Collaboration of the Future: A Conversation With Jonathan Rosenberg of Cisco

Collaboration of the Future: A Conversation With Jonathan Rosenberg of Cisco

By Jim Burton September 14, 2016 Leave a Comment
Collaboration of the Future: A Conversation With Jonathan Rosenberg of Cisco by Jim Burton

In this Executive Insights podcast, Jim Burton of UCStrategies is joined by Jonathan Rosenberg, VP and CTP of Cisco's Collaboration group. Topics include the direction in which the industry headed, the Cloud, Cisco-Microsoft integration, Cisco Spark, and a discussion about Cisco's competitors. In addition to the audio which is available for download, the complete transcript of the conversation is included below.

Loading media...

Transcript for Collaboration of the Future: A Conversation With Jonathan Rosenberg of Cisco

Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton and I’m joined today by Jonathan Rosenberg, VP and CTO of the collaboration group at Cisco. Good to see you again, Jonathan.

Jonathan Rosenberg: Good to see you, too. I’m happy to be here.

Jim: So this industry has gone through many cycles. I mean, we met in the early days of CTI and we’ve gone through a number of cycles since then. Where do you see us today? Where is the industry evolving to?

Jonathan: So I talk to customers about this a lot, and it’s very personal for me actually Jim, because I’ve been doing this a long time. We’ve been doing this a long time together and I feel…we are on the beginning of probably the most significant transition we saw since the transition from TDM to IP. That was the big transition that completely changed telecoms and enterprise. Cisco grew from nonexistent to market leadership; tons of people went out of business. Giants, like Nortel, went out of business.


Jonathan Rosenberg

That was the first big transition, circuit to packet. Now the next one is upon us – from premise to cloud. So where it’s going is it’s going to the cloud. So we are going to see a huge transition of all communications from prem to cloud. And I think what’s often misunderstood is some people think that’s just a financial thing. Like, I’m just going to pay for it from a subscription instead of paying for perpetual license. That’s actually the least interesting part about it.

The most interesting part about it is how, when you go to the cloud, when you go to SaaS, you can build your software really different. And you can build it different to do really new things and really exciting things for users that totally transform the collaborations experience. So that’s what actually is most exciting about it and I’ll talk about that a little more in a second.                

Jim: I agree with you. It seems like the transition for some people from CP to cloud ends up being something as simple as the call control no longer is in a box at my office, it’s in a box somewhere in the cloud and I tie to it that way. But you started on something that I think it the most important thing is that we’re talking about new features, technologies, and capabilities that will be delivered through a cloud solution.          

Jonathan: Exactly, when done right. Now I’m sure there are other vendors out there whose strategy may be different. Their strategy is, “oh I’ve got this thing I’ve been selling for years and I have it on-prem; I’m just going to stick it on a VM in the cloud and declare victory.”

We don’t think that’s going to be a winning strategy in the marketplace as a whole, and that’s not what we’re doing. That’s because, speaking as a technologist, SaaS is a fundamentally different way of delivering software. And it enables a bunch of things that are really important. The number one most important thing, I would say, is it enables speed and innovation and velocity of new stuff that you can put in the hands of end users. I mean if you think about it, what did we have to do in the past if we had some new innovation that we wanted to get in the hands of users, to use in telecoms?

I worked on this stuff a lot, and SIP was a big innovative thing that we were trying to do and the cycle for that was years. I mean you would start with an idea, you’d bring it to ITF, you’d wait for it to get standardized, it gets standardized, you wait for vendors to pick it up, IT to deploy it. They run a trial, they scale it up…years to roll something out from idea to end user. SaaS collapses all that. So you can literally go from idea to end users using it in like, depending on how big an idea it is, days or weeks.

That is orders of magnitude improvement in innovation velocity. And to me, that’s actually the most exciting part about the SaaS delivery model. If you build your software to be capable of this kind of speed, you can go and you can deliver amazing innovations right away. And you can begin to tie stuff together and integrate it together in a way…actually integration isn’t even the right word. It’s like one comprehensive whole, that this one thing works together to solve all these disparate things.

