Webex Room Phone: Innovating During Unprecedented Times
Fueling Innovation with Webex Room Phone
I am one of the lucky folks that have had the opportunity to work at Cisco for a long time – fourteen years. I’ve worked with probably the brightest minds in the industry, with very good people around, and have enjoyed great workplace facilities that make Cisco the #1 Place to work. I’ve participated and lead the creation of many solutions that include IP Phones, call control products, modern Cloud platforms delivering Collaboration SaaS, headsets and more. You might think I’ve seen it all when it comes to innovating in technology. Well, the last couple of months proved to me that innovation is an ever-changing lifecycle, to say the least. How to design, develop, build, and launch a product while we all work from home?
Collaborating Beyond Phone Calls
Webex Room Phone is the first of a new category of phones. It is a Conference phone optimized for collaborating beyond phone calls: Join meetings with one touch, proximity pairing with your Webex Application, guest and employee screen and application share with support for wireless and wired, local and in-meeting sharing, digital signage, and calendar integration for scheduling are just some of the experiences this device brings in addition to superior audio with Enhanced Echo Cancellation that defines the well-known leading Cisco Phone Experience. Great innovation packed in a powerful device, redefining the experiences Phones provide to users.
I am proud to say we developed and launched Webex Room Phone while we were immersed in some of the largest workforce and society changes in recent history, including the transition to work from home. Our team in the China Research & Development Center started to work from home early February, our Research Triangle Park team in early March, the same as our Richardson and San Jose teams. By mid-March, the entire organization was 100% working from home!
When it is Obvious that the Goals Cannot Be Reached, Don’t Adjust the Goals, Adjust the Action Steps*
Our goal was to continue innovating to deliver Webex Room Phone, so the first thing that the team did was planning ahead. Even before the move to work from home, the team met several times preparing for what was coming to us.
- We created an inventory of assets engineers already had at home. That included Collaboration devices, networking equipment, general-purpose computing, displays, and more. One critical element was the availability of “Cisco Virtual Office”. That’s Cisco teleworker pack, It has been available for years to Cisco employees who work from home partially or 100% of their time. It offers secure network access via wired ethernet and WiFi to the Cisco network.
- We created a list of “Major office needs”, i.e. things that had to be done at the office, or, after the move to work from home, things that we had to grab from office. The goal was to minimize the number of trips (and people) to the office (for those locations without full lockdown) and consolidate needs among the team.
- With that, we also created a plan for the major functions: Pipeline, Operations, each of the programs (Webex Room Phone, and other programs running). The key of that effort was to highlight: What parts would continue “as usual”, what parts would be suspended, and what parts might require exceptions (like going to the office), plus the famous “unknowns”. So for example, there were some hardware acoustic tasks that were simply paused until we were able to go to the office. There were some manufacturing activities that were put on hold for a while until critical workers were able to get back to the manufacturing plant. We moved physical industrial design reviews online which meant we would have prototype units shipped to team members’ homes. We had to slightly adapt our software delivery process to ensure all units, even those prototypes connected via the open Internet would securely upgrade to the latest software. Far from perfect, but it was working. We were making progress.
The Power of a Global Team
There are many benefits of being a truly global team. It starts with diversity in all forms, then working around the clock, localization, being closer to our local customers, and more. During this unique situation, we found more benefits. As an example, as our China Research and Development Center team went to work from home, many of the must-be-at-office tasks were transferred to our teams in the USA. Similarly, as our China team started to gradually go back to the office, they carried out work that was originally intended to be done by a team in the USA, now working from home. This helped us to minimize the delays in the project and to complete the development and testing goals.
Getting Help From our Biological-and-Extended Family
What we didn’t anticipate was the extra help! In addition to our team rolling up the sleeves and doing to the best of our abilities to continue making progress, we found out our partners, customers and even more, our families became our best supporters and advocates of our endeavors, all the way from unboxing to testing.
We tested the unboxing experience of the latest prototypes at home, and with the help of the family discovered some other uses for our packaging. We can now say Webex Room Phone is about the size of a baby!
We also did Alpha Gorilla Testing from home, with real users, around the clock. We used Cisco Webex Teams and Webex Meetings to create hundreds of meetings, make many phone calls, and to stay in sync on the progress of the testing and discoveries.
Several of our customers on our early field trials program made the effort to bring the units home and continue their validation and testing, providing good insights and comments that helped us to polish the product even more.
We are very thankful to our extended family of customers, partners, and our family. It has been a collective effort to get here.
And, we used our great collaboration tools to advance our services, sales, go to market and marketing activities, getting ready for this day, the launch of the Webex Room Phone.
The result? A new category of Webex Devices, the Webex Phone. And a team, now extended, that is more empowered than ever to continue innovating…stay tuned for more!
Learn more about the Cisco Webex Room Phone now.
Attributed to Confucius
Sep 16, 2021 — Aruna Ravichandran
Sep 13, 2021 — Wade Hamblin