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Web 2.0 @ Cisco: The Evolution

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.


The Intranet Strategy Group began a blog (short for “web log”) pilot. This effort was designed to enable employees to publish comments, opinions, and other information on work-related topics. In preparation for the rollout, the group envisioned three different types of blogs: employee, concept, and group blogs.[11]

This vision has evolved slightly to the current blog types listed on the CCoE site:

  • Personal Blog: Enable employees to publish a personal journal on work-related topics.
  • Project/Team Blog (Concept Blog): Enable project/teams to communicate, connected to project/team documents and data.
  • Executive Blog: Enable organization/enterprise executives to communicate less formally and enable employees to comment.

Personal blogs are designed to be integrated with the Cisco employee directory, providing an opportunity for an individual to present thoughts, offer opinions on work-related topics, and add another dimension to a personal profile. Michael Beesley, director of engineering in Cisco’s edge-routing business unit, has one of the most popular personal blogs, writing about such topics as “ASR Completes Security Testing.”[5] Cisco employees are required, however, to post non-work-related topics on blogs outside the intranet.

Cisco is working to enable blogs focused on specific topics or concepts and others targeted at specific communities or groups. Concept blogs will be integrated with specific intranet site pages, offering content from experts, news, and/or project updates. Group blogs will be integrated with specific communities of interest. The latest vision for internal blogs also includes expert and news blogs.[12]

Cisco has a number of popular Executive or C-level blogs. One is Chambers’ “On My Mind” blog, shown in Figure 10-4. It has been one of the most popular blogs at Cisco, with nearly 100,000 hits from its inception in June 2007 to the end of January 2009.[13] Note that the blog provides a video and an opportunity to subscribe via RSS feed.

Figure 10-4

Figure 10-4 John Chambers’ “On My Mind” blog, posted 15 January 2009.[14]

Jere King, vice president of marketing, is another example. Her blog has been second to that of Chambers in terms of comments since its inception.[14] King is using her blog to drive communication, feedback, and productivity forward. She has taken it upon herself to act as a change agent in her organization and has a few tips on what makes her blog so successful:

  • Consistency: Publish a new blog entry on the same day, every week, say Friday.
  • Call to Action: Every blog entry should have a specific call to comment—something to focus that week’s conversation, a reason to interact.
  • Promotion: Promote each new blog entry, again on the same day every week, via an email newsletter to the team. In addition, post it as the “Top of Mind” feature on Cisco’s marketing homepage.
  • Quick Response: Check the blog every day and immediately respond to comments. Email other team members when something is relevant to their area, or they would be a good person to comment back and continue the conversation.
  • Changing Behaviors: Use every opportunity to push the blog—even putting off live discussions in meetings if there is a virtual discussion on that topic already in the blog.
  • Be a Story Teller: Capture and keep the reader’s attention by telling a story.
  • Create an Online Watering Hole: Get people to gather, discuss, share ideas—think water cooler!
  • Make It Worthwhile: Have passion, be engaged, and have something to say.[15]

These tips have enabled King to become one of the most popular bloggers at Cisco and her model is emulated by many.

According to Deanna Govoni, program manager for Cisco’s blog initiative, each blog basically serves as a website maintained by an author, or group of authors, containing news and/or commentary on specific subject matter, delivered in a professional manner. As a means of one-to-many communication, authors drive the conversation and create and post topics. Their purpose could be to showcase thought leadership, engage others in communication, and receive feedback.

Cisco’s initial blog pilot led to a development of a number of guidelines and best practices posted on the Communications Center of Excellence (CCoE) site. Govoni encourages Cisco bloggers to create and use a blog based on the outcome they’re looking for. For example, users are encouraged to blog if they

  • Want to engage a community on a specific topic
  • Have identified a target audience and objective
  • Have something interesting to say
  • Have passion surrounding a chosen topic
  • Have knowledge to share with others
  • Want to gather feedback and start a conversation
  • Want to network with peers
  • Want to stop spamming colleagues

Cisco wants users to leverage blogs to start conversations and improve communications.