That’s been a pain point, frankly, that we’ve seen in our business for a long time, in all of these disparate things, tools… I have phones and video conferencing systems and those are different. I had web conferencing and that was something else and I had file sharing tools and those were something else. And I had chat tools and that was something else and I had hard phones and that was something else. It’s all this stuff that just didn’t work together and it was hard to work together in a premise model.

When you bring it to the cloud, now the cloud provider is building automation and software that makes those things not just integrated, it makes them one user experience. That to me is what’s super exciting about all of this and that’s where we think the industry is going. It’s not just us; the trend is going to be that all of these different communication modalities start to become merged together so that you just work. And the tools and the software and the hardware seamlessly flow with you in your workday. That’s what to me is most exciting about collaboration of the future.          

Jim: I have a colleague, Dave Michels, who—      

Jonathan: Yup, know him well.  

Jim: He calls it workstream communications, and that’s a question for you. I mean, where does Spark fit into that and how do you see that being evolved? What should people be looking for and looking at?  

Jonathan: Yeah, so I think in some senses, it’s right to give it a new name and in other senses it’s wrong to give it a new name. For us, it’s actually the future of what we were calling unified communications. Which to be totally honest, never really got unified. Shhhhhh—              

Jim: No, you’re absolutely right.

Jonathan: And it gets back to that SaaS is finally enabling that to get unified. But more importantly, what we’re seeing is we’re seeing a change in the way people just work. And that change started in your personal life. The way you communicate today is not the same as it was even 10 years ago or possibly even five years ago. It’s all shifted, more and more shifting away from mail into mobile messaging. So what we think is going to happen is that there’s this transformation, where mobile chat in particular, is that there’s a new style that people get used to in their personal lives and other tools, too. Those are coming into the workplace and they’re different. And those are going to become the foundation for how people communicate. So in some sense, that’s unified communications all over again. In another sense, because it’s a totally different way of working, and again there’s a long conversation on what’s different about it, I’m happy to go into that… It’s a really different way of working with different tools. It’s something new. So it’s something new but it’s going to be the thing.

And for us, it’s not going to be just an addendum… “Oh yeah, I have UC and I’m going to add workstream communications; I have IM; I’m going to add workstream communications.” That’s not how we think it’s going to go. You’re just going to work and there’s going to be one tool that works to do everything you need and that uses this new modality of persistent mobile chat, business messaging, whatever you want to call it, at the center. But it also includes meetings and callings and all of this other stuff, so intertwined, that’s, for us, the vision. When I’m done, when we’re done, you will not be able to tell what the difference is between calling and meetings or meetings and messaging or messaging and calling or video conferencing and web conferencing… Those distinctions just are evaporated in the user experience. You just have collaborations. You just work together and the tool flows with you across all of those different things.

That to us, is the future of these tools, and it’s not just a little add-on onto the suite of stuff we’ve already got. It is the whole thing.                  

Jim: How do you help users understand why this is valuable? It seems to me and we’ve been through this before with other technologies, that it’s great stuff. But unless people get their hands on it and use it, they really don’t get it. They don’t have that “aha” moment because you’re describing it to them or they read it in a brochure. How can we get that out there? I mean, quite frankly the reason I wanted to have this podcast with you, I realize that’s an issue. And I want to help people understand and get the message out so they can start buying these technologies, because we know it’s going to save them time and money and make them more productive.        

Jonathan: Absolutely. Well, I’m sure this podcast is going to completely solve that. If only it were that easy. There are actually many answers to that question, so I’ll poke at a few different dimensions to it. One of them is…this is part of the reason we made the product have a freemium viral component to it is we feel that, in fact, the only way to get people to understand it is to get them to use it.

So what we’re doing is we’re applying traditional consumer viral adoption engagement techniques to this kind of thing. I mean, how did any user learn to use any of the new tools? SnapChat isn’t obvious. Where did that come from? WhatsApp isn’t obvious. How did people learn to use that? How do any of these tools get adopted? They get adopted through a combination of built-in product virality, built-in guides and coach marks. The spread and usage of the app itself and how to use it is part of the design of the product.

So when you do that, as is proven time and time again to work in the consumer world, it just hasn’t been used that much in enterprise software, that’s what we’re doing. We’re bringing that same idea to business software and we’re seeing that. So we’ve got, we’ve built a product that you can just go download and use it.

