9th Nov 2011
John Hernandez and Andy Chew from Cisco's collaboration team explain how the company is talking the talk and walking the walk when it comes to social business.
“Enterprises need to have a social business strategy – it’s not a question of if it is going to happen; it is a question of how they will adapt to it, how they will take advantage of it and how they tap into it.”
So says Andy Chew, senior director for collaboration at Cisco Systems, a company that is talking the talk, and walking the walk, when it comes to social business.
But then those at Cisco are very much of the belief that there is no other option for businesses if they want to be competitive and efficient.
“The increased focus on collaboration comes down to a couple of things,” says John Hernandez, VP and GM in Cisco’s customer collaboration business, picking up on Chew’s thread. “It is about productivity for sure, and streamlining operations to where they are getting the benefit out of the headcount and the processes they’re using. But equally if not more important based on the economic climate around the world is how can I grow my business? And I think Cisco is a prime example of that.”
And it isn’t just the Cisco team that would agree with Hernandez. For instance, in a recent conversation with MyCustomer.com, Lee Bryant, co-founder and director of Headshift, part of the Dachis Group - the world’s largest social business consultancy – spoke of Cisco's "amazing results" at reducing its costs and increasing the level of employee productivity through internal workforce collaboration.
“Being global in nature, without the collaborative tools we couldn’t function,” continues Hernandez. “It is safe to say that over the summer in the US, Cisco was going through some changes, streamlining operations, removing some bureaucracy and really driving collaborative tools for us to not only streamline and become more productive , but for us to get laser focused like we are on growth markets that are going to drive the next level of growth for the company.”
Chew elaborates on this last point. “We’re doing a lot in terms of communicating to the market exactly the specific areas that Cisco is seeing real benefits around those things,” he says. “There are case studies that are publicly available from the time of the financial crisis where all big companies were looking to reduce op-ex quickly and we targeted some of our op-ex budget into further investment in video infrastructure as a means for driving down travel costs. And what we found very quickly was that it wasn’t just the benefit associated with the reduction in travel costs, it was the increase in productivity that jumped to the fore as well. Because as well as the elimination of the air fare and the hotels, it was also the time that you would gain. So if John could cut out one trip a year from going from California to Bangalore, that probably gives him another three days on his calendar that he’s available for other things.”
And Chew believes that the reputation that Cisco is cultivating is testimony to this activity. “We’re innovating and investing to drive the collaboration architecture around four different areas of mobile collaboration, social collaboration, visual collaboration and virtual collaboration,” he explains. “We believe that sets us apart from any other competitor in the marketplace, both in terms of the innovation and depth of the investment.”
It’s a good time for Cisco to be bullish, because it is putting some big plans into play. Two-and-a-half years ago its journey to “shape the future of customer care” led to an epiphany – collaboration with the customer could be equally as significant for service as internal collaboration has been for productivity and efficiency. It subsequently “redefined” itself as customer collaboration (something that Hernandez says has been "validated" by the number of other vendors that are now using this term), and expanded in Latin America and North America. For the next phase of its development it has set its sights firmly on growth in the UK and Western Europe.
Hernandez explains: “We started a go-to-market exercise back in June with the various executives in the UK and with our R&D operations, gearing up a programme to be very aggressive in the UK market, especially for the replacement market that is up for grabs right now based on some end-of-life existing products out in the marketplace from other vendors. Based on that opportunity and a successful product strategy that we have seen over the last couple of years, we’re putting together a robust go-to-market exercise to help those customers that are in need of replacement move to a new architectural platform that gives them the things their used to in the past with all the successful tools of the future so that they can be very proactive with their customer base.”
Amongst these tools are an enterprise social software package called Quad, and Social Miner, a tool allowing customers to mine any publicly available social media stream to identify service issues even before the customer comes calling with a complaint. It is this “proactive” service that Hernandez believes can define the customer relationship.
“If you’re sitting back waiting for a consumer to call you, that means you are beholden to what they want you to do. For instance, if they are going to call you about their credit card and they are upset about fees, they are probably calling to cancel and move to a different credit card company. If you have that insight ahead of time - like they blasted you on social media – you are able to pull that out and understand the reference of that customer and be proactive about whatever issue they have or engage with them to try and smooth it over. You have then just put yourself in a winning position as opposed to being defensive about it once they decided to call you.
“This also has a big implication for business process on being able to hand out that workflow and make people accountable for it. And the staff accordingly are doing a lot of the speech analytics that allow you to get that insight based on the things that are happening out in the public sphere. And that is why in addition to the technology we’re developing, we’re also setting up our own internal capability to consult with customers on how you do that, and training our resale partners on how we can scale that business and allow them to have some value-add into it, as well as transferring a lot of that knowledge in the marketplace.”
He concludes: “It is not just delivering technology. It is working with folks so that they can exploit the benefit of it like we have at Cisco.”