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In June 2016, IBM and Cisco announced that they were going to pre-integrate their respective collaboration products in a bid to transform how knowledge workers communicate and collaborate. Last week IBM announced the availability of the first set of integrated collaboration solutions. These joint solutions will be available to IBM's customers and business partners to order and buy through IBM Marketplace, IBM Sales, and authorized business partners, with the ability to purchase the full suite of Cisco chat and meetings capabilities directly from IBM.

Nothing important happens in the office

Speaking at IBM's annual collaboration software event in San Francisco last week, Inhi Cho Suh, general manager of IBM Collaboration Solutions, talked about reinventing the enterprise digital workspace in new and game-changing ways. With very little overlap between the two companies' offerings, the IBM/Cisco partnership presents a real opportunity to compete against Microsoft Office 365. The upsell opportunity for IBM comes in the form of cognitive services enabled by Watson APIs, whereas Cisco has an additional route to market for its innovative collaborative devices, such as the Cisco Spark Board announced in January.

While IBM has struggled to gain traction in the market with Verse (its "next-generation" email product), Connections Cloud (its enterprise social networking platform) has found favor across a range of different industries, and was positioned in the "Leader" group in the recent Ovum Decision Matrix for Enterprise Social Networking. Meanwhile, Cisco has also been impressing Ovum analysts with Spark, a product centered on team chat – a medium popularized by Slack. Cisco Spark also provides users with video conferencing, group messaging, file sharing, and screen sharing features on desktop, mobile, and in-room devices.

Single sign-on between IBM Connections Cloud and Cisco Spark (or WebEx) may well be the first rung on the integration ladder, but it's an important one from the end user's perspective. Other features provided in this first phase of integration include click-to-chat from Connections Cloud or Verse to Cisco Spark or Jabber. It's still unclear how Box – IBM's other key partner in the enterprise collaboration space – will figure in this new relationship, but there are signs of a strong proposition here if these three vendors can get their act together quickly and deliver the kind of synergies that enterprise IT decision-makers are looking for.

Some of IBM's own employees might see the irony of this sales and marketing push into the anytime/anywhere collaboration domain, as the company is reportedly reviewing its own remote working policy, arguing that "there is something about a team being more powerful, more impactful, more creative, and frankly hopefully having more fun, when they are shoulder to shoulder." Meanwhile, proponents of the "NIHITO" principle remind us that contact with customers and prospects is vital for business growth and development, and that "nothing important happens in the office."


Further reading

"Artificial intelligence: IBM and Microsoft CEOs talk about 'new collar' jobs," IT0021-000232 (January 2017)

2017 ICT Enterprise Insights in Enterprise Productivity and Collaboration, IT0021-000225 (January 2017)

Enterprise Social Networking: Market Update and Product Snapshot, IT0021-000157 (December 2016)

"Voice of the employee: Facilitating cooperation and engagement to function and compete," IT0021-000221 (December 2016)

"2017 looks set to become the year of the smart digital workspace," IT0021-000222 (December 2016)

Ovum Interactive Decision Matrix: Enterprise Social Networking, IT0021-000216 (November 2016)


Richard Edwards, Principal Research Analyst, Enterprise Productivity & Mobility

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