Cisco CTO's 5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration

Cisco CTO's 5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration

Summary: Padmasree Warrior is, to quote her biography on their company blog "Cisco Systems’ Chief Technology Officer. As CTO, she is responsible for helping drive the company’s technological innovations and strategy, and works closely with its senior executive team and board of directors to align these efforts with Cisco’s corporate goals.


Padmasree Warrior is, to quote her biography on their company blog "Cisco Systems’ Chief Technology Officer. As CTO, she is responsible for helping drive the company’s technological innovations and strategy, and works closely with its senior executive team and board of directors to align these efforts with Cisco’s corporate goals.

As an evangelist for what’s possible, she pushes the organization to stretch beyond its current capabilities – not just in technology, but also in its strategic partnerships and new business models".

Here's Padmasree's 5 predictions for the future of collaboration, fleshed out by her in more detail here:

1. Collaboration Networks will be to Enterprises what Social Networks are to Consumers

My previous post railing about people confusing 'social media' marketing with the intricate strategic and tactical connectivity inside companies, and others in their orbit, has a good counterpoint in Padmasree's posts.

I don't like the word 'social' in a business context, not least because the word has deep meaning, particularly for those not living in the tech bubble. Socialism in a political sense, company social clubs and the general connotations of socializing and shmoozing. Many companies in Europe have a long tradition of employee social clubs, as another example. It's a culturally messy word with a lot of baggage globally.

'Collaboration Networks' is a much more elegant way to describe business uses of similar technologies to the ones we use in our personal lives to stay in touch with friends. I'm going to use this term going forward as it is a great fit, is more accessible semantically than 'Enterprise 2.0' to the lay person and makes good sense to those in the non IT business world.

2. It is not about “on-premise” versus “on-demand”, it will be all about the User Experience

Steve Balmer's famous 'Developers, Developers, Developers' engineer cheerleading video clip badly needs a larger than life counterpart with someone bellowing 'Users, Users, Users'. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Blink about the 'the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant'.

This is the reality with software. No one cares about the clever technology stack underpinning the system, all they care about is if they are going to be able to use it for their needs, if it will be useful, and if they can find stuff easily.

3. Innovation will be redefined by Operational Excellence

Padmasree: "There is a long-standing debate about what drives long term success: Is it innovation OR Operational Excellence?  Traditionally we viewed this as an either-or proposition, and most companies have taken pride in being really good at one or the other.

What we hear from most CEOs, CTOs and CIOs is that we need to do both — especially during the current economic downturn.  We no longer have the luxury of choosing one vs. the other.

Collaboration is a critical element that allows enterprises to combine operational excellence and innovation".

- Beautifully put!

4. Organizations without boundaries will drive the next wave of productivity

"This prediction is rooted in the fact that business processes must extend beyond corporate firewalls.  That means they must encompass people outside the company as readily as they do people inside the four walls".

This is the area where the confusion builds with 'social media' marketing efforts. One of the biggest headaches in enabling 'through the firewall' collaboration is security and IP protection. The VPN connectivity necessary  to connect friends but not foes isn't trivial, and the buzz around marketing transparency can obscure the delicate tactics around this.

5. Information Technology will evolve into Information Fabric

"...the future is no longer just about the management and routing of information.  It’s about providing people with the right information at the right time, connecting communities that can improve the relevance, and accelerating decisions to drive value for the business.  Importantly, it’s about weaving that information fabric into business processes so they run more efficiently and connect with each other in ways that were simply not possible before." The great pathfinding work done by John Hagel & John Seely Brown in their 2005 book 'The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends on Productive Friction and Dynamic Specialization' is reflected here. Their sophisticated discussion of 'performance fabric' has ben neatly co-opted by Cisco to sell Padmasrees' concept.

(They also say 'Darwinian selection doesn't need SVPs' in their 'five key rules for building a company of the future', music to the ears of the grass roots Enterprise 2.0 folks! I don't think Padmasree has anything to worry about in the Darwinian knockout contest however...)

Overall, while there's nothing earth shattering in Warrior's five predictions - and some would say they are a self serving roll up of concepts to sell Cisco - it is incredibly refreshing to read such succinct points without all the hyperbole and out of focus noise which has built up around the 'social media' world, sometimes overshadowing the utilitarian tools that are designed to quietly and efficiently facilitate collaboration.

Topics: Cisco, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Software, Social Enterprise


Oliver Marks & Associates provides seasoned, technology agnostic independent consulting guidance to companies on effective Digital Enterprise Transformation business strategy, tactics, infrastructure & technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models and management.

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  • The Real challenge is not in technology ...

    Ms. Warrior's predictions will almost likely come true. However, while
    technology can give us capabilities, human beings decide whether or
    not to actually use technology -- and history is littered with instances
    of great technology that didn't amount to a hill of beans.

    Collaboration is critical simply because - as I argue in my book, The
    Spider's Strategy (FT Press, Sept 2008) - we no longer live in a world
    in which individual companies joust against others; today, networks of
    companies challenge other networks. In this world, no company can
    win if its network is failing.

    Collaboration technology is necessary in this world, but it is not
    sufficient. Without a corporate strategy that makes collaboration
    central to the organization, without processes that enable sensing-
    and-responding, without values that truly honor organizational
    learning (instead of mere lip service) and without organizational
    structures that focus on networks, collaboration technology won't
    help. Here's one of many key tests: Does your company have policies
    that encourage information sharing with outsiders? If not,
    collaboration technology won't help you.

    Companies that are addressing all of these issues - like Nokia - are at
    the leading edge of a revolution that will rival the Lean Enterprise.
    And just as Lean overturned our beliefs about "good management" so
    will this revolution. And technology - as in the Lean world - will only
    be a small (though important) piece of the puzzle.
  • RE: Cisco CTO's 5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration

    The problem is, a great deal of "Enterprise 2.0" is just an attempt to put new wine in old bottles.

    In many companies where the main reason for having a "company" or "enterprise" in the first place was the governance of physical capital and controlling use of it, the growing importance of human relative to physical capital means the main source of the corporate headquarters' power today is its ownership of artificial property rights like copyright, patent and branding.

    But IP is increasingly unenforceable. And in fields where the physical capital required for production sits on the average person's desktop and producers are just as capable of networking with each other independently without the "company's" approval, the "company" becomes a redundant node to be bypassed.

    And with the cost of physical capital imploding even in manufacturing (the new possibilities for small-scale, general purpose machinery, desktop machine tools, etc.) the distinction between Stallman's "free speech" and "free beer" is eroding even in the realm of physical production.

    Workers in journalism, software and music may ask a very inconvenient question: why stop at a company without walls, when we can have a company without a company?

    All the Copyright Nazis at the RIAA, MPAA and the Whore of Redmond are bound for the ash heap of history.
    Kevin Carson
  • RE: Cisco CTO's 5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration

    I am not sure if we can equate 'Social' with
    'Socialism'. As the product of Socialism, and someone
    who is fond of Social Media and Marketing, comparing
    the two is to compare open, contextual and focused
    communication system with a political system, which
    was very far from it. Indeed, security and governance
    has to play a significant role in an Enterprise, and
    collaboration in a structured and predetermined way is
    expected. Yet, Social Networks produce something
    unpredictable, based on conflict, discussion, debate
    and discovery - and that's the beauty of it.
    Collaboration is built in and it is assumed.
  • RE: Cisco CTO's 5 Predictions for the Future of Collaboration

    I couldn't agree more that the term "social" doesn't really describe the interaction sought by small businesses and corporations.