Categories: Collaboration Hybrid Work

2021: Business Transformation and More Inclusive Collaboration Ahead

The Create 10x Better Experiences Than in Person Interactions series focuses on enabling and empowering secure inclusive experiences in real-time or anytime, with a focus on seamless collaboration and smart hybrid work experiences

Enable More Inclusive Collaboration and Improve Business Performance

New year, new you – that’s the popular mantra. I myself am starting 2021 with a renewed sense of energy and optimism, and I’m sure I’m not alone. In 2020, we learned how to adapt to cope with our environment and the unexpected challenges it presented – working and learning online, connecting virtually and interacting digitally. Now that we have come through a fairly major digital transformation, we have an opportunity to carry that momentum forward and work to make our new virtual experiences even richer and more rewarding. What does that look like? Coming out of a year in which our experiences were transformed by chance, what are our opportunities to now enhance them by choice?

1) Enhanced Remote Work Experiences will Enable More Inclusive Collaboration

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that remote work is here to stay. In fact, Forrester predicts the number of employees working remotely will eventually settle in at 300% of pre-pandemic levels at a minimum. Now that we’ve grown accustomed to the remote work experience, it’s time to look at ways in which we can make it more efficient, effective, and inclusive no matter where you work.

In a Global Workforce Survey of 1,500 people Cisco conducted last fall, 98% of remote workers reported frequent frustrations with video meetings, noting things like poor audio quality, laptop fatigue and concerns about background appearance. I am personally familiar with each of these challenges: It’s hard to maintain focus and be professional when you’re worried about how well you can be seen or heard!

Last month, we unveiled an expanded Webex product portfolio, including the new Webex Desk Camera. With features like background noise removal, low-light performance and superior video quality, this easy-to-use camera helps remote employees look and sound professional no matter where they’re working. This innovative Webex device will be available starting this month.

Online meetings are one virtual experience ripe for improvement. I spend more time with my colleagues and team now that we’re all remote than I did when we were physically together, and I find it challenging at times to ensure that our virtual meetings are valuable and productive. As a meeting host, it can be harder for me to “read the room” and gauge reactions when the room is online. And as a meeting participant, it can sometimes be more difficult or daunting to speak up and share thoughts in a virtual forum. If we’re going to continue to meet and collaborate virtually, we have to make these digital experiences better. That means giving participants easy opportunities to engage and providing meeting hosts with feedback tools that let them know whether they’re being effective.

We’re making sure everyone has a voice by bringing AI-powered gesture recognition to Webex meetings. The gestures feature reads natural body language and allows participants to express themselves and provide feedback – by way of a thumbs up, applause, or by raising their hand, for example – without saying a word. Available this month, Webex gestures empower all meeting participants to share their non-verbal feedback clearly and in real-time. Of course we will allow admins to control gesture use in order to respect regional cultures. Learn more about our design approach for the future of work, using AI-driven gestures and hand motions to create more engaging and inclusive virtual meeting experiences:

If you feel the pain of wanting to make virtual meetings more engaging and actionable and you’re not yet familiar with Slido technology, now is the time to check it out. Our recently-announced intent to acquire Slido furthers our vision of building Webex experiences that are 10x better than in-person interactions. Through the use of Slido’s best-in-class inclusive engagement platform, meeting hosts can use dynamic polls and surveys, quizzes and Q&A to solicit real-time feedback before, during and after any event and make meeting interactions more meaningful.

2) A Safe Return to Work, Enabled by Data-Based Insights

In the Cisco Global Workforce Survey, 97% said they wanted changes to make the work environment safer, expressing concern about things like touching shared office devices, knowing when a room was last cleaned and whether a room is over capacity for social distancing. And whereas businesses spent most of 2020 enabling remote work, they’re now also faced with the need to ensure a safe office environment for those that return.

With things like digital signage, touchless meeting experiences and AI-powered room capacity monitoring, here’s where Webex technology can step up to bring digital transformation into the workplace, providing the intelligent data and devices needed to make safe returns a reality.

3) Empowering the Frontline Worker

2020 was, in many ways, the year of the frontline worker. I have never been so appreciative for the dedication of those working in healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture, energy and so many other industries to keep us safe and meet our essential needs.

