hand with collaboration capabilities such as screen sharing and recording. A video meeting can benefit from the real-time sharing of an application, document, or entire screen, plus it can be easily shared later with anyone who couldn’t make it
Video meetings are good for many different use cases. You can set up one to touch base with internal staff, recruit and interview candidates for open positions, host a webinar, and much more.
Tip #4: Follow-up as needed
When a meeting ends, sometimes the host will send an email that summarizes what happened and provides a link to the recording. This is a good approach, since it reinforces what was covered and can be especially useful for people who weren’t able to join.
There are other ways to follow-up beyond just email, though. A recording of the meeting can be very informative, plus there’s the option to use a chat app to share additional collateral and thoughts in real time. With Cisco Webex, you can follow-up with ease and host the most productive meetings possible.
Learn more by getting started with a free plan today!
This month, the software team have been cooking up some real treats for you guys. In March, we are focusing on making the way you collaborate with your personal mode Webex Room devices more seamless and efficient, as many of us find ourselves working from home. If you do, check out some tips and tricks on how to work remotely.
The first two features are cloud benefits, whilst the latter two are available for both cloud and on-premises.
Guest code for wireless sharing
Most offices receive a constant flux of people. When these people come into your office for a meeting, it can be rather tedious to ask them to download an app in order to wirelessly share to a room device. Many times, they also require access from an admin to download new software on their work laptops, which is not the most practical thing in the world when you are a guest at a different office. This new feature allows guests to just go to a website and enter a code found on the device, and by doing this they can wirelessly share to a device, with the only requirement being a good internet connection. Whether they want to share an app, the entire screen or just a tab from their browser, it can be done with a simple step.
Easily join your personal room in personal mode
In January, we released wireless sharing for personal mode from the Teams App. We really want to make it easier for you to get stuff done from your personal Webex Room device, so this month we are releasing a Personal Meeting Room (PMR) shortcut in personal mode! Joining your Personal Room is now quick and straightforward – only a click away. You just click the Webex button, and you should see a green button next to your Personal Room address at the bottom of the page. Click it, and you are in your PMR. Easy, right?
Joining personal room from inside the Webex button
When you click the Webex button, you can now choose to write a Personal Room URI. Previously, it used to be only digits, but now you can use actual words, which is great news for those of us who struggle to remember long strings of random digits (aka most of us). Because of this, you can make a call from your previous dialing history, so if you have dialed a Personal Room before, it will be saved in the history of the Webex button and auto-populate as you type. This feature is available for both on-prem and cloud devices.
Meeting title privacy
There are many different reasons to why people wouldn’t want the titles of their meetings to be publicly displayed. Maybe you are discussing a sensitive topic such as a workforce reduction planning, or maybe one about employee appraisals and salary negotiations. Either way, you might not want everyone walking past the booked meeting room to know what the purpose of the meeting is. To solve this problem, we are providing admins with an API setting on the device, so that the meeting title will be hidden. This feature is available for both on-prem and cloud devices.
That’s all for this month. Stay safe and take care of each other.
Click to learn more about what Cisco Webex is doing to support our customers in these unprecedented times.
Cross time zones with better meetings
Love setting your clocks back each fall to gain that extra hour of sleep? Hate setting them forward each spring and suddenly having less time to rest? Love it or hate it, the beginning of DST each year is a good opportunity to adopt best practices for scheduling video conferencing meetings.
While businesses like retailers widely like DST, it’s not universal – not even within the U.S. For example, states including Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST at all, creating yet another ripple in the complications that can affect schedules each March and November, when most places in the Northern Hemisphere “spring forward” and “fall back,” respectively.
The stakes for adept scheduling have only gotten higher as more organizations have embraced remote work policies, leaving them more reliant than ever upon geographically distributed employees across multiple time zones.
Tips for better meetings
Let’s look at six tips for scheduling and conducting your meetings the right way in this context:
1) Check in with remote workers about what times work for them
A big part of working remotely is the ability to set your own schedule. Even if there are formal company rules for which hours you need to be available, there’s still a lot more flexibility than in a traditional office environment.
As a meeting scheduler, you have to navigate the many complications that can arise from workers operating during different blocks of time each day. One possible solution is to ask everyone for multiple times that would work for them and finding one that overlaps or is close enough.
2) If in doubt, fall back to some generally good meeting times
If your organization is based in the U.S., you have four contiguous time zones to account for along with ones unique to Hawaii and Alaska. Setting up a meeting when you have employees spread across these time zones can be challenging if the above technique – asking for availability times – doesn’t work out that well.
Fortunately, you can usually default to some times that almost always work for multiple time zones. For example, 2 p.m. Eastern is a popular meeting time slot, as it translates to 1 p.m. Central, 12 p.m. Mountain, and 11 a.m. Pacific – all prime working hours. If you have employees in Hawaii or Alaska, moving the meeting to 3 p.m. Eastern will likely work, too.
3) Use online world clock tools for international meetings
Things become even more complex when you have meetings that involve people in different countries, as the time zone gaps can be considerable. Maybe you’ve hopped on an 8 a.m. call in the U.S. for a meeting with someone in the European Union – that can be less than ideal for late-risers and people accustomed to starting work at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m, for instance. And DST, especially in the spring, can make these types of rise-and-shine meetings even tougher to get through.
This is where it’s useful to have access to a world clock tool. Many are available, both on the web and within various apps, and they’re handy for exploring how various meeting times would work worldwide. World Time Buddy is a prime example of a free world clock that lets you search for specific time zones and places and then compare them so that you can draw up an invite that, at least in theory, works for everyone.
4) Collect questions and input from anyone who can’t make it
Not everyone can make every meeting, regardless of how well it’s scheduled. But that doesn’t mean they have to be left out entirely. One way to include them is to solicit their feedback, questions, and other input beforehand so that all of it can be addressed and discussed during the meeting.
Afterward, the responses to their input can be included in an emailed summary of the meeting or, better yet, a full recording of the session.
5) Record the meeting for easy sharing later on
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to find that Goldilocks meeting time for all of your employees. But all is not lost. Recording a meeting and sharing it with anyone who wasn’t there or who simply wants to review what was said makes it easy to keep projects and conversations going.
So, make sure when you’re reviewing a video conferencing solution, be on the lookout for features like recording capabilities compatibility with multiple devices and OSes, as well as screen sharing.
6) Make it easy as possible for participants to join
Time zones are just one factor in meeting scheduling. For example, if you make it difficult to join by requiring a lot of complex steps – e.g., entering a PIN, requiring specific video systems, etc. – then it’s inevitably going to be more difficult to get all remote and mobile employees on the line.
Modern collaboration platforms make it simpler to schedule and run meetings, during DST and outside of it, too. Employees can join from their mobile devices, laptops, desktop, and video conferencing systems with just a tap or click.
To learn more about how to get the most from your meetings, get started with a free plan of Cisco Webex today.
Spread the love with meetings
Valentine’s Day is more than just a chance to show affection to a loved one. It’s also a big holiday for shopping and gift-giving, even for single people – sort of like a mini Christmas.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 45% of Americans over the age of 18 (more than 110 million people) identified as single in 2017, a record high. But Valentine’s-related sales have not suffered despite the huge number of singles out there.
On the contrary, they were estimated at nearly $20 billion in 2018, with average per capita spending of more than $143. And it’s not all on greeting cards or chocolates: Gift cards, jewelry, and even pet treats all do big business each February.
What this trend shows us is that there is a lot of love in the air on Valentine’s Day, not just for your significant other, but for everyone you love in your life—and people tend to want to share that through meaningful gifts. This year let’s spread that love even further, into one of the most historically despised, but necessary areas of business—meetings. That’s right, it’s time to start loving your meetings again.
Love it or leave it behind: Why only the best collaboration technology will do
As the Valentine’s Day numbers above illustrate, shoppers don’t skimp on buying something that they think will really impress a significant other or friend. In other words, they don’t usually settle for a second-rate gift. The same principle should apply to tools for team collaboration and communication.
Think of your organization’s current approach to keeping everyone in the loop. Do you have the right technology in place to bring your teams together and keep them collaborating wherever they are? Is it optimized to make the most out of every meeting or communication? Or does it make you want to break up with your meetings altogether?
Name any fundamental flaw with a meeting (too long, not focused enough, etc.), and subpar collaboration technology will only make it worse. Let’s look at five common day-to-day challenges that are preventing effective meetings.
1. Too much multitasking, not enough participation
The problem: Streaming a movie or TV show on Valentine’s Day? It’s possible that you’ll look at your phone or tablet at some point, even while the video keeps playing. The same thing happens all the time with audio-only conference calls, as participants are directing their attention elsewhere. “Sorry, I was on mute” is often code for “I missed what you said since I was checking my email.” Multitasking is hard and bad for focus.
The solution: Setting up a video conference is a proven way to reduce multitasking since it lets everyone be seen. It’s also a good idea for executives and leadership to set an example by not using other technologies during an online meeting.
2. “We could have just covered this in email”
The problem: It’s a common refrain after an unproductive meeting: “This could have been done over email.” But why don’t more meetings just get offloaded onto email? Because email is a very limited communication medium, and not all that efficient. If your inbox is as filled and cluttered as mine, messages can easily get lost and overlooked, plus hours or days can pass between responses. No wonder companies resort to meetings instead, no matter the flaws involved.
The solution: Taking advantage of real-time chat can be advantageous both during and after a meeting. It’s more streamlined and richly featured than email and lets participants get answers quickly and in context. Modern chat platforms also make it easy to search for old content, share files, and conduct digital whiteboarding.
3. The meeting is too difficult to join and engage in
The problem: Sometimes, issues crop up before the meeting even begins. The process for joining one can be needlessly complicated, with required downloads and PINs or limited device support, so that participants need to be in a certain location to join.
The solution: Modern collaboration technology can make it straightforward to get started with any meeting. Multiple devices are supported and joining is as simple as tapping or clicking a button when it’s time. Mute and audio controls also make it simpler for the host to keep things moving once the meeting does begin.
4. There’s uncertainty on who’s in the meeting
The problem: Imagine a conference call with a lot of people on it. Someone starts talking and you have only a vague idea who they are, having only perhaps seen their name in the calendar invite beforehand. Then someone else joins in and you don’t recognize them at all. These gaps can be a distraction in a meeting, especially if the topic contains sensitive information. Also, it’s challenging to get people to participate if you cannot address them by name.
The solution: Increasingly we are seeing AI coming into meeting and collaboration technology, allowing advanced capabilities like delivering instant profiles of meeting participants pulled from social accounts and other directories. Or voice and facial recognition so you can match the name to the face. Accordingly, the meeting can flow better and have better engagement since everyone has some background information on each person and everyone can be addressed by their name. As the use of AI evolves, meetings are only going to get smoother and more productive.
5. Remote workers have too much trouble connecting
The problem: More people are working outside of traditional offices, which is great for flexibility. However, it can be challenging for these workers to keep in touch if the meeting software they’re supposed to use doesn’t work well across devices or allow for easy collaboration.
The solution: Collaboration tools should work equally well on desktops, phones, tablets, and video conferencing systems, as applicable. That way, they can support remote and mobile workers who might take calls on the go, at home, or occasionally at a company office, too.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to think about how you can fall in love with your meetings again. Cisco Webex Meetings brings teams together, for collaboration that leads to greater business outcomes.
Is today the day you fall in love? Let’s see, and try Webex for free.
Does Webex Meetings work with any popular learning management systems?
Webex Meetings has added Blackboard Learn to our already extensive list of popular learning management systems. With this integration, instructors can have the full Webex Meetings experience within the Blackboard Learn environment. Aside from being able to hold virtual classes for distance learning, instructors can also have office hours and ad-hoc meetings with students, and even message students – all within the Blackboard learning interface. These integrations give teachers and students a great way to connect within the environment to which they are accustomed.
Business travel is a major expense for many SMBs. Data from expense management provider Concur has revealed that average SMB employees spend more on airfare, lodging, ground transportation, dining and car rentals than their counterparts at a large enterprise organization. For some SMBs, company-related travel constitutes more than 10% of their budgets, even though it’s not a value-added activity. More money on travel means less for everything else.
There is no shortage of tips and tricks for reducing travel costs, from trying to avoid checked luggage fees to booking cheaper flights with more elaborate connections. But perhaps the most effective is to simply do less travel overall. How can SMBs make this gain without sacrificing their all-important connections with customers, partners and remote teams? Video conferencing solutions provide a great starting point for more cost-effective collaboration.
Why video conferencing is perfect for budget-conscious SMBs
Not all forms of collaboration are equally rich and immersive. For example, a salesperson sending a prospect an email pitch is usually a good way to do introductions, provide a high-level overview and list out the next steps, but it’s hardly ideal for going much deeper than that. A call followed by an in-person meeting will be likely necessary to close the deal. That requires more spending on travel – unless video conferencing can fulfill the same role.
A video conferencing platform allows for in-depth interactions over high-definition (HD) video. In addition to being able to see everyone’s reactions in real-time, the sales team can also harness the power of features such as screen sharing – either of their whole screens or just a particular app or document – or use the video stream to walk through a live product demo. These video conferences also have the benefit of being more focused than an audio-only meeting, as there’s less chance of someone multitasking while on mute.
Moreover, by investing in a video conferencing system like Webex, SMBs can eliminate potentially thousands in business travel expense per year. Almost nine in ten (87%) of respondents to a Wainhouse Research survey cited reduced travel as a benefit of video solution deployment. At the same time, video conferencing saves money in other indirect ways, too. Let’s explore some of the additional benefits of video for SMBs and how they contribute to a more manageable budget and a more productive sales cycle.
Beyond travel: Video’s impact on productivity, decision-making, and more
With video conferencing in place, SMBs can do more than just immediately curtail their travel costs. They can also:
Improve employee productivity
Inefficient meetings are a major drain on the productivity of everyone in them, as well as a substantial opportunity cost for the company. After all, every minute spent in an unnecessary meeting is one that could have been spent on a different, more worthwhile task.
Video conferencing technology helps facilitate more effective meetings:
- Instead of wading through a complex process just to join a conference (long PINs, downloads, etc.), attendees can simply click or tap to join a Webex conference.
- They don’t even have to download a dedicated app if they don’t want to or can’t do so – the entire meeting can be experienced through the browser.
- Clear video keeps the meeting focused and on track. Everyone can be seen and names can be put to faces, so there’s less confusion.
- Meetings can also be easily recorded for later review by anyone who wasn’t there or who needs a refresher.
Support mobile and remote workers
Telecommuting has become more common since the early 2000s, thanks to changes in employee preferences and the emergence of technologies like smartphones and SaaS. There are risks to remote work, however.
The State of Remote Work 2018 report from Buffer found that loneliness and collaborating/communicating were the most cited challenges by remote workers. Video conferencing can address both of these problems.
HD video and crisp audio can make it feel like teams are in the same room with each other, no matter where they are. Paired with features for screen sharing, recording, and more, a video conferencing solution also provides a comprehensive way to collaborate and communicate.
Integrate with other tools and workflows
It’s easy to configure Webex and then integrate it into your SMB’s current workflow. Integrations are available with multiple popular applications, from Salesforce and Google Calendar to Slack and Microsoft Teams.
In other words, Webex can be easily shaped to your organization’s particular requirements and workflows. Whether you plan to use it to help close more sales, provide online trainings to staff or simply host regularly scheduled meetings, Webex can fit the occasion. Learn more by starting your free trial today.
When you schedule an in-person meeting, you subject everyone involved to some rather strict limitations. They all have to gather in the same physical location, plus you need to ensure that you’ve actually got an open conference room or office at a time that works for every attendee.
