Cisco vs. Microsoft – Which Team are you on?
Which Team are You On?
In my recent article I talked about the future of Unified Communications and the concept of UC 3.0, I talked about a refreshed framework for comparing unified communications solutions. The basis of UC 3.0 is about the experience, notability the user experience (UX), team experience (TX), customer experience (CX) and ultimately the business experience (BX) needs to be considered before you attempt to compare vendor UC solutions.
Getting to Know Microsoft UC & Collaboration in 2019
With the concept of UC 3.0 in mind, let’s begin our comparison with one of the best-known players in the communication industry: Microsoft.
For meetings, collaboration and productivity, Microsoft has been a strong enterprise player for a number of years. Microsoft started in the meeting space with Lync, which eventually became “Skype for Business.” Although Skype for Business is being phased out and replaced with Microsoft Teams, there are still around countless companies using the tool today.
The creation of Microsoft Teams helps Microsoft to enter the world of Unified Communications 3.0, by combining user experience with customer experience solutions (contact centre), business experience (management and administration), and team experience (collaboration).
It’s not just an audio conferencing and instant messing tool. Microsoft Teams is a fully immersive component of the Microsoft Office ecosystem – the productivity suite that has made Microsoft so popular throughout the years.
There are approximately 1.2 billion users around the world using some manner of Office product. Office 365 now has 155 million monthly active users (MAU) and is gaining new users at over 3 million seats per month according to this source.
Microsoft Teams brings company tools for collaboration, communication, customer service, and administration together in the same single-pane-of-glass environment. It’s no wonder that:
- Microsoft Teams is the fastest growing Microsoft app ever created.
- The tool spans across 41 languages and 181 markets.
- Office 365 saw a 35% growth in constant currency over the last year.
Most importantly, Microsoft Teams is becoming consistently more impressive.
Over the last 6 months, 100 new features were added to the environment, including blurred backgrounds on video calls, frontline worker services and more.
Collaboration and Productivity: Connected
Microsoft has emerged as a leader in the team collaboration environment specifically because of its acceptance of UC 3.0. Simply put, Microsoft doesn’t just offer collaboration as an add-on to your existing environment. Instead, Teams is a natural component of your existing Microsoft ecosystem.
Microsoft Teams allows companies to hold scheduled and impromptu meetings, video conferences and calls, while they have access to the tools and services they rely on each day. They can start a conversation from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, or bring PowerPoint presentations into their meetings. There’s even the option to connect with Outlook calendar to ensure that everyone is available for a conversation.
Of course, it’s not just the connection between Microsoft Office 365 and Teams that makes the Microsoft offering so special. Microsoft also has a strong approach to the communication and business management worlds. Company leaders can organise their teams into different groups, track actions through Activity tabs, and customise their environment to suit their needs.
The Microsoft Teams adoption rate has been astronomical. Teams entered the industry in preview format by the end of 2016 and launched fully in early 2017. Although initially, companies were concerned about the idea of a replacement for Skype for Business (particularly in the Enterprise), many of those worried have quickly evaporated. After all, Teams today doesn’t just have feature parity with Skype for Business (Online edition only as I write this); it can do so much more. Some Enterprises however are resisting the move to Teams due to recent investments in perpetual licences and not wanting to move to a pay monthly model.
Increasingly, companies are beginning to see Microsoft Teams not just as a replacement for Skype for Business, but as a crucial component of their complete UC ecosystem.
As of March 2019, Microsoft Teams has more than 500,000 organisations reliant on the platform – compared to Cisco’s collaboration portfolio, which serves around 300 million people around the world. It’s tricky to compare numbers like for like on this basis, however based on some simple math, I’d estimate that there are already more than 50 million Teams users out there. If Cisco convert a good portion convert their 130 million Webex users to Webex Teams, then we’re going to see an exciting battle for top spot over the next few years.
As I said, it’s difficult to get a like-for-like comparison, since Microsoft never shares the number of individual users using Microsoft Teams. However, it’s fair to say that Microsoft Teams is bigger than the alternative offerings from Facebook and Google (Workplace and Hangouts). It’s also gaining on other productivity solutions like Slack too.
For many people, Microsoft Teams represents the more enterprise-focused approach to collaboration that Slack simply can’t provide. It delivers the security, administration and productivity tools that Slack lags behind on. Most importantly, Microsoft also has the benefit of being an existing part of many current communication and productivity networks already. It’s hard to find a business that hasn’t at least considered using Microsoft Office in their stack.
Getting to Know Cisco UC & Collaboration in 2019
Microsoft certainly has heritage in the collaboration and enterprise communication environment. However, Cisco isn’t a new player either. Cisco has been the heart and soul of communication for many businesses for years. The company has been delivering communications since 1984.
