Cisco Unveils New Collaboration Certifications, Drops Voice And Video

Cisco Systems is retiring its voice and video Certified Network certifications to pave the way for the expansion of its collaboration certifications specifically targeted at enabling partners to address the convergence of voice, video, data and mobile applications.

"Gone are the days when you just had the voice expert, or just the video expert or just somebody who understands how to set up instant messaging in your company," said Tejas Vashi, director of product strategy and marketing at Cisco, in an interview with CRN. "You really need someone who has a view and has an understanding on how to test, configure, deploy, maintain, troubleshoot the entire collaboration suite -- voice, video and data. That's the skillset that's been created in the industry."

Vashi said collaboration is playing a bigger and more critical role in businesses and organizations as voice and video are converging. Cisco partners will be enabled to get trained on how to deploy collaborations most effectively within their business through the certifications, according to Vashi.

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Partners agree that solution providers need individuals who understand the full collaboration suite and can provide support at all points in a process.

"End users expect to be able to seamlessly move from one tool to the next, which means collaboration tools can no longer function in their own silos and neither can the IT staff implementing and managing those tools," said Sean Williams, senior practice manager for Cisco at Softchoice, a Chicago-based Cisco partner, in an email.

"Not only that, but in order to enable true collaboration across the organization, your IT team needs to have a full understanding of how your voice and video solutions integrate into the organization's overall collaboration strategy. If you don't, you'll end up with a mixed bag of tools that don't work well together and ultimately don't deliver on their promise of business value," he said.

Jamie Shepard, senior vice president of strategy and health care at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and Cisco partner, said voice and video have converged in 2015.

"This is actually how Lumenate currently uses Cisco technologies with CISCO DX80's at our desktop fully integrated with voice, data and mobile," said Shepard. "Now WebEX has personal webex rooms that helps mobility … Expertise in the field and customer references are what drives our business. Having teams of people focused and deploying this is what will help us grow."

Cisco is adding new associate and professional levels to its collaboration certification portfolio, offering a training path for network engineers with the hopes to increase productivity and improve the experience for end users.

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) addresses the convergence of voice, video, data and mobile applications in midsize to large networks utilizing the Cisco solutions, according to the networking giant.

"Additional training and skills development will definitely be needed for converged voice and video much in the same way as we saw the need for additional training when we saw the convergence of voice and data," said Williams. "Converged networks also will raise new security challenges, which resources need to be trained on how to handle."

NEXT: Cisco: 40 Percent Of Workforce Will Be Mobile

Cisco said 60 percent of office workers collaborate with at least 10 people in their day-to-day work. There is also a 67 percent increase in work requiring active collaboration and 40 percent of the workforce will be mobile by 2016.

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said many of the new product launches by networking vendors in recent months have been on converged platforms.

"The more personal video becomes, the higher the utilization rate, and I think that's what Cisco is addressing with this converged certification," said Kerravala. "With the rise in mobile video it almost dictates it comes over a single network … We're starting to see video as the new voice."