Chambers To Partners: Collaboration Key To Growth

Cisco CEO and chairman John Chambers told a packed house at the 2008 Cisco Partner Summit that innovation and collaboration, not only utilizing technology but between partners, will be key growth drivers over the next several years.

In his keynote address Wednesday, Chambers said collaboration and Web 2.0 technologies, anchored by "visual networking," mark the second largest market transition of the last two decades, second only to the early 1990s Internet boom.

On the technology side, Chambers hammered home a message of "collaboration-enabled by networking tools" not only to fuel communication between companies, but to better fuel communication and collaboration between Cisco partners to develop robust solutions targeted at customers' unique business needs.

"This is about a whole new generation. It is about 3.0," he said. "It is about where we can go together that has not been done before. It is about catching more market transitions than have ever occurred in the industry that are occurring at a faster and faster pace. The transitions can be on products, where it's not going to be about routers and switches and data centers and security and wireless and the home strategy versus service providers It's going to be about any device to any content over any combination of networks in whatever ways we want with communities pulling together toward a common goal."

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John Chambers at the Cisco Partner Summit

Chambers said capitalizing on collaborative tools now will enable all forms of communications within IT, business and customers.

Chambers outlined the "collaborative channel," which will enable collaboration between Cisco and its partners, partners and other partners, and partners and their customers.

"We've got to learn how do we go to market together not only talking technology architecture, but business architecture and tie the two very tightly together in a way the market is striving for," he said. "There's a reason the market is looking to a place like Google. It's because they're not seeing innovation from the traditional players and we've got to realize that this is a void we can and should fill together."

Chambers told partners they have to capture the market while it's in transition and create and offer solutions built around it. If partners don't strike well before the time of transition, they stand to be left in the dust.

"What is your differentiated strategy?" he asked. "I can't hammer this home enough. It needs to be built around market transitions. If you enter a market that's already going well your ability to gain market share is ugly. It costs you margins to hammer it out for one or two points. But if you catch markets in transition, not only do you catch the mindshare and the hearts of your customers, you catch the market share and profitability to go with it."

Later, Chambers added: "It is the ability to be able to say here's what's going to happen, here's what's we can do together with our partners, and then deliver it."

But Chambers said a go-it-alone approach can stifle innovation, while partnering, much like Cisco does through acquisition, helps lead innovation and offer more targeted solutions.

"We will create a level of communications which will motivate ourselves and, if we do it together right, our partner and employee base as well."

NEXT: WebEx Takes Center Stage

Taking advantage of emerging technologies now, Chambers said, will put partners in a stronger profit position by changing the way their customers work and live.

"It is the ability to catch these transitions and realize its business we articulated well," he said. "It'll transform work in ways that we're just beginning to understand. I'm not talking about where you work, how you work or what devices you use. It is the very fundamentals of how we work. This will be all around collaboration enabled by network tools."

The intelligence powering those networking tools has to be invisible to the user, Chambers said.

"It is any device to any content," he said. "I don't care what the processes are. I don't care where it's stored. I want to find the mode that I want to do over any combination of networks anywhere I am in the world with security, ease of use and manageability."

Chambers outlined an era where collaboration tools will enable content to find end users and partners based on their communities of interest, from both a business and personal uses. At the center of that collaboration will be "visual networking," Chambers said.

"Throw away the word unified communications. Think about it as collaboration enabled by networking tools with visual networking at the heart of it and how this ties together across your IP telephony strategy, your TelePresence strategy, your collaboration with 'X' type of strategy, your software as a services strategy, your services as a service. It has to be an architectural play with visual networking driving it. It will be a connected lifestyle."

To illustrate the visual networking component, Chambers and Cisco chief demonstration officer Jim Grubb demonstrated collaboration capabilities through the Cisco WebEx communications platform, with integrated messaging, conferencing and new widgets custom designed for specific communities, meetings and tasks.

With drag and drop and simple mouse clicks, Grubb was able to use the WebEx platform to pull new participants into meetings and launch a TelePresence session with colleagues located in four different areas using four different types of video and devices for access, all based on buddy lists broken down by different projects, tasks and communities. He was able to launch video on demand not only through the WebEx platform on a PC, but on a mobile device as well.

Chambers said tools like WebEx and other collaborative technologies are bringing together those communities and tying together the any device, any content model.

"It's moved from personalization -- the "you world" -- to communities," he said.

As this morphs to a community it will evolve from users searching to find information or people funneling information to them, but to the information seeking users out and filtering it down only to the information most pertinent to the user.

"Content will find you based on your community of interest, your social networking group that you have," he said. "The next generation of how this occurs in IT and in regular communications will be visual networking streaming data video and multimedia with social networking access. It's a mouthful, but that's where the future will be."

And failure to capture that community enabled through collaboration, Chambers said, will be costly.

"It is about transitions," he concluded. "And when transitions occur you either lead or get left behind. Cisco is committed to you, our partners, to lead together."