The hardest thing about adopting an enterprise collaboration platform can be adoption itself -- getting employees to actually start up the new software and then turn to it whenever they need to communicate.
Putting the software inside something that workers already use is one way to drive adoption and also make the communication tools more valuable. Cisco Systems knows this, and on Thursday the company announced a strategic alliance with Salesforce, its second big partnership in that direction after its headline-grabbing Apple iOS integration.
Cisco now says it will integrate its cloud-based Spark communication system and WebEx conferencing service into elements of Salesforce, one of the most widely used enterprise productivity platforms. In many cases, users will be able to launch Spark and WebEx, including voice and video functions, from within Salesforce.
Unfortunately, there's no word yet on when this will actually happen. Salesforce plans to say more about the alliance at its Dreamforce conference next month. The plan comes just weeks after Cisco launched native voice and video APIs for Spark.
The first major integration of Spark voice and video collaboration into a third-party platform was the deal with Apple, which hit the ground last week. It allows enterprise iPhone users do things like make and answer Spark calls from within phone's own calling software.
The Apple deal may prove a big win for iOS in businesses, partly thanks to other features like network priority, but Cisco's partnership with Salesforce could open up a bigger audience for its collaboration products. While iPhones and iPads are commonly found in enterprises, often brought from home, Salesforce is already the mainstay of many businesses.
The companies say this alliance could affect collaboration, customer service and the internet of things.
In collaboration, Salesforce is integrating Spark and WebEx into Sales Cloud and Service Cloud using the Salesforce Lightning Framework. This means sales prospects, customers and partners an employee has been working with in Salesforce can be reached right from the app, with no need to look up and re-enter contact information just to set up a virtual meeting, said Rowan Trollope, Cisco's senior vice president and general manager of IoT and applications.
These meetings will be able to work over other unified communications platforms where available, Trollope said. That could mean bringing a group of employees in a video room into a meeting or having a call go through to an employee's desk phone.
For customer service, the alliance will allow enterprises to integrate Cisco's Unified Contact Center Enterprise with Salesforce Service Cloud.
The biggest effect may be on IoT. Cisco's Jasper IoT platform collects many kinds of information about devices in the field, such as current condition, supply levels and service history. The companies plan to integrate Jasper with Salesforce IoT Cloud, bringing detailed profiles of customers together with information about the products they use.
For example, if a driver called an automaker to report that the internet radio wasn't working in their car, Jasper might detect that the car had lost its internet connection or was outside the coverage area. Using the same kinds of capabilities, the integration could help resolve much more complex issues in industrial IoT.