Jim: I have and I do.       

Jonathan: You do, exactly.          

Jim: And some at UCStrategies use it.     

Jonathan: Excellent, I appreciate that, and we have many more like that. We look at the data on these domains and people are just picking it up and using it. We didn’t even sell to them. It wasn’t like a Cisco sales guy dropped in and made an RFP checklist. They just started using the tool and we have a whole team that’s focused on adoption and engagement and growth, just like you would see in a consumer product.

So we think that’s one dimension of it that’s going to help people understand how to use it. Another dimension of it is that we’re trying to go for familiarity of experience off of people’s personal lives. People get mobile messaging. The data shows, the odds are if you’re an American you probably know how to use Facebook messenger. It’s just a numbers game, right? If you’re European, you probably know how to use WhatsApp. These tools are familiar; they have a certain information architecture and construct that people get.

So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to bring that familiarity into the workplace so that it expands from there and grows as they use the product. But it’s built on a foundation they understand. That’s dimension two, and the third dimension of it is like well gosh, we’re Cisco. So we have an army of sales guys. We have an army of customer support. We have a whole customer success team. Their whole job is to go in there and help the customer understand the use cases and hey, how would this be good in your company? What are the kinds of things you need to do with it? So we help educate our customers, even educating our sales guys.

To give one example, I just got back last week from our global sales conference in Vegas. And a big part of what we did is talk to the sales organization: “here are the different ways in which you can use it.” We unveiled a bot that, well it only works for Cisco employees, but it accesses our sales database that has sales materials. And if I want to know about a particular topic, what tools do I have to help me sell? Now all of those things are now integrated into Spark and we showed all the sales guys how to use that and how to do their job.

And that’s just using Cisco might. So the combination of Cisco might plus consumer virality and adoption and growth, techniques built into the product itself plus a familiar foundation – that, we think, is going to be what gets us past this hurdle of helping users understand how to use it.          

Jim: Well one of the things…I’m glad you brought up your sales organization. It brings up a question about the channel. I know that the channel has moved from selling chunks of iron and big CapEx solutions to OpEx solutions and they’re going through a really rough time. And I know the channel is kind of questioning, well, is Cisco going to continue to support me? Can I continue to make money being a Cisco partner?               

Jonathan: Yeah and that’s a big focus for us. So the answer continues to be yes. There’s no change in this. Our strategy is we continue to be channel focused. We think it’s an asset and that’s not just because it’s been a traditional Cisco strength. We can change. We’re pretty nimble here in the collaboration business at Cisco. If we thought it was the wrong thing, we wouldn’t be afraid to speak up and move on.

But we don’t think it’s the wrong thing. At the end of the day, sales is important. Marketing is important. It’s hard to sell and get product into the hands of lots of users. We kind of just talked about it. So scaling any business big, everyone discovers you need a channel. So we want to keep it. So what we’ve been doing is, we’ve been investing in a bunch of areas that allow our partners themselves to transform and find value add. Because the value add moves away from route configuration and management, which that’s what’s…it’s the industry trend. Software and SaaS make that not necessary anymore. I’m sorry. To other areas of value add, and we have a whole story and I’ll tell a few pieces of it right now, that are the dimensions of partner value add. So one of the biggest ones actually we think that the partner channel is going to provide is API’s, programming and building integrations on top of our API’s. Almost any single customer that any of these partners have, their customers have all these tools and software internally that they’re using that would have huge value when integrated into Cisco Spark.

I gave an example of our own…this was again built not by our development team, but the sales organization built this integration with our sales tool. And that’s just, it’s all internal Cisco software. So you can imagine a partner coming in and identifying the top 10 pieces of enterprise application software that would gain value in integrating with collaboration. They’ll build an integration, a bot on top of the API, plug those things in. Talk about customer value and retention. I mean that is huge.