Neither requirement is a given, especially if you’re an SMB with limited working space and employees who regularly travel or telecommute.
It’s sort of the workplace equivalent of visiting a travel agent to plan a trip, despite having the more convenient option of just handling the flight details, car rental and Airbnb or hotel booking online. In this case, the appealing alternative is to use video conferencing solutions.
As SMBs look to enable real-time collaboration without the constraints of in-office meetings, video conferencing software offers a compelling combination of rich functionality, affordable cost, and overall ease of use. SMBs can use such a platform to perform many tasks, from holding internal online meetings with screen sharing to meeting with sales prospects via HD video.
Let’s look at some of these benefits in greater depth, so you can evaluate the different solutions out there and choose the best video conferencing software for your team.
Here are 5 ways your SMB can benefit from video conferencing services:
1. Simpler, more consistent collaboration
When a meeting’s attendees are not all in the same place, it’s crucial that they have a consistent platform they can connect to whether they’re joining from a phone, tablet, computer, or dedicated video calling equipment. Webex levels the playing field with:
- Flexible device compatibility, supporting mobile and desktop devices as well as any standards-based video equipment.
- The option to join from a web client without needing to download anything.
- Call Me functionality to join by just answering the phone.
- Quick joining via Webex Productivity Tools in the toolbar.
Webex’s familiar big green button makes life easier for everyone, no matter whey they are or what device they’re using. A TechValidate survey of Cisco collaboration users found that 93% felt Webex video conferencing improved their interactions and business relationships.
2. Better productivity
At its best, video conferencing software supports productive real-time collaboration from any location. A 2018 Forrester survey found that almost three-quarters of IT decision-makers said their overall number of video calls had increased over the last two years, hinting at big ongoing gains in employee productivity.
Compared to conference calls, video and web conferencing solutions enable better productivity by:
- Minimizing distractions: Audio-only meetings encourage multi-tasking, which distract from their proceedings. Thanks to crystal-clear video, Webex helps attendees stay fully focused.
- Keeping the meeting short: Overlong meetings test everyone’s focus. By simplifying the processes for joining and participating, the best video conferencing software eliminates the delays and technical hiccups that inflate meeting times.
- Providing rich functionality: Video conferencing solutions let you do more than just see who’s on the other end of the line. Screen sharing, online meeting recording, webcasting, and more open up many possibilities for your SMB.
3. Many possible use cases
Small business owners and their teams often have to wear many hats. From sales to customer support, the same employee might perform several different tasks on a daily basis, necessitating a similarly versatile set of collaboration tools. This is where a flexible and intuitive video conferencing solution like Webex pays dividends.
With Webex, you can:
- Hold all-hands meetings to provide informative updates about the company.
- Host a webinar to showcase a new product or pitch a promising partner on a project.
- Conduct trainings for departments such as HR, with Q&A, polling, and screen sharing.
- Offer high-quality, real-time technical support to customers and users around the globe.
- Make it easier for sales teams to collaborate internally and with prospects and customers.
4. Seamless integrations
Video conferencing works best when it’s integrated into your other workflows, such that you don’t even have to think twice about scheduling a meeting. Webex works with all major calendaring software, including Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and Office 365. Inviting anyone or everyone is no problem.
Plus, you can launch meetings from inside tools such as Salesforce, Slack, or Microsoft Teams. When you connect with someone via video on Webex, these integrations provide helpful context that fuels better meetings.
5. Reduced travel costs
SMB budgets are often tight, with little room for unexpected expenses. A video conferencing system can help you optimize your costs by reducing the need for pricey travel, whether it’s between company offices, on trips to meet prospects or attend conferences.
The lifelike video conferencing of Webex makes it as if everyone is actually together in one room, even when they’re apart. So save the commute or the business travel, and focus on the projects that matter most to your SMB. Try Cisco Webex for free today!
Often, software updates mean bringing the latest and greatest new experience to users. But sometimes it’s equally important to make existing experiences better, by removing distractions that can take away from your video conference experience. We’ve done just that with some of features in latest Webex Meetings Suite update – 39.6 – and also added some new, great features, too.
- Delightful audio experiences
- Web page enhancements: Modern View and People Insights
- Enhanced integrations with the tools you use every day
- Webex for CarPlay
- New lockdown release: Webex Meetings 39.5
Delightful audio experiences
I know we’ve all been disrupted in a meeting when someone starts tapping their pen or typing loudly. In the old days (and sometimes still today), someone would have to ask the offenders to mute themselves. A little more than a year ago, Webex introduced a feature that proactively suggested to the typer/tapper that they should mute themselves – hopefully before anyone else had to it. With the latest 39.6 update, we’ve taken it one step further by automatically lowering the microphone volume if loud typing or tapping is detected – but only if that person is not speaking. Once the person starts to speak (or stops typing/tapping for more than two seconds), the microphone volume will increase back to normal– and no one has to do any awkward shushing.
And we’ve all been annoyed by hearing someone’s voicemail pick up in the middle of a meeting because that person didn’t answer their call-back. This means the meeting has to pause until the voicemail recording finishes playing. The 39.6 update fixes that. A new, smart feature within Webex detects that the call hasn’t been picked up within a certain timeframe and prevents the call from entering the meeting before voicemail is launched. This avoids disruption to the meeting and unburdens the host from having to eject that voicemail from the meeting.
“Modern View” redesign for the Webex site
If you’ve been video conferencing with Webex for a while, you’ll appreciate the efforts we’ve put into modernizing “Classic View” on the Webex site. With “Modern View,” you now see a redesigned look and feel of the dashboard experience – with everything at your fingertips. A centralized search bar gives quick access to important items such as upcoming scheduled meetings, your colleagues’ personal room IDs, and recording playback. If you’re still on “Classic View,” please note that we are defaulting to Modern View for optimal experience.
We’ve also extended People Insights support to the Webex Web App, so you can easily get to know the people you’re meeting, no matter how you join.
Webex bot making integrations better
One of our guiding tenets is to make video conferencing with Webex easy to access within the tools you use every day. So, with the new Slack bot introduced in the 39.6 release, Slack users can now schedule a meeting using the command “/webexschedule,” and members in the channel will be automatically notified of the scheduled meeting. You can also use the command “/webexschedule list” to view scheduled upcoming Webex meetings or meetings you are invited to, as well as listing upcoming meetings for today or tomorrow. You can join a meeting from the list when it’s time, and the host can start or cancel the meeting from within Slack.
In other integration news – now, directly within Microsoft Teams, the Webex Meetings bot will notify you via 1:1 chat when a meeting recording is available. This recording notification also works with Webex Meetings scheduled within the Cisco Webex Meetings tab in Microsoft Teams. A URL link is included along with password (if existing). To better understand how to configure the Webex Meetings tab in Microsoft Teams, please review this help article.
What’s more mobile than Webex in your car?
The 39.6 update now provides CarPlay support for iOS users with existing Siri voice commands. You’ll experience the Webex user interface on your dashboard, with mute/unmute/leave meetings capabilities using their CarPlay buttons.
Also, on iOS, your cameras will now automatically brighten when ambient light is too dim, so you can send well-lit video into Webex Meetings. Auto-brightness will default to ON for new installs.
New lockdown version: Webex Meetings Suite 39.5
If you’re on a lockdown version of Webex, you’ll be interested to know that we will be moving off Webex Meetings Suite 33.6 and onto version 39.5. We’ve made significant improvements since version 33.6, including richer integration between Webex Meetings and devices, high frame rate sharing, Proximity pairing for easy access, one-way whiteboarding with the Webex Board, and People Insights among other great features. We’re also now supportingup to 200 video endpoints dialing into Webex Events so you can deliver Events directly from your Webex videodevices. Please update to the new lockdown version, 39.5, soon so you can enjoy all the latest features that Webex has to offer. You can find more info on 39.5 on the Webex Help Portal – What’s New in Webex Meetings Suite (WBS39)– by clicking on “WBS39.5.”
For all the latest features of version 39.6, please visit the Webex Help Portal link above and click on “WBS39.6.”
This feature applies when connected through the “Call using computer” audio option Personal Room Meetings and recurring meetings are not yet supported iOS 11+ iPhones only; SmartDeviceLink (SDL) needed to see in-meeting user interface and use of CarPlay buttons.
Webex, the leader in video conferencing.
While Austin is known for its Tex-Mex and BBQ, next week, the tech industry descends on the Texas capital for the best brain food on the tech conference circuit, the South By South West (SXSW) festival. SXSW spans 10 days and nights from March 8–17, with approximately 432,500 people from over 102 countries participating in the SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive Events. SXSW Interactive is deemed the World’s largest gathering of creative professionals with 4,967 conference speakers and 2,147 conference sessions.
South By, as it’s affectionately known, was where Twitter famously launched its early beta version. Tech launches at SXSW included Foursquare in 2009, Gowalla in 2009, Highlight in 2012, Meerkat in 2015 and while “Uber didn’t launch at SXSW, according to Fast Company, it was conceived here”. Interactive even hosted speakers such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Ferris, former President Barack Obama, Mark Cuban, Braaam Cohen, Biz Stone, and several worldwide tech leaders.
During the Interactive Festival part of SXSW, innovative companies from all over the world meet, market their innovations, attend pitch sessions, learn from a huge variety of events, and make critical connections. 2016 was the first time the Cisco Collaboration BU supported an event at Capital Factory, the epicenter and heart of showcasing SXSW tech during Interactive. This year, Cisco Webex, Meraki, and DevNet have been working on several projects to bring together an Innovative Center of Cisco Technologies.
Cognitive collaboration is about pairing intelligent workspaces with intelligent workstreams to deliver a heightened and more profitable experience for employees and customers. The Future of Work Experience Center at Capital Factory is designed to be an innovative, world-class effort to showcase Austin tech startups, Cisco Webex technologies, and other disruptive hardware and software partners. You will learn a range of skills including, how you can improve finding a meeting, video translation services, room booking, and analytics tracking with IOT and other sensor technology at this venue.
We will showcase the power of Cognitive Collaboration and innovation with the new features of Webex Meetings, Teams and Devices and Webex ISVs all working together! You will see products like the Room Kit Mini, Webex Share, Webex Board 70”, Room Kit Pro & Plus with Webex Teams, Meetings demos and our top ISV’s as well as Meraki and Kinetic.
Attending Cisco Partner Demos:
Mio – Slack, Microsoft Teams and Webex Teams interop platform
LG – World’s best-selling brand for OLED TVs
Appspace – Digital Signage and Room Booking
Vyopta – Collaboration Monitoring and Analytics
Disruptive Technologies – World’s smallest IOT sensor
Voicea – AI enabled voice first and note-taking assistant
Phunware – Location Based Services, API & SDK’s
Room Ready – Boutique Cisco Video & A/V integrator for Nike and other major companies
We are a few days away from SXSW Interactive and showcasing “The Future of Work Experience Center” at Capital Factory, in Austin, Texas. If you are going to SXSW or know of someone going, please tell them to stop by. We hope to see you there!
By Jono Luk, Director of Product Management for the Webex Platform
Over the past few weeks, you’ve seen several blog posts from us talking about Webex’s bright and exciting future and what this means for developers like you. And to deliver on our promise, we’re focusing on one of the most important aspects: the fact that Webex is an open and extensible platform!
At Cisco Webex, we recognize the heterogenous nature of productivity and team collaboration today. Most people use several apps and tools to get their work done. And, people don’t work in isolation anymore–small teams form to get core tasks done right. This happens both inside and outside an organization.
To make sure we help you and your team get stuff done as quickly and easily as possible, we’ve made it a core tenant to let you make Webex your own. By taking this path, Webex can help you supercharge many of your favorite productivity apps, further helping you drive the decisions and content for better business outcomes. How do we do this? By exposing multiple ways for you, your partner, or an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) to build solutions with Webex.
Since Cisco Partner Summit took place last week, let’s focus on how our partners can bring more to Webex for you and our other users all around the world. With Webex, you can:
Bring in any app with bots and integrations.
Our bots and integrations framework helps you insert your apps capabilities where your team spends most of their time. Webex also helps you stay informed of what’s going on in other systems with integrations and bots, allowing you to control and interact with your respective services.
Make your app #webexceptional with the Webex collaboration platform.
No one works in silos anymore. People meet, discuss, and decide in groups. Bring Webex’s market-leading communication and collaboration technologies to your app to empower your users to get more done, faster. You can use our APIs, SDKs, and widgets to embed these experiences into your own desktop and mobile apps.
Why struggle building your own video backbone when Webex is already so secure and reliable? Simply decide where in your app you want your users to experience real-time communications like voice and video, screen sharing, secure messaging, and more. Let us do the heavy lifting to make these features come to life.
Reach new customers and solve new problems.
Want to build a business for solving customer problems? Build solutions for Webex customers and enhance your go-to-market value. Our Webex customers want and need your help. Leverage bots, integrations, APIs, SDKs and widgets to build apps and solutions, and then tap into the millions of people using Webex every month.
But don’t just take our word for it….
Now’s the part where we want to show you rather than tell you about what the possibilities look like. Here are a few examples of #webexceptional apps and solutions that have been built with Webex.
Involvio: making students successful
Involvio is in the business of improving student engagement, and they’re delivering this with the power of the Webex platform. The pre-existing infrastructure and power of Webex Teams made it a no-brainer for the Involvio solution. As their founder and CEO, Ari Winkleman, put it, “We didn’t consider any other platforms because we didn’t really see any [that] have broad deployment across schools. None of the other platforms are ‘enterprise-grade.’”
Learn more about Involvio’s solution here: developer.webex.com/blog/how-we-build-with-webex-involvio.
Mio: connecting the universe of messaging platforms
Like we said above, the Internet is a heterogenous mix of apps and services. The messaging space is no different. Mio has built a business around connecting Webex Teams with the other players in this space, including Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Learn more about Mio and their interop solution for Webex teams here: developer.webex.com/blog/m-io-lets-you-talk-across-apps-including-cisco-webex-teams.
Cloverhound: closing distance with the Internet
ISV partner Cloverhound built and released a first-in-the-nation solution, built on the Webex platform, that allows injured workers and other participants to attend workers’ compensation hearings right from their homes or offices. This solution is a critical piece to removing obstacles and reducing the inherent stress accompanying the hearing process.
Learn more about the Cloverhound solution here: www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/PressRe/virtual-hearings-press-release.jsp.
The point of a platform is that there is truly no limit to the innovation that awaits you and your customers. And these examples above illustrate just a few of the success stories our partners have built with Webex. Keep an eye on our blog, developer.webex.com/blog, for more case studies and the latest news in the space!
5 questions small business owners should ask themselves before choosing a video conferencing solutionDec 04 2020 — Webex Team
Choosing the right solution for your small business
With the advent of widespread remote work, collaboration has become more complex. Instead of gathering in a physical conference room, meetings are now virtual. How do you choose the right solution for your small business and give your teams the tools they need to succeed?
Unproductive meetings are a time and energy suck. When conducted remotely, they have the potential to be even more disorienting. The right video conferencing solution can make meetings productive again.
5 things to look for in a video conferencing solution
Before purchasing a conference solution for audio/video calls and meetings, there are some questions to be answered. Look carefully at each of your prospective solutions to see if they support these must-have features.
Many video conferencing solutions require users to have an account or download an app. That’s just one more hoop to jump through and one more login to remember. Look for options that support in-browser use and have a fast uptime instead.
When you can simply invite people to a meeting with a quick email and they can get straight into the meeting by clicking a link, you cut down on time waiting for people to find their login or request a new password, or download and launch an app.
