Cisco's $3.2 billion intended acquisition of WebEx has me thinking of what Charles Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer, calls "this next wave of business communications."
What do you suppose he means?
I think he's pointing to the growing realization that all companies need to publish continuously and in new ways. Many companies, I can assure you, could do a lot of improvement in how they publish in the old ways, too.
But if Enterprise 2.0 demands that companies create and share more knowledge 2.0, information, opinion, comments and feedback (some call it social media content) -- aren't online meetings, webinars and collaboration sessions an as-yet untapped trove of business knowledge and "user generated content"?
What if you took all the content developed, shared and discussed in all the WebEx sessions going on just today inside one very large company? What if you applied a filter to segment that content and materials which should remain inside a company from that which could be shared? What if you then made that content -- raw as it might be -- accessible as text, audio, video, screen shots? What if you made it all tagged, and therefore searchable in the context of the demand for certain knowledge on certain subjects? What if you then created discrete RSS feeds (internal and external) that made all the knowledge and unstructured content a series of channels for ongoing content access and distribution?
Well, if you were to do those things you'd get a firehose of content creation, but with a lot of gems in that stream. And those gems could be used and reused in many productive ways. It's sort of like SOA for information. If you can break out the information into useable and defined chunks, removed from their silos, and then you can assemble and reassemble the content for aggregated benefits across all sorts of functions -- no more silos.
Do you suppose this us what Cisco's Giancarlo has in mind? I sure hope so. I hope that Cisco not only embeds the WebEx functions into its offerings and services, I hope it recognizes the opportunity to leverage the content created and shared in all these sessions and make it accessible and reusable on a much larger scale. It could help companies create the content they need to "feed the beast" of needed knowledge to fuel the ongoing discussions that in fact increasingly shape what we have known as marketing, evangelism PR, sales, outreach and community involvement.
At the end of the day, the value of the user- and business-generated content is only as powerful as the ability to reach it, secure it and provide access to it. WebEx (and by the way, BriefingsDirect sponsor LogMeIn) in its purest form is about connecting edge to edge, enabling the “cloud” as a collection point for data, knowledge, collaboration. What's telling here is that Cisco seems to be realizing that a single answer to connectivity is not THE answer – the cloud needs multiple entry points as well as content creation and storage points.
Wouldn't it be nice, as an employee, to have access to a huge library or corporate information newly enlivened with the appropriate contents extracted from all the various WebEx-types of sessions going on all around the company? Podcasts, blogs, wikis, videocasts -- how to make and get at them inside the company? Many people will tell you they can still find out more on topics by doing a Google search than accessing the company informational "resources." Tapping the WebEx collaboration sessions could produce a lot of podcasts, blogs, wikis, video-casts.
I've been meeting with and working with a lot of mostly IT companies, large and small, and they are all over the map on how they approach and execute on how they are perceived online by their communities. In almost every case there is little coordination in how to manage the shifts necessitated by Enterprise 2.0. How a company's value, services and brand are identified via Internet-based seekers and viewers is haphazard, spotty, and usually not done continuous. The centralized ads, sales, marketing and knowledge/evangelism functions often relate to each other, but not to the employee-generated content, user-generated content or department-level content creation needs.
Enterprise 2.0 forces outreach, inreach and all sorts of communications to become a needed contributor to the character of the corporation. In other words, a committee does not decide the chosen character or mission of a company and then provide a budget to enforce it, top-down and command/control. Increasingly that approach is less effective than letting the authentic character of the corporation become exposed as is, and collaboratively refined through exposure to and feedback from more smart people -- the free-flow of content, knowledge, and perceptions.
The outside world is increasingly seeing companies as they really are anyway (thanks, Scoble), whether the executive suite likes it or not. Given the inevitability of semi-permeable corporate cultures -- when how things are done are transparent to anyone interfacing with the company -- it's time to get real, get authentic, and manage and improve the process and perceptions that the outside world is getting.
One way to begin to better manage the growing flow of information in and around companies, products, and brands is to better leverage and organize the content that already exists or is being created in real-time all around us. A lot of it is being created and used inside such collaboration sessions as those that WebEx hosts and fosters. It's time to grab it all and extract the valuable and appropriate information and deliver it in ways that it aids and abets the business's and users' goals.