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April 25, 2011

Cisco is a global firm with 72000+ employees with presence in 300 locations and 165+ countries. Cisco has its western headquarters in San Jose and eastern headquarters in Bangalore India. There are 3100+ executives - Directors and VPs, spread across the globe with a significant number based in AsiaPacific/India.

Given India’s growing importance within Cisco, in 2008, John Chambers, Cisco’s Chairman and CEO held the quarterly all-company meeting, addressing all of Cisco’s worldwide employees via live video, IP TV and Telepresence from India. This setup, to provide an almost real life experience to all remote locations was done for the first time and was executed by the Cisco team in India.

This experience of using the latest in video technologies was used as a foundation by the local and global Cisco teams to successfully deliver a virtual global Strategic Leadership Offsite (SLO) in May 2010. The team  leveraged Cisco’s leadership in networking, video and Web 2.0 technologies to deliver this event. 

What was the problem that we were trying to solve?

For the leadership and executives to be aligned with the company’s vision and strategies, Cisco holds a major annual event – the Strategic Leadership Offsite. Historically, the event was held with all executives travelling to one location. For the large number of India based India based executives, aligning calendars along with the travel time and expense, were serious drawbacks. 

What was the deployed solution?

In the Leadership Offsite held in May 2010, From Cisco IT team worldwide and in India, the SLO meeting would be the largest, most complex, and most content-rich virtual event ever attempted.

To support a virtual SLO meeting, Cisco IT had to solve several challenges in less than six months: implement the tools and infrastructure to deliver bandwidth-intensive video broadcast, collaboration, and interactive sessions to multiple locations worldwide esp India. The IT team needed to ensure network capacity and configuration to support the performance required for the highly demanding SLO meeting, while not negatively affecting network performance for the rest of the company.

Cisco’s IT team with its large India presence, depth of technology experience and the Bangalore based Visual Networking Studio was instrumental in making the global event a success. Unlike a physical event, where executives can attend just one session among several simultaneous sessions, the virtual events enabled executives attend as many sessions as they chose to virtually.

The virtual environment provided an online convention center or exhibit hall that allowed participants to access their personal meeting agendas, attend sessions, interact with presenters and other participants, and obtain support. Additional features included personal chat rooms, online audience polling, and messaging-based Q&A during the live session broadcasts. Participants could also create and submit videos and access stored video and session files. All these activities occurred over the Cisco network. 

What were the benefits?

Cisco’s IT team contributed to the significant cost reductions (nearly 75%), productivity gains from avoided travel, an expanded meeting schedule, and improved access to content for meeting participants. It also enabled 3100 executives to avoid travel without impact the effectiveness of the event. These benefits were realized with very few user support issues and minimal performance impact on the Cisco network. Although Cisco IT created a central support group for the duration of the SLO meeting, there were very few support cases given the scope of the event. Overall, the SLO event generated less than one (0.72) support case per participant. 

Where have we deployed this infrastructure?

Given the success of this event, the framework is being used to host similar local and regional events. The leadership in HQ East in India uses similar technologies to connect with their teams in India and AsiaPac leveraging the local IT teams.




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