The following is Part 4 of a series on today's announcement by Cisco.
Is Cisco’s Vision Holistic Enough?
While Cisco does a very good job of navigating market transitions and managing its efforts to move into market adjacencies, that does not mean that it has “perfect knowledge”. The collaboration market is not well defined. Some strategists include content management, search, portal, and Enterprise 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis) within a collaboration domain. Cisco may think it knows the borders of a market in which the borders are in reality, porous and ill defined. Additionally, the two dominant vendors in the space (IBM, Microsoft) have successfully fought off challengers for decades.
There are more reasons for Cisco to fail than to succeed in the collaboration market unless Cisco understands the secondary and tertiary nuances of the market. The obvious tooling segments of collaboration (e-mail, calendaring, discussion forums, and workspaces) are well known. However, there are strongly related segments such as unified communications (a segment Cisco knows well), content management, search, portal and Enterprise 2.0 (blogs, wikis, tags, bookmarks, communities, and social networking). It is unlikely a vendor can become a dominant platform leader without solutions that cover each of these segments to some degree.
As Cisco moves more broadly into social computing (e.g., social networking), a more clear strategy as to where Cisco is going with identity needs to come through more strongly. The intersect between identity and social networking is critical to understand (e.g., relationships, social identity, social roles). As Cisco progresses into social networking, a strong analytics story will be required (e.g., social network analysis - albeit Pulse does SNA at its own level).
Another arena Cisco needs to understand concerns collaborative applications. Developers have been an integral part of IBM’s and Microsoft’s success in the collaboration market. Collaborative applications provide tremendous business value. Cisco need to define what program it will put in place to attract developers and build a community around that program. Cisco also need to consider what developer environments it intends to support.
A thriving partner and third-party ecosystem is another critical success factor for Cisco as it attempts to become a collaboration market leader. Cisco needs to identify (and promote) business models and related services to expand Cisco’s platform and solutions into a sustainable ecosystem.
Finally, and this is a challenge for all vendors in this space – Cisco needs to not only offer a mix of SaaS/Cloud and on-premises solutions but also need aligned strategies that unify enterprise and consumer solutions (social media).
Cisco Collaboration: Bottom Line
What should Cisco do?
- Cisco needs to be clear that it is taking on IBM and Microsoft directly – there is no way to avoid this competitive positioning.
- Cisco needs to articulate its broader direction concerning content management, search, and portal. It is competing in those markets (whether it wants to or not). Cisco believes that it is not - that it is only leveraging these capabilities to bolster it's own collaboration effort. However - the final vote rests with customers who will likely want to pull Cisco in directions that it had not intended to invest in (content management) or compete (portals).
- Cisco will be taking on E2.0 vendors (namely Jive) and must articulate a strategy concerning communities and social networking.
- Alignment of Cisco’s social media efforts need to occur with its enterprise collaboration efforts.
- Cisco demonstrates that it has learned a lot about the collaboration market and its related domains
- Cisco has identified three areas that it intends to influence and/or control: virtual computing, voice and video networks, and inter-business collaboration
- In those areas Cisco will progress and mature over the next 3 years (expect incremental consistency) – people should not expect overnight success – this remains a journey for Cisco
- In terms of specific perspectives on certain key announcements:
- Credible hosted e-mail play
- Very strong endorsement of XMPP with the revamping of WebEx Connect
- Missed opportunity (from a media perspective) to point out synergies with Google Wave (given XMPP strengths)
- Strong argument that Cisco is best positioned (vs. Microsoft and IBM) to become the central enterprise presence hub (detached from IM, telephony etc) given its support for native XMPP, SIP/SIMPLE and programmatic interfaces.
- “Corporate YouTube” (Show and Share) enables Cisco to lay an early claim to that aspect of social computing and Enterprise 2.0 trends
- Pulse is an innovative approach but critical issues remain open
- Enterprise Collaboration Platform solidifies how Cisco looks at the collaboration market but opens a “Pandora’s Box” of questions. Cisco will try to position its platform more narrowly than will the market and customers. Cisco needs to pay very close attention to how inter-dependencies across content management, search, portal and application development can adversely affect the collaboration areas it seeks to influence and/or control.