White or Brown?

22nd August 2019, by

When it comes to choosing bread, people generally fall into one of two camps: White or Brown. No amount of logical argument or persuasion will convince one group to switch to the other. Those who like Brown bread will argue the health benefits, whilst those in White camp are convinced it tastes better, whilst accepting that this is probably because it is, in fact, not as nutritional!

A certain brand (think steep cobbled street and a boy on a bike!) came up with a product they labelled “Best of Both” as a way to get some wholemeal into the diet for those of us that didn’t want to make a complete switch or who are trying to get some wholemeal into our children’s diet.

In the world of collaboration technology, you might also consider there are two main players, namely Cisco and Microsoft. Just as with bread, trying to convince someone in one camp that the other is better is generally a pointless exercise. The reality is that nothing is perfect and it depends on your “taste”, what you are trying to achieve and whether the relative pros outweigh the cons.

Microsoft’s powerhouse is of course the Office suite. Even for a Mac user like me, I still choose to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint with Outlook as my email client. With Office 365 and the cloud I’m increasingly using OneDrive and Sharepoint to store my work. In the asynchronous world, for better or worse, Microsoft provides me with the tools I need.

In the synchronous world, however, my weapon of choice is provided by Cisco, whether that be Webex for meetings and the cloud-registered DX video endpoint that sits on my desk and which I use to join most of my calls, or Webex Teams.

The advent of Team functionality has somewhat muddied the water and created more of a functional overlap, and of course is not helped by the fact that each vendor ends their respective product name “Teams”!

The increasingly strategic move to the cloud, provides a significant enabler to better integrate these solutions together in a much simpler way.

For over a year now Cisco has been touting a tag line of “Bridges not Islands”. Whilst a lot of this focus was about bringing together Cisco’s own collaboration portfolio in a consistent manner there was also an element of providing better hooks and integration into other platforms, such as Microsoft.

At Adoptt we ensure that we really live the experience, rather than just talk about it.

Only when I started here did it strike me just how far the integration has come and how very quickly it has happened.

Let’s look at some of the elements of this:

  1. Account provisioning
    All our user accounts are provisioned in Azure AD, every application that is able uses this for authentication, single sign-on, one account, one password. Thanks to SCIM and the Cisco Webex connector available from the Azure AD application gallery, when a user is provisioned in Azure AD their Webex account is automatically provisioned too.
  2. Outlook Calendar Integration
    Previously you had to install the Cisco Webex Productivity Tools to give you the integration within Outlook to add Webex meeting details to calendar appointments and meetings. This was a client-side MAPI based Outlook plug-in. Whilst this remains available as part of the Webex Meetings desktop app there is now the Cisco Webex Meetings Scheduler available as a Microsoft AppSource app. Being an app, this works not only with Outlook on your laptop, but also if you choose to use the Outlook web app. Cisco’s Office 365 Hybrid Calendar service enables my Out-of-Office notification in Outlook to be automatically reflected in my Webex Teams status so my colleagues in Webex Teams know I’m away. Adding resources (that are associated with Video rooms) to my meeting invites triggers OBTP (One Button to Push) on the room device when it’s time for the meeting. Adding “@webex” to the location field of an invite will add my Webex Personal Meeting Room details to the appointment, because this all happens at the platform level it means this works independently of the client I’m using to update the calendar (e.g. from my mobile device).
  3. Presence
    From within the Outlook client, the presence bubbles can now be lit up by the Webex Teams status, also enabling click to chat or call.
  4. Webex Teams Content
    If you are a Webex Teams user then you can share content in a space from OneDrive or Sharepoint online. This is a link to the file (rather than a copy of the file) and therefore ensures everyone is looking at the latest and only version. Better still, when you click on the link it opens the Microsoft online app right there and then, allowing you to pick up exactly where you left off. In addition, because this is using the online app then other users are able to co-edit the content in real time with you. No more multiple versions of the same deck and the tireless merging of changes required.
  5. Office Applications
    If I am using the desktop version of the Microsoft apps (Word, Excel or Powerpoint) then right from within the app I can open Webex Teams and refer to comments in spaces whilst I’m directly working on the document. No more switching back and forth between apps, the information I need to refer to is right there in the sidebar.
  6. Webex Meetings in Microsoft Teams
    For those users that prefer to use Microsoft Teams then the Webex Meetings bot helps you schedule, start, and join Webex meetings and Personal Room meetings from within Microsoft Teams.

To paraphrase that brand of bread I referenced at the start:

“As good today as it’s never been”.

Jonathan George

Jonathan George

Digital Collaboration Lead for Adoptt. Technology master with a passion for how its application delivers business outcomes. Bridges and balances the needs of IT with the business requirements to ensure the solution satisfies both. Cloud service evangelist with a desire to change the way we work in today's more social, collaborative and mobile enabled workplace.

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