Last week, Sameer Khera, senior director of IT, told the Bay Area IT/Software Development Execs Meetup Group about Cisco's initiatives in collaboration and communication. Three essential technologies have helped Cisco become more productive: video, wikis and social networking.
Cisco acquired WebEx in May 2007, which enables video conferencing, webinars and webcasts for both individuals and organizations. For more lifelike video, Cisco's TelePresence systems show remote groups on large screens as if they were sitting round the same table. An executive can have a personal TelePresence screen in the office to communicate with people from afar.
Video has helped Cisco reduce travel costs by $61 million. Video demos also help close sales. Even the smallest businesses can use a video camera to put a demo on Google's YouTube, or collaborate using Google Video.
Ciscopedia is Cisco's internal version of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia which now has over 2.7 million articles. Ciscopedia helps employees collaborate and connect. Employees have their own pages, like in Facebook, to promote their expertise.
At the Meetup, Lisa Burns chimed in from the audience, suggesting Jive's Clearspace as a collaborative platform for businesses that want to combine wikis and social networking. When sales forces can collaborate they can accelerate the sales cycle.
Check out some Wikis. Find artwork on Wikimedia, look up words in Wiktionary or learn at Wikiversity. Webmasters, consider using wiki technology so you aren't the only person updating Web pages. You can download Wiki software such as MediaWiki, PMWiki or MoinMoin. If you are not technical and want to set up collaboration for a small business, then Google Apps is an option (google.com/apps). Google Sites (not Google Page Creator) is an easy way for a small group to make a Web site.
According to Khera, Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby likens the company's IT initiatives to "Facebook for the Enterprise." If you aren't on Facebook, it's time to give it a try. Create a page that promotes your business on Facebook.
Last year, Jason Alba spoke at Fenwick and West about his book "I'm on Facebook — Now What???" Before the talk, I used Facebook to keep in touch with my nieces. During the talk, I learned how people used Facebook to follow industry trends, test ideas and make business connections. After the talk, I widened my list of Facebook contacts.
Then again, do you really need Facebook if you use Mountain View's LinkedIn? LinkedIn, with over 36 million members, is still my preferred choice for asking business questions, finding jobs and getting referrals. Facebook, meanwhile, is about marketing yourself and sharing your ideas. If you don't have a board of directors, you can be accountable to your Facebook friends.
The Bay Area IT/Software Development Execs Meetup Group is an IT networking group, led by former PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant Tatyana Kanzaveli. This informal group of IT managers, consultants and software entrepreneurs meets in the Samovar Conference Hall on Independence Avenue. (An industrial area venue, Samovar is a refreshing alternative space for business or social meetings, providing homemade Russian food (www.bestrussianfood.com) and wine, as well as audio-visual equipment.)
The IT Execs next meeting is March 19, and focuses on Microblogging for Enterprises. You can follow the group on the microblogging site Twitter at cioitexec. Follow me on Twitter at amhey.