So that’s one, we think the biggest, area of opportunity. And we recognize, by the way, that that’s a change for many of our partners. But that’s a change that we’ve been spending a lot of time getting our partners moving on. It’s how we message to them, it’s how we’re communicating with them, and we’re seeing movement. We’re seeing a bunch of our partners, they get it. Those that don’t have development shops, they’re getting them. They’re starting to train people up. They see this future coming and they’re changing, too. Not all of them will make it. Not all of them will. We know that. But a lot of them will and that’s one huge area of value add. We have a bunch of other areas of value add, which is probably a longer conversation.        

Jim: Well, let me comment on that. I agree with you 100%. To me it seems like the channel has to get back to what used to be the value added reseller. They have to add value on top of what just the product is because that’s their value in the process. And there’s huge opportunity for these people to lock in customers because they’re looking for solutions to problems.       

Jonathan: Yes, exactly.  

Jim: A voice solution is a voice solution and a good quality one is important. But when you can solve a business problem, yeah, you’ve got it made.        

Jonathan: Yes, and everyone recognizes it, even Cisco as a whole. I mean our whole direction you’re seeing is all about digitization and going in there and helping solve business problems with technology. That’s the focus for us as a vendor. And exactly like you said, for our partners it’s the same. And this example I just gave of using API’s to integrate with this enterprise application, like this little sales tool I told you about, that’s solving business problems. “Here, Mr. Customer, let me explain to you how I’m going to help you increase your sales by helping speed up the connection between information to your sales force.” What sales guy wouldn’t be interested in that conversation, right? Or here, let me help you configure your call manager. I mean that’s like, it’s not as exciting to everybody.

So that also leads to – that’s another dimension by the way that we think is going to be critical for these VARs and the partners in the future – is helping drive adoption and usage of the product. So we just talked a moment ago about how important that is and how difficult that is. And where there’s difficulty, where there’s value, there’s money to be made.

So we see a huge value in providing adoption and lifecycle services to help identify these use cases, to help educate the customer on how to use it. To use tools that we’re building in addition to the APIs to help them manage and see the growth of the product inside the company and help drive success and measure success by adoption and usage, which is a totally different way of thinking about it.

It used to be, in the olden days of iron, you’re done when the phone call rang. The first phone call, see you later, man. Call me back in a year and a half when you have a question. Who knows whether anyone used any of this stuff. Once it worked, they were done. Those days are gone. Now it’s all about adoption usage and that’s all about bringing value to the company. So that’s another important dimension we think and we’re pushing a lot of our partners into that.              

Jim: Well, you’ve had a good dedicated channel and while they have to go through a shift, they need guidance and direction. So it sounds like you’re giving it to them.         

Jonathan: Oh, we are giving it in spades.              

Jim: That’s great. I have another question for you and it seems like every time I meet with a very large enterprise customer, the challenge or the question always comes up, “I have Cisco and I have Microsoft. How do they work together?” And I know that customers have, at times, driven you to work together. But what’s your overall approach to that? How do you solve customers’ problems when they’ve got both a Microsoft solution and a Cisco solution?   

Jonathan: Great question. So for us, and you may not get the same answer from Redmond, but I’ll tell you our answer. For us it’s a given that it’s going to be a Microsoft plus Cisco world. So there are lots of different combos that you can have. How much Cisco and how much Microsoft? What we’re doing is we’ve picked the optimal one that we think is the best combo and we’re working the best in that combination.

We’ll absolutely support the other ones as well, as best as can. So what we’re promoting is we’re promoting what we think is the best combination of these things. And in that model, frankly, it’s Microsoft for what it does best, and that is core office productivity: Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel; we don’t have anything in that space. That remains the must-have tool. It’s there, right? Outlook, Exchange, Active Directory, these are the real core of what the Microsoft product portfolio is. Everyone has that. It is the rock, the foundation that their enterprise is probably built on. So that’s what we think Microsoft is great at.

What we’re doing is we’re saying use them for that and then what you do is you use us. If you can consider that sort of the, and email in particular, the truly asynchronous communication. Then the synchronous, where synchronous includes messaging and instant messaging or chat. Mod or mobile chat works, basic communications, whatever you want to call it is in the real time bucket, too. Use Cisco for the real time. So we think if you take Cisco Spark and combine it with Exchange and Outlook, that’s a great combination and it drives great simplicity.

