- Failure to act, execute, innovate, or differentiate in a mature market creates a crisis.
- Cisco must clearly and confidently communicate its collaboration strategy to reassure its customers, partners, and industry pundits.
Following a 2007 restructure, Cisco emerged with a new model focused on placing software at the heart of its technology groups, having previously focused specifically on hardware. Indeed, the vendor correctly recognized and reacted to the upcoming changes affecting the technology industry ably demonstrated by its Voice Technology Group (now called the Collaboration Technology Group, or CTG), implementing agile software development practices in a far more software and services-oriented market.
However, Cisco’s latest collaboration launch appears to go back to its hardware heyday, focusing far more on updates for existing video conferencing hardware (Webex Room Kit Pro, Webex Room 70 G2, and Webex Room 55 Dual), new headsets, and a reworking of Cisco’s ‘Fusion’/hybrid architecture: Webex Edge.
Of course, there are some software-focused developments in the latest announcement: the ability to type ‘@meet’ into an e-mail invite to automatically include dial-in information in an invitation for premises-based conferencing, a new Webex Meeting experience, and some much-needed enhancements to Webex Board. But, without leveraging the significant assets from recent acquisitions, is Cisco in danger of reverting back to its all too familiar hardware-based roots?
Since 2012, when Rowan Trollope joined Cisco as a senior vice president and general manager of CTG, the focus for the group had been moving towards more of a software-as-a-service model and making simplicity a priority. Despite many acquisitions in the software collaboration space (Versly, Collaborate.com, Assemblage, Tropo, Acano, Worklife, MindMeld, and more recently, BroadSoft), it has been disappointing to see so little materializing in terms of new services and features. Cisco’s innovation has been recognized, with numerous industry and trade events citing Red Dot awards for innovative design of hardware as well as improved user experiences such as ‘big green join buttons’ for meetings. But, at the same time, the competition has been updating their software to deliver significant new capabilities within their offerings and, in some cases, out-innovating Cisco.
Rowan left Cisco in May of this year, followed by the acquisition of Accompany and subsequent appointment of Amy Chang as leader of CTG, and since then, very little has been shared in relation to Cisco’s future developments. Further senior leadership changes, including the recent announcement of the departure of CTO Jonathan Rosenberg, add to the uncertainty around Cisco’s strategy in the collaboration and communications market.
As Nell Scovell once said, “If necessity is the mother of invention, urgency is the uncle of change,” and this market continues to change at a blistering speed. Failure to act, execute, innovate, or differentiate in a mature market creates a crisis, and Cisco must clearly communicate its collaboration strategy to reassure its customers, partners, and industry pundits.