Tech Prediction 2022

Empowering Workforce, Transforming Workspaces

Minhaj Zia, Director for Collaboration Sales, Cisco India & SAARC

Cisco foresees a massive opportunity for Webex, as collaboration without compromise continues to facilitate critical functions like governance, citizen services, banking, and more

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“Cisco Webex has been instrumental in keeping people safe and connected while ensuring business continuity across sectors.”

Minhaj Zia,
Director for Collaboration Sales,
Cisco India & SAARC

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The Collaboration Technology industry witnessed a significant uptick in the demand due to the massive digital adoption triggered by the pandemic. As part of our effort to make the voices of major Collaboration technology players heard by the channel community, SME Channels embarks upon recording the voices of the who’s who of the Collaboration Technology landscape.

In a special interaction with SME Channels, Minhaj Zia, Director for Collaboration Sales, Cisco India & SAARC, reveals his organization’s strategy to address growing demand for Collaboration solutions from customers, his predictions for the Collaboration Solutions industry in 2022 and his vision and plans for the channel community. Edited excerpts…

There has been a significant uptick in demand for Collaboration Technology Solutions triggered by massive digital adoption due to the pandemic. How has your company been leveraging this hike in demand?

Two years into the global pandemic, video conferencing has not only become part of our daily routines, but it has also become the way we do business, how we learn, and the way we stay connected. It has gone from being a useful tool to becoming mission-critical, as it ensures everyone has equal access to the global economy regardless of geography or language. According to Gartner, by 2024, in-person meetings will account for just 25% of enterprise meetings, a drop from 60% prior to the pandemic. In this increasingly hybrid world, virtual collaboration is no longer viewed as just a communication tool; it is becoming the connective tissue within an organization’s culture.

At Cisco, we are committed to using technology to empower a workforce and transform workspaces. During the pandemic, Cisco Webex has been instrumental in keeping people safe and connected while ensuring business continuity across sectors. Globally, Webex had around 600M monthly participants since the onset of the crisis and was one of the few platforms with the global scale to empower the digital workforce.

India consistently continues to record the second-highest usage outside of the US. Even with people moving back to the office, the numbers reveal that Webex meetings in March 2022 were over 25% higher than in March 2020. Therefore, we foresee a massive opportunity for Webex in this digital-first world, as collaboration without compromise is key, especially as these platforms continue to facilitate critical functions like governance, citizen services, banking, and more. It can enable a shift away from the reliance on in-person interactions and geography-based hiring, opening the global economy and giving everyone a seat at the table—no matter where the table is.

What key mega trends do you foresee in the Collaboration Technology Solutions market?  

The trends that I foresee are – firstly, as businesses come to grips with the realities of a hybrid workforce, the demand for secure collaboration platforms that provide end-to-end data security from device to device, in transit, at rest, and when stored will continue to grow. Secondly, employee well-being and inclusivity will be a priority. We have a unique opportunity to embed inclusion into our collaboration platform, marked by well-being and ensuring every voice is heard and valued. Thirdly, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality will make their way into collaboration tools. It will make digital interactions more engaging and the experience more immersive. Virtual meetings over video conferencing platforms will slowly shift to the usage of AR headsets and immersive 3D photorealistic holograms. Webex has been updated with over 1000 new features and a selection of new devices to give users an uninterrupted, immersive, and intelligent experience whether they’re at home, at work, or on the go. Our AI-powered gestures capture body language and let participants interact more naturally. We have also introduced AI-powered Noise removal and speech enhancement technology.

Collaboration techs should provide the platform to connect with external partners, customers, and vendors through seamless and high-impact communication. How have your clients as well as partners been benefitted from them? 

Our innovations represent our commitment to helping our customers and partners achieve their highest potential as they move from the old remote work world to the new hybrid work world. Through a combination of hardware and software, we create tools that connect people, teams, ideas, and workflows with a single click, gesture, or simply our voice. Most importantly, we understand that to be successful in the era of hybrid work, organizations need to make sure their solutions are flexible, inclusive, supportive, secure, and easily managed on the backend by IT, and the all-new Webex is all about simplicity.

Webex helped educational institutions, healthcare frontline workers, and government agencies connect seamlessly and securely during the pandemic. From supporting Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS) in conducting large-scale online training of health professionals and helping deliver 5000 hours of lectures across the top 40+ institutes (including 18 IITs) to enabling business continuity for over 200 government organizations across 26 state and central government entities and supporting over 100 high courts to conduct proceedings seamlessly and safely. Webex represents Cisco’s commitment to connecting people, places, ideas, and things.

We are continuing this momentum and helping the automobile manufacturer – Maruti Suzuki augment their offerings and reach a broader customer base across India. Maruti customers can come to their website and request a virtual tour of the showroom and the car they wish to explore from the comfort of their homes. It allows them to have a rich audio-video interaction with the ability to share the screen and co-create the car customizations through the 3D rendering of the cars.

In short, Webex empowers users to maximize their most precious resource – time. We are continually re-investing in our platform to align with changing customer needs to power hybrid work, enable a safe return to the office, and make their Webex experience 10x better than in-person interactions.

Clear, easy to understand, user-friendly end-user interface is pivotal for the success of any collaboration solution. What sort of product differentiation do you bring onto the table to ensure greater traction for channel partners? 

Cisco Webex features span advancements for the hybrid workforce, workplace, events, and IT teams. Our Webex innovations mark a significant step forward in helping our customers unlock the potential of their hybrid workforces – enabling them to collaborate in new ways and drive an inclusive experience.

I believe our biggest differentiator is, firstly, flexibility. Webex is adaptable for any workstyle, role, or device, so you can choose when, where, and how you work. Webex’s People Insights feature aligns with the goals people set personally for their meetings, work-life integration, connections, and focus time, helping people work smarter and combat burnout. Secondly, it is inclusive – our vision with Webex is to empower digital workers on the planet to participate equally in a global economy, regardless of their geography or language preference or personality type, or tech proficiency level. Eliminating language barriers is key to enabling a truly global, hybrid workforce. Through our real-time translation feature, Webex customers can preview translations from Hindi into 100+ languages. Thirdly, it is secure by design and private by default to defend against threats no matter where you’re working. Our Webex portfolio is at the center of our customers’ strategies for securely empowering teams and increasing productivity.

Fourthly, Webex simplifies communications via robust calling, meeting, and messaging features integrated into the apps we frequently use. It integrates with hundreds of industry-leading apps and tools so you can get more done seamlessly without toggling between applications. Lastly, our capabilities for virtual event execution can support up to 100,000 participants, coupled with the industry’s first audience engagement solution that can make meetings more engaging in the form of polling, quizzes, etc.

Collaboration Solutions’ business is highly tech-intensive. How do you upskill your partners to help them tap more into the market opportunities? 

Successfully leading customers through a digital transformation requires that partners continually transform themselves by investing in emerging technologies and expertise that reinforce their status as a trusted digital advisor. No matter how customers evolve or how the market landscape changes, we are committed to supporting our partners to meet their customer needs through training and certification programs.

We have our Partner Experience Platform (PXP), Cisco’s first digital platform designed for partners for all the resources they need to perform and transform. PXP gives our partners easy access to critical insights and helps them be agile and add value to their customer relationships. All in one place, from tracking their performance, incentives and gaining a deeper knowledge of their customer to other events, training, support options, and connecting with subject matter experts. At Cisco, we believe our partner ecosystem is our biggest asset. We want to give our partners more freedom to differentiate and transform across the dimensions of their Cisco business.

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