Cisco Webex Meetings has a fast browser-based interface, providing easy access for desktop users. Your participants can also join via tablet, phone, or any standards-based video conferencing system. The goal is to provide unparalleled video quality from anywhere your team member is located, on any device they choose to utilize. You can easily customize the meeting layout for best viewing and usability.
Best of all, there’s no download or configuration required, and users can easily jump into meetings over the phone with the Call Me feature. You can schedule, start, and join new meetings directly from your toolbar for added flexibility and convenience.
The ability to actively share and collaborate during a conference can enhance video calls and teamwork. Look for solutions that allow the following functionalities:
- Screen sharing. Being able to show, not tell, can streamline training processes and make it easy for groups to follow along as you demonstrate how to use a new tool or application.
- File sharing. Dropping a document into your meeting for everyone to access saves time and effort over having to create and send an email blast with the attached file or link.
- Instant messaging. Having a built-in chat allows participants to ask questions without interrupting the flow of a presentation and helps preserve a record of participation.
Webex Meetings facilitates screen sharing, file sharing, and real-time chat during video conferencing calls to help foster collaboration and build stronger teams.
Being able to revisit what happened in a conference call can give your video conferences lasting organizational impact. Look for features like audio/visual recording, closed captioning, real-time transcription and note taking. Being able to share a past video conference with someone who missed it is easier than trying to recap later.
Webex Meetings can record each conference, provide closed captions, facilitate note-taking, and deliver accurate transcriptions that you can download, save, and share as needed. When you need to revisit an older conference, you can use targeted keywords to search transcripts for sections of interest.
Cost vs. value
While cost is certainly a factor for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it shouldn’t be the deciding factor when choosing how to handle your video conferencing call needs. All options aren’t created equal, and it’s better to pay a little more for a video conference solution that meets the needs of your team.
- Quality. Read reviews and find out which solutions repeatedly get praise for clear audio and smooth video feeds.
- Resolution. Does the picture quality suffer on certain devices? You need a solution that doesn’t just work only on desktop or only on mobile.
- Security. How are your calls encrypted? Who handles the speech to text function and provides recordings, transcriptions, and closed captioning?
- Support. When you’re having issues, waiting in a queue or having to email a support team isn’t a viable solution. You need help that is available and accessible in real time.
Webex Meetings video conferencing provides clear audio and high-resolution video, along with in-house encryption, recording, captioning, and transcription for a secure experience. The support team is continually available to troubleshoot any potential issues with you in real time.
How well will the video conferencing solution integrate with tools you already use? Ask the following questions when considering adding video conferencing to your array of small business solutions:
- Can you seamlessly merge your contact list, email client, and calendars to facilitate meeting invites?
- Will you be able to readily access files from your favorite file-share and storage locations?
- Is the solution compatible with both Microsoft and Apple tools and applications?
- What about chat and communication platforms?
- Can you use the video conference solution inside your preferred small business customer relationship management (CRM) platform?
Being able to continue using the other solutions your team is familiar with will make video conferencing easier and more intuitive.
Webex Meetings smoothly integrates with Google Cloud, Microsoft, Apple, Box, Salesforce, and Slack to complete your suite of small business tools while fostering scalability and adoption.
Video conferencing can give your SMB a strong strategic advantage. Learn more by getting started with a free trial today.
Control Hub Administration — Configuring the Essentials Part 1 [Live Class]
Scheduling Webex Events [Live Class]
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What do you most closely associate with screen sharing?
Perhaps the inescapable phrase, “Can everyone see my screen?” is the first thing to spring to mind, or maybe you recall all the slide deck walk-throughs you sat through in the past. But with the right software, screen sharing can be much more convenient and versatile than either of those associations would imply.
In a screen sharing solution, you can also synchronously coedit documents, which is a major upgrade from the old back-and-forth of exchanging emails and navigating through tracked changes. By taking advantage of the real-time collaboration features of screen sharing software, workers in and out of the office can more easily get on the same page, understand feedback, and produce an agreed-upon version of the assets in question.
How does coediting work on a screen share platform?
Screen sharing is a great opportunity for all participants in the session to see and contribute to a document at the same time. The workflow itself will vary based on the platform being used, but generally the process is pretty straightforward:
- The presenter pulls up a text document, spreadsheet, presentation, or other asset (e.g., a code repository) on their device.
- They then share it with the others in the meeting, either by sharing their entire screen or just that particular piece of content.
- The presenter can take feedback from viewers on what needs to be changed or added. Alternatively, multiple participants can pull up the same document, like a file in SharePoint Online or Google Drive, and work on it in parallel during the meeting.
- After the screen share session ends, the meeting organizer can send a recording of it to everyone. They can also re-share the edited document in a messaging channel such as Webex Teams and, with the right permissions enabled, have it open in an appropriate application for further work.
In some cases, a team may choose only to perform the fourth step, opting to do all edits outside of a dedicated meeting with a screen share session. However, there are some distinct advantages to setting up a screen share, especially as more workers begin operating outside of traditional corporate offices.
Why should you use a screen share for coediting?
Screen sharing isn’t just for presenting or lecturing. As a form of real-time collaboration, it’s also a great forum for exchanging ideas and implementing feedback. Let’s dig into some of the specific reasons for editing via a free screen share:
Fewer runarounds and delays
We mentioned emails and documents with tracked changes earlier, as both are staples of most modern editing workflows. Even when someone makes a small update to a shared Google Doc, for instance, contributors usually find out via an email. Keeping track of everything can be taxing. McKinsey & Company has estimated that professionals spend 28% of their time each week on email.
Screen sharing can simplify the editing workflow, in turn reducing the amount of email to sort through. Meeting participants can see the latest changes and suggestions being made in real time and ask questions on the spot, instead of needing to request clarification later or search their inbox for the right version to follow.
Integrated audio and video
Sometimes it can feel like you’re stuck or at a loss for how to proceed with a document, whether it’s a heavily edited version of a PDF or something like a repository of computer code in need of some big updates. This situation can lead to setting up a separate call to go through the next steps — but why not eliminate this extra stage and get direct guidance while you have your collaborators on the line?
In a screen share, you can do more than just share content. You can also interact via high-quality audio and video, allowing for more nuanced communications than email exchanges would ever enable. The integrated video, audio, and content sharing in a platform like Webex makes it easier to avoid subsequent rounds of edits and costly miscommunications.
An officelike experience from any location
Opening up a document to begin applying edits or comments, or to accept or reject someone else’s, can feel very impersonal. If you’re working remotely, it can seem like you’re on an island, far removed from what everyone else is thinking and doing.
Indeed, loneliness is a frequently cited challenge among telecommuters, being at the top of the list of remote work challenges in a 2020 Buffer survey. But with a screen share, workers can feel like they’re all together collaborating in the same space, even if they’re still physically far apart:
- The screen share itself can simulate the feeling of a presentation or conference room discussion.
- The high-quality audio allows participants to discuss feedback and changes as they happen.
- Video can allow for additional clarity, for example in the form of a visual demo or simply through a presenter’s body language and reactions.
Upgrade your screen sharing experience
Screen sharing is a versatile mode of collaboration, with utility far beyond the standard slide-based presentation.
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Best Practices: How to Work Remotely [Live Class]
In my last blog, I looked at how you can use modern team messaging platforms to stay in touch with colleagues and external parties in the new remote workplace. This month I wanted to take things one step further and look into how else Webex is taking the pain out of how we work together on documents.
Business never stops, especially for those of us in a geographically dispersed, cross-functional workplace. When working on a shared document we need to be sure we always have the latest version, that we have instant access regardless of the time, that multiple people can work on a document at the same time and all with the peace of mind that our information is secure. And we want to be able to access that document right from where we are interacting with project team members in virtual workspaces – with messaging and chat, meetings and 1:1 calls.
Webex has you covered! So, let’s look at how Webex makes collaborating on a document effortless:
1) Making file sharing easy and organized
Ever tried to share a large file via email, only to receive the ‘failure to send’ notification? Well with Webex, you can share documents, videos, images and really anything you need to work on with your team in 1:1 chats and group spaces. All shared items in a space are conveniently stored in the ‘Content’ section under ‘Files’. And, to make things even easier, you can use search to find any file shared in the app, as well as people, messages and spaces.
File upload screen graphic
2) Collaborate on live documents straight from Webex
Enterprise content management (ECM) is undoubtably one of the most useful collaboration features within Webex. The Webex open platform enables you to integrate your SharePoint or OneDrive account to your app. This allows you to share and documents stored within SharePoint or OneDrive directly to a 1:1 chat or group space. Better still, you and your team can work on these files simultaneously without ever leaving the app and watch edits be updated live. All edits are automatically saved – preventing the risk of data loss. Webex supports a number of the leading ECM providers including Box, Google and Dropbox.
3) Selected screen share
We can all be guilty of having far too many screens open at once, and all know the fear of having to share your screen during a call and praying that you share the right one. Webex Teams removes this fear. With selected screen share, you can specify which screen you want to share from the offset – keeping your other work confidential and avoiding any accidental security risks (perfect for hiding your online shopping basket). Even if you opened another app while sharing your selected screen, have no fear, as the participants viewing would see nothing except the app you chose to share. You can easily change which screen you are showing by clicking on the share button again.
With multiple screen view, you can share your screen and still see the meeting participants. This keeps your team focused and increases engagement.
4) Visually express your ideas with a Whiteboard
Probably my personal favourite feature within Webex is whiteboarding. We all know that great ideas happen when we work together and whiteboards on Webex Teams provide the perfect platform to bring visual aspect to brainstorming activities.
Start a whiteboard in a 1:1 chat or group space while on a call or offline. As you are working, the whiteboard automatically saves in your space and can be accessed later to pick up where you left off. Each person in the group can contribute to the whiteboard simultaneously, creating a true interactive experience – as though you were all in the same room.
5) Webex Pollbot
Lastly, let’s talk about Webex Pollbot. Webex Teams is a great platform for groups to share ideas and opinions when collaborating on a document. But what happens when you can’t come to an agreement. This can lead to major delays and impacts to workflows. Luckily Webex introduced Pollbot.
Pollbot can add a poll to any of your existing group spaces, or you can interact with Pollbot in a 1:1 to generate an independent poll. Simply add questions, set a time to expire, and see results in real time even before the poll ends. Easily get a group decision on that blog title, website graphic or even what to order for lunch. To learn more about Integrations and bot click here.
If you haven’t used Webex Teams yet, you may already be entitled to it if you have a current Webex subscription or a Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan. Alternatively, you can download Webex Teams for free.
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Welcome to what’s new in Webex! This article highlights new Webex features and capabilities that we have recently introduced, as well as a preview of new features coming in November and later this fall.
Remove Background Noise from Meetings and Events – Windows and Mac
Having drywall put up in another room or a dog barking to go outside? Filter out those noisy background disruptions before (or during) a call so that others only hear your voice. Just turn on the Remove background noise setting and you’re all set. Find this feature at Settings > Remove background noise.
Work your way: Introducing the Dark Theme
Reduce eye strain by choosing a theme that works best with your lighting conditions. Webex is expanding dark and light theme choices available for the team collaboration to meetings. Now you can now choose whether you want to view the meeting window in the standard Light Theme or the new Dark Theme. You can select your preferred option from the View menu.
Automatic in-meeting mute warning
Whoops, don’t share your great idea while on mute. We’ve been making a lot of enhancements to mute and unmute functionality in Webex to remove some of the common friction points in meetings. Soon, automatic notifications in Webex Meetings and Webex Events will let you know if you’re trying to speak while on mute. If you start to talk while your microphone is muted, Webex will automatically show you a notification so that you can unmute yourself to speak.
WEBEX TEAM COLLABORATION
We’re adding more intelligence to enhance team collaboration. Use BOTs to automate your workflows and provide proactive notifications.
Microsoft Outlook Bot
We’re making it easy to transition from traditional email to team collaboration. Don’t miss an important email while you are working in Webex. Now you can get alerts within your team spaces of email from your client, boss or related to key projects. Use notification rules for important subjects and people. No need to create separate rules within Outlook – use an adaptive card within Webex space.
Confluence Cloud Bot—Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android
Get notified of important updates to Pages and Blogs in Confluence within your team workspace. We’re making it easy to keep on top of changes to documented processes, release plans, or product requirement pages from Confluence. Now you can quickly get updates for pages recently updated, watched, and even saved for later.
Leave a comment to a change on a page directly from any Webex space
Birthday Bot—Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android
Celebrate your teammates and get in a party mood. We’ve created a super easy way to keep track of and celebrate birthdays within your team with a new Birthday Bot! Once available, you’ll find it on the Webex App Hub.
Remove Background Noise
Continue communicating without noisy background disruptions. Filter out those noisy background disruptions during calls using the Webex app so that others only hear your voice.
You will soon be able to select a setting option to remove background noise. Just as in the Webex Meeting experience, when the Remove Background Noise setting is selected, the unified Webex app will remove leaf blowers, vacuum, and other background noise, while enhancing your voice. This feature will be available in November.
Call queue availability
Business agents who are members of a Call Queue can set their availability to receive calls in order to make call routing more effective. This feature makes working from home easier for the end user when you do not have a hard phone. Users can set their availability from the Webex desktop or mobile client call settings page.
Update your contacts list from call history
We’re making it easy to add or edit your contacts, not only from Chat, but also from your call history. Now you can right-click an entry in your Call History and have several convenient options at your fingertips. You can call the person back, add the person to your Contacts list, send a message, send an email, or even start a meeting.
Webex is continues to add features to enable common app and device experiences to support more hybrid work scenarios.
Remove Background Noise
Continue communicating without noisy background disruptions. Later this month, Webex RoomOS devices (Desk Pro, Board and Room Series) will support advanced AI to remove background noise and enhance human voice.
New expanded roster view & mute experiences create more consistent experiences across app and device meeting experiences. Hosts and co-hosts now have more control over the audio in Webex Meetings directly from their Webex device. New features include: Mute and unmute everyone, enable “Mute on entry” (all users are automatically muted when they join), and control if meeting participants can unmute, or if only hosts can control who is unmuted.
INTEGRATIONS AND INDUSTRY SOLUTIONS
Expanded Webex Expert on Demand features
Webex Expert on Demand lets frontline workers collaborate hands free with subject matter expert anywhere to be more effective. Webex Expert on Demand integration with RealWear HMT-1 continues to expand features. With the Expert on Demand 1.7 release in November, frontline workers will have: expanded group call features to show active calls or initiate group call, search and select space to place or join calls, advanced camera controls to adjust contrast and exposure as well as take HD resolution photos, enhanced shared content controls to zoom in on content, simplified login options via a companion app with QR code and expanded language support with the addition of Korean, Thai, German, French, Polish and Russian.
Public Sector Options: Legislate for Webex
Legislate for Webex is a purpose-built, complete collaboration solution that enables legislatures to vote and conduct hearings virtually, just as they would in person. Legislate for Webex is built and secured on the global Webex platform to enable high availability and reliability for institutions around the globe, and is customizable to meet the needs of federal, state and local organizations.
CONTROL HUB, SECURITY AND EDGE SERVICES
If you are an admin, Webex Control Hub places management, monitoring, troubleshooting, analytics, edge and hybrid services across all your collaboration resources in one pane of glass.
Support for Azure Conditional Access to Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint Online – Windows, Mac
If your organization uses Azure Conditional Access, you can now extend access to users to sign into Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint Online content management from within Webex Teams across Windows and Mac devices. Uses Proof of Possession API to verify device in windows to seamlessly authenticate and use ECM-MS functionality.
