'No More Islands' Across Cisco Collaboration Portfolio, Tech Giant Says

‘You're going to see us hold to the promise of building bridges and integrations. No more Islands,’ Amy Chang, senior vice president of Cisco Collaboration, says during Cisco Live 2019.

In a long-awaited move, Cisco revealed that it’s unifying its on-premise and cloud-based collaboration portfolio so that users can enjoy the same experience across all Cisco's collaboration tools.

Additionally, the San Jose, California-based tech giant at Cisco Live 2019 said it has been working on "playing well with others" and that its collaboration portfolio now integrates with fellow collaboration offerings -- Google Cloud, iOS, Microsoft, and Slack.

"You're going to see us hold to the promise of building bridges and integrations. No more islands," Amy Chang, senior vice president of Cisco Collaboration, said during her keynote. Chang came to Cisco when her own startup, Accompany, was acquired by the tech giant for $270 million in 2018.

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"The unified client has been long overdue," said Jason Parry, vice president of client solutions for Force 3, a Cisco Gold Partner and one of the tech giant's top Federal partners who was in attendance at Cisco Live.

Having one client for a customer and one consistent experience across on-premise and cloud environments is "hugely important" because customers are asking Force 3 for easier collaboration, all in one place, he added. "It really looks like that is the path Cisco is headed down."

Cisco's Chang said that the "one single, beautiful, unified app" will let employees, call, meet and message in one place. "The interface is the same great one whether on-premise or in the cloud, which means no new training for employees as they make that migration."

Cisco has also been busy injecting its entire collaboration suite with more AI, giving tools like WebEx the ability to facially recognize and name meeting attendees and automatically pull up information about attendees, such as LinkedIn profiles, recent news items, and pictures. Cisco is calling the strategy "cognitive collaboration," which is going to be weaved across all Cisco's collaboration products, Chang said.

Cognitive collaboration features have already starting to trickle into tools like WebEx. "It's ultimately going to come down to how good the content is that is being delivered to users," Parry said.

The message around cognitive collaboration and having a single platform is "fantastic" for partners like PCM, a large solution provider and Cisco collaboration partner.

"The ability to present all that information to you in preparation for a call is great, and I think it's going to be a really big selling point for us," said Paul Harrold, vice president of collaboration for PCM.

PCM has a large client base of premise-based customers using Cisco collaboration products that want to make the move to the cloud. Cisco's updated collaboration portfolio will help Cisco better compete with its rivals in the industry, Harrold said.

"I think the approach Cisco is taking to collaboration will help catapult them back into that frontrunner position," he said.

At the same time, Cisco has realized it needs to work with collaboration tools that users already have in place. "We know you have software you're using and we need to work with it, so we did. We're now part of an ecosystem and you are going to see more and more of that from us," Chang said.