Cisco this week unfurled a revamped WebEx Suite as part of an effort to make it simpler to unify communications and collaboration across the enterprise. The Cisco WebEx suite combines meetings, calling, messaging, polling and events in one offering that the company claims cost 40% less than it’s the same capabilities were acquired separately.
Cisco has been aggressively adding capabilities to Cisco WebEx to counter platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams that gained significant traction since the start of the pandemic, often at the expense of Cisco.
For example, Cisco has added polling tools to the platform that it gained by acquiring Slido. An events execution and management platform gained via the acquisition of Socio will soon be added.
Other capabilities that will also soon be added include speech optimization for remote and shared workspaces via a My Voice Only capability that eliminates background noise; and a People Focus feature that employs machine learning algorithms to individually re-frame meeting participants spread across a meeting room to make it easier for remote users to pick up body language and see facial expressions.
There will also be tools to automatically block and remove confidential information in real time within the Messaging module provided, a RoomOS platform for connecting workflows with less context switching, and a Webex Assistant Skills platform that enables speech interactions.
Ultimately, the goal is to erase any distinction between in-office staff and meeting participants that are remote, says Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Security and Collaboration. Most existing conferencing platforms are optimized for the people in the office at a time when there is likely to be more people participating in a meeting from outside rather than within an office, notes Patel. “The future of work will definitely be hybrid,” he says.
The Evolving Workplace
It’s not precisely clear how the work experience will evolve as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to subside. The expectation is more individuals will be working from anywhere. In some cases, there may not even be an office to return to because the organization has, for all intents and purposes, become a virtual entity. Cisco along with rivals is betting that as the digital workplace continues to evolve organizations will reevaluate collaboration platform decisions that were often made in haste during the early days of the pandemic.
Regardless of the platform employed the one thing that is clear is organizations don’t want to integrate multiple tools across digital workflows. The expectation is that either the platform supports all the capabilities required or, at the very least, has been seamlessly integrated with a third-party service. In fact, patience with integration is already wearing thin as IT organizations that are short on time and money look to reduce the total cost of collaboration one way or another. The issue is achieving that goal in a way end users will ultimately want to embrace.
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