Think about the opportunities for improved safety, productivity and problem-solving when you leverage technology to connect essential workers – employees working remotely in the field, for example – with information and resources that are critical to their job but reside back in the office or in another remote location. That’s the very definition of collaboration. Webex Expert on Demand offers a hands-free support experience via voice-activated headset, allowing frontline workers to launch a video call with the subject matter expert they need, and then leverage the device’s high-resolution camera to instantly share their point of view. Allowing field workers and office-based knowledge workers to collaborate in real time eliminates downtime, reduces travel and puts power in the hands of frontline workers to solve problems successfully, the first time.

2021 will bring even more opportunities to empower and connect frontline workers to enable more inclusive collaboration.

4) Prioritizing Cybersecurity

The shift to remote work has created decentralized workforces and greatly expanded the perimeter of the workplace. Instead of having one or several work locations, businesses now have as many locations as they do employees: That can be a staggering – and frightening – number. With both intentional and unintentional cyber breaches on the rise, organizations today face the need for enhanced security and data privacy management to ensure that their users and content are kept safe.

Security and privacy are part of Cisco’s DNA; Webex technology and devices are secure by design, not as an afterthought. With industry-leading security expertise as our backbone, we’re poised to support our customers in identifying any gaps in their security management and enable necessary solutions.

Cisco’s 2021 Security Outcomes Study was created to help organizations prioritize where and how to invest in cybersecurity practices. The study looks at security practices in organizations across the globe, ranging from governance and spending to strategy and operations, and looks at measurable outcomes in terms of business enablement, risk management and operational efficiency.

Spoiler alert: Your organization could probably use some enhancements in this area. It’s all too easy to become complacent or deprioritize security practices in favor of other operational considerations. But security is a very real, very important component of empowering remote work or enabling a safe return to the office. Security success starts with a commitment to proactively refreshing your security technologies and ensuring that they integrate and work effectively together. This is one area where you don’t want to let your practices become outdated, nor do you want to rely on a patchwork of siloed solutions.

5) Continued Investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI)

No conversation about digital transformation in this age would be complete without mention of artificial intelligence, right? 2021 might not be the year robots take over the world, but we are likely to see AI powering more business processes and functions.

According to a McKinsey Global Institute survey, 85 percent of executives said their businesses have accelerated the implementation of technologies that digitally enable employee interaction and collaboration since the start of COVID-19. And approximately 50 percent reported increasing digitization of customer channels via things like mobile apps or chatbots. Technology that might have been employed out of necessity to keep businesses running during the pandemic will likely endure as a means of helping organizations to be more productive and efficient.

One area in which AI has proven to be particularly beneficial is in supporting the delivery of positive customer interactions. The trifecta of customer experience success these days is speed, simplicity and satisfaction – a combination that’s not always easy to deliver via live agents. Many businesses are not staffed adequately to handle the volume of customer inquiries, or offer limited hours when a live agent is available. And we all know the frustration of being passed from agent to agent, and having to repeat the question or issue each time.

The new Webex Contact Center employs voice and chat bots as the first line of defense, offering customers round-the-clock access and support. AI-powered virtual agents manage routine questions and problems quickly, leaving only the more complex issues for live agents to resolve. When a customer is routed to a real person, the connection is made seamlessly, carrying all of the context of their IVR interaction and allowing the live agent to pick up the conversation right where it left off. Speed, simplicity, satisfaction.

AI can play an important supporting role inside organizations as well. The fully-integrated and intelligent Webex Assistant skillfully manages menial tasks, making any meeting more efficient and productive. Real-time closed captioning makes it easier for participants to follow along, while the automation of duties like note taking and detailed transcription leave them free to focus on the discussion at hand.

Whether or not you embrace the “new year, new you” mentality, we are all presented with an opportunity to refine, refresh, and enhance our digital experiences. Learn how Webex can empower remote work, enable smart hybrid work, bolster your cybersecurity and deliver more inclusive collaboration to grow your business:

Learn more about 10x better experiences than in-person interactions

Learn More

What’s new in Webex: January 2021

What’s So NEW about the All New Webex?

Enabling Smart Hybrid Work Experiences — For Everyone, Anywhere

Link to all Javed’s monthly update blogs

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Javed Khan

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