So you don’t need this vast waft of tools. In a lot of ways, what Microsoft is saying is we’ve got a catalogue. I mean sign up here for an E3 or an E5 and look at all the different tools we can give you. All of which overlap monstrously with each other, by the way. I mean I have trouble counting – how many Microsoft products do chat? I can’t, I have trouble counting it. It was eight or nine or something like that, all of which don’t work together, by the way.

So we’re saying it’s all about simplicity. The simplest, easiest solution that does everything you need. Optimal solution: Exchange and Outlook for email and then we’re going to integrate with it. W actually have more people building integrations between Exchange and Cisco Spark than we have building the Spark mobile client. So we’re really focused on building these integrations to make it a great experience using Exchange for calendar and email, combined with our product.

So we’re investing all; every API we can plug into, we’re plugging into it. That’s, AD is like the foundation of our identity story. We plugged into that and all of its API’s. So we’re a huge developer on top of that platform. We’re making that optimal and then use Cisco Spark for…add our video endpoints and phones, all of which now are all connected. It’ll be connected fully in the cloud. That fills in the rest of it and that combination is just great. Simple, easy to use, just get your work done.

That’s the deployment we’re recommending. Now, we know that not everyone’s going to do that. We know that lots of customers are going to do…“oh, I’m going to deploy E5 and get some Polycom phones and some Microsoft call control. I’ll put them there and I’ll put some Cisco over there and there’s still some Polycom video end points over there. And I’m going to deploy some Lync and Skype for Business video over here and you need to make it all work together…”

So we’re still committed to interoperability. So even if you don’t deploy this ideal combo, which has all of this other stuff, as much as we can, we’re limited in some cases. Microsoft doesn’t open up some of these things. But where there is an interface, we’re plugging into it. So we bought Acano, you may know, which is the pioneer, really.             

Jim: You made an announcement recently about your interoperability with Microsoft.    

Jonathan: Right, exactly. So a lot of people are afraid. “Oh, they bought Acano to kill it because they didn’t want to interoperate with Microsoft.” We said no. I mean that’d be a really expensive kill. So hopefully it’s really clear that’s not the case. We ship their product, based on that technology, to provide that interoperability. I’ll tell you now, too, we’re in the process of deploying that in our cloud also.

So you’ll have a cloud technology that’s going to make its way. I can’t give you any timetables on that, but that’s a work in progress. Because again, we’re committed to interoperability and we want people to be able to connect into our meetings in the cloud via whatever technology they have. You’ll still get the best experience in this ideal operating point I described. So much of the magic we provide can only work when we get the split as I described.  But if that’s not the split the customer has chosen to deploy, we’ll do the best we can.    

Jim: That’s important. I mean it’s always tough because it means you’re compromising what you want to be selling. And the same thing happens to them when a customer says, “well, I’m working with Cisco and they want to use some of those services.” So it’s good to know and I think that’s important for customers to understand, that your goal is to work, to help solve their problems. 

Jonathan: Absolutely, yeah.       

Jim: Even though you have to be working with a competitor on some of those solutions…              

Jonathan: Yeah. The tagline I use for this, talking about Cisco is “Better Together, (but not only together).” So we’re going to work best in this sort of all-Cisco plus Microsoft, with Microsoft in the roles I just described. Even then it’s not just us, but in the ideal, that’s where we’re going to work the best. But that’s not the only model that we’re playing in.

So we’ll give customers flexibility but make no mistake. There is so much magic, the simplicity and magic that’s the core of what we’re trying to do, that becomes difficult in these other kinds of use cases. And a great example is stuff we’ve demonstrated and shipped today with Cisco Spark. We’re sitting now in a conference room here. We’ve got a bunch of video end points that are sitting in the room. One of the classic challenges of video conferencing is no one can figure out how to make a call. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a conference room and someone’s got a laminated piece of paper on the table. To make a call, you need to blah de blah de blah. And then what they do is they have the IT person around. So when the executive person comes in the room, the IT person comes in, they set up the call. “We’ve set up the call for you.” I mean that is a colossal failure of technology. I personally feel responsibility for that failure. That failure must be fixed, and the only way to fix it is to make the experiences so seamless that this problem evaporates.

