Stop me if you've heard any of these before: we want to share knowledge; collaboration is vital; the technology works the way *you* work; it's just like Facebook. OK, we get it. We got it back in 1989 when Lotus Notes arrived. We believed it then, we believe it now, but forgive us if we're a little skeptical. It always looks good on paper. Or video. We sat down for a demonstration of Quad, Cisco's social networking platform for the enterprise.
Quad is, well, kind of like Facebook, except instead of posting status updates about your favorite restaurant or back-to-school night or how important you think you are, it's all about how you've updated the latest PowerPoint. See? Just as fun.
Just as you'd expect, Quad's activity stream includes anything that happens within your work network. Its main work space can bring in Microsoft Exchange (e-mail, calendar, contacts), and instant messaging (WebEx or Microsoft OCS; both within the web app, including video chats). It does not connect to external social networks, like Facebook.
This is for grownups. (I know, Facebook has grownups too, but they're all playing Farmville.) You do things like build fully authenticated workflows for purchase orders. You still "follow" people and certain types of content, and there's commenting, and everything is a "post"; but with all of this, you get to organize the information how you want it (in your Watch List), whether it's e-mail, or voice messages or RSS feeds. You create communities (permanent or ad hoc) and send them messages or invite them to meetings; you can even restrict the communities, making them private and secure.
(For more on Cisco Quad, you can read this piece from my colleague, Alex Wolfe.)
Below is a video demonstration of some of Quad's main features.
Cisco is also integrating its Show and Share video technology into Quad, so users can quickly and easily post video. And there are APIs for integrating functionality via widgets. Cisco talked about integrating Salesforce, or project management. All of this will extend to the iPhone and the iPad, and, naturally, Cisco's Cius when it ships (this is the Cisco tablet).
Cisco's play is two fold. First, it has acquired or built several enterprise-class applications, including Quad (built internally) and WebEx (acquired). The combination of its video and communications strategy, alongside social enterprise software makes a compelling collaboration platform. The second play here is Cisco's core business: the more it can stretch out to push video and always-on applications, the more infrastructure it can potentially sell.
But the social enterprise space is getting pretty busy; existing tools like instant messaging, e-mail and wikis have met with modest success, if not internal resistance. Tools like Salesforce.com's Chatter is a perfect extension app for a chatty, collaborative sales team. Sharepoint has quietly become more than just an enterprise portal. And to some degree all of these are competing against culture clash and against the difficulty of justifying the expense of the platforms and cultural training that must go hand-in-hand with almost anything this complex.
Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.
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