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A One on One with OJ Winge, Cisco's SVP and General Manager of the Telepresence Technology Group

October 18, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
"Probably no development has had a bigger effect on the enterprise conferencing and collaboration industry than the acquisition of Tandberg by Cisco, a deal which closed in April 2010."

via Wainhouse Bulletin - Wainhouse Research Asks, OJ Answers.

WRB:  Well, it's been almost a year and a half since the inter-galactic merger.  How would you describe the integration process and the results to date?

OJ:  With 52% market share in Q2 of 2012, I'd say the integration is a success! In all seriousness, an integration this size is no small feat, but we knew that going in.  The teams came together and executed to plan, and customers have rewarded us for it.  As you know integration of acquisitions has it challenges - from merging product portfolios,  converting ordering systems, and integrating two sales and channel teams - all while keeping innovation strong, advancing the product roadmap, and maintaining market relevance.  The end of January 2011 was a major milestone for us--that is when the ordering systems came together - achieving "orderability", as we called it in-house. That was a huge accomplishment.  We certainly experienced hiccups along the way and but we believe we've over achieved our goals.  We merged two companies rather seamlessly; customers are successfully ordering from a single system; and we introduced four new products - including a value line. Through all this, we're still delivering on innovation - basically rendering interoperability to be a non-issue and bringing the best features together, such as ActivePresence, one-button-to-push, common scheduling, touch panel interface, and working towards a common call control.

WRB:  What about product integration.  From the outside it looks like the Tandberg development team has continued on its merry way with hardly a miss-step, but that the products are now all labeled Cisco; and the CTS line has continued on as well.  Is this the future?

OJ:  Product integration is a huge focus for us. You've already seen the start of that this year with cross-pollination of the best features across the product portfolio - as I just mentioned. But, you're going to see so much more this year. We're operating from one consolidated product roadmap with the singular goal of enabling all customers - from every segment and size - to experience the benefit of telepresence. And it's not just about saving on travel expenses. It's about using telepresence as a transformative force for their business - to create new business cases and revenue models like distance learning, telemedicine or personal banking. It's about a common experience that extends beyond telepresence to other collaboration tools - to maximize productivity and creativity. It's about making teleprensence so affordable and easy to use that the smallest of businesses without an IT department can implement it. I am excited about what we've got to show this year.

WRB:  What about channels. There's been lots of open talk about massive screw ups with channels.  Can you shed some light on what happened, and how the situation has been fixed?  We're also hearing about margin challenges.

OJ:  We did a conscious effort of speeding the integration of Tandberg into Cisco with full expectations that we would hit a few bumps along the way. We made the decision to quickly move forward with the integration of our sales tools and sales processes in order to streamline our order management processes, and make it easier for our sellers, partners and customers to order the combined portfolio.  To help our partners through this, we assigned dedicated resources to help quote and take orders; we also offered additional training and onsite support.  Throughout the entire integration, including the orderability transition, key partners were involved in the planning and feedback process - we monitored the issues closely and worked hand-in-hand with them to get through this transition period.  

WRB:  What about people?   Clearly, as would be expected with any such acquisition, lots of people have moved on to other companies.  And from an outsider's perspective, it does look like the former Tandberg employees are steering the videoconferencing ship today at Cisco.  How has the merging of the two teams been received by employees in Oslo and in San Jose.

OJ:  Quite honestly, we had a fairly low attrition rate as a result of the merger.  We are working on a compelling technology with a strong business case.  People on both sides are passionate about it and believe in the direction we're heading it.   Today, the telepresence business is led by both legacy Tandberg and Cisco leaders. Snorre Kjesbu, who is from  Tandberg, heads up the endpoint business; Thomas Wyatt, a Cisco veteran, leads the infrastructure business; and Gina Clark, another Cisco veteran, leads our cloud business.  Hakon Dahle, who was CTO for Tandberg, is continuing this role in Cisco for Telepresence. Their lieutenants come from both sides, so there is both a sense of familiarity and continuity in the leadership from all perspectives.

