The Impact Webex Interoperability Has On Users [And Partners]
Unlike most traditional VoIP/unified communications providers, Cisco has long taken the approach that an open and integrative ecosystem is a thriving one.
Looking as far back as XMPP in Jabber or not so far back to Webex Teams, external federation has been part and parcel of the collaboration offering.
If you use Webex in your business and your customer also has Webex, you can use the built-in federation to create a Space or chat via direct message.
This is like Slack Connect (and now Teams Connect). But Webex has been enabling intercompany collaboration for quite some time.
Now, in the era of Webex as a single unified app, we see 270+ Webex integrations and an investment into interoperability for internal messaging with other chat platforms.
Following an overhaul of the Webex interface and bringing everything together into one app, the next natural step was to include other apps businesses use internally.
“We did it for the end users. We wanted to make sure end users got the continuous collaboration experience between messaging, calling, and meetings that they were craving.”
These are the words of Abhay Kulkarni, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Webex App, when explaining how the “new Webex” is not only a shiny front end for users but a thriving ecosystem of integration and interoperability on the back end too.
Breaking down Webex’s collaboration components, we see many examples of Webex interoperability:
1 – Webex messaging interoperability
If you look at the history of message interoperability, Cisco has always been a key player.
Its first messenger app, Jabber, ran on federated XMPP.
XMPP itself is an open standards-based protocol like that of email. As it is “open” technology, there is no single owner of the XMPP network.
The term federation signifies a boundaryless system—like independence in the government’s use of the word. For instance, you can send a message to someone on another platform without hitting a wall.
In Webex, formerly Webex Teams, the open approach to external federation remains the same.
And now, when you install Mio in the background, Webex is interoperable with Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom Chat.
This means you can send cross-platform messages without signing into another chat app.
With Mio installed, you can connect Webex Spaces to Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom channels and enable direct messaging between users cross-platform.
As well as sending channel and direct messages, you can:
- Send message threads
- Edit messages
- Delete messages
- Send emojis and reactions
- Send GIFs
- Upload files
- Apply rich text formatting
By enabling message interoperability in a Webex Space, you reduce app switching, reliance on email and synchronous communication, and connect workplace silos.
“People are always looking for the next partner to futureproof their business. With Mio, Cisco was very open and acknowledged message interoperability would be very much needed.”Justin Ramirez, Systems Engineering Director and Leader of the Worldwide Collaboration Center of Excellence at Cisco.
Rather than letting everyone use Webex for Webex-based activities and then leave everything else open to productivity drains and a disconnected experience, Cisco recognizes the importance of collaboration apps playing together nicely.
The same is true when you look at Webex meetings too.
2 – Webex meeting interoperability
While it would be perfect for Cisco if everybody used Webex, the reality is that customers already have other meeting platforms in use.
In fact, 91% of businesses use at least two collaboration apps.
Chris Palermo, Global Collaboration Sales GTM & Strategy Specialist at Cisco, says at least once a week when he’s demoing Webex devices, someone will stop him and say:
“HOLD UP! Why do you have an icon for Microsoft Teams and Zoom and Google Meet?”
He shares his reply:
- We live in a multi-vendor collaboration world where our customers are joining meetings from a variety of software vendors. We want to make sure that their Webex devices not only support those other vendors but do so with a first-class experience.
- Interop, interop, interop! That’s the story so many customers want to hear. They tell me: For meetings, we use <insert 3rd party meetings software> already. We want to make sure we support that use case. And I use that to explain why interop is such a major focus with our devices team
Chris adds: “It doesn’t matter whether you use Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet, you will get that oh-so-familiar big green join button. One button to push and you’re in—regardless of what platform your meeting is on.”
In a slightly different scenario where customers schedule Webex meetings but now colleagues use Microsoft Teams for calling and/or messaging, it’s also possible to add the Webex app inside Microsoft Teams.
Furthermore, at Microsoft Ignite in October 2022, Cisco and Microsoft announced that customers will now have the option to run Microsoft Teams by default on Cisco Room and Desk devices.
While the Microsoft Teams Certified Devices program is open to all operators providing equipment usable with Teams, the move to certify Cisco devices shows a clear understanding from both parties that cross-vendor environments are here to stay and that we need seamless experiences.
So, whether you’re using Webex or your clients or colleagues are, there’s a way to make your meeting accessible for the other party.
3 – Webex calling interoperability
When Cisco bought BroadSoft in 2018, it acquired possibly the world’s most integrative VoIP calling platform.
BroadSoft had long been the core calling platform that not only enabled VoIP calling and SIP trunking but powered CRM <> PBX integration and click to dial functionality in line of business apps.
Now integrated into the Webex Calling stack, new Webex customers and existing BroadSoft customers have access to the best of both worlds thanks to the work Cisco has done behind the scenes.
While Cisco continues to innovate its Webex app, there’s no doubt end users are pushing for a move to Webex Calling if they’re still using their legacy BroadSoft plans. Demand for access to a genuine collaboration client is supported by Cisco’s commitment to support migrations rather than siloing their calling offerings.
Outside of the Webex portfolio, there are options for using Webex for VoIP calls within other apps too.
There is now a Webex Call app for Slack and a Webex Calling integration for Microsoft Teams.
So, rather than needing to switch between apps to call a colleague, you can stay in Slack or Teams but benefit from the Webex Calling platform.
What Webex interoperability means for users
Interoperability throughout the Webex suite means a painless experience for its users.
While there’s no escaping trying to be Webex-first, the acceptance that other apps and hardware exists makes for a happier user experience.
It’s thanks to that realization that we see Webex’s interoperability options at the forefront of its messaging and sales materials.
“If you have Zoom, Google, or Microsoft Teams on your computer but want to connect via a Webex device, we now enable that.”Brad Bonin, VP of Systems Engineering for Global Collaboration Sales at Cisco.
Whether you use Webex as your all-in-one collaboration platform or bit parts with a mix of other applications and services, interoperability means users enjoy personal preference.
If one department thrives in Microsoft Teams, it makes sense to keep them there. Forcing them to learn and adopt a new platform doesn’t make sense.
Likewise, it’s counterintuitive to replace legacy video equipment that is still fit for purpose. The better option is to interoperate with it and bring it all under one roof.
It’s fair to say that Cisco is one of the most interoperable collaboration vendors out there. And its users stand to gain from this.
What Webex interoperability means for partners
The Webex partner ecosystem thrives thanks to its vast teams dedicated to empowering partners to resell products and services, providing API access and technical support, and providing an interoperable technology stack.
Long gone are the days when a Cisco reseller merely sells phones as part of a managed service wrap. Today’s partners have access to sandbox environments, dedicated engineering support, and white-glove account management.
“We built a new ecosystem framework which is how we’ve broken away from legacy ways of doing things.”Justin Ramirez, Systems Engineering Director and Leader of the Worldwide Collaboration Center of Excellence at Cisco.
This means Webex partners can win more deals.
There’s no turning away a customer because they have Microsoft Teams.
It’s no longer a blocker if there are departments using Slack.
If a customer wants to keep using Google Meet but loves the Webex board, the sales cycle doesn’t come to a grinding halt.
Webex users enjoy the seamless collaboration they once viewed as a blue-sky requirement.
Webex partners have had their doors opened to deals once thought closed-lost forever.
What Webex is doing for its entire ecosystem of partners and customers is really quite something.
Hats off to them 🎩
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