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Cisco adds 'People Insights' analytics to Webex


Cisco is adding new analytics features to its Webex collaboration platform that highlight working patterns at the personal, team, and organizational level.

The analytics – under the company’s People Insights brand – are designed to provide a variety of data from interactions within the Webex platform. It also uses information from the Cisco’s Webex Graph to track the relationships between staff at organizations using the collaboration platform, which contains video, call and team messaging features.

People Insights initially focused on providing profile information for Webex meeting participants. The new features were unveiled this week.

The first to be available, “Personal Insights,” will provide workers with analytics about their own use of Webex and help track productivity and improve wellbeing, Cisco said. For instance, it can highlight the potential for burnout if an individual sets up too many back-to-back meetings without any focus time, or if they are frequently working extra hours outside of their scheduled routine.  Other features include the ability to suggest that users contact certain colleagues they may not have communicated with lately.

It can also highlight when a worker regularly arrives late to meetings, though Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager for Security and Collaboration at Cisco, notes that the personal analytics data will not be available to managers. “They’re not meant for your organization, they’re not meant for your boss, they’re not meant for your peers, it’s only for you,” Patel said.

He added: “The goal is not to inspect [what workers are doing], the goal is to help you manage your well-being, your productivity and nurture your relationships.”

Personal Insights will be made generally available during the summer months this year, Cisco said. 

Webex Team Insights Webex

Among the new Insights features available is one that helps workers better manage their time.

The expansion of the People Insights function “represents a creative approach to helping Webex participants with time management,” said Tom Eagleton, a senior director analyst at Gartner. “It also assists managers to better allocate time and resources. This answers a growing market interest and demand for such analytics.”

Another part of the analytics platform is “Team Insights.” The focus here is on collaboration habits, team interactions, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, Cisco said. For distributed teams, it could reveal that meetings are taking