Cognitive Collaboration: The Future of How We Meet?
Guest Blog by Scott Murphy, Collaboration Practice Lead, ITGL
I’m a big fan of most technology, but an adopter only of the technology that offers an improvement to my life. Take for example, mobile payments through near-field communication (NFC). This is a breakthrough technology that some people really buy into (excuse the pun), but since I never leave the house without my wallet, the task of getting out my phone is offering no improvement over the task of simply taking out my wallet. For the last twelve years I have been embedded in Cisco Collaboration. I’ve dedicated my career to Cisco because they have consistently delivered technology that improves the way people work. 2019 is no different and already we have had some exciting announcements released under the title of cognitive collaboration.
At Enterprise Connect on 20th March 2019, Amy Chang, SVP & General Manager for Cisco Collaboration, took to the stage to talk about a feature being termed ‘people insights’. I, like many, am a user of LinkedIn, which I use to manage my professional network. I offer information about myself and my business to people who have an interest, and I research people and businesses in which I have an interest. With the new ‘people insights’ feature, this information will become directly accessible from my Webex Meetings application. Furthermore, the information won’t only come from LinkedIn, it will come from any publicly available location on the web. I’ll have an algorithm searching the entire web on my behalf in milliseconds and pulling back a profile on my attendees and their businesses without me lifting a finger. A task that previously would have taken me several minutes and produced less impactful results.
Another big feature released at Enterprise Connect was facial recognition. I’m fortunate to be part of a small and well-connected team. I know everyone in my organisation by face and by name, and I know what their responsibility is within the business. As a result, if I turn up late to a meeting with several people involved, I can quickly work out (just by sight) who is part of the meeting and what their interests will be. This was not the case when I worked at Cisco; a multi-national company with offices and teams spread all across the world. Being part of such a large organisation was brilliant, but it was simply not possible to maintain the same level of ‘connectedness’. In any global meeting, there was a high chance that at some point in the meeting, someone would start talking and I wouldn’t have a clue who they were or what their interests were in the meeting. To get that information I would have to ask the person in question for their name, and then frantically search our active directory to find out what they did in the business. If I didn’t get the chance to ask this in the meeting, I would have to get the information from colleagues after the event, by which time it was too late. Facial recognition in the Cisco Webex range of devices takes this task (and its embarrassment) away from me. I don’t need to know or recognise the face because Webex has already done it for me and given me that information via a name tag under their video. I can now address this person by name even if we haven’t yet been introduced.
When combined with the ‘people insight’ information mentioned above, I’m able to form a meaningful connection in seconds that would have previously taken several days.
The last feature released at Enterprise Connect was Webex Assistant. I must admit, I was pretty late to the table with voice control technology. I was originally quite excited about the introduction of Siri to my iPhone, but after two days of asking it about the weather and sports scores, my enthusiasm waned. For me, this felt a little bit like NFC again. I already have my phone in my possession so what advantage do I have speaking to it? The proliferation of Amazon Echo and Google Home devices has changed my view of this technology, and Cisco’s Webex Assistant has piqued my interest. Walking in to a room and using my voice to start a meeting is a fun feature but won’t transform my experience of using the device. Webex Assistant is much more than this. It doesn’t just talk to me, it also learns about me. It knows my calendar, my frequent contacts, my preferences for meetings and it offers me all this information when I choose to engage. With the assistant enabled I don’t have to search through a call list to contact my colleague Samuel, I simply ask Webex to contact him for me and Webex will know which Samuel I mean to dial. Webex will know when I enter a room and if it sees a meeting in my diary will ask me if I want to join. If I don’t have a meeting and the room is actually booked by someone else, Webex will tell me when the room will again become available.
This is just the start. Over the next few months, we will see this assistant evolve to become akin to a dedicated personal assistant capable of managing diaries, assigning meeting actions, taking notes and more. This is not just a nice gimmick to interact with, it has the potential to automate a series of tasks that currently consume a large amount of my time.
Can Cisco bring this to life?
Cognitive Collaboration is pitched as providing context and intelligence to every meeting. 2019 is saturated with vendors offering meeting products. This year Cisco are standing out by providing something that no-one else is. A stable meeting experience from Cisco is a given, but with many people accepting good enough meetings from other vendors, Cisco are going above and beyond to attract new business and retain renewals.
I work with organisations of all sizes, demonstrating how an investment in the right collaboration technology can transform employee engagement and facilitate efficient teamwork between people inside and outside of the organisation.
I understand the importance and impact of change, and develop robust plans for implementation and adoption. I work hard to ensure the technology adapts to the desired business culture.
I have dedicated my career to Cisco. For over thirty years, Cisco has been the global leader in digital transformation. Through innovation and well-placed acquisition, they have developed a holistic portfolio of technology to help change the way you live, work and learn.