To help ensure Cisco bloggers are successful, Govoni and her team have identified several guidelines on when not to use a blog. Users are discouraged from using a blog if they:

  • Don’t have enough resources or content to maintain
  • Are unable to respond to comments
  • Don’t have a clear topic
  • Are simply regurgitating news
  • Are looking to foster a fully interactive discussion (use a discussion forum here instead)

Because one purpose of a blog is to start a conversation and get feedback, Govoni has also identified a number of blogging best practices:

  • Update blog frequently, at least once a week.
  • Be transparent.
  • Respond to comments quickly to keep listeners engaged.
  • Ensure blog does not interfere with primary employment responsibilities.

Most successful bloggers would agree that these best practices ring true. Finally, Govoni also has a number of guidelines on increasing blog traffic:

  • Be entertaining, and show your personality/video/photos.
  • Locate relevant blogs in your niche and engage in the conversation.
  • Promote your blog.
  • Collaborate with your peers.
  • Participate in other blogs.
  • Use trackbacks (links within blogs) to connect to other blogs to keep traffic flowing.
  • Keep your blog current.

One other suggestion is to end each blog with a question, such as “What do you think?” to start the conversation. [16]

CCO, the Cisco external site mentioned previously, has evolved into much more than an e-commerce site. Known as Cisco.com, the site offers information on solutions, products and services, ordering, support, training and events. Cisco.com is also home to Partner Central, an area focused on Cisco’s partner community described in Chapter 11, “Cisco’s Approach to Sales 2.0”.[17]

The Cisco.com site contains a fairly hip consumer section. This section provides helpful consumer-focused blog posts and twitters in an area called DigItALL Consumer. Its “Digital Crib,” section enables video blogger Meghan Asher, video artist Lincoln Schatz, and NBA player and Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier to share videos on their digital lifestyles.[5]

Cisco has also enabled several external business blogs, available at http://blogs.cisco.com. These blogs are used to

  • Provide insights and opinions from Cisco leaders and corporate representatives to showcase thought leadership.
  • Provide product information and updates and solicit valuable feedback from the blogosphere, including customers, partners, and competitors.
  • Enable event reporting and create event logs.

Be sure to note “More Cisco Talk” at the bottom of the column on the left side.[12][18]

As a company, Cisco has begun realizing the business value of this new medium, leveraging blogs strategically to reach customers and influence the marketplace. In 2007, Mark Chandler, SVP, Legal Services and General Counsel, worked with Cisco’s public relations team to reach out to the public via Cisco’s corporate blog. This occurred during a trademark case concerning the iPhone, and led to Chandler winning PR News’ Legal PR Award 2008 for Best Spokesperson.[19]

In 2008, Cisco’s Data Center team used Cisco’s corporate blog to engage in a heated debate with Dell over data center storage networking protocols. According to Data Center Knowledge (http://www.DataCenterKnowledge.com), the discussion provided an overview of the competition between several technologies and showcased the way Cisco and Dell are using blogs to advocate next-generation technologies they support.[20] The Data Center team has also successfully leveraged blogs to help launch a new product.

Members of Cisco’s Data Center team leveraged both intranet and the Internet blogs to increase awareness of the Data Center 3.0 product. The Data Center 3.0 Blog initiative

  • Was used to help launch the new Data Center 3.0 product.
  • Engaged tier 1 and 2 bloggers on the Internet.
  • Built and nurtured relationships.
  • Transferred knowledge and passion about technology on blogs focused on data centers (topics and concepts).
  • Offered editorial content and influenced opinions.
  • Engaged in conversations with top data center experts (groups and communities).
  • Provided opportunity to enter data center communities the team was not previously part of.
  • Became as influential as the data center-focused press and business analysts.
  • Provided lower-cost marketing approach.

Moreover, it provided a key learning opportunity for the team to understand the power of leveraging this new medium as a way of marketing their product.[21]

Prior to the Cisco Live 2008 event, Cisco worked to build community and create buzz in Twitter, an externally hosted micro-blogging tool. Participants Twittered throughout the event, using it as a business communication tool. This experience enabled them to capture some of Twitter’s key features:

  • Provides a fun tool to help users network.
  • Enables users to follow peers/friends to keep up to date.
  • Limits “Tweet” to a 140-character message (mini RSS feed).
  • Users can monitor conversations and build relationships.
  • Has low cost and high impact.

Twitter provided another medium for reaching the public and established a number of Twitter-based Cisco communities of “twitterers” and their followers.[16] Finally, Cisco blog comments have been integrated with discussion forums, so that comments on a blog can be maintained as an ongoing discussion, as needed.

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