Cisco recently announced major updates to the Webex suite, including a new collaboration device and new partnerships to expand its collaboration footprint. Jeetu Patel, EVP and GM for security and collaboration, Cisco, spoke to Comms Business about the company’s vision for its product portfolio, and why change is needed for hybrid work to be successful.
Patel explained that successful hybrid work requires several areas of every organisation to collaborate. He said, “There’s a range of different ways that companies are operating as they move forward. We believe hybrid work is actually harder than when everyone worked in the office or when everyone worked at home.
“If you have four people in a room and three people joining the meeting from home, that tends to create a disconnect. It creates a feeling of being left out whenever you’re not going to the same physical space. We have to solve this problem.
“The reality is that this problem can’t be solved in isolation. It’s no longer just a tech problem. There’s a cultural aspect to it around how people behave in a meeting, then there’s also a space configuration and a facilities aspect to it. These three functions are coming together to solve this problem.”
The good news, Patel said, is that organisations are aware they need to bring different teams together. He explained, “In companies that reach out to us, there’s often an IT specialist, a HR specialist, and then there’s a facilities specialist that together drive these kinds of decisions. This requires a pretty holistic solution, not just around technology within collaboration, but also technology for connectivity.
“If people are working from home, they need to have reliable connectivity just like they would when they are working in the office. And if you happen to be working in a coffee shop, and dealing with sensitive data, you need to know that your connection is secure. Those are all going to be important dimensions of the way that this works.”
Patel emphasised that the technologies organisations adopt to enable hybrid work need to be “solid across technology, networking, security and collaboration”, and Cisco is channelling its investments “heavily on those four areas” to ensure their solutions can meet those requirements.
A multiplatform future
At WebexOne 2022, Cisco announced new integrations with Microsoft. This included a new Webex Calling integration with Microsoft Teams, enabling users to easily make enterprise-grade Webex Calls in the Teams interface for a more flexible workflow.
Group Call Management is also now available for Webex Calling, making it easy for businesses to activate informal call centre services. In addition, Cisco’s partnership with Microsoft will also enable the Microsoft Teams Rooms experience on Cisco’s collaboration devices.
Patel said that these innovations stem from Cisco’s belief that “the future is multiplatform”. Individual users will need to be able to take meetings on platforms including Webex, Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams. Patel explained that a user should never have to worry about which platform is hosting their meeting, they just need to be taken to the right platform and it needs to be seamless.
Patel said Cisco has a commitment to interoperability. He explained, “We believe that this market is evolving very similar to the way that entertainment is evolving. Some days you’ll use Netflix, some days you’ll use Hulu, some days you’re going to use Disney+, some days you’re going to use Amazon Prime.
“We believe that, for video conferencing, there are times that you use a Webex meeting but then the next meeting is on Microsoft Teams, then the third meeting might be on Zoom. This can be very stressful for people when switching platforms. What we’ve done is we’ve made it easy first.
“Now we’re taking it a step further, where Microsoft Teams Rooms is now natively available on Cisco. We have taken the Android operating system for Microsoft Teams and made it natively run on top of our OS. From there, you can also include native Webex meetings right from within the Microsoft Teams Room. We’ve done best-in-class interoperability, but also native integration with Microsoft Teams.
“The beauty of this is: it’s not just that their product will work on our devices, it’s that our capabilities around artificial intelligence, for example, are moving to the hardware level. Those [capabilities] can then be applied to these different products. Microsoft Teams actually gets better when used on a Cisco device, because you can get the benefit of all of the capabilities we have on the device.”