The network: Driving collaboration and innovation

Ranajoy Punja, Vice President, Business Development, Advanced Technologies, Cisco India and SAARC

In the old linear view of the way the world used to work, content came from a limited number of sources. This content was stored in "reservoirs" (such as CDs, newspaper print pages, etc.), and then was transported to consumers. However, when the Internet came along, things changed forever. Today, information is everywhere, and people are not just consumers; they’re content creators and information workers as well. And the levels of collaboration and interactions between them are multiple, diverse, and complex changing not only day to day, but minute to minute.

Today’s young adults enter the workforce with a different, more globally aware perspective than I did-their preparation and development is different. While the subjects my children are studying in school are largely the same, teaching and learning processes are much more stimulating and engaging, encouraging the type of creative collaboration that celebrates and capitalizes on the differences in the children’s skills. Today, harnessing the power of the Internet has become integral to the educational experience of students. Institutions worldwide are making a transition to enhance research, learning, and teaching, made possible by technology. Many large institutions today utilize intelligent networks to support a rich variety of voice, video, and data applications that enrich learning and collaboration, encourage innovation, improve student career opportunities, and extend networking resources beyond the classroom.

In addition, a new generation of young consumers has usurped the role previously held by Enterprise IT and is today’s driver for technology development, adoption, and usage. They are pushing IT to give them the same kinds of personalized services in their work environment that they are used to having as consumers. The unique personas that people generally have in one environment are becoming blended with ones they have in other environments. They don’t need to pay attention anymore to what kind of network they are on or if they are in a work or home environment or somewhere in between; today they can work, play, live, share and collaborate no matter where they are.

With all this collaboration there will be an increase in the levels of innovation. In the early 90s, the Internet introduced a new wave of innovation that drove productivity, business models, and entertainment for more than a decade. Today, we’re in the second phase of innovation where the network will deliver all forms of communications, and will usher in new innovation that our children invented. Today the Internet represents not just web surfing but increasing forms of video, of entertainment, and of being able to collaborate and share with colleagues and friends. Hence, we see the network itself becoming the platform for many of life’s and work’s different experiences. We see the network enabling a new way for people to experience each other, to be able to collaborate and share.

Hence, with the network people everywhere are experiencing something unique. Encyclopedias update themselves every minute, movies appear wherever there’s a screen handy, hospitals know their patients name and history as soon as they walk in, expert advise on financial matters is available remotely at the touch of a button, and a phone can double as a train ticket. People are linked by email, photos, wikis, blogs, podcasts, instant messaging and more. And they are connected to their content wherever they go.

Another big part of the experience today is also that people expect the ability to combine data, voice, video with mobility on any device and in any location. People are consumers and end users at the same time. And they want the same experience no matter what they are doing communicating, collaborating, or playing; in their offices, living rooms, classrooms, and cars; on football fields, airplanes and the coffee shops. As innovators of convergence, we have converged data, voice, video, and mobility in order to provide a consumer / end user, one uniform experience enabled by the network as the platform. In the 1990s, we observed how productivity essentially was enterprise driven, powered by the physical network. Today the scenario is quite different we see how productivity is enduser driven wherein collaboration and content is created by the enduser, enabled by an intelligent network and leveraged by enterprises. YouTube,, MySpace and Skype are only some exemplars.

So what's behind this emphasis on human interaction and experience? Research from McKinsey discovered that to beat their competition, organizations want employees to interact more effectively with customers and suppliers. By focusing on personal interactions, companies hope to provide enhanced customer experiences that lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. So this is only the start.


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