Expanded VDI Support
Webex is offering best in class VDI support for collaboration. Webex supports full featured collaboration and advanced features across meetings, calling, team collaboration and content sharing. Media is optimized to support 720p video and eliminate content hair-pining. Additionally, expanded experiences such as virtual background, video breakout rooms and Webex Meeting Assistant are supported in VDI clients so users get richer collaboration experiences even in virtual desktop environments. Meetings app platform support will be expanded in November to include Citrix and Windows/Ubuntu/eLux Thin Client OS, VMware and Windows Thin Client OS.
Admins can now define Webex space labels based on data governance policies and enforce all users to classify the Webex team collaboration spaces they create by Public, Confidential, Highly Confidential, or Secret. This prompts user awareness and compliance with data classification policies where sensitive and confidential content may be shared. External access can also be restricted to spaces in adherence to your organizations Enterprise Data Classification policies via DLP controls.
Webex Edge Connect – PacketFabric option
Expanded private connectivity options to Webex for hybrid deployments now include PacketFabric. Webex Edge Connect service supports a dedicated private connection to the Cisco Webex Cloud; this option offers added reliability and security for those organizations who prefer not to use OTT connectivity at the edge. With hundreds of global locations, the PacketFabric option for Webex Edge Connect allows organizations to interconnect to Cisco Webex via their owned physical network port and managed virtual connections using a flexible subscription model to adjust bandwidth as needed.
New API options
Webex Control Hub now provides easier access to data via APIs for integrations, and automatic data access for quality data, aggregated trending data and detailed reports. Admins can now pull the data in Control Hub via APIs to integrate with other dashboards or use for further analysis.
For more information on all of these features and upcoming update to Webex, please visit the What’s New Articles for Webex Services.
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Reducing the risk of delays when sharing your screen
As more workers move outside of traditional offices, they’re also outgrowing the collaboration tools that were once staples of those environments, namely email and in-person meetings. Taking the place of those modes of communication are newer forms of teamwork, centered on real-time services for voice, video , and screen sharing.
The screen share in particular is a vital replacement for the old workflow of gathering everyone into a room and turning on a projector to walk them through a slide deck or other asset. But it’s not without its potential complications. Distractions, technical hiccups, or simply choosing confusingly designed software can waste a lot of time.
What can you do to reduce the risk of delays when sharing your screen? Fortunately, there’s no shortage of options for leading a more focused session. Let’s look at some of the most dependable tips for a risk-free screen share.
Share just one window or application
Sharing your entire screen probably feels like the easiest and most practical way to lead a screen share, and in some cases, it is. For example, if you’re leading an in-depth demonstration of how to use a certain built-in feature in macOS or Microsoft Windows, then sharing the full desktop is logical, as you’ll need to walk the audience through where to find everything.
However, this type of screen sharing can also be risky, since it puts everything into public view. Watchers may be able to see what’s on your desktop, notifications from your apps, and even sensitive information like login credentials if you open your password manager.
To avoid these pitfalls, consider sharing just one application or desktop at a time. This way, you limit what can be seen while still being able to share the content you need to show. Webex Teams makes it straightforward to select which screen or app to show at any time.
Take advantage of meeting controls
Your screen share is going great — and then someone strange joins the meeting and starts talking or trying to show their own screen or video feed. Such disruptions have become more common as remote work in general and video conferencing applications in particular have both risen in popularity.
For this reason, it’s important to use built-in meeting controls to keep proceedings on track with as few distractions as possible. Some of the most important practices include:
- Enforce password entry: Make sure to enable password requirements as needed to reduce the risk of unauthorized logins.
- Lock the meeting once everyone is in it: Similarly, you can prevent anyone else from joining by locking the session. If you need to let legitimate attendees in later, you can unlock temporarily.
- Control who the presenter is: As the host, you have the power to change the presenter or reclaim the role for yourself at any time.
- Mute audio: Is someone’s excessive background noise making the screen share unbearable? Curbing it is as simple as using a mute button to silence their audio.
Turn off notifications
Notifications are important, but they can usually wait until after the screen share is over. A notification that arrives in the middle of a screen share can not only be a huge distraction, but a data leakage risk as well.
Think about all the notifications related to sensitive matters like one-time login codes and two-factor authentication, as well as online purchases, and personal messages. If they’re not turned off, you’re rolling the dice each time you lead a screen share.
Notifications can be turned off systemwide or app-by-app on all modern operating systems. Once the screen share is over, you can easily re-enable them.
Organize desktop and browser appearance
A disorganized desktop or a browser with a bunch of tabs open can be much more than an eyesore — it can also be a data security hazard, for the same reasons as unchecked notifications. A stray tab or document can divulge sensitive information. Plus, in the case of the browser, it can take a toll on system performance, too.
Consider cleaning up your desktop prior to leading a screen share. This can be as simple as using a feature like Stacks in macOS, or just creating a separate clean desktop on Windows and then presenting from there.
Fine-tune application performance
Screen sharing is a real-time process, making technical performance paramount. Software for screen sharing is usually well optimized for displaying the presenter’s screen and video, but multiple issues are still possible and can affect the presentation.
To get the best possible performance, first consider closing any unneeded applications and background processes, as the ongoing syncing of cloud services like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive can consume a lot of bandwidth. Also make sure you’re close enough to your Wi-Fi router or access point, or have an Ethernet connection set up for the most reliable connectivity.
Get started with better screen sharing in Webex
Webex provides an immersive screen sharing experience that lets you connect with as many, or as few, participants as you need to and lead them through a crystal-clear presentation.
To try it for yourself, get started for free today.
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Arushi Raghuvanshi – Hear an overview of key concepts for leveraging NLP in production applications like voice assistants, question answering, search, topic summarization, and more.
This is a companion blog post to my talk at the Women in Big Data event on August 20, 2020. The talk slides are available here
There are different challenges between academic or theoretical NLP and practical or applied NLP. There are quite a few online resources on the academic side, including published papers, lessons on AI and NLP theory and fundamentals, blog posts breaking down the latest and greatest models, etc. There is less information online about using all of this in practice, in real-world, customer-facing applications, which is what I’ll cover here. I will outline some key differences between academia and industry, introduce core NLP concepts that are applicable to a variety of applied use cases, go through best practices and tools for collecting data and building an application, and discuss how to securely improve deployed models over time.
Academia vs industry
The first key difference between academia and industry is data. The data available to build a production application may be very limited in quantity compared to standard research datasets. For example, SQuAD, a popular question-answering dataset, has over 100,000 questions, but developers may only have a couple hundred representative question-answer pairs to build a production system. Production data may also be noisier or have different characteristics than standard data sets. For example, it could contain a lot of domain-specific terms like product names. Because of this, pre-trained or out of the box models might not work well.
The second difference is the need for reliability and interpretability in user-facing applications. There has been a trend towards deep learning models that perform well on large amounts of data, but they may pick up on unintended or undesirable data trends because real-world data naturally has bias. For example, many companies have shown up in the news for accidentally building sexist or racially biased models. When building models in practice, it’s important to think about bias and design models that are easy to evaluate, consistent, and only rely on intended features.
Next, academic papers tend to focus on a single, well-defined component. While these components may work well individually, they often break down as part of a larger pipeline. For example, to build a voice assistant you may need a pipeline of speech recognition, natural language understanding, and question answering components. If the speech recognition is off, it makes it more difficult to understand what the user is asking, and even more difficult to answer their question or complete the task.
In academia, accuracy tends to be the main metric that researchers are trying to improve on, but in practice, developers also care about usability and scalability. In production, device constraints, inference time, interaction design, and other factors play a role in the overall success of an application. Often, these factors that contribute to usability are more important than minor accuracy improvements, requiring a different approach to model optimization.
Finally, security is an important factor in real-world applications. AI is a data-driven field. More data leads to better models, but developers must be careful about keeping this data secure and not violating customer trust. There have been many recent news articles about data breaches and a general sentiment of users feeling like companies are spying on them or not respecting their privacy.
These are some of the fundamental differences between AI theory and practice. Next, I’ll share some best practices and tools to solve NLP problems for production systems.
Applied NLP overview
The solution to many of the problems outlined above is to break down complex problems into a series of models that can be evaluated well. Instead of training a single, deep, end-to-end, black box system, train multiple, simpler, more well-defined models. Since each of these models is solving a simpler problem, they require less data to achieve high accuracy and less compute power to train. It is also easier to evaluate each of these subcomponents quickly and thoroughly, which makes it easier to efficiently deploy fixes to issues like picking up on unintended data trends.
With that in mind, we’ve found that most practical applications of NLP can be modeled as the following four general categories, and more complex problems can be handled with a pipeline of these models:
For all NLP models, the input is a piece of text. With text classification, given a query or piece of text, the model outputs a single label.
One example application of this type is sentiment analysis. Given some text, the model can output a label of positive, negative, or neutral. Another example is topic classification. Consider an application with pre-defined topics of weather, news, and sports. Given a user query, the model can output the appropriate label. Third, extractive summarization or highlight extraction can be modeled as a text classification problem. For each sentence in the text, the model can output a binary label of whether that sentence is a highlight (included in the summary) or not.
Some models that can be used for text classification are logistic regression, support vector machines, random forest, decision trees, and neural networks (of which there are many network architectures available).
Some features that can be used to train these models include:
- N-grams, which are sequences of n words or tokens in the order they appear
- Bag of words, which is a count of all the words in the text (without paying attention to the order)
- Word shape or orthographic features that consider if there are capitalizations, punctuation, numerics, etc.
- Length of the text
- Gazetteers, which are indexes or dictionaries containing domain-specific vocabulary and their frequencies – the feature is whether words or phrases in the input text appear in the domain gazetteer
- For NN models, the input can be a character, word, or sentence level embedding or vector representation
While it’s good to be aware of these models and features, there are many libraries, toolkits, and frameworks with implementations of these models and feature extractors. Most of the work you’ll do for AI in practice will be framing the problem and collecting data. The model itself will often be a few lines calling a library. When starting out, it’s more important to focus on collecting the right data and framing the problem than getting caught up in the details of the model implementations.
The next model category is sequence labeling. Now, given a piece of text as input, the model will output a label for every word or token in the text. One application of this is entity recognition, which is extracting key words or phrases and their labels. Another application is part of speech tagging.
Models that can be used for sequence labeling include maximum entropy markov models (MEMM), conditional random fields (CRF), long short-term memory networks (LSTM), and more complex recurrent neural network architectures (bi-LSTM, bi-LSTM + CRF, etc.).
Good features to use are the same as for the text classification model described above.
Sequence to sequence
When given some text input, sequence to sequence models output a sequence of tokens of arbitrary length. Some applications for this are machine translation or natural language generation. MT requires a lot of data to get right, so in practice it is generally better to use a pre-trained model or one available through an API. NLG generally doesn’t reliably work well enough to be used in production. In practice, developers usually use rules-based or templated responses instead. Given that most developers aren’t training these models from scratch, I won’t go into architecture details on this type here.
The last category is information retrieval. IR is the problem of retrieving a document from an index or database based on a search term. Some applications of this are Question Answering, Search, and Entity Resolution. For example, say someone wants to know which artist played the song Bohemian Rhapsody, and you have an index that contains songs and artist names. You can search that index with the song title Bohemian Rhapsody to get the document with the artist field populated as Queen.
Note that this is more complicated than a simple database lookup because it incorporates fuzzy matching. Some relevant features that can be used to get optimal rankings include:
- Exact matching
- Matching on normalized text
- N-grams for phrase matching
- Character n-grams for partial word matching and misspellings
- Deep embedding based semantic matching, leveraging models such as BERT, GloVe, or sentence transformers
- Phonetic matching, which can directly use phonetic signals from the speech recognition model, or generate phonemes from the transcribed text using models such as double metaphone or grapheme to phoneme
Note that there are some areas of NLP that I didn’t cover. I didn’t touch on unsupervised models at all. But the majority of practical NLP applications can be modeled as one of these four categories, or for more complex problems, a combination of them.
To make this more concrete, let’s walk through an example application that uses the concepts we’ve discussed so far. More specifically, I’ll be giving you an example of building a food ordering conversational interface with the MindMeld platform. This is a complex problem, so it involves a pipeline of multiple models shown here:
Let’s consider the example query “I’d like a hummus wrap and two chicken kebabs.”
- The Domain Classifier is a text classification model that assigns an incoming query into one of a set of pre-defined buckets or domains. The given query would be labeled as the food ordering
- Intent Classifiers are also text classification models that predict which of the domain’s intents is expressed in the request. In this case, an intent classifier could label the query as the build order
- Entity Recognizers discern and label entities — the words and phrases that must be identified to understand and fulfill requests — with sequence labeling models. For our example query, this would extract hummus wrap and chicken kebabs as dish entities and two as a number
- Entity Role Classifiers add another level of labeling a role when knowing an entity’s type is not enough to interpret it correctly. These are also text classification models. The number entity two can be further classified as the quantity role (to differentiate it from a size role, e.g. 16 drinks vs a 16 ounce drink).
- An Entity Resolver maps each identified entity to a canonical value using Information Retrieval. For example, hummus wrap can be mapped to the closest canonical item of Veggie Hummus Wrap, ID:‘B01CUUBRZY’.
- The Language Parser finds relationships between the extracted entities and groups them into a meaningful hierarchy using weighted rules. In this case, two and chicken kebabs would be grouped together.
- The Question Answerer supports the creation of a knowledge base, which encompasses all of the important world knowledge for a given application use case. The question answerer then leverages the knowledge base to find answers, validate questions, and suggest alternatives in response to user queries. This is an Information Retrieval model. Since the user has not specified a restaurant name, the question answerer can be used to find restaurants that carry the requested dishes.
- The Dialogue Manager analyzes each incoming request and assigns it to a dialogue state handler, which then executes the required logic and returns a response. This is a rule-based system. In this case, it would use a template to construct a response like “I found veggie hummus wrap and two chicken kebabs available at Med Wraps and Palmyra. Where would you like to order from?”
- Finally, the Application Manager orchestrates the query workflow — in essence, directing the progress of the query between and within components.
MindMeld implements all of these models for you with some reasonable defaults. Once you’ve added your data, you can simply run the following in the command line to train all of these models and start testing them:
If you would like to further experiment with one of the models, let’s take an intent classifier for example, you can do so with the following syntax in python:
Now that you understand some fundamental NLP concepts and how to frame an NLP problem, the next step is to collect data.
Before jumping into data collection, it’s always a good idea to check if there are any pre-trained models you can use. Hugging Face is a popular platform that has implementations of many state of the art models. CoreNLP, spaCy, and NLTK are platforms that have implementations of many NLP fundamentals, such as named entity recognition, part of speech tagging, etc. And you can always do a simple Google search to look for additional models. Even if these pre-trained models don’t perfectly fit your use case, they can still be useful for fine tuning or as features.
If you are training a model, first check to see if there are any existing datasets available. There are a lot of open-source datasets that can be used as a starting point. There may be data within your organization that you may want to use. Or you might be able to scrape or compile data from a website or publicly available API.
While it’s good to check for existing models and data, don’t hesitate to build a new dataset if one doesn’t already exist that accurately represents your use case. Representative data is essential to building a high-quality application. Crowdsourcing tools can be useful for generating initial data.
When leveraging crowdsourcing tools, it’s important to define your task well. If the task description is too specific, you will get lots of very similar looking data, but if it’s too general, a lot of the data may be irrelevant or not useful. To strike the right balance, iterate. Work in small batches, see how the results look, and update your task description accordingly.
