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team collaboration at Cisco Live
The top 10 team collaboration ‘wow’ moments from Enterprise Connect 2019

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:

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team collaboration helps change AI
The 5 ways AI will transform team collaboration

If you want a glimpse into the future of collaboration, there’s no better place to look than Enterprise Connect. From the startups to the heavyweights, collaboration providers gathered in Orlando last week to demo their latest innovations. And this year, cognitive collaboration, or the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to improve team collaboration experience, dominated the conversation.

With a few days to reflect on my experience at Enterprise Connect, I’ve come up with 5 predictions on how cognitive collaboration will change the way we work by 2020.

1: Your digital assistant will become an indispensable part of your day

Digital assistants are mainstream with over 100 million devices sold that connect to consumer assistants, like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Enterprise-grade assistants with conversational AI capabilities will make your meeting a zero-touch experience, so you can join a meeting, call a contact or start a recording with just your voice. While available now, this is still a burgeoning technology and you’ll see functionality increase rapidly with the ability to assign action items, scheduling meetings and take notes.

2: Distributed collaboration becomes more productive and personable than in-person meetings

AI-driven capabilities will provide you with contextual insight that’s just not possible to get during an in-person meeting. As an example, People Insights for Webex Meetings, which was introduced in Amy Chang’s keynote, provides you with information on the people you’re meeting with, right in your meeting space. No more searching on LinkedIn or Google – our participants’ work history, education, latest blogs, company information and links to social media accounts are a click away. This allows you to discover shared background and interests and ultimately help you build stronger connections. Another example is facial recognition, which will display the names and titles of participants in a virtual meeting – this becomes very useful when a room is occupied by multiple participants.

3: Your collaboration platform becomes an AI-platform

From your team space to meetings and devices, everything in your collaboration suite will be enabled with cross-product AI functionality. Imagine joining a meeting and having your last conversation with someone automatically pop-up or the last whiteboard from your team space becomes available in your virtual meeting without having to search for it because the platform knows you met with the same people earlier to discuss the same topic. On an individual level, this may seem like a small, measurable improvement to your daily work life, but that small improvement scaled across a large organization can have profound effects on collaboration and productivity.

4: Interoperability sets collaboration suites apart

While a platform is critical for leveraging AI use cases across your collaboration tools, interoperability needs to remain a key factor in toolset decisions. During a panel discussion, Sri Srinivasan, SVP/GM of Teams Collaboration Group at Cisco, explained: “We are increasingly driven by end user choice — the culture of how people work matters most. We need to make software that interoperates for the technology mix.” From productivity tools, like Office 365 or Google’s G Suite, to customer relationship management tools, like Salesforce, collaboration solutions need to integrate and work well with other software. One of the important factors to consider is that employee preference for what they use to get their job done is always evolving, so organizations need a solution with a proven history of developing for interoperability.

5: Enterprise adoption of AI hastens future capabilities

AI capabilities will continue to evolve as more organizations adopt the technology. There are two reasons for this:

  • The Data: As Michelle Burbick says in her Enterprise Connect roundup blog, “If Data is King, AI is Queen” (it’s worth a read!). The more data available, the more likely AI and machine learning can be leveraged to discover and test new patterns that will lead to unique AI-use cases and greater efficiency gains.
  • The Providers: It won’t be long before organizations see the business value of an AI-enabled collaboration suites. This will drive demand for the solutions that are best positioned to deliver capabilities now and in the future. Collaboration technology providers will continue to invest in these capabilities as AI-features become a key way to set themselves apart from the competition.

With the introduction of AI, technology decisions can no longer be based on which point solutions solves a particular problem, here and now. Instead, decision must be about investing in a strategic platform that will fundamentally change the way people work together, how they connect and innovate.

To learn more about cognitive collaboration, join the upcoming webinar: Cognitive Collaboration: How AI and Machine Learning are Transforming How We Work and Collaborate

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