LOS ANGELES: Being an agile business that can adapt and respond to challenges and change is vital. Projects have to be delivered in weeks, or even days, not months or quarters.
The need for tools to facilitate this by allowing quick conversation and content sharing is therefore growing all the time. Cisco is attempting to exploit this trend with the Project Squared app, unveiled at the firm's annual Collaboration Summit, attended by V3.
The tool is akin to WhatsApp, in that it allows people to share messages and content, via services like Box, to foster better and easier communication and collaboration at companies of all types.
Jens Meggers, Cisco general manager for cloud collaboration, said that providing the tool is vital now that businesses must be agile in their working practices.
“Every corporation is agile now. Banks, insurance companies and so on. They have to get the tools to staff to let them work quickly and easily. Smaller companies are doing this too to help them survive and compete,” he told V3.
“That’s why we introduced Project Squared. It’s about helping the people at the frontline of the company get stuff done. They need something that helps them send quick, easy messages to share ideas that can lead to more established meetings.”
This idea was taken further by Snorre Kjesbu, general manager of Cisco's TelePresence and IP-Phone business unit.
“What I have been hearing, often from companies as large as 100,000 employees, is that they want to behave more like start-ups,” he said.
“So they want information to flow easily and everyone to communicate, and the business becomes more flexible and nimble for challenges and opportunities.”
Feedback on the Project Squared app appears to show a clear demand for such tools. Over 80 reviewers on the Google Play store have given the app a 4.6 out of five average score.
The iTunes app has not had as many ratings, but still has a five-star average at present.
Vanessa Thompson, IDC research director for enterprise social networks and collaborative technologies, also backed Cisco's claims by telling V3 that the analyst house is tracking the development of this need for tools that enable agile practices.
“There is definitely an opportunity around this trend of connecting people from across different areas of a business, say a sales person needing to check something with legal,” she said.
“They want to be able to easily get together, share content and collaborate in a scenario that’s not as structured as, say, a WebEx meeting. Squared could play a strong role in this.”
While Project Squared was very much the poster child of the event, Cisco also rolled out new tools in its more established areas.
Cisco touted reduced power and bandwidth requirements, and an easier installation process, as key selling points of the IX5000, which should make it more appealing to businesses. Although with a list price of $299,000 it's probably not for start-ups.
Kjesbu believes that the focus on simplicity of installation and use is vital in driving the adoption of videoconferencing in the business world.
"We have two kinds of buyers: the heads of IT, the CIOs, and they are the ones that ask about security and manageability and things like that. But we also have the buyers who are the ones actually doing the work," he said.
"To make adoption grow we need to meet both needs, so we provide the professional level the IT directors need, but we also strive for perfection on the user experience side."
To this end Cisco has introduced new tools such as smart camera technology that automatically recognises where a user is positioned, so if they stand up to present from a white board, it will snap automatically to fit them and the board in frame.
“These things are about bringing down the threshold of adoption so you can focus on getting the job done rather than how you use the technology,” Kjesbu said.
The final piece of the agile business jigsaw is Cisco's Collaboration Cloud. This will enable companies to be more flexible in their requirements for tools like WebEx or videoconferencing as more products are moved to the platform.
Currently only the Project Squared app is run on the Collaboration Cloud, but other tools, such as WebEx and Jabber, will be moved to the system soon.
Cisco is also hosting the Collaboration Cloud on its InterCloud platform. This will allow companies to specify where they want to host the service from, and whether it's a private, public or hybrid cloud, which should address security and regulatory issues.
No doubt Cisco will have plenty more to say on collaboration and agility in 2015. Updates for its Project Squared app are likely to come thick and fast, as Cisco adopts an agile development method with the tool. Practice what you preach.
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