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Web 2.0 @ Cisco: The Evolution

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: May 4, 2009.

Chapter Description

This chapter offers a case study of Web 2.0 adoption at Cisco, detailing the evolutionary changes the introduction of Web 2.0 technology and tools is having on the company.
  • <monologue>
  • Cisco, a company that prides itself on its ability to anticipate and prepare for market transitions, is taking steps to evolve into the next generation company—Cisco 3.0, reinventing itself around Web 2.0 and then taking the lessons learned to its customers. A world leader in networking for the Internet, Cisco now leads the business revolution caused by the move to the Internet. The company is evolving organizationally to distribute decisionmaking, innovate faster, bring products to market sooner, and capitalize on market transitions, such as ubiquitous video and visual networking.
  • Cisco is using Web 2.0 technologies—such as Cisco TelePresence, Cisco WebEx, and Unified Communications—to enable collaboration between employees, partners, and customers, yielding increased productivity and deeper relationships. Leveraging other Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and wikis, and new business models, such as social networking and folksonomies, the company is increasing peer-to-peer collaboration and ideation and transforming key business processes. Cisco is sharing case studies showcasing its own business process transformations with partners and customers, evolving its leadership consultancy.
  • </monologue>

This chapter offers a case study of Web 2.0 adoption at Cisco, detailing the evolutionary changes the introduction of Web 2.0 technology and tools is having on the company. Although Chapter 2, “User Generated Content Wikis, Blogs, Communities, Collaboration, and Collaborative Technologies,” provides a more in-depth overview of each of these technologies, the following sections

  • Provide a brief introduction to what Web 2.0 means at Cisco
  • Examine how Cisco’s Intranet Strategy Group vision enabled Web 2.0 technology adoption across the company
  • Explain how Cisco’s Web 2.0 technology vision has evolved
  • Offer practical advice from Cisco’s lessons learned
  • Provide examples of how each technology is being used internally with employees and externally with partners and customers
  • Underscore the organizational and process transformations underway
  • Highlight the business value achieved
  • Describe the groups currently leading Cisco’s adoption of Web 2.0 technology
  • Outline Cisco’s internal website, which provides Cisco employees with the information they need to effectively use Web 2.0 technologies
  • Showcase Web 2.0 technology adoption metrics
  • Describe the Communication and Collaboration Board now leading this effort

Cisco’s evolutionary approach to Web 2.0 technology and tool adoption serves as a model for other companies, yielding practical advice and examples for others to follow. So, let’s begin with a closer look at what Web 2.0 means at Cisco.

As Figure 10-1 indicates, as a worldwide leader in networking, Cisco played a key role in the first phase of the Internet, Web 1.0. Cisco products power the network:

  • Providing the pipes connecting people with personal computers (PCs) to the web, getting people online
  • Transporting data around the globe
  • Enabling email, instant messaging, e-commerce and other web-based applications
Figure 10-1

Figure 10-1 Cisco Systems: Worldwide leader in networking for the Internet.[1]

As Chapter 1, “An Introduction to Web 2.0,” mentioned, the term “Web 2.0” was defined in Tim O’Reilly’s pioneering article “What is Web 2.0,” published in 2005.[2] According to O’Reilly, Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry. The revolution was caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.[3]

This chapter describes how Cisco is taking evolutionary steps to lead the Web 2.0 business revolution internally and with its partners and customers to show them how to use the web and Web 2.0 tools effectively. O’Reilly also touts a fundamental Web 2.0 principle, “The Web as [the] Platform,” which aligns with Cisco’s strategy as well. In Web 2.0, Cisco networks serve as the platform that transports data, voice, and video beyond PCs to Internet telephones, cell phones, PDAs, iPods, video game consoles, and televisions.

John Chambers, Cisco’s chairman and chief executive officer, has long held a vision of the intelligent network serving as a platform for pervasive and ubiquitous communications for users at home and at work, providing access to people, information, and applications regardless of location, access method, or device. The quote from Chambers, shown in Figure 10-2, describes this evolution as a key element of Cisco’s strategy, a story based on market transitions, or change, and its effect on Cisco customers.

Figure 10-2

Figure 10-2 Cisco’s corporate story.[4]

Cisco recognizes that the network is at the center of a number of market transitions as it evolves from the pipes or plumbing, connecting the Internet, to the platform enabling people to share and experience life via social networking and Web 2.0. Cisco prepares 3–5 years in advance of a major transition. It does so by listening to customers, taking risks, innovating and investing, so that it can capitalize on the transition when it is realized in the market.

Chambers believes the changes that affect Cisco’s customers most define Cisco’s competitive opportunities, saying, “By the time our competitors recognize the transition, it’s too late to catch up.” Cisco’s ability to anticipate and prepare for market transitions is critical to Cisco’s success and the success of its customers. The Internet isn’t a network of computers; it’s a network of billions of people worldwide. Cisco calls this the Human Network.[4]

The forward-looking strategy for Cisco is enabling the company to unleash the power of “human network effect” both inside and outside the company. In the midst of a spiraling economy, Cisco has $26 billion in cash and two dozen products in development. Many of the 26 new market adjacencies for Cisco will produce revenue within three to four years; perhaps 25% of its revenue within five years. Approximately 75% of the revenue for Cisco comes from the pipes that keep the data moving across the web: routers, switches, and advanced technologies. Cisco anticipates a market transition caused by the hunger for video, which will lead to company spending on network and infrastructure upgrades that, by 2013, are expected to reach $50 billion.