Some data collection platforms help match you with workers who are trained in your specific use case, which is really useful if you want clean, consistent data. For cases where you want more variation or generally want to see how the public responds to certain prompts, it may be better to go with tools that anyone can contribute to. You can also do things like target specific geographic areas to get a variation in slang and regional language that people might use.
Whatever approach you take, consider implementing validation checks to automatically discard any excessively noisy or irrelevant data. You can target workers with better ratings to help reduce noise, but even then, you should implement some automated validation like checking length, removing whitespaces, and making sure at least some words appear in the relevant language dictionary.
In addition to collecting the text itself, remember that we want to collect labels for our models. It’s incredibly important for these labels to be clean, because without clean data our models can’t learn. If you use crowdsourcing tools or data teams for this, you should give contributors some training and evaluation before they start labeling. You can have multiple people label the same queries, and only accept labels with a certain level of agreement. Once you have an initial model, you can help speed up labeling time by using model predictions to bootstrap labels. This transforms the label generation task into a verification task, which is generally faster and easier.
Finally, if you don’t have any other resources, you can create and label your data yourself, in house. This can be a great way to bootstrap an initial model. It gets you to think more closely about the data you are trying to collect, and you can add data over time from user logs or other sources as resources become available.
Toolkits and frameworks
Once you’ve framed your problem and collected data, the next step is to train your model. Scikit-learn is a popular toolkit for classic models that we talked about like logistic regression, support vector machines, and random forest.
Some more NLP specific toolkits are CoreNLP, NLTK, spaCy, and Hugging Face. I mentioned these toolkits before in the context of pre-trained models, but they are also very useful as feature extractors. These toolkits can be used to generate features from text, like n-grams and bag of words. These feature vectors can then be fed into models implemented via, for example, scikit-learn.
For more complex problems involving multiple NLP components, namely conversational interfaces, you can use a variety of platforms including MindMeld, Dialogflow, Amazon Lex, wit.ai, RASA, and Microsoft LUIS. These platforms have a lot of preset defaults for feature extractors and models and have the whole pipeline set up, so all you have to do is provide your data and implement any custom logic. Even if you’re not building a full conversational interface, these platforms can be really useful for their subcomponents, like question answering or custom entity extraction.
Finally, there are tools on the infrastructure side that can be particularly useful for AI. Elasticsearch is useful because it is not only a database, but also a full-text search engine with a lot of IR capabilities built-in. AWS, Google compute engine, and other similar platforms are great for cloud compute to train heavier models efficiently. Kubernates is a platform for easy deployment and scaling of your systems. And DVC is a tool for data versioning, so that if you have multiple people training models, they can be synchronized on the data they are using.
Improving models in a secure way
The key to intelligent ML systems is to improve them over time. All of the leaders in the AI space have become so by leveraging usage and behavior data from real users to continually improve their models. As an organization, it is essential to do this in a secure way.
The most important thing to start with is communication. It is important to clearly communicate if any user data will be stored, how long it will be stored for, who will be able to access it, and what it will be used for. Even if you are abiding by data policies, if users are unaware of these agreements, it may come across as ‘spying.’ This communication can be done at onboarding, with user agreements, through an FAQ section of a website, via a published white paper, or any other accessible location.
In order to define these data policies, some things to think about include what data needs to be stored to improve your system. Can you store only some extracted trends or metadata, or do you need to keep the full raw logs? You should only store what is absolutely necessary to add value to the end user and always remove any extra sensitive or personally identifiable information. Think about how long this data will be stored. Will it be deleted after a set amount of time, say one year, or is it crucial to store it indefinitely until the user requests it to be deleted? Who will be able to access the data? If the data is never read or inspected by humans, people may be more comfortable with their data being used. If that is not possible, it is good to make the data available only to a small team of analysts who have a high level of data security training. Finally, what will the data be used for? If it provides value to the end user, they are more likely to allow you to use it. When possible, it is beneficial to provide useful reports to end users or customers and measurable accuracy improvements on models.
Once you’ve defined a data policy, you need to build a secure data pipeline that can enforce this policy.
For example, you need to keep track of information like from which user each piece of data came from, so you can delete it if they ask for it to be removed. The platform needs to be able to enforce permissions, so only authorized individuals are able to access data stores. You can also build models to remove sensitive information. For example, if you don’t need to store person names and those exist in your data, you can use an entity recognition model to recognize those person names and replace them with a generic token.
Once you have data, an efficient way to improve models is with Active Learning. In production, raw data is cheap, but labeling data is not. We can use model uncertainty to select which queries to label first to improve models quickly.
To help do active learning on a regular basis, you can build out a semi-automated pipeline that selects logs from the data store, bootstraps annotations, which can be verified by a human labeler, and checks to see if the accuracy increases with the new data. If it does, the new model can be deployed, and if not, the data can be sent to the developer team for further inspection and model experimentation. In addition to increasing the training set with this pipeline, it’s good to add to the test set. For the test set, it’s better to randomly select queries to get an accurate distribution of user behavior.
You can further speed up this pipeline by using auto labeling. Tools like snorkel enable labeling data automatically, with an algorithm or model, rather than manually with a human labeler. The auto labeling system can abstain from labeling queries for which there is low confidence. These can be sent to human labelers or ignored. Either way, it allows for some model improvement without a human-in-the-loop, which is beneficial for security reasons and time or resource constraints.
About the author
Arushi Raghuvanshi is a Senior Machine Learning Engineer at Cisco through the acquisition of MindMeld, where she builds production level conversational interfaces. She has developed instrumental components of the core Natural Language Processing platform, drives the effort on active learning to improve models in production, and is leading new initiatives such as speaker identification. Prior to MindMeld, Arushi earned her Master’s degree in Computer Science with an Artificial Intelligence specialization from Stanford University. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree from Stanford in Computer Science with a secondary degree in Electrical Engineering. Her prior industry experience includes time working at Microsoft, Intel, Jaunt VR, and founding a startup backed by Pear Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures. Arushi has publications in leading conferences including EMNLP, IEEE WCCI, and IEEE ISMVL.
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Karthik Raghunathan – Dive deeper into Cisco’s conversational AI platform for deep-domain voice interfaces and chatbots.
MindMeld and conversational AI
The MindMeld team is part of the Webex Intelligence team at Cisco, which develops machine learning-driven, intelligent experiences across Cisco Webex collaboration products.
Before our acquisition by Cisco in 2017, MindMeld was a San Francisco-based AI startup powering intelligent conversational interfaces for several companies in the food, retail, and media industries. Now, we’re bringing that same technology to Cisco’s products to make them smarter, more natural, and easier to use.
Webex Assistant and voice control
Last year we launched Webex Assistant, the first of its kind enterprise voice assistant for the meeting room. With Webex Assistant, customers can use their voice to control their Webex video conferencing devices, review the room’s calendar, join online meetings, call people in their company directory, and much more. While Webex Assistant had its origins as an intelligent assistant for the conference room, we greatly expanded its availability this year by bringing it to our widely popular Webex Meetings software. We also added support for a whole new set of in-meeting voice commands which allow users to create action items, take notes, and even set up future meetings, using just their voice.
Webex Assistant is powered by the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform. We developed this Python-based machine learning framework as a startup, and continue to maintain and improve upon it at Cisco. Teams across Cisco use the MindMeld platform for a wide variety of natural language applications such as chatbots, interactive voice response (IVR) systems, automated FAQ answering, and search. For instance, MindMeld is used for query parsing in both Cisco’s internal enterprise search and the external-facing website search on Cisco.com.
Open-sourced MindMeld conversational AI platform
Following the release of Webex Assistant, we open-sourced the MindMeld Conversational AI Platform. While it’s particularly easy to use MindMeld with other Cisco technologies like Webex, the platform itself is agnostic and can be used to build any kind of conversational interface. As a result, it is now used not only by internal teams at Cisco but also by the wider developer community to build production-quality chatbots and voice assistants.
Given its ease of use and flexibility, MindMeld has been a popular choice at several hackathons, including Cisco’s Smart Spaces Hackathon and the Government of India’s Smart India Hackathon. It was even featured in the winning team’s solution in the 2019 IoT World Hackathon.
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You can also follow the MindMeld team’s blog on Medium where we share regular updates about new MindMeld features, best practices for building conversational interfaces, and other snippets from our ongoing research explorations.
About the author
Karthik Raghunathan is the Director of Machine Learning for Webex Intelligence, which is the team responsible for building machine learning-driven intelligent experiences across all of Cisco’s collaboration products. Karthik used to be the Director of Research at MindMeld, a leading AI company that powered conversational interfaces for some of the world’s largest retailers, media companies, government agencies, and automotive manufacturers. MindMeld was acquired by Cisco in May 2017. Karthik has more than 10 years of combined experience working at reputed academic and industry research labs on the problems of speech, natural language processing, and information retrieval. Prior to joining MindMeld, he was a Senior Scientist in the Microsoft AI & Research Group, where he worked on conversational interfaces such as the Cortana digital assistant and voice search on Bing and Xbox.
Karthik holds an MS in Computer Science with Distinction in Research in Natural Language Processing from Stanford University. He was co-advised by professors Daniel Jurafsky and Christopher Manning, and his graduate research focused on the problems of Coreference Resolution, Spoken Dialogue Systems, and Statistical Machine Translation. Karthik is a co-inventor on two US patents and has publications in leading AI conferences such as EMNLP, SIGIR, and AAAI.
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Webex Meetings expands support for virtual and blurred backgrounds
July brings some exciting news, especially for users who want to change up or clean up their workspace backdrop. With most of us working from home, it’s perfect timing that Webex Meetings now supports virtual and blurred backgrounds across Windows, Mac, and iOS platforms. AND we are the first to bring the capability to Android users!* Android support gives Webex Meetings users more flexibility for creative backdrops on more platforms than any other video conferencing solution.
iOS and Android users can also choose custom backgrounds from their photo library. This feature gives you more privacy, removes distracting elements from your surroundings, and gives you more creativity to express your personality in video meetings.
Other news this month
The July Webex Meetings update also includes support for four new languages on the desktop and web apps: Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Romanian. The mobile app already supports these languages.
- Content share preview – No more asking, “Can you see my screen?” You will now be able to see a preview of what your meeting participants see when you share. Click on the Share button, and a small window will replicate your audience’s view. This feature will make you confident in what you are sharing and saves time because you no longer have to ask if everyone can see your share.
- Participant Sorting and Raise-hand Functions – this feature will likely be most appreciated by teachers in today’s distanced learning environment. Now, when someone in the meeting or virtual class raises their hand in Webex, their name immediately pops to the top of the participant list – in sequential order – so that teachers can quickly see who needs help. Previously, participants who raised their hands stayed at the same position in the participants’ list and may not be easily seen, especially if they are at the bottom of the list in a large meeting.
- Lobby support – Users outside of your organization using video conferencing systems or Webex Teams apps will now be able to wait in the Personal Room lobby. This will be enabled when the site is configured to place external users in a lobby and when the Personal Room is in an unlocked state. Before this enhancement, external users would be subject to an administrative setting that controlled whether they would join the meeting directly or be completely blocked from joining the Personal Room meetings. With this enhancement, we are simplifying the experience by making sure that all devices and apps follow the same rules when joining an unlocked Personal Room meeting.
- New host control improvements on mobile offer a host of benefits for all users, but especially for the education sector, giving teaches tools to manage their virtual classrooms better and protect their students. Teachers have the option to configure “mute on entry” from their mobile app, which lets students and other participants enter a meeting silently, so they don’t disrupt the class. Turning off share allows teachers and hosts to limit content sharing rights in class or meeting to just the presenter. Sharing rights can be passed to other participants during the meeting as needed. Teachers and meeting hosts can also lock and unlock non-personal room meetings from their mobile apps. These are excellent safety features for school administrators, as it prevents unwanted people from arbitrarily entering a virtual classroom.
- Microsoft Intune SDK support (in beta)- Microsoft Intune SDK is now integrated into the Webex Meetings desktop app, which means that our app is protected by site configuration. This feature’s benefit is that users who need Microsoft Intune protection policies can now sign into a Microsoft account. After Checking policy data with the site and restarting the app, protection policies will be in effect (access pin code after launch).
- Alexa voice playback meeting recordings – Android users can now use Amazon Alexa to playback Webex Meetings recordings. Users wake up Webex Meetings by saying, “Alexa, open Webex Meetings.” Users can list/playback recordings with voice commands such as:
– “Alexa, ask Webex Meetings to list today’s recordings”
– “Alexa, ask Webex Meetings to list yesterday’s meeting”
– “Play,” “Resume,” “Pause,” “Exit,” “Next,” “Previous”
For more information on these features, please visit the Webex Help Portal – What’s New for the latest version of Webex Meetings
*Android support available now; Windows and Mac background features will be turned on at the end of July.
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Transitioning to the new world of work
As many people shifted to remote work over the past couple of months – the world discovered that work can be accomplished from anywhere. In fact, some people even discovered that you can be just as productive or more … outside of the office. We, at Cisco, also had to transition to remote work just like everyone else.
So, fast forward to now and remote work might seem like a good option for more people longer term. Some might be considering a hybrid approach, consisting of a blend of remote work and onsite visits to the office. The big question is how to make it sustainable, seamless and safe for people and organizations. Especially when employees are engaging in private conversations and sharing confidential business information and strategies during their workday.
The good news is that Cisco has been thinking about this modern work experience and enabling people to work from anywhere. How do we make distributed teams as effective as co-located teams, maybe even more? Enabling them to do all the things that they would typically do in the office such as meet, share, collaborate and ideate on a whiteboard with a co-worker.
Shift from physical office to remote work experiences
Webex app (Webex Teams)
We bring this vision to life with our Webex App. Our modern collaboration tool provides users with the ability to call, message, meet and share regardless of location, on a desktop and mobile device. We keep work moving forward with easy integrations and meeting our customers where they are with APIs and SDKs, bots, buttons and cards, embedded apps, and native integrations to enable seamless workflows. Currently, we offer easy integrations with over 24,000 3rd party apps and over 64,000 bots.
We are excited about our latest new integration with Box so users can easily access, co-edit and manage files from within the Webex App. The Box integration is in addition to existing ones in place with Microsoft OneDrive and Google. We are also launching the new Telehealth Connectors to help scale and streamline the virtual healthcare experience. Enabling healthcare staff and patients to connect via simple, easy-to-use video telehealth consultations, scheduled directly from their Epic EMR portal.
A single app to work securely from anywhere, on any device
To support small and midsize organizations with up to 1,000 users – we are making Webex more affordable. The new Webex Work bundle is now available and includes essential, secure calling, meetings and messaging in a single, affordable plan that is easy to but, set-up and support. It also supports rapidly the changing needs of SMBs, with a utility-based model where you subscribe for a committed set of named users, then add and remove additional “uncommitted” users through the course of your agreement, via self-service provisioning in Webex Control Hub, billed monthly in arrears. For example, if you are a small retailer looking to ramp up staffing for the Holiday season, simply add more “uncommitted” users in Webex Control Hub when you need them and remove them when no longer required.
As you can see, we are making work easier than ever with Webex, no matter where you want to work from, or what work you do in this new world of work.
Call, message, and meet using a simple plan to get work done from anywhere with Webex Work Bundle
When people are working remotely or engaging in distance learning for the first time, they face a bit of a learning curve to become proficient and productive. The same goes for organizations, as they learn and truly understand what it takes to respond and support these new requirements.
