Cisco increasing the tempo on Quad

After a low-key launch six months ago, Cisco Systems Inc. is increasing the public visibility of its enterprise social collaboration software platform called Quad.

At Cisco Canada’s annual solutions summit for customers and partners in Toronto last week, one of the main sessions highlighted a 90-minute presentation on the suite by Sheila Jordan, the company’s vice-president for communications and collaboration within its global IT department.

In that role she’s been responsible for urging Cisco staffers world-wide to adopt Quad, which integrates social-media type applications such as wikis and blogs with Cisco’s voice, telephone and video applications.

“Moving to this new way of working is transformational,” she told her audience. “It is so much more than the technology.”

Cisco continues to increase Quad’s capabilities, she added. Next month it will add integration with Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices.

Social networking tools in the enterprise aren’t new – in fact, it’s likely organizations are worried more today about how to limit their adoption for security reasons that encourage them.

According to industry analysts, enterprises are only just starting to think about company-wide platforms, including Jive, Lotus Connections and Microsoft SharePoint. Quad, they add, has one thing going against it – it needs Cisco’s unified communications platform.

That may be one reason why Ilena Funez, an analyst with Info-Tech Research of London, Ont., who was at the summit, said Quad doesn’t seem to have much momentum in Canada at the moment. Another is that enterprise-wide social network platforms aren’t hyped yet, she said.

Irwin Lazar, a vice-president at Nemertes Research, estimates 20 per cent of organizations his company recently surveyed have such platforms, up from 12 per cent a year ago.

“Cisco still has a little bit of a struggle in that the people that are typically looking at social products aren’t their default customer base,” he said in an interview. “Cisco has a large mind share in the networking, voice and video teams, but often you see social computing efforts led by other lines of business or people who come out of the messaging shop, or might have more of a bias towards Microsoft. Cisco’s been struggling to expand its awareness among those people. We are starting to see Cisco is entering the conversation.”

In an interview after her speech, Jordan talked of the usefulness of Quad, how an enterprise should approach the integration of a social platform into the organization and the never-ending torrent of data flowing into the enterprise.

The problem with social networking tools is they are unintegrated point solutions. “One of the points I tried to make earlier is we believe the person is collaborating and communicating, not a document or content.” “

The difficulty with a unified approach is it requires changing business process, she said.. “Today when you come to work, for example, you might log into email and you might go to a transactional system and then you might go to a phone call. It’s pretty fragmented. For one to deploy Quad you really have to think about the transformation and how you change your day and how you do work.”

But if it’s done right, an enterprise-wide approach can break down barriers between branches and divisions within the company, she said.

Quad doesn’t bring in all communications – email has been left out so far, for example, because Cisco doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

“Email has become almost a dumping ground for everything,” she said. “It’s content management, its alerts, its communications about what’s happening in your company … It’s become this use that’s for everything.

“Once Quad works the way we expect it to work, we’ll figure out what will become of email. If I can do community communication in Quad and I can also do one-on-one chat in an instant messaging solution, email will become something different. So we will be integrating email into Quad, we’re just not doing that right away.”

As for bringing in an enterprise-wide solution, Jordan said it needs the kind of support any company-wide application does: A vision, an understanding of the business problem that needs to be solved, cross-functional leadership so “ambassadors” encourage adoption.

Finally, if you’re a CIO don’t expect this will in any way slow down the amount of data flowing through the organization.

: “I don’t see it declining,” she said. “I think the role of the CIO is going to be how do we mask the complexity of that content, how do we serve up the right content to the right person when we can and how do we use the network in different ways to be really smart about filtering and serving up content.”


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