So for example, I walk in this room and I’ve got my Cisco Spark running on my laptop here. Just by being in this room, I’m connected to these video systems. If I want to make a call, I just press the Join button, the giant Join button that I see in my Spark client. And these things come to life and place the call. That kind of magic, I don’t know how to do that unless it’s our client with our cloud with our video endpoints.

Because the dance that goes on between our software, the client, the cloud, and the video endpoints to do this is mind numbing. If I drew you the sequence diagram, you would be like, “holy cow.” That makes this, that is like really hard, and it is. So you use complexity to drive simplicity for users. And that complexity is only possible when we can build these things to work together.

So those kinds of beautiful, magical, simple experiences, customers that don’t opt in to the ideal combo I’ve described, they won’t get those. Because we just can’t do that. But you can sit down at the Polycom and type in the SIP URL to dial into our meeting. You won’t get the Join button. It won’t be automatic. You may still need the laminated piece of paper, but we think people want simple and magical. They certainly do in their personal lives.  

Jim: Oh, no question. I mean that’s why we all have these mobile devices we carry with us.              

Jonathan: Yes, exactly.  

Jim: How would you differentiate Spark from Slack and from some of the other products on the market that clearly are your competitors in that space?         

Jonathan: Yeah, great question and one I get asked all the time. So I think there are a few dimensions. It depends on which other vendor we’re talking about. Let me talk about Slack first. Slack, great brand. Marketing, great popularity, great job. Actually, in a lot of ways, helping everyone by making it clear that this new type of work is really something. We’re not just kidding.

So I’m thankful for that. They have a great messaging product, without a doubt. But that is actually the core of the differentiator is it really is just messaging. And they’re trying to get into voice and video. They bought a company; they’ve got a couple guys working on it. They have an audio conferencing button you can press and you can have a VoIP audio call. That’s nice, but it’s indicative of the direction things are going.

The direction is everyone wants to bring it all together, but we are way, way stronger in the real time communication. I mean the fact that I walked into this conference room with my PC, click a button in the Spark room, and the video unit comes alive and joins the meeting, with all of the people who are sitting on their Spark clients or use their video rooms. It would automatically take a chatroom call and turn it into a B2B video conferencing room meeting, they’ll never have something like this.

So, and that’s just the beginning. We have clearly the best voice and video real time communications portfolio and capability. So I think that is a huge differentiator and that’s where everyone thinks it’s going. So that’s thing number one against Slack. Thing number two against Slack is what I would characterize as the Goldilocks security capability that we have.

What is Goldilocks security? We have this really cool end-to-end security architecture. The thing about security, you could think about a consumer product like WhatsApp. WhatsApp has this intense security. You’ve probably seen, they made big news about it, it’s in the app. And the interesting thing about that is that stuff is so heavily encrypted that not only can WhatsApp not access it, neither could an IT department.

So let’s say an IT department decided WhatsApp is the messaging platform of choice because it’s so secure. But it would be so secure that their information security team couldn’t get access to any messages in case there was a subpoena issued or some digital data loss that they had to forensically investigate. Who leaked the company memo through WhatsApp? They’ll never be able to know.

So in a lot of ways there’s too much encryption in those consumer tools. And then you’ve got other tools like Slack and they do transport security. It’s encrypted between the client and their cloud and then it might use some descript too. But at the end of the day, their engineers, their developers, their DevOps teams, and possibly attackers have access to the content. And as people use these tools, their persistent messengers, all of this information goes to the cloud.

So if your information security guys, if the customers, if they start to think about it, they should be terrified of tools like Slack. Because of all of the amount of information that is ultimately potentially lost. So that’s not enough encryption. Of course we’re just right.                    

Jim: Just right.  

Jonathan: We’ve built a technology and this has been years in the making, that makes it to lock us out as a SaaS vendor and lock the bad guys out, too. But give the golden keys to the castle to the enterprise IT departments for them to give to their lawful intercept guy, the info security guy that needs to do an audit. They own the content, in fact, by virtue of owning the keys. That’s the model that we have.

