IBM, Cisco Forge Cognitive Partnership in Collaboration

Lynn HaberAs IBM moves into what it calls the cognitive era, the vendor isn’t going it alone.

Giving a big nod to the market success of Cisco’s unified communication and collaboration (UCC) portfolio, and thereby acknowledging its own less-effective collaboration offerings, the two vendors are teaming up to elevate UCC with IBM’s Watson cognitive computing capabilities — infusing intelligence into the way people work.

IBM's Ed BrillMore specifically, IBM and Cisco on Thursday unveiled a road map that will result in a suite of cloud-based workplace tools and applications that use Cisco Spark and WebEx, as well as IBM’s Verse and Connections, all underpinned with Watson. The integration of the vendors’ technologies will spawn capabilities that understand business conversations, content and workflows across the network.

“We’re trying to bring to the combined technologies [IBM Watson and unified communications and collaboration] cognitive computing, which in the future will help us with better decision making, better action progression, better flow of our jobs,” explained Ed Brill, vice president of product marketing at IBM.

Expect to see the Phase I rollout of the initial technology integration at IBM’s World of Watson 2016 conference in October. Phase I will include awareness between IBM and Cisco UCC products such as IBM Connections Cloud Social and IBM Verse, and Cisco Spark and WebEx products.{ad}

Actual products are scheduled for availability around October and will be sold through the vendors’ channel partners.

Phase II involves integration with Watson and cognitive capabilities, which will begin by year-end and continue into 2017, according to IBM.

IBM and Cisco are developing a joint go-to-market strategy via the channel which translates into opportunities such as resell or access to a simplified bundle deliverable with additional services.

“As we get into the second and third phases [of the integration], we’ll be developing a developer ecosystem as well — and we’ll be opening up both Cisco and Watson APIs to developers to make these solutions even better,” said Ross Daniels, senior director, collaboration marketing at Cisco.

While it’s great that the vendors see the channel as a core piece of their go-to-market strategy, the question is, are partners …


… equipped to sell cognitive solutions? That’s a question that became apparent at IBM’s PartnerWorld Leadership Conference (PWLC) 2016 held earlier this year, with the theme “Leading together in the cognitive era.”

“There are going to be some challenges for the Cisco sales partners because they’re not all experienced with this type of solution set — especially the Watson-type solution set,” said Bern Elliot, research vice president at Gartner Inc.

Enablement from both IBM and Cisco will be key to partner success. IBM is rolling out a redesigned IBM PartnerWorld program for business partners in January 2017 that reflects its cognitive vision. The company announced the new program at IBM PWLC.

Cisco is making enablement and education materials available to its partners, starting today, and will add more extensive assets as products become available, according to Daniels.

Certifications and specializations to deliver cognitive solutions aren’t far behind.

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