It was back in 2007 when Cisco decided that they would begin making their way into collaboration systems – long before Microsoft Teams was a blip on the competing company’s radar. The acquisition of WebEx for $3.2 billion set Cisco up with the tools they needed to provide consistent meeting solutions to their businesses.
In 2009, Cisco took its strategy a step further, by purchasing Tandberg – the video conferencing company. Acquiring a global leader in video conferencing put Cisco on the cutting edge of the collaboration marketplace at the time. The video conferencing solutions that Cisco offers today have come a long way from the bulky meeting rooms that existed back in 2009. However, Cisco seems to have been ahead of the game in terms of endpoints and innovative solutions for a number of years.
More recently, Cisco took its unified communications strategy to the next level with its purchase of the market leading UCaaS platform vendor, BroadSoft. This acquisition gave Cisco a truly unique way to stand out in the cloud communications space. Unlike other team collaboration tools that offer voice calls through work-around routing components and add-ons, Cisco can build native cloud calling directly into their service portfolio which enables Cisco Webex Teams users to make and receive external calls on global dial-in numbers.
End-to-End Collaboration from Cisco
Cisco is a true innovator in the world of Unified Communications 3.0.
Currently, around 130 million users are on WebEx each month. That’s a huge number of people relying on Cisco’s collaboration tools to keep their enterprise projects in check. Bearing in mind I’m not sure whether the users quoted are paying subscribers or free guests in Webex meetings..
When Cisco Webex Teams launched, it was initially called “Cisco Spark.” Cisco introduced the tool as part of their Project Squared solution, an initiative that intended to create the ultimate workstream collaboration tool.
In 2018, Cisco revealed that their “Spark” tool would become a component of the Webex ecosystem, as Cisco Webex Teams. Cisco announced that all of the collaboration features present in Spark would be offered alongside the features in the Webex conferencing platform, such as guest access, content sharing, whiteboarding and more. The idea was to create a more consistent collaboration environment which aligned with the concept of UC 3.0.
Although Cisco Spark had its own type of meeting strategy before, Webex also had a meeting environment too. It made sense to converge the solutions together, complete with a video-first approach that took advantage of Cisco’s prior acquisitions. Today, Cisco owns more than 50% of the UC and Meetings market. What’s more, their collaboration strategy earns approximately 5 billion dollars – highlighting the sheer importance of their team strategy.
When Webex Teams launched, part of the Webex calling, meetings and Teams portfolio, the leaders in Cisco prioritized the visual aspects of collaboration. They wanted people to do more than just message each other online. Cisco wanted an environment where companies could bring people together through video, screen sharing, file sharing, and even presentations launched over digital whiteboards.
- Cisco paid $3.2 billion for Webex in 2007
- Cisco paid $3.3 billion for Tandberg in 2009
- Cisco acquired AI startup MindMeld for $125 million in 2017 and also Viptela SD-WAN company for $610 million
- Cisco paid $1.9 billion for BroadSoft in 2018
- Cisco acquired Amy Chang’s Accompany for $270m in 2018
More than Just a Meeting Room
One compelling thing about Cisco as a collaboration tool provider is that the company has always done meetings well. Cisco Webex Teams users can organise their teams by individual departments and groups. The integration of BroadSoft in 2018 means that the company can appeal to a wider range of marketplaces too.
On top of that, Cisco recently brought a new leadership team and partner ecosystem into the mix, which has completely transformed the vibe of their portfolio. The Cisco partner ecosystem means that companies aren’t just tapping into Cisco’s heritage and marketplace knowledge, they’re also engaging with developers, value added distributors, resellers and system integrators that can improve their full end-to-end experience.
For instance, Cisco’s extensive range of partnerships has helped them to create a team collaboration environment unlike any other, with a focus on hardware, as well as software. Yes, you can launch calls over the internet and send real-time messages to customers. However, businesses can also take their collaboration to the next level with a range of applications and endpoints.
The Webex boards coincides with the digital whiteboard inside of Webex to give users a fully hands-on experience. AI solutions like the Webex assistant (created from Cisco’s acquisition of MindMeld) extends functionality and availability to more devices. Cisco even creates full room series so that companies can create customisable huddle rooms for agile employees.
Speaking of flexibility, Cisco also launched tools like Webex Share – a hardware adapter that can transform any TV into a meeting screen. There’s even the Collaboration Flex pricing plan that changes subscription elements according to the needs of each active user.
Like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams stands out because it’s more than just enterprise messaging or video chat. It’s a complete solution for business, team, employee and customer experience.
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