Internally, the company has begun to reorganize. Cisco is moving from an organization with one or two primary products where all decisions came from 10 people at the top, to one with its leadership and decision-making spread across the organization. Now a network of cross-functional, interdepartmental councils and boards, working groups consisting of 500 top executives, from Cisco’s global, international workforce are responsible for one another’s success, innovate much faster, and launch new businesses together.

Cisco is now bringing resources together to bring more of its growing portfolio of products to market sooner, especially to new markets. For instance,

  • StadiumVision: A board of 15 people built this new Cisco product that enables sports venue owners and stadium operators to push video, digital content, and targeted advertisements to fans during sporting events, then collaborated with sales and marketing to sell it. Result: A multimillion-dollar business deal with the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Yankees developed in less than four months.
  • MediaNet: A council-developed strategy for a prototype of this new Cisco network platform, designed to carry rich media, such as high-quality video, securely to any screen, including TVs, PCs, and mobile devices. Result: Prototype developed in four months, product available in twelve.

This new distributed leadership structure and resulting faster product innovation and delivery ensures Cisco products are positioned to gain market share.

Cisco is transforming itself from a being a technology company to a leadership consultancy to other businesses as well. Having tried this new model first itself, Cisco has begun sharing case studies and best practices with customers from emerging markets such as China, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil and with other large corporations, such as Proctor & Gamble, AT&T, and General Electric, all wanting to learn from Cisco’s experience. Analysts predict that the collaboration marketplace could be a $34 billion opportunity.[5] Cisco wants to be the name that comes to mind when companies think about collaboration technologies and collaborative leadership.

Cisco is leading the effort to drive greater communication and collaboration between people, evolving the network with its own products and other Web 2.0 technologies and breaking down barriers between the company and its partners. For example, Cisco is using collaboration technologies such as Cisco TelePresence, Cisco WebEx, and Unified Communications, described in Chapter 2. By incorporating these collaboration technologies into its core business processes, Cisco is transforming those processes.

Cisco is fundamentally changing the way employees, customers, and partners work together. These efforts are yielding increased productivity and deeper relationships, balancing innovation with operational excellence.[6] Cisco is leveraging new Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis and blogs, and new business models, such as social networking and folksonomies, to increase peer-to-peer collaboration and innovation.[7]

Cisco is making the next-generation workforce experience, mentioned briefly in Chapter 1, a reality by enabling users to

  • Connect to access the right people, content, and other resources, anytime, anywhere they’re required
  • Communicate with greater efficiency and overall effectiveness
  • Collaborate with others, both inside and outside the company
  • Learn from other members of the human network

But take a step back to learn how these evolutionary Web 2.0 technology changes started.

Intranet Strategy Group

Cisco has been recognized as an industry leader for its customer- and employee-facing websites almost since their inception. In December 1996, CommunicationsWeek announced that Cisco’s customer-facing e-commerce site, Cisco Connection Online (CCO), at http://www.cisco.com, had achieved $75 million in sales since its launch five months earlier. The article heralded the fact that Cisco was predicting $1 billion in sales by fiscal year end.[8]

Eighteen months later, CIO Communications selected Cisco’s intranet as a winner of its “WebMaster 50/50 Award” in the Intranet category. The award focused on selecting 50 exemplary Internet sites and 50 intranets for excellence in execution, innovative use of technologies, and demonstrated benefits from over 700 applicants.[9] The Intranet Strategy Group, part of the Employee Commitment team in Cisco’s Human Resources organization, was responsible for developing Cisco’s intranet, Cisco Employee Connection (CEC).

In March 2005, the Nielson Norman Group, a user-experience research group, recognized Cisco’s Intranet Strategy Group in its “Intranet Design Annual 2005: The Year’s Ten Best Intranets.” Cisco and nine others were chosen, in part, for providing productivity tools for their employees. This media recognition helped to establish Cisco as a clear leader in both the Internet and intranet domains.

The Cisco Intranet Group realized the value of community, establishing its own internally-focused Intranet Excellence Award, a precursor to the current Collaboration Across Cisco Award. According to then Group leader, Matthew Burns, the award recognizes those not just implementing standards, but working with their team and others to add new capabilities that others can leverage.[10] In the months that followed, many internal Cisco teams received the Intranet Excellence Award, not only for working collaboratively and sharing best practices, but for helping to extend the intranet community within their respective organizations—in essence social networking had begun!

It was a natural extension of the Intranet Strategy Group’s charter, recognizing a need for collaborative tools to enable employee productivity, to begin exploring Web 2.0 technologies. Early explorations, for example, focused on blogs, discussion forums, and wikis. The team’s Web 2.0 vision of an integrated Web 2.0 Enterprise Experience was presented by Burns at Intranet Week 2007 and is shown in Figure 10-3.

Figure 10-3

Figure 10-3 Cisco’s Web 2.0 Enterprise Experience.[11]

To realize the integrated Web 2.0 Enterprise Experience vision, Web 2.0 technologies were seamlessly incorporated as elements of Cisco’s intranet page design templates. Other enterprise services and tools, such as Cisco’s new Facebook-style internal employee directory service, Directory 3.0; Cisco’s version of Wikipedia, called Ciscopedia; collaborative communities; and video assets collected in a home-grown YouTube-like tool called C-Vision were incorporated as well. The Intranet Strategy Group began systematically piloting and testing each Web 2.0 technology, establishing a vision for how it would evolve and integrate with other technologies, services and tools.

The following sections outline Cisco’s exploration and the evolution of several of these key Web 2.0 technologies.

2. Blogs | Next Section

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