So this is dramatically different from Slack in one of many examples of an enterprise grade capability that we feel pretty good about. So that’s Slack. Microsoft is a different beast entirely and I could spend an hour, which I won’t, going through some of them. But if I had to list the top three or four, number one would be hardware. So endpoints – video endpoints and phones, we have deeply integrated these things into the experience and it’s just fantastic.

That shows up in so many ways. I’ve talked about being able to click a button and join a meeting in a conference room. It’s even onboarding. So when you want to give someone a new phone, you ship them one of our Cisco Spark phones, they show a QR code to the phone’s video camera, and that’s it. All configuration, onboarding is complete. You compare that with what you have to do with the Skype for business certified hardware partner, it’s like incomparable the difference in complexity.

And it’s again because we can integrate these things together and it’s just one of many examples of this. We think the fact that we make the endpoint hardware integrated into our solution is a huge differentiator. Second is our hybrid story. Now everybody has a hybrid story, but they are not all the same. Microsoft’s hybrid story is rip and replace, which is, “we’re going to help you get rid of your Cisco by supporting a hybrid feature where you can have call control on-prem and we’ll do a SIP trunk to the cloud. Or we have a hybrid cloud connector that allows you to use your PST and gateways on-prem, but move your users to the cloud.” So they’re a rip Cisco, replace with Microsoft, which makes sense. If I were Microsoft, I would probably do the same thing. But we don’t think that’s what customers want. We think what a lot of customers want is, “frankly, I’ve got this UC on-prem; it’s not like it’s broken; it actually works really well. It just doesn’t do enough for me anymore. I need more. How can you augment it with cloud to make one plus one equal three?” And that’s our hybrid story: you combine Cisco Spark with your UC on-prem to do something in combination, without having to throw the prem stuff away. It gets better by adding cloud. So that’s difference number two that we think is really significant.

Difference number three actually is the same as with Slack, which is the security story. But more importantly, they don’t have business messaging. This is what’s really funny is that Microsoft has lots of products that do chat. Yammer sort of does chat, SharePoint sort of does chat, they have three Skype-branded products: Skype for business, Skype, and Skype meetings, all of which do in-meeting chat. LinkedIn sort of has chat. Outlook Groups, which they sort of position sometimes as their Slack answer, none of those are actually this new workplace communications or business messaging that’s this persistent, mobile-centric, web-centric chat. Room-based, persistent, always on, they don’t have that at all in their portfolio.

Now I’m sure they have some 30 guys in a corner probably working on it. But I’m pleased to say, they’re actually way behind Cisco in a next generation desktop and mobile software application. We’re ahead of them in that game. There’s a huge difference and the last one I will point to is again how we’re unifying everything together.

This is probably the most fundamental difference. I’d say Microsoft is about the catalogue. Mr. Enterprise, no matter what you’ve got, I’ve got it in the toolkit. You want a social networking app, I’ve got it. You want an email application that does groups? I’ve got that, too. You want a meeting product? I’ve got a bunch of those. You want this? Okay, I’ve got SharePoint. They’ve got a catalogue and they acquire more and more to grow the catalogue. But none of it really integrates together.

So they’re focused on making sure they can tick the checkboxes on the feature sets. We’re focused on simple and magical and easy-to-use user experiences. When we’re done, we don’t want there to be a catalogue. We want you to just buy collaboration and it just works so seamlessly together that you can’t tell where the boundaries are between these different things anymore. And that’s a real different approach to how we’re thinking about the user experience. So those are, again there’s more, but those would be my top runners on the competition.     

Jim: That’s a good start.

Jonathan: Yeah, indeed.               

Jim: Well I thank you very much for your time today. This has been very helpful. It’s good to catch up with Cisco and I was very, very impressed in the short timeframe it took from Rowan joining the company and getting Spark out the door. Very, very impressive timeframe in getting it done and it being a next generation product, I think too. That’s also very important.                

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s been a huge transformation.                            

Jim: Well good. Well thanks for your time today.              

Jonathan: Thank you. Take care. Bye folks.          


No Comments Yet.

To Leave a Comment, Please Login or Register

BC Summit 2016 UC Alerts
UC Blogs
UC ROI Tool RSS Feeds

Related UC Vendors

See all UC Vendors»