WRB:  I don't mean this to be a trick question, but given your Tandberg heritage and your current Cisco position, can you tell us what you mean by "telepresence."

We define telepresence as video communications technology that delivers an "in-person experience".   It's not limited to a single type of endpoint but really factors in the user experience, technology, and functionality needed to enable a new level of user engagement from the boardroom to the desktop for companies of all sizes.

WRB:  Given your definition of telepresence, does Cisco have any products that  you would call "videoconferencing? 

  We define our telepresence portfolio as any endpoint that is capable of delivering an "in-person" experience.  That would be from the 3-screen immersive down to our personal systems like the EX60.  Products like our Movi client, Webex HQ/HD, and our video phones deliver a "Face to Face" experience. We could consider those to be videoconferencing. 

WRB:  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Polycom sees Cisco as the evil empire and is forming its own "open" alliance with Microsoft and others to try to drive you into the East Bay or Sognefjord.   What do you make of this and what do you tell your customers when they ask about your relationship with Microsoft, and Lync in particular?

OJ:  Fair competition keeps us on our innovation edge. Competition is good for Cisco and for our customers. With regards to Microsoft, we are actively working with them to enable tight integration with OCS and Lync. We have a similar relationship with IBM for Sametime. We believe in giving customers a solution to integrate telepresence with their existing software-based video platforms. However, I'd like to bust the myth of the "open" alliance between Polycom and Microsoft.  When you look at what Cisco offers and compare it to the Polycom/Microsoft solution, it is clear that Cisco is the "open" alternative.  If you dig just below the surface, you'll see that the Polycom/Microsoft alliances is a lot more closed than you are led to believe.  Cisco is dedicated to delivering standards based interoperability. All our telepresence endpoints are fully standards compliant and can easily call third party endpoints.  I believe that Cisco is also the only company that offers a fully integrated collaboration solution; and Cisco telepresence is a key component of that portfolio.

WRB:  If we could, I'd like to go back to products and standards one more time.  Tandberg was always closely aligned with ITU standards (standards first, I believe); while Cisco was not, and the CTS product line was a clear proof point.  As you know, there is at least one service provider out there who supports "Cisco telepresence systems but not CTS."  What can we expect out of Cisco with respect to standards support and interoperability in the future, and when will that future be a reality.

  Sometimes true new innovations are not bound by standards, and if done it right, new innovations could set the stage for new standards.  When a market adopts a standard, it is natural business decision to follow or implement the standard. That said, Cisco is fully dedicated to standards and as we recently demonstrated at Infocomm, our CTS series is now completely standards based on SIP and H.264 BP technology.  Our vision is to deliver telepresence to everyone on any device, and that requires interoperability and standard based technologies.

WRB:  A quick diversion:  I hear rumors that Cisco is moving forward with TMS while also removing support for non-Cisco devices.  Is that true, and if so, what is your reasoning behind  this move?

OJ:  You hear wrong.  We have no plans to remove support for non-Cisco devices from the Cisco TelePresence Management Suite.   In fact, over time you will see even greater multi-vendor device support.

WRB:  What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 3-5 years for Cisco and the conferencing and collaboration market?

OJ:  I think we are on the cusp of really being able to deliver on our vision of "telepresence everywhere," both in technological capability and market appetite. I believe that in the next 3-5 years there will be an explosion in the adoption of telepresence at every level, and video will truly become the new voice.   Making a video call will be as easy and seamless as making a phone call today.  More and more, users will expect to see the people they are talking to, and the more they use it, the higher quality expectation they will have. I also expect that video will permeate to other parts of a user's workflow - becoming more systemic rather than isolated. Cisco is in the unique position to lead customers to an ideal platform with a telepresence solution and a compelling user experience that spans from SMBs to the largest of enterprises.  Add on top of that an intelligent network that handles multiples streams of high-quality video and content while managing resources for cost-efficiency -  and tight integration with the industry's most robust portfolio of collaboration tools.  I believe that we have an opportunity to change the way people work, live, learn and play with our video and collaboration solutions.

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