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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.

Connecting People, Information, and Communities

An important component of Cisco’s Intranet Strategy Group vision was recognition of a need to improve employee access to people, information, and communities, which led to Cisco’s Directory 3.0, Ciscopedia, and Communities initiatives. In 2006, Cisco’s Directory provided contact details, such as photo, title, organization, phone, email, and address for the global workforce, totaling more than 50,000. The organization realized the need to make it easier to search through this content, to find the right person to answer a question or assist on a project.

The Directory team studied a number of possible approaches to connecting people and the decision was made to add an Expertise section to existing Directory entries. This new release, called Directory 3.0, is designed to enable connections between people, groups, and information to facilitate teamwork, collaboration, and networking across the company. The Facebook-style pages enable employees to easily find the right person to answer a question, provide a product demo to a customer, or make a conference presentation, anywhere, anytime, in any language. The first Directory 3.0 employee profile prototype is shown in Figure 10-9.

Figure 10-9

Figure 10-9 Employee profile prototype for Directory 3.0.[11]

The Intranet Strategy Group developed mock-ups and held focus groups across the organization to obtain feedback on the new design and then began to implement it. Numerous additional changes were made to the user interface before Phase 1 of Directory 3.0 was rolled out in March 2008. Phase 1 adds an “Expertise” section designed to enable the workforce to enter keywords or phrases identifying business or technical knowledge so that a search of Directory 3.0 will enable users to quickly find people with the required expertise.

Directory 3.0 Phase 2, launched at the end of January 2009, offers new features and functionality, as well as improved performance and scalability, providing a powerful foundation that enables individual, information, and community connections. Directory 3.0 now offers enhanced search, enabling users to take advantage of the expertise section enabled in Phase 1. Users can search for and find people within the company based on keywords they’ve entered in the expertise section of their directory profile.

The keywords entered in the Directory expertise section are linked to topical information defining those terms in Ciscopedia, Cisco’s version of Wikipedia.[41] Where CA-pedia, mentioned previously, focuses on topics related to the CA organization, Ciscopedia focuses on topics of interest to the broader company. When the beta version of Ciscopedia launched at the end of January 2009, it contained over 540 Sales and marketing-related terms merged into Ciscopedia from Salespedia, a Sales collaboration tool described in Chapter 11. As a result, Salespedia is currently the most popular tag in Ciscopedia, followed by acronym and internetworking terms.[42]

The idea of Ciscopedia came about as Jim Beno, a user experience architect on the Intranet Strategy Group team at the time, began doing research on how experts felt about identifying their expertise in Directory 3.0. Jim discovered that many experts were concerned about being flooded by requests for basic information and preferred to write a summary on the topic of their expertise, providing links to key resources. The Strategy Group vision of Ciscopedia, an open encyclopedia like Wikipedia, where everyone at Cisco contributes to the content, was born![43]

According to Ciscopedia project manager, Nikki Dudhoria, Ciscopedia is

  • An online, wiki-based, topical information hub
  • A place for employees to share expertise
  • Information aggregated from multiple sources
  • Owned and governed by the entire Cisco community

Figure 10-10 provides an example of a Ciscopedia prototype page, developed by Beno on the topic of user centered design.

Figure 10-10

Figure 10-10 Ciscopedia prototype page on user-centered design.[11]

Like this example, each Ciscopedia topical entry is meant to

  • Educate users.
  • Share associated resources.
  • Serve as a “hub,” aggregating related information.
  • Enable users to easily navigate to other relevant sources of information on the Cisco intranet.

Figure 10-11 illustrates the types of information aggregated into Ciscopedia topic pages.

Figure 10-11

Figure 10-11 Ciscopedia topical information hub of employee-authored content.[44]

In 2006, research analysts from Butler Group, an IT research and analysis company based in the U.K, reported that company productivity can be reduced by up to 10% as employees waste time searching—or searching ineffectively—for information.[45] When fully realized, Ciscopedia will provide a searchable, centralized location for employee-authored content and knowledge-sharing by subject matter experts. Ciscopedia will enable users to quickly and easily find information aggregated from other sources, including blog entries, discussion forum threads, websites, bookmarks, and documents, increasing overall employee productivity.[46]

The Intranet Strategy Group vision also identified communities as a key piece of Cisco’s Web 2.0 strategy, enabling employees to collaborate with others who have similar expertise and interests. Figure 10-12 shows a prototype for a community page focused on Cisco’s Commerce Business Transformation Office. The community page contains information specifically designed to meet the interests and information needs of its members.

Figure 10-12

Figure 10-12 Community prototype page for Commerce Business Transformation Office.[11]

A key piece of Cisco’s Web 2.0 strategy is enabling more effective connections and capabilities based on the interrelationships between people, information, and communities. As mentioned earlier, Cisco Directory pages currently contain information about people and their expertise. These people-specific pages will evolve to link to their blog entries, rich media, such as videos and podcasts they've created, their interests and expertise, the communities they’re part of, their recent bookmarks, and other recent activities, such as discussion forum posts, presentations, etc. Directory pages will also contain embedded Unified Communications capabilities, described in Chapter 2, such as presence indicators, click-to-dial, click-to-chat, and so on, enabling the ability to connect and communicate with people in real-time.

Ciscopedia pages contain topical information, including an overview of the topic, function-specific content from sales and engineering, for example, and associated documents and tags. These information-specific pages will evolve to link to people who are experts in the topic, as well as related rich media, such as recent videos and podcasts. Ciscopedia pages will also link to other resources that are topic-related, including recent discussion forum and blog activities, links to associated communities, related content in WebEx Connect team spaces, and so on.

Community pages, which are currently under development, will also help tie together related content distributed in other Web 2.0 technologies and tools. Community pages will contain an overview of the community; provide the ability to access community members and content in real-time; and to subscribe to community updates created and delivered via store-and-forward mechanisms, email, or Really Simple Syndication (RSS). Community pages will also list top contributors and offer links to community related content, including rich media, such as video and podcasts, a community calendar, activities of community members, as well as associated documents, tags, projects, communities, and WebEx Connect team spaces.

One key advantage of stratifying content along the lines of people, information, and communities is that it can be leveraged multiple times through cross-references. Rather than creating duplicative and redundant content, aggregated and consolidated information sources can scale to serve as a reference to multiple interests. For example, an information page on Unified Communication (UC) will be updated and referred to by experts in the UC space. That same page can also be updated and referenced by sales and engineering communities focused on UC.

At the heart of this integrated workforce experience vision is the My Cisco view, which essentially renders the information related to me. It provides news and information in a single portal, including my profile, colleagues, communities, WebEx spaces, RSS feeds, messages, meetings, tasks, tags, and so on. The My Cisco view also enables contextual relational navigation, which means that from My View, I can click on and navigate to any of my related people, information, communities, and all the rich media they contain, including video.”