As you may have seen in the blog from our SVP and GM for Cisco Collaboration, Sri Srinivasan outlines what we at Cisco Webex are doing to proactively expand our meeting capacity to respond to the incredible volume of new users looking to take their work and daily activities online. Cisco is committed to helping through this difficult time, and one way we are doing so is by expanding on capabilities for the free Webex offer, in all countries where it is available.
Announcing Webex Ecosystem integration offers
This free offer has inspired many of our Webex Ecosystem partners who build upon our unified platform, to create offers of their own, helping in this time of technological need. Our software partners have joined with us to provide unique and even free offers to protect and enable distance learning, while minimizing the disruption that comes with the change.
When addressing the needs of educators, the power and extensibility of the Webex platform delivers the best in class distance learning experience for the instructors, students and IT staff. Specific to education, our Webex Ecosystem is stepping up to provide integrations with these fantastic solutions:
When a larger live stream event is needed to communicate to the student body, faculty and staff, Cisco’s partner Vbrick has a free limited time offer for schools looking to leverage live streaming events, to replace cancelled large-scale destination events. This is a simple, effective and easy way to reach out and communicate to the education audience. Also, in Webex Meetings there is a new streaming option for Vbrick Rev from the native Webex Meetings client.
Learn more about Vbrick Free Large Event Streaming.
Higher education institutions around the world are moving teaching and learning to completely online methods. To help institutions deliver continuity, community, and support for students who are newly virtual, Involvio is introducing “Remote Campus.”
Remote Campus helps institutions rapidly deliver the core components of the campus experience to students on their phones anywhere they happen to be. Through integration with Cisco Webex and the Cisco Webex Education Connector, students can easily stay connected on video and seamlessly join live classes from anywhere. Remote Campus is free for all Involvio customers, regardless of license tier, and discounted for all Cisco Webex customers.
Potential challenges in supporting remote learning and instruction have also become a great concern for IT administrators. IT departments want to deliver best secure experiences as well as provide proactive support in this new era of online education. Vyopta offers help in a few valuable ways such as providing student attendance compliance reporting, ensure high quality video performance, tracking student engagements with the meeting platform and more. They’ve launched a free plan to help measure engagement of students in virtual classes, and monitoring call performance and quality with their special offer. Be sure to check out their upcoming webinar with Cisco’s own Dr. Lance Ford on distance learning.
Ensuring students, faculty and institutions are well protected, tools are needed to detect risks in audio, visual, document, spoken, shown, and shared content in audio and video content. Thetalake provides a purpose-built compliance product suite for automatic policy detection of regulatory risks, compliance workflow, and archiving for video marketing, video conferencing, and audio recordings. They are offering their Compliance and Supervision Suite for Webex Meetings/Teams at no cost for 3 months.
For those students and faculty that have on campus commitments, it is important to keep information visible and available. Many schools have enabled digital signage on campus devices with key messages and reminders. Appspace provides a Coronavirus playlist for signage on Webex Devices service for free up to 25 devices to Educate students and faculty with an informative channel about protecting against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
For IT staff’s deploying new services can be overwhelming. Okta provides efficient process to rapidly deploy Webex organization wide and simplify end-user adoption. This offer has been made available at no cost to easily onboard users to new Webex service with seamless SSO and full provisioning and security.
Moving from the physical class to a virtual is an adjustment. The need to make online learning engaging can be a real challenge. Prezi Video helps you create compelling and creative video content for students in online learning environments. Present or record with your content right alongside you on the screen, so you can maintain a human connection with your students without losing important context and visual aids. Make classroom/training presentations more fun and engaging using Prezi with Webex Video. Get your free account and check out the blog on best practices in education.
For instructors that relish teaching in a more traditional method by using whiteboards, Kaptivo will connect your analog whiteboard to Webex Meetings and post to Webex Teams to create a digital classroom. To assist teachers/staff who are new at providing remote learning, Kaptivo is offering a free whiteboard for those working from home who purchase a Kaptivo camera.
If your school uses an LMS (Learning Management System) that is not covered with the Webex EDU Connector, or you have other requirements, CirQLive is offering free usage of their Webex LMS integration platform for 90 days. They are also offering consulting services that include best practices in online learning.
With the combination of Cisco’s powerful Webex platform and these unique partner integrations, students and teachers can quickly ease into the transition of remote learning and get back to what really matters. IT admins can also feel confident that these solutions have the right level of security and control to protect their education environments. Learn more about our partner solutions by visiting the linked partners.
For questions on the above Ecosystem offers, reach Cisco’s partnership team at email@example.com
Feature improvements don’t have to be huge to make a big difference. In Webex Meetings 39.9 update, we’re introducing and updating small features that will make your video conferencing meetings easier, more efficient, and (gasp) maybe a little less annoying. These are the meeting hacks of Webex Meetings 39.9:
- Shortened video addresses
- Fewer video distractions in Events and Meetings
- Virtual background support for iPad
- Webex Teams lobby ambassador
- More support for Web App
A shortcut to your personal meeting room
We introduced Webex.new, letsmeet.new and mymeet.new last month with the launch of Google’s .new domain – shortcuts to common tasks can be accessed from the browser. Webex.new is the new shortcut that takes you directly to your personal room from any browser. Just make sure you’re signed into the Webex Meetings Desktop App, otherwise you’ll be taken to a download page to get the latest app.
Give your dialing finger a break
If you’re using video devices to dial into a Webex video conferencing meeting, you now have less to type because we’ve created shortened, common video addresses that include just the meeting number and Webex extension (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org). You no longer need to include the site ID to join (e.g., email@example.com). The new format can be used by Webex devices, Skype for Business users and third-party, standards-based video devices. This is also supported on mobile – both Android and iOS. Please note that this feature is currently in beta and will be generally available by the end of this calendar year.
Better manage Webex Events video
If you’ve hosted a Webex Events or Meetings call, you know sometimes video participants are doing things that are distracting to the meeting. Other than calling them out or privately messaging them, you couldn’t take immediate action. Now, you have the ability to just turn their video off and let the meeting progress more smoothly. Hosts also have ability to lock the main video window on a specific participant and switch between participants without turning off the original participant video. That’s one fewer click and just makes good sense. It also works on mobile.
Choose your virtual background on iPad
We can’t let the iPhone people have all the fun. Now, iPad users joining Webex Meetings can also choose their favorite backgrounds to display from stored photos. This will come in handy when you’re taking meetings from home on your iPad Pro and need to disguise your messy kitchen background with a more professional office look. Blurred backgrounds will continue to be supported.
Let them in from Webex Teams
This has happened to me more than a few times – waiting in the lobby long after the meeting has started because the host joined from Webex Teams and has no way to let meeting participants into their personal meeting rooms. Now, Webex Teams hosts will be notified when there are people waiting in their lobby and they can admit them. This feature is in the category of relieving annoyances that I know a lot of people, including me, will appreciate.
More browser support for Web App
In addition to Chrome and Firefox, the Webex Meetings Web App is now fully supported on Microsoft Edge browser with audio, video and share (including high frame rate content) capabilities. On Safari, Web App currently supports computer audio and video (share is not yet available from Apple on Safari). With this, I’m pleased to say that Webex Meetings offers the broadest native web browser support among conferencing vendors.
These are some fun meeting hacks, but we’re delivering a lot more in 39.9. For more details, please visit the Webex Help Portal – What’s New in Webex Meetings Suite (WBS39) – and click on “WBS39.9.”
If you haven’t already, try meetings for free.
Engaging a Distributed Workforce
It’s become apparent that the world of work is changing. Our workforce is more global than ever, distributed, remote and driving the need for a new way of working. In fact, a recent article* that I was reading highlighted while “remote work is growing in popularity – it’s making us rethink how, the tools we use to work, how we communicate at work, and even the hours we work.”
Businesses of all sizes want to get more done
It’s a consistent theme that I’m hearing across our customers. Organizations big and small are thinking different about their workflows and employee engagement. Managers and individuals are looking for the best tools available in the market to help them get their job done. Whether it’s a company of 5 starting to build business, or a team within a large organization of 100,000 employees, teams depend on effective tools to get more done. Everyone wants to get more out of their day and every minute of their day; enterprise and small start-ups. The employee experience has become king across business.
Cisco Webex Teams offers a smart solution
Cisco has been listening and paying close attention to this workplace transformation. Over the past year, our team has brought together Cisco’s best collaboration technology with cognitive capabilities and layered on top of our unified platform to deliver a modern work experience regardless of customer size.
Our recent launch of Webex Teams Unified App is a living example of how we are bringing a solution together for both mobile and desktop users. Knowledge workers can literally get their work done from anywhere and anytime via team collaboration tool, Cisco’s Webex Teams. From messaging to file sharing, whiteboarding, video conferencing or simply calling. There is also the People Insights feature which gives users information in advance about the people who they are meeting with. Overall, the Webex Teams Unified App keeps work moving in one-place and enhances the employee experience.
Personalization and choice on the horizon
In addition to unifying the experience and enabling mobility, Cisco is bringing personalization to users through our modular capabilities. Very soon, customers will have the option to configure Webex Teams for different type of users. Maybe a smaller part of the organization only needs messaging vs. other groups that need the broader suite of functionality. IT will be able to easily configure the Webex Teams to meet the needs of different workstyles among their organizations. Cisco is simplifying the world of IT and helping them easily deploy and manage Webex Teams via a control option.
Easy integrations to keep work flowing
Our Cisco collaboration solution doesn’t stop with Webex Teams, we also announced this week an exciting new partnership with Microsoft. Our goal is to enable customers to have open and seamless collaboration no matter what tools they are already using. And Webex Teams is already integrating across other third-party apps such as Salesforce, Trello and Box – just to name a few.
At the end of the day, we all want to get more work done and in less time. We also want to enjoy the benefits of work life balance. Webex Teams can bring new possibilities to the table and can help us achieve our goals. It’s not about just having great work tools – but it’s about getting the gift of time back and living smarter with Webex Teams.
Hello to everyone that is reading this blog. We have been working hard to bring you some new features this month. In the September release, we are delivering new features to our Webex Board and new features for our management suite, Webex Control Hub.
Webex Board Updates
Up until now, when board users called into a Webex meeting, only one board could start and edit a white board. Everyone else could receive this white board as content, but no one could interact with it.
Now, after a lot of work, we made it possible for two or more boards to collaborate during a Webex meeting. Let’s picture this flow. A few remote sites call into a Webex meeting, a couple of boards are in these sites, and in others maybe a Webex Room Kit or any other Webex conferencing device. One of the boards starts whiteboarding, and the second site jumps in to draw some extra information on the original drawing. There’s interaction, there’s collaboration from those two boards, and the Room Kit receives all this as content. Isn’t this a great way of working? You can see the people, you can enjoy the features of Webex devices like speaker tracking and excellent video and audio quality at the same time you are collaborating in a whiteboard from different locations. That’s is just great and simple.
Microsoft OneDrive Integration
Second in the list is the ability to open and view files stored in OneDrive.
Many of our customers are using OneDrive, and we naturally need to provide the best integration with other tools that users need for their basic work. Remember that we introduced WebApps last month? It was with this very same concept in mind. We are a platform, we have to provide a way to improve our customers workflow, adapt and improve to whatever tool belongs to the users workflow.
So, now you can collaborate in OneDrive or SharePoint online documents on the Webex board by opening the files in the files activity of a space.
Many of you have heard about stickies. Many of you have seen demos of stickies. Well, stickies are finally here. They will help you in your brain storming sessions. They can help you get your ideas organized with multiple colors and sizes, and you can even interact with the Teams client while editing or working on stickies. True collaboration!
Undo and Re-do Buttons
Last but not least in the feature list, we have a small feature, that we are sure that many will find useful despite been kind of just a small button. It’s re-do.
If you are drawing, and delete something with the undo button, you can now press and hold that undo button to reveal the re-do button, and re do all traces you have undone.
Finally, the Webex Board is changing layouts. The Webex Board is updating layouts to improve the call experience! The active speaker and the PiPs will always have a clear real state in the screen. The PiPs will no longer overlay the active speaker area, allowing for the active speaker to be in full view at all times and improving the visual hierarchy of the screen.
The PiPs have been updated from circles to squares with rounded corners. You should also notice that the new way to present the PiP is not available in any other device yet, but this is the direction we are moving forward with the portfolio in the near future.
We are sure our users will love these changes, it will make their meeting more comfortable, keeping the productivity Cisco normally provides, but as always, feedback is welcomed!
This change should be in place for October 16.
Control Hub Updates
Now it is possible to configure RoomOS and Webex Share devices from Webex Control Hub through the new Advanced Configurations. Gone are the days that you needed to log into the device web interface to do an advance configuration, such as the default ringtone volume or changing the second monitor role. We know we need to keep pulling in this direction, and offer our admins even more flexibility to achieve their goals, and therefore our next step is to create a framework to support administrators performing these actions in bulk. Just keep tuned, it’s coming soon.
Device Proactive Alerts
We know IT Admin time is valuable and keeping on top of events happening in the collaboration network can be time consuming. A new feature we have released is Device Alerts, this feature allows an IT admin to subscribe to alerts via Webex Teams and when a device goes offline or has an issue an alert is generated. An alert is also triggered when the device comes back online or the issue has been resolved. This should be handy for many of our admins, right?
Great, this is all for now, some new features, some updates, and even a very small peak at the direction we are moving towards.
Throughout the 2010s, one of the biggest trends in economic, cultural, and technological analysis was a focus on what separated the millennial generation from its predecessors.
Millennials, who were born between the years 1981 and 1996, are one of the largest age groups in U.S. history. According to Pew Research, there were 71 million of them as of July 1, 2016, compared to 74.1 million baby boomers, i.e., people born from 1946 to 1964. Pew also expected millennials to be the largest living generation by 2019, a few years after they had already become the biggest segment of the labor force.
Millennial attitudes toward technology in particular have received a lot of attention. A Nielsen survey found that 74% of millennials felt that technology made their lives easier at work, compared to only 31% of Generation X-ers (1965 – 1980) and a mere 18% of boomers.
Millennials, workplace technology, and the generational divide
That gap is somewhat explainable by the fact that millennials came of age during the formative years of the consumer internet.
For instance, many were entering middle school when Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows 95 were introducing straightforward web browsing to a mainstream audience. By the time they began their careers, email, the web, and video conferencing were also firmly established in the workplace. They never really knew a pre-digital reality in the workplace.
Always-on team chat applications such as Webex Teams show how certain technologies can be perceived and used differently across generations, since they’re relatively recent inventions and deliver a distinct experience from other, older forms of collaboration. A co-founder of Butterfly called these apps “the embodiment of the millennial generation’s view on work culture.” They have the potential to affect users differently by generation because they:
- Are more immediate than email, since it’s generally safe to assume that someone sending a message is online and ready to talk at that exact moment.
- Can warp the sense of work/life balance – a growing concern among many workers – since they’re available on any internet-connected device.
- May make previously important and thoroughly honed skills (e.g., drafting emails or working within other collaboration apps) less relevant.
On the bright side, useful and accessible tools can bring workers together regardless of their generations. A 2018 Pew survey found that although millennials exhibited the highest rates of adoption for tech such as smartphones and social media, boomers and Gen X-ers weren’t far behind, showing how it’s possible to get everyone on the same page. Similarly broad uptake of workplace collaboration technology isn’t out of the question, assuming that the solutions combine high usability and rich functionality.
Can video conferencing in the workplace close the generation gap?
For SMBs with multi-generational workforces, video conferencing offers an especially promising way to unite millennials, Gen X-ers, boomers, and the post-millennial zoomers/Gen Z-ers around one easy-to-use platform. Video conferencing stands apart from other forms of collaboration for several reasons:
It updates a familiar experience
Video calling lets people meet face to face from anywhere. In other words, it’s a new spin on an old form of collaboration that’s common in most workplaces. Participants can see facial expressions and body language as if they were all in the same room.
