Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cisco Systems Bets on Group Collaboration for Increased Employee Productivity

Noteworthy piece in ZDNet from back in October (hat-tip--the social media groups in the Linked-In discusion forums!)

Cisco CEO John Chambers said the company’s two biggest risks are its bet that video will become critical to networks and trying to run his company on social networking.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium conference in Orlando, Chambers talked about how technology executives need to translate IT terms to productivity. The product risk to Cisco is obvious. Perhaps enterprises won’t bet big on video.

But the social networking comments were notable. We’ve heard through the grapevine that Cisco employees were struggling with Chambers’ penchant for running the company on a collaboration framework. Why is “running a company on social networking” such a risk. One big challenge is cultural. If a business leader is savvy on a social network could she become CIO? Sure, says Chambers.

“The thing that’s about to change for organization structures is that executives will serve on social networking groups and be moved based on function,” said Chambers.

Chambers noted that technology executives can be moved to business functions and general managers can run IT. As long as these executives drive results, Chambers isn’t going to get stuck in some role.

Now some of this is a case of Cisco selling collaboration. Everything from the network to WebEx to the Cius tablet to telepresence is hooked into collaboration. Cisco has to eat its own social networking dog food. However, Chambers noting that collaboration is damn hard indicates that there’s more than just a sales pitch involved.

In fact, when Chambers was asked about what the biggest investment in a non-Cisco product should be. Chambers said that more spending needs to support the “cultural change of technology.”

Simply put, collaboration technology is a lot harder than it sounds.

Other key points from Chambers:

•Enterprises will have to move to support any device. Cisco now does that, but the challenge is finding out how to provide security and support while offloading intelligence into the network. Did Cisco want to support multiple devices? “We didn’t have a choice. We support some laptops more than others, but any device to any content is a must,” said Chambers.

•Cisco bet on the consumer market on the idea that creativity will emerge from social networking, technology and the consumer. “We moved into the consumer market because we thought a lot of what we would learn would go to business,” said Chambers.
•Apple’s iPad is a great business tool, said Chambers. He noted that Cisco “started the Cius before the iPad.” However, Cius will find a role by packaging telepresence, video and integrated communications, he said.

•Cisco will grow employee productivity 10 percent a year over the next decade due to cloud computing, networking and collaboration.

•CIOs need to put technology into business terms.

•IT budgets will grow dramatically over the next five years “if we translate technology into growing productivity and revenue streams.”

•Security and agility are the biggest challenges for cloud computing.

•Are there two customers who care about Cisco’s environmental performance? Wal-Mart and Duke Energy.

•Cisco “will sell anyway you want to buy,” quipped Chambers. He was referring to dealing with CEOs that want to invest for growth or cutting costs.

•On making servers, Cisco said the company “would have never entered the server business as a standalone.” But computing and networking are coming together “not just in the data center, but all the way to your home.”

•Chambers said the company’s UCS data center architecture is the first big change in two decades. Chambers said “we approached the incumbents about doing this, but they weren’t interested.”

•Security is front and center for CIOs. Chambers said security is the biggest risk to business.

•“There’s not a CEO or government leader in this world that won’t invest in new concepts that meet business needs,” said Chambers. “You have to put these technologies in business terms.”
Being slightyl lazy this morning, I just posted the whole piece, but the relevent bits stand out pretty well. The key points being, "Cisco will grow employee productivity 10 percent a year over the next decade due to cloud computing, networking and collaboration." and "Cisco bet on the consumer market on the idea that creativity will emerge from social networking, technology and the consumer".  That's noteworthy. Using 'social media' is more than just another way to extend your brand and viral marketing. It's developing creative platforms where real innovation can occur, cross cultural groups can collaborate, and productivity can be stimulated.

Is it easy? Of course not. It takes leadership, vision, and a willingness to push cultural change. It's a 'bet', a 'risk', sure. But it's a much better bet and risk that holding the course with old world mentality and culture. That's a world we're leaving behind.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Group Intelligence

This is interesting! Groups are smarter than individuals:

Group IQ
The new work is part of a growing body of research that focuses on understanding collective behavior and intelligence — an increasingly relevant topic of research in an age where everything from scientific progress to entrepreneurial success hinges on collaboration. Embedded in a century’s worth of Broadway shows, the interactions of online communities, or the path a ball travels between soccer players, researchers are finding hints about how individual people contribute to make a group creative and successful.
The interest is fueled in part by the Internet, which provides an unprecedented opportunity for people to join and leave groups, unbounded by geography. In the digital age, interactions between people are also creating a huge stream of data, giving scientists new ways to glean precise insights about how complex, aggregated behaviors arise. What they are finding is that groups, as entities, have characteristics that are more than just a summing up or averaging of those of its members.
“Intuitively, we still attribute too much to individuals and not enough to groups. Part of that may just be that it’s simpler; it’s simpler to say the success of a company depended on the CEO for good or bad, but in reality the success of a company depends on a whole lot more,” said Thomas W. Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and senior author of the recent study, published in the journal Science. “Essentially what’s happening as our society becomes more advanced and more developed is that more things are done by groups of people than by individuals. In a certain sense, our intuitions about how that works haven’t caught up with the reality of modern life.”
 Creating online communities for your organization can tap into this group IQ. I'll keep saying it! We have an enormous amount of untapped knowledge and intelligence within our regions and organizations. Lets start tapping into it! We can't afford not to.