Cisco Customer Collaboration Analyst Day 2010

20 Jun 2010

At the Cisco Customer Collaboration (aka contact center) Analyst Day, I learned that "scrums" are not just for rugby players, and that they're actually a way for developers to exchange ideas and collaborate. As the Cisco customer collaboration development team moves to an Agile development model, they can reduce risk by developing working, tested, deployable software in incremental stages. And the results are clear, with new products being developed in a fraction of the time it used to take.

During our intense one-day conference, this was the first indication that things were different. Next we heard from John Hernandez, VP & GM, Customer Collaboration Business Unit, that Cisco's contact center offerings are fully consumed in the Cisco collaboration suite, making it easy to reuse development from other parts of the business and scale development larger using a wider range of Cisco developers. This means that products like Cisco Pulse (announced last year) can be used for assigning Expert Agents in the contact center, for example. With the "One Cisco" approach, and the use of boards and councils, tools and people from other areas of the company can be leveraged so that capabilities developed and used in one part of the business can be used in other parts of the company. As John noted, Cisco has "Moved away from making automobile parts to making automobile models."

The term that Cisco now uses - Customer Collaboration - demonstrates Cisco's notion that it's not just about adding social media to the contact center, but it's about the whole portfolio and how it evolves together, including things like a collaboration agent desktop, video-enabled customer care, social media customer care, etc.

There was a lot of talk about Cisco's new Quad (social media tool for the enterprise) and its use with the Customer Collaboration products. John noted that Cisco's "traditional" contact products like Unified Contact Center Enterprise, Unified Contact Center Express, and Unified Voice Portal are being impacted by the growth of social media, and that companies know that they'll need to operationalize the role of twitter, Facebook, etc in customer service. Quad is an open container environment that lets gadgets and widgets be added to it, and since everything is being done at a foundational level, it can be used as a contact center tool, although some development work will be needed on the contact center side. Cisco is also using Quad to replace CTI desktops, and Quad will simplify the contact center operations for things like screen pops.

Cisco is keeping its day job, however, and noted that only 30% of its resources are focused on web 2.0 and social media, while 70% are focused on its core contact center products, including virtualization, agent greeting & whisper, scalability, etc.

Tod Famous (a Cisco social media guru) walked us through the new Release 8.0 capabilities in the Customer Collaboration portfolio. A new Cisco and customer interaction cloud, aimed at 30-300 agents or knowledge workers, is based on a completely hosted and managed infrastructure, and resold by Cisco Partner TeleTech. It will be Cisco and branded and delivered by TeleTech (in the U.S. only), coupling together Salesforce CRM and Cisco contact center in a hosted fashion with simplified administration.

Cisco added a new diagnostic tool, UC Analysis Manager, which will be used in every product to improve the customer experience. New features for Unified Contact Center Express 8.0 include high availability over WAN, simplified install and upgrades, UC Analysis Manager, new Cisco 8900 phones and cross cluster extension mobility. For the Unified Customer Voice Portal 8.0, Cisco added the UC Analysis Manager, enhanced SIP capabilities, Courtesy Callback (a la Genesys' Virtual Hold), and virtualization support.

Unified Contact Center Enterprise 8.0 and Hosted 8.0 added 15 minute interval reporting (previous reporting was in 30 minute intervals), new install and setup, UC Analysis Manager, SIP Dialer with gateway-based call progress analysis, and virtualization support. Cisco notes that it will have a 4:1 reduction in servers through virtualization.

The new Unified Intelligence Center, based on Cisco's Latigent acquisition, will replace WebView and will be included with every purchase of Contact Center version 8.0 products, providing real time and historical dashboards. It will have two models - Intelligence Center Standard and Premium; the standard product will be included with UCCE and UCCX out of the box.

What piqued my interest the most is a new social media customer care solution that will launch in November. This yet-to-be-named appliance will tap into the social web by searching the web, and then capturing, analyzing and prioritizing work, and assigning and distributing work through a communication workflow. The appliance will take work events and filter them through business rules to decide whether to work on them and who should work on them. The appliance is a virtual machine appliance that runs inside VMWare and can be run in the data center, cloud, etc., and includes a Linux OS, data store, and application software all bundled together in a virtualized environment. It uses the existing universal queue interfaces on UCCE and can feed the media through UCCE (it will not be available with UCCX initially since UCCX doesn't have the media capabilities needed).

Cisco notes that social media disruption will support a substantial new wave of innovation in customer care, and social media customer care will bring new requirements to the platform - including new customer care workflows, new types of users, scalability, and productivity.

Will companies starting running out to implement these new social media capabilities? Of course not. But Cisco is positioning itself in this area so that when customers are ready, Cisco will have a strong story to tell, with some reference customers and experiences under its belt. It will take time for companies to adopt social media, both in the enterprise and in the contact center, but Cisco is showing thought leadership in this area, and I'm looking forward to hearing about real customer implementations in the near future.


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