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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.


One of the most widely adopted Web 2.0 technologies at Cisco has been the wiki platform, enabling Cisco employees and teams to publish pages of web content, which others can edit and to which they can contribute. The Intranet Strategy Group identified a number of potential uses for wikis at Cisco, such as project and team collaboration and ideation, or the generation of ideas. As they rolled out the wiki pilot, they identified a need to develop templates to help teams develop wiki sites faster and to create consistency across various sites.

The Internet Strategy Group identified the importance of tool usability and ease of navigation, both in the tool used to create the wiki sites and within the sites themselves. The group also identified the need for integration with team spaces, Cisco’s document repositories, and other services.[11] Figure 10-6, for example, shows a wiki page meant to serve as an information source for the Manager Portal project. It provides a description of the project, a list of team members (linked to Cisco Directory), weekly project updates, and links to release status documentation, enabling the team to stay aligned and better manage the portal development project.

Figure 10-6

Figure 10-6 Manager portal wiki.[33]

The Cisco Customer Advocacy Remote Operations Services (ROS) team built a network operations–related knowledge base on a wiki-like framework, called a twiki. In 2006, solutions architect Craig Tobias came up with the idea of creating wiki pages, like file drawers, on every topic he could think of related to the complex task of proactively monitoring, managing, and securing complex network infrastructures. Tobias pulled together the team of individuals responsible for supporting this area within Cisco and asked them to leverage their knowledge and experience to add content to each topic.

The ROS wiki allowed the team to contribute content directly through their browsers, enabling multiple people to contribute content to a single document. It also facilitated continuous improvement of the content, enabling the team to refine each document over time, based on peer review. According to Tobias, wikis

  • Are a key part of a larger community platform.
  • Focus on consolidating fact-based information.
  • Enable users to contribute via their browsers.
  • Facilitate multiple people contributing to a single document, refining its content over time.
  • Embody the practice of peer review.

Tobias and his team developed well over a hundred pages of content, a knowledge base that saves customers and employees countless hours of network diagnosis and problem-solving.

Tobias also has a number of wiki best practices and lessons learned, as follows:

  • Information Architecture: Start with a solid framework.
  • Branding: Give your wiki an identity.
  • Navigation: Make your site easy to navigate.
  • Images: A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Open: Be open; lock as little down as possible.
  • Purpose: Clearly state what you’re trying to do.
  • Support: Support users so they’ll contribute.
  • Training: Provide user training.
  • Drive Adoption: The more users contribute, the better your content.

The ROS wiki has been so successful and well-received that customers often subscribe to Cisco’s ROS just to gain access to the knowledge base.[34] Now let’s turn our attention to another use case, an example of wiki-driven collaboration and innovation.

In August 2006, the Emerging Markets Technology Group (EMTG) set up a wiki as a collaborative platform, called I-Zone. The site was designed to enable the entire company to submit and brainstorm on ideas for new businesses. The I-Zone initiative, led by Guido Jouret, vice president and chief technology officer in EMTG, has enabled Cisco to benefit from ideas from anywhere in the company, leveraging collaboration to drive new growth markets.[7]

Since its inception, the I-Zone team has reviewed hundreds of ideas and the process has already yielded success. In 2007, the I-Zone wiki led to the incubation of four new Cisco business units. In 2008, ideas captured through I-Zone led to the start of one additional business unit each quarter.

I-Zone has provided an open forum where ideas for new products, as well as new ways to use existing Cisco products, can be posted and others can comment or pose questions on the ideas. In this way, average ideas can trigger collaboration that yields idea improvement or an even better idea. Ideas are also kept on file for consideration at a later date because timing often plays a part in whether an idea should move forward, and today’s good idea might look even better tomorrow.

The team has recently moved I-Zone to a leading innovation social networking platform, Brightidea. The new platform enables employees to post their ideas, vote on and browse for ideas, and get the latest information on idea submissions. Now the I-Zone wiki legacy lives on in another Cisco organization.[35]

In November 2007, a group within Customer Advocacy (CA) decided to leverage a wiki platform to enable CA employees to collaborate more effectively. The initiative, led by Patrick Tam, operations manager in CA’s Office of Strategy and Planning (U.S.), is known as CA Collaboratory, as shown in Figure 10-7.

Figure 10-7

Figure 10-7 Customer Advocacy’s Collaboratory wiki site.[36]

Collaboratory consists of a number of wiki-based components:

  • CA Strategy: An interactive and integrated view of CA’s FY08 strategy.
  • CA Teams: A set of collaborative workspaces for CA teams organized by theaters, functions, and governance councils.
  • CA-pedia: An encyclopedia of CA-related content and knowledge, built by the community.
  • CA I-Zone: A future platform for CA collaboration on innovative ideas (similar to EMTG’s I-Zone).
  • Our Space: A social networking platform for peer-to-peer collaboration within the organization.
  • (Services) PMO: A comprehensive view of CA’s FY09 initiative investment portfolio.

The site also features a Wiki of the Week and a top contributors list, related links, and Collaboratory usage statistics. As Figure 10-8 shows, Collaboratory has grown from 22,000 plus users, just after its launch in November 2007, to well over 165,000 users at the end of 2008, one reason the site has moved to its own, dedicated server.[36]

Figure 10-8

Figure 10-8 Customer Advocacy’s strategy wiki site.[37]

According to Tam, key Collaboratory facts include:

  • Serves as Customer Advocacy’s internal Web 2.0 platform.
  • Developed to present CA strategy in a multi-dimensional way.
  • Centralizes information about CA via CA-pedia.
  • Provides directory of 70+ CA teams.
  • 10% of CA employees contribute.
  • Had 26,000 hits within first two months.

The CA Strategy wiki, shown in Figure 10-8, is used to

  • Communicate the organization’s complex, multi-dimensional FY10 Strategy Architecture.
  • Support fiscal year planning.
  • Enable employees to visualize how their initiatives connect to other CA initiatives.
  • Provide the ability to click on an initiative and drill down to review initiative objectives, challenges, risks, milestones, and financials.

Within two months of its inception, more than 50 global CA teams had built workspaces as part of the Collaboratory community, sharing information on initiatives, projects, and team knowledge through a wiki-based knowledge base called CA-pedia. In June 2008, Collaboratory won the coveted Collaboration Across Cisco Award, mentioned earlier in the chapter.[38]

There are several other Cisco examples of wikis being leveraged as a community support platform. For instance, Cisco IT supports Windows-based PCs as official desktop hardware, so Mac users have established their own Mac-Wiki support community, Mac Trolls. The site provides a wealth of useful information, enabling new Mac users to become productive more quickly and offering experienced users the opportunity to learn and share their knowledge and innovative ideas as well. Mac-Wiki won the Collaboration Across Cisco Award in January 2008, acknowledging over 100 key contributors and distilled content from more than 40,000 emails at the time.[39]

Another example is the recently launched WebEx Connect Community wiki, providing links to

  • Best practices
  • Clearinghouse for submitting Connect feature enhancements
  • FAQs
  • Getting started information
  • Metrics reports on Connect adoption and usage
  • Program team and key stakeholders
  • Program tracks and status updates (metrics, performance testing)
  • Related blogs and initiatives across Cisco
  • Service alerts and resolutions
  • Support and learning resources
  • Tips and tricks
  • Use cases
  • Widget approval and governance
  • Widgets

Developed through a collaborative partnership between the Connect IT team, the US-Canada Collaboration team, and others, the wiki-based community site offers support to WebEx Connect users across the company.[40]

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