It provides extra convenience
When technologies create barriers between workers, it’s often because they seem too complicated to use well or don’t deliver a clear advantage over what came before. With video conferencing, the value proposition is clear: It’s much easier to meet with someone over a video link than it would be to coordinate all the travel necessary for an in-person meet-up.
It supports in-depth yet intuitive collaboration
At the same time, these interactions via video conference don’t sacrifice anything in terms of quality. High-definition video keeps the meeting focused. Plus, features like screen sharing support real-time collaboration that makes it easy for everyone to follow along.
It’s usable from almost any device
Workers across all generations have moved toward multi-device workflows. With Webex, they can unlock the benefits of workplace video calling whether they’re on a PC, phone, tablet, standards-based conferencing system, or in a web browser. Webex is also well-integrated with popular calendaring software and other business software so that it always feels connected to what’s happening across an organization.
Cisco Webex is the perfect place to start with collaborative technology that can bring everyone in the workplace together. Start for free today!
Over the past week, all the collaboration tech blogs and social media feeds that cover Cisco have been loaded with updates and perspectives on the various keynotes and product announcements at Cisco Live US 2019. With over 30,000 customers, partners, (and surely some interested competitors!), there was A LOT going on in sunny San Diego. One area that was loaded with activity was the Webexperience Theater – home of the Lightning Talks that were given by various Cisco Collaboration executives and SME’s covering a wide array of topics. Across four days there were 35 Lightning Talks and 7 Executive Talks. To give you a little taste of what we talked about, here are some sound bites from those talk.
Selected Sound Bites from CLUS Lightning Talks
- On-Premises, Cloud and Hybrid Calling Evolution… Wade Hamblin (Director, Product Management): “I want to introduce to you today to the new Cisco Webex Collaboration Cloud. It’s all about how to deliver your calling, your meetings, your team collaboration, and your contact center solutions across award winning devices with enterprise grade security, open & intelligent platforms to build and deploy on, hybrid and cloud architecture that gives you the flexibility and agility to do what you want.”
- The New Webex Calling… Sonali Karnik (Senior Manager, Cloud Calling Product Marketing): “Webex Calling is the integration of the Broadsoft acquisition of cloud calling into the Cisco Webex platform. So this is bringing together the best of cloud calling with the power of the Cisco Webex platform.”
- The Power of the Platform… Jono Luk (Director, Product Management): “If you look at where Webex is going, we’re helping with education, we’re helping with healthcare, we’re helping with verticals where you have to be able to rely on your platform. That’s the first and most important quality of the collaboration platform.”
- Jabber & Teams Working Together… Shane Long (Technical Marketing Engineer): “What is Jabber Team Messaging Mode? It’s a relatively new deployment model of Cisco Jabber where it’s a hybrid approach where you can deploy your Jabber client as per usual with UC Manager. So you’ve got your rich calling feature set from soft phone, desk phone, multi-line, some contact center features, VDI, etc. however with Jabber Team Messaging mode we’re taking advantage of the power of the Webex Teams Platform.”
- Adopting Webex in Education…Suzanne Phillips (Collaboration Adoption Manager): “As I’ve been talking to teachers, the number one most thing they’re excited about is figuring out how do we allow students to collaborate with each other and give them the tools so that even when they’re in classroom times they’re able to work together and pick off each other’s brains or when they’re at home the learning doesn’t have to stop and they can work on things like group projects outside the classroom. Other things people are excited about Webex is when you can have remote virtual experts join your classroom.”
- Webex + Meraki…Jing Zhang (Senior Product Manager of Cloud Calling): “We’ll be building bridges between applications: Jabber, Teams, Meetings. Bridges between the platforms: Webex Meetings, Calling, and also our on prem and cloud altogether as a hybrid. And we are also building bridges with Cisco Collaboration and other SaaS services: Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Today we are going to talk about another bridge. Another different type of bridge that is bridging the network (Meraki) with collaboration.”
- People Insights… Maureen Vild (Technical Marketing Engineer): “What is People Insights? An AI-driven platform, a massive ingestion engine, this huge database. This engine is constantly pulling information from the web – public information, on people and companies. We’re starting with Meetings but eventually it’s going to be across our entire collaboration portfolio. We’re taking that information, we gather it, we parse in, we attach it to a person, and we put it in Meetings in the form of a contact card. This is going to transform the way you relate to people in meetings.
- Intelligent Video Devices…Scott Edwards (Senior Director, Product Marketing for Webex Meetings, Teams, & Devices): “We want to make that technology become invisible to the end users. We don’t want you to learn the technology. We just want you to have a natural way and a seamless way to have a meeting experience. And that’s our goal – to make technology to become invisible.”
- Jabber VDI…Bryan Morris (Jabber Product Manager): “So basically what we’re trying to do here is bring the capabilities for a VDI user, or a virtualized user, up so they have a comparable feature set (Presence & Instant Messaging, Desk Phone Control, Softphone, Video) to the full desktop users in your organization.”
- Webex Edge…Ken Snyder (Business Development Manager Cisco Webex Worldwide Go-to-Market): “[Webex Edge] is one of the most impactful products in the history of Webex. This enables us to bring our rich heritage, our powerful Cisco networking best-in-breed solutions and combine that with our Webex platform and deliver that to our customer in a seamless connected experience so they have this true hybrid meeting experience that’s going to optimize their costs as well as drive the best, meaningful meeting experience.”
- Evolution of the Unified Client Experience…Lorrissa Horton (VP & GM Webex Teams, Jabber, & Intelligence): “Both [Jabber and Webex Teams] are unified clients in their own right. They do calling, messaging, meetings, one on-prem, one in the cloud. What we’ve been doing over the last year is really consolidating all of these capabilities into a single platform to minimize the user experience changes and really the overall change cost to you as an administrator and you as a manager training your employees just to get their work done. So, we’ve taken the overall user experience, the look and feel, and have really made it common across Jabber and Webex Teams so it doesn’t matter if you’re an on-prem architecture or a cloud architecture, your experience is the same.”
How do you summarize a week’s worth of non-stop content and announcements and messaging across our full list into an 800-word blog? You can’t! But hopefully these little teaser sound bites will whet your appetite to learn more! Full videos can be found on the Cisco Collaboration Facebook page.
Experience Cisco Collaboration for yourself and give Webex Meetings or Webex Teams a try for free:
It’s early and you wake up to a bunch of emails. Some have threads of responses and you feel fatigued trying to gauge the intent, emotions and priority of what to respond to. You feel exhausted and your productivity wanes even before the day has begun…
E-mail has been the cornerstone of digital collaboration for over 40 years. However, e-mail clients have never been in tune to how humans actually work and emote. I specifically call out emote, because it’s a critical factor to consider in the humanizing of team collaboration.
Why are e-mails not ideal for collaborative work?
- Emotions: People go through a range of emotions while writing emails – There’s excitement, apprehension, joy, angst and more… but emails have not been designed to capture and express these emotions. It results in dry and robotic conversations. The human mind, however, is quick to attach emotions to what we read. We do this all the time, with books, papers and particularly e-mail.
How often have you ended up misconstruing the intent behind an e-mail?
- Efficiency: E-mail threads often go deep into a topic and lose the effectiveness of why the thread was even started. How often have you noticed e-mails with too much content and the recipients end up not responding/ignoring the ask? Pretty often, I’d conject. Let’s not even get into the find-ability and just pure “backlog” management that ends up making you less effective at your job.
Emotions in collaboration are hugely unheralded; as is efficiency in terms of response times. With growing global teams & organizations, businesses need to adopt products that support these aspects. Access to content and tools, when you need it and where you need it, is critical. It enables users to connect with each other seamlessly and build strong working relationships.
The Human Element of Cisco Webex
I’ll start with a personal anecdote here. I joined the Webex organization four months ago. Prior to this I interviewed with six leaders on the team. Most of these happened remotely, video conferencing over Webex Meetings. I met my manager, SVP/GM of the Webex organization, Sri Srinivasan, in person 45 days after I started. We hit the ground running with our planned conversation. It was thirty minutes into this meeting that we realized we were meeting for the first time, in person! The quality of audio and video during our prior meetings made it feel like we were sitting right by each other and not in different cities in the US. In addition, with the rich set of features in the Webex Teams Collaboration app, it felt like we’d already built a professional and personal connection.
With our integrated set of products for Meetings, Team Collaboration and Devices, Cisco Webex has many of the answers to help the above narrative come to life in your work or personal environment. From the video-first experience across the portfolio, to the Webex Teams messaging features, allowing quotes (soon to be released, threading), emoji responses and Giphy, we have your emotional needs covered.
High quality video and audio. Continuous team collaboration before, during and after meetings.
For productivity, our collaboration platform allows users to engage within the context of a topic and bring their tools of choice into a conversation – be it Microsoft’s office suite, access to files on Box, or even a shared Whiteboard that stays digitally live during the life of that conversation. No more arduous context switching. With our recent announcements in the area of cognitive collaboration, we provide a wealth of features that empower you to be better informed and connected with your participants and technology.
Within the Webex ecosystem, the seamless nature of how you transition from an asynchronous conversation, to a live video device meeting with remote participants on any modality (Phones, iPads, Laptops) is truly magical. You can edit a document collaboratively and finally, go back to being asynchronous; making the whole experience feel natural and real.
Message, whiteboard, work on files and meet, all in one canvas.
It would be remiss of me to mention that we’ve got it all right. That’s what makes designing and building products for our users, so exciting! We have more great experiences coming down the pipeline and can’t wait for our users to get their hands on it.
Cisco Webex makes collaboration natural and human for you. I’d highly recommend you empower your teams to work better, together with Webex – take a free trial and experience the goodness, first hand! Hey Webex, over to you…
Why do you schedule meetings in the first place? Most of the time, you’re probably aiming to review strategy with a specific team, facilitate training for a product/campaign, or connect with new prospects or colleagues in other offices. Too often, though, meetings don’t really deliver and instead only waste a lot of everyone’s time.
These unproductive meetings are especially costly now that teams are increasingly remote and mobile. Much of their time spent together is in collaboration software, instead of in person. That raises the stakes for finding just the right video conferencing solution, one that keeps everyone in sync with as few distractions, technical hiccups, and barriers to participation as possible.
Can video conferencing enable better meetings?
Why do so many meetings underdeliver? Start with a practice that is often regarded as a virtue but can be a real vice during a meeting: multitasking.
According to a Microsoft Workplace Analytics study, the typical manager spends more than a quarter of their weekly meeting time multitasking. Since so many meetings now occur via phone or audio conferencing tools, there are more opportunities than ever to do almost anything other than focus on the call at hand.
When someone sends an email during a meeting or can be heard busily typing while someone else is talking, it’s both a distraction and a signal that it’s OK for all meeting participants to do the same. Everyone’s productivity suffers.
Fortunately, there’s a proven solution: video conferencing software. Video conferencing tools such as Cisco Webex allow meeting rooms to be hosted and joined from anywhere with lifelike quality and fewer distractions. The results speak for themselves: Almost 90% of Webex Meetings users report shorter and more effective meetings.
That’s not to say that other modes of collaboration, including instant messaging and desktop sharing, are insufficient – only that they’re best paired with a video conferencing service that keeps participants engaged.
Plus, video conferencing tools have utility beyond internal meetups. They’re also a great way to differentiate your small- or medium-sized business (SMB) by personalizing your customer service operations, with the same benefits for focus, context, and clarity that video brings to your own meetings.
5 features to prioritize to find the best video conferencing software
When shopping for the best video conferencing software for your SMB, focus on the breadth and depth of features it offers, how they fit together, and what they can do to engage mobile and remote workers, not to mention their overall usability.
Let’s go into more detail on where a standout solution will distinguish itself:
1. Video and audio quality
Video conferencing should provide quality far beyond that of a regular phone call, but many potential issues can still mess it up. Background noise, choppy video, and various hardware-software complications are all common stumbling blocks.
You’ve probably been in a meeting or two where some participants joined in an on-site conference rooms and others connected remotely via their laptops or dialed in from their phones while in transit. The quality of these different connections and the ensuing interactions are often highly inconsistent.
To address this problem, Webex is built to deliver unparalleled video quality from anywhere. Customizing the meeting layout is easy and you can join from a wide variety of desktop and mobile devices, plus any standards-based video conferencing system.
2. Ease of joining and participating
The common experience of an in-person meeting that takes too long to start has, unfortunately, made a seamless transition to the video conferencing world. Thanks to features such as complicated PINs, as well as the rigamarole of needing to download dedicated apps, plugins, and more, it’s not unusual for 10+ minutes to be wasted right away.
Simply joining from the device of your choice shouldn’t be the most difficult part of the meeting – and it doesn’t have to be. The best conferencing software—like Webex—puts you in the driver’s seat with options like:
- Joining from any web browser, with no download or configuration required.
- Having the meeting join you, with a convenient Call Me feature.
- Scheduling, starting, and joining from your toolbar with Productivity Tools.
3. Remote technical support
If your SMB maintains several remote offices or provides online customer service, video conferencing paired with features such as Voice over IP (aka VoIP) calling provides a powerful alternative to costly on-site visits and protracted back-and-forths over email.
Video in particular offers unique opportunities for personalized and hands-on support. A representative could walk someone through a fix with the help of visual aids after getting a live look at the issue in question. Other in-session features such as desktop sharing and application access make it easier to get to the heart of the problem without any expensive travel.
Keeping internal users happy helps with morale and engagement, especially if they’re remote and perhaps concerned about receiving adequate assistance from IT.
Meanwhile, the rich real-time customer support possible through Webex leads to more of them coming back. A study published in Harvard Business Review found that customers with the best experiences spent 140% more than ones with the least satisfying interactions.
4. Use case flexibility
Video conferencing is a versatile medium. It can work equally well as a way for a small group to trade ideas and as a forum for literally thousands of meeting participants to listen to a keynote broadcast – as long as the right technology is in place, at least.
You shouldn’t have to second-guess your video conferencing platform (for example, “Will it send a correct invite to everyone’s calendar?”) when you go to schedule a meeting. To make your life easier, the best video conferencing software seamlessly integrates with the most commonly used productivity and collaboration tools. Combined with the platform’s reliable infrastructure, this broad compatibility lets you hold meetings on your terms.
Whether you’re hosting a big conference for 10,000 invitees or huddling up with a remote team, a platform like Webex lets you get everyone together as painlessly as possible. Integrations with all major calendar software in addition to tools like Salesforce make the journey even smoother.
5. Cost-effective collaboration
By itself, a high-quality video conference is a reliable way to ensure more focused meetings. When you add in additional collaboration features such as screen sharing, call recording, and social media sharing, you provide even more of the context and interactivity that make video so useful for today’s teams.
As a small business person, being able to conduct a quick presentation within video chat lets you hold productive, cost-effective meetings from virtually anywhere. No need to herd cats (and invest a lot of your time/money) just to get everyone in one physical location – it’s all in crystal-clear detail on the screen.
Plus, features like call recording preserve and extend the value of the meeting. If someone missed out and needs to catch up, they can easily refer back to the Webex recording.
Ready to chart a new course with your video conferencing software?
Video conferencing can yield powerful strategic advantages to your SMB, and getting started is easy. With just your email address, you can try out Cisco Webex for free today with a 30-day trial. Visit this page for more details!
Enterprise Connect is one of the biggest third-party events for enterprise collaboration that we support during the year. Sunny Orlando, Florida is descended upon not just by Cisco, but by our customers, our partners, our competitors, their customers, analysts, and other media. It’s a wild scene with thousands of people looking to learn about the latest and greatest in team collaboration and communication! I spent the week doing a variety of things, but the bulk of my time was spent leading booth tours for customers, potential customers, partners, and analysts at the Cisco booth. This gave me a front row seat hearing the talk track from our product experts and more importantly, it helped me see and hear that things that the non-Cisco people were saying – what they thought was cool and what impressed them. With that, here are my top-10 “WOW!” moments that I observed during the week of Enterprise Connect 2019…
Wow #1: Webex Board Sticky Notes
There were a few new Webex Board features that rolled out last November that continue to catch the eyes of many. Those features included web browser access, sticky notes, and pinch-to-zoom gestures. The sticky notes seem to be a fan-favorite since they help with a number of use cases from project planning to agile software development.
Wow #2: Cisco Webex Room Kit Mini USB Pass-through
The Room Kit Mini in general continues to wow people but there was one feature of it that a number of booth visitors seemed to like – the USB passthrough. This feature enables interoperability with ANY cloud service provider. We’ve said before that we’re all about building bridges and this is another example of that – being able to use the incredible audio and video regardless what you’re using for conferencing software.
Wow #3: People Insights in Webex Meetings
The big theme of the entire conference was Cisco’s X-factor in collaboration. The X-factor was the concept of ‘cognitive collaboration’ which is the use of Artificial Intelligence and Maching Learning to bring context AND intelligence to meetings. One component of cognitive collaboration is People Insights. This new feature to Webex Meetings is based on technology that came through Cisco’s acquisition of Accompany in 2018. People Insights paints a rich, dynamic profile of people joining your meeting – displayed right in the Webex Meetings participant panel – by harvesting public data through web crawling coupled with internal corporate directory data. No longer will you join a meeting and say to yourself, “Who is THAT??”
Wow #4: Office 365 with Webex Teams Riding Sidecar
“This will totally drive adoption!” That was a customer sound bite during a booth tour when they saw this soon-to-be-released feature. It’s Webex Teams baked directly into Microsoft Office 365 apps including PowerPoint, Excel, and Word. Collaborate in the tools you’re always using without having to switch applications!
Wow #5: Love for On-Prem with Jabber
There were multiple demos showing the latest with Jabber and on-prem collaboration. The demo lead, Patrick Born, had a great sound bite: “If you’re on-prem, you can stay on prem. We know and love you.” While others in the collaboration space may be saying cloud only, Cisco is saying. “Cloud first but NOT cloud only!” In additional to investing in our on-prem collaboration solutions, we are also offering transition paths to the cloud. Team Messaging mode for Jabber, which came out in preview in November, allows Jabber customers to natively connect to the Webex Teams cloud-based back-end while still using the Jabber app for the front end.
Wow #6: Facial Recognition
Another part of cognitive collaboration is the new facial recognition capabilities within Webex which will become available in June. This gives Webex devices the ability to identify all of the individuals in the room. During a meeting, the system scans the faces of anyone showing up on the video and is able to not only calculate but identify participants by name (and there is a wealth of data privacy built into this but that’s another blog for another day).
Wow #7: Customizable Touch 10
The Cisco Touch 10 is a control unit to help control and interact with Cisco video conferencing systems. I personally never thought much about it but this was one the biggest WOW moments for many people – largely because of the ability to customize and program in macros. This allows users to not just control the video system itself but the ENTIRE CONFERENCE ROOM! Through the use of IoT device interaction, you can program the Touch 10 to control room lighting, room temperature, the blinds or other window controls – basically ANY IoT device with an API interface can be incorporated into a Touch 10 macro.
Wow #8: The Sounds & Picture Quality on the Webex Room 70 G2
It’s datasheet calls out “4K display” and “sophisticated speaker system and amplifier to deliver rich sound”. But those words hardly do it justice. You need to experience this in person to full appreciate it. During one demo session, a movie was loaded up and when the sound was cranked up, one of the demo participants exclaimed with widened eyes, “HOLY #$@*!”
Wow #9: Signage Mode
What do you do when your Cisco video screen is not in use? Up until a few weeks ago, the answer was nothing! It just sat there as a blank screen. But one feature that has been added to Webex video devices is “signage mode”. This mode lets users show web content as digital signage when the screen is in half-wake mode. The possibilities are endless – messages from HR, corporate advertising, how-to conferencing information, company information, images, etc. These capabilities are turbocharged when coupled with Appspace (Cisco integration partner) – which layers on video on demand, published presentations, room scheduling, all done within “signage mode”.
Wow #10: Webex Calling Launched from Webex Teams
While Webex Calling has been around there was a new aspect of it launched at Enterprise Connect. From a person’s contact card in Webex Teams, you can click-to-dial their number which now has the ability to launch into the Webex Calling app to place the call. So we now have robust cloud calling integrated into the Webex Teams platform.
From noon on Monday when they opened the doors to the exhibition floor till 6pm on Wednesday when it closed, it was a CONSTANT flood of people beelining over to the Cisco booth for tours and demos. That Cisco excitement was punctuated by Amy Chang’s (head of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group) keynote on Wednesday morning talking about “cognitive collaboration”. And there’s a reason there was so much buzz. No one is telling the collaboration story Cisco is. Largely because no one else can.
Experience Cisco Collaboration for yourself and give Webex Meetings or Webex Teams a try for free:
Today, making sure that employees have the collaboration tools they need to drive productivity is key to company success. In fact, 65% of full-time employees feel that remote working would increase their productivity, and more than 55% of leaders are extending their team collaboration to external parties.
Security is top of mind
At the same time, Enterprise IT and Line of Business leaders need to be sure that shared content, which may include sensitive customer and partner information and intellectual property, stays safe and secure. The impact of security breaches from newer and different types of attacks is significant. Based on a recent security study, security breaches have widespread impact: 55% of organizations have had to manage the public scrutiny of a security breach. And nearly 20% of breaches cost organizations upwards of $2.5M to address.
As the head of the security and enterprise product team for the Webex Platform, I have a laser-focus on helping organizations maximize the productivity of their teams, in a way that supports IT needs.
Bringing enterprise file storage and team collaboration together, seamlessly
And so I am delighted to share more about our recent announcement that Webex Teams now supports native integration with enterprise file storage and Content Management solutions, which delivers on both end-user productivity and IT needs. We have started by introducing OneDrive and SharePoint Online integrations and look forward to sharing details of more integrations soon. Now, why is this important for today’s enterprise?
A proliferation of applications
Enterprises are rapidly adopting cloud and SaaS services in their quest to be more innovative, and to harness market transitions to deliver products and services more quickly and at lower cost. Most companies use dozens of SaaS apps ranging from productivity suites like Microsoft Office 365 to collaboration apps like Webex Teams as well as role-specific tools like ServiceNow, JIRA and Salesfore.com, together with file storage systems like SharePoint Online, OneDrive, Google Drive, and Box.
As content gets stored in so many siloed applications, there is not only an impact on user productivity, as people waste time switching between applications and searching for the latest document versions, but also a huge challenge for IT in keeping files secure across all systems.
As I work with Line of Business leaders and security professionals, one request is consistently highlighted: help them address this productivity and data loss challenge. They need a solution where all user documents are ONLY stored in an approved Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or file storage system and where all SaaS apps simply make use of that content without replicating it.
Addressing the application switching headache – and more
Native integration in Webex Teams with Office 365 increases user productivity by eliminating application switching. It lets users share and co-edit Office 365 documents directly from Webex Teams with no need to learn any new applications.
However, our Webex Teams file storage integration solution not only enhances productivity, but also delivers a unique approach to content security. Here is a short summary of the key features:
- You can create, open, share and edit files from your file storage and sharing system right in Webex Teams spaces
- You can define who can see and co-edit any shared files
- You can upload local files and folders from your computer directly into the file storage system from Webex Teams spaces
- You can ensure that users can always see the latest version of any file
- Links to shared files are encrypted end-to-end
- Our integration works with your chosen DLP and CASB solution. So sensitive information won’t fall into the wrong hands by mistake, even when employees are working with others outside your company
- No additional copies of files are created as they are shared directly in Webex Teams spaces. No file sprawl!
- Administrators can block personal or unapproved IT OneDrive or SharePoint Online folders, and only allow approved instances
- You can turn off native file sharing in Webex Teams to route all content through your file storage system of choice
- You can enable this integration for a select group of employees or open it to everyone in your company
Security and control
As with any feature that we build in the Webex platform, security and enterprise IT needs are top of mind. The setup has zero deployment cost, requiring just a single toggle in Webex Control Hub. And it requires no change to your existing data loss prevention (DLP) policies, or any need to buy additional licenses. Moreover, unlike our competitors, Webex Teams also provides IT administrators with full control, so that they can decide which SharePoint Online and OneDrive domains or Office 365 Tenant they want to use. This means that only IT approved domains are available for use. Which not only removes data loss risk but also protects against Malware threats.
We also allow IT managers to choose to disable storage of user documents in the Webex cloud while maintaining a seamless user experience. All user files can ONLY be stored in IT’s selected file storage system- including file previews. This screen shows how easy it is to configure content management settings.
The integration has already been well received by our customers and partners. A Collaboration Architect at a large multinational mining corporation commented – “Enabling the enterprise file storage integration has opened new opportunities for us to further drive user adoption of Webex Teams across our business and global teams. This helps our users recognize the true value of the application for teamwork by using the built-in co editing features of Microsoft Office 365 directly from Webex Teams. A great step forward for Webex integrations.”
For a quick snapshot of the way that the Webex Teams integration can help increase productivity while addressing the needs of IT, take a look at this infographic.
If you’ve never been to a Cisco Live, let me try to put it in perspective for you. I’m part of Cisco’s worldwide collaboration sales organization, so I spend my day deeply involved in all-things related to Cisco team collaboration – especially Webex. It would be fair to say that I know our team collaboration tools rather well. Yet still, at Cisco Live Europe this past week, the amount of “WOW!” moments I had… The amount of “I didn’t know that!” moments I had… The amount of “This is SO COOL!” moments I had… I can’t even count them. It was day after day of constant learning and constant excitement even for those of us who live and breathe Webex – from the main sessions, to breakouts, to “meet the engineer” and other individual sessions, to the World of Solutions – especially the Cisco Showcase – with all the demos and products on display, staffed by all our experts from around the world!
I know there have been a number of updates and highlights already posted on various social media sites. Rather than take that approach, I wanted to instead present a list of “wow” moments that we experienced that left everyone with a better appreciation for what it means to be “Webexceptional.”
Wow #1: Voice-activated video conferencing
Many customers were interested in seeing the Webex video devices mainly to evaluate the audio and video and overall experience. What they didn’t expect to see was the embedded artificial intelligence that becomes available when you say, “Hey, Webex,” to start meetings, place calls, end meetings, and more, greatly simplifying tasks to make a better meeting experience. And this is just the start of how AI can improve productivity through more efficient, smarter team collaboration. More to come on that in the next few weeks.
Wow #2: The bridge between Jabber + Webex Teams collaboration
There are 40 million Jabber users that, up until recently, were living on an island with respect to Webex Teams. Not anymore. One area that received great buzz were the two bridges that have been built between these two applications. First is “Team Messaging Mode”– a new “mode” for Jabber, that allows the Jabber app to connect to the Webex Teams cloud. This means that anyone using Jabber today who wants to move to the cloud and have team collaboration capabilities can do so without having to give up their existing Jabber app. The second bridge is “Hybrid Message Service” – this is a hybrid integration that provides inter-op between Webex Teams and Jabber IM&P (on-prem) users.
Wow #3: Microsoft OneDrive Integration into Webex Teams
This was on the biggest areas of excitement at the Webex Teams demo. In early January, Webex Teams rolled out this new Enterprise Content Management capability that allows customers to use Microsoft OneDrive or SharePoint Online to store their documents instead of the Webex Teams cloud. We are always looking for ways to build bridges between Cisco Collaboration and Microsoft Productivity and this most recent step got some solid feedback.
Wow #4: App Hub & Bots
When I was giving booth tours, one of the more unique areas was the Integrations and Workflows area. It was eye opening for customers seeing the bots and integrations that are currently available on the Webex App Hub. The whole goal is to provide “uninterrupted work” – never leave your productivity and back office applications thanks to integration and bots that bring team collaboration into those apps (like Salesforce.com and Jira among many others).
Wow #5: The new and improved Webex Meetings video conferencing
When I was taking customers on tours of our team collaboration area, many would say, “I’m familiar with Webex Meetings, so we don’t need to go there.” But when I mentioned that the online meetings experience has gone through some great changes from a UI, UX, and overall functionality perspective, they became intrigued. Some of the areas that resonated with customers were the high frame rate sharing, Webex board whiteboarding and annotation capabilities, integrations with Google and Microsoft, and also existing key areas such as joining from any device, one-button push to start meetings, and the video-centric experience.
Wow #6: Webex Board conference equipment
Two years ago, when the Webex Board first launched, there was a lot of excitement around the board being the shiny new conference equipment thing. We’re past that initial excitement and now we’re seeing great traction for areas like design thinking and agile software development scrums for developers – both which take advantage of the digital sticky notes. It’s more than just a video device and something that balances physical/in-room team collaboration with virtual/remote collaboration.
Wow #7: Huddle Spaces
When I started each tour, I would explain that we were going to explore Meetings, Teams, and Devices. When we’d start with Devices and our video conference equipment, I’d begin with the ones for large conference rooms, then medium, then huddle spaces. That alone was a bit of an epiphany for some – that different devices were optimized for use in specific-sized rooms. And Huddle Spaces brought some of the most interest since there are many buildings with these small meeting spaces with little to no team collaboration capabilities built in. The Webex Room Kit Mini and Webex Share change all that and introduce new team collaboration use cases centered around the flexibility to connect from Cisco Proximity with Webex teams to direct USB-C for various third-party apps.
I know this was just a little flavor but hopefully you see some of the great steps we’ve made to achieve the goal of uninterrupted work – whether you are in the conference room or remote, whether you are on a mobile device, tablet, laptop, or video unit, whether you are collaborating in real time/synchronously or “your time”/asynchronous. Webex bridges it all together. Some great excitement over the team collaboration vision and direction of our collaboration portfolio! Happy to continue the conversation with any questions or comments you have!
See for yourself and give Webex Meetings or Webex Teams a try for free:
Dec 04, 2020 — Webex Team
Oct 16, 2020 — Nishchala Singhal, Kathryn Parkes, & Mani Pande
Oct 14, 2020 — Paulo Jorge N. Correia
Sep 14, 2020 — Arushi Raghuvanshi
Aug 18, 2020 — Connie Tang
Jul 27, 2020 — Cole Callahan
Mar 02, 2020 — Sri Srinivasan, SVP and GM, Team Collaboration Group at Cisco
Feb 07, 2020 — Webex Team
Dec 13, 2019 — Jillian Zimmerman
Nov 18, 2019 — Jillian Zimmerman
Nov 04, 2019 — Webex Team
Oct 30, 2019 — Webex Team
Oct 10, 2019 — Webex Team
Oct 07, 2019 — Rai Johnson
Sep 03, 2019 — Connie Tang
Aug 21, 2019 — Kacy Kizer
Aug 01, 2019 — Connie Tang
Jun 27, 2019 — Mark Miller
May 30, 2019 — Deepa Mahendraker
May 16, 2019 — Juan Gallardo
Apr 02, 2019 — Mandy Yeung
Jan 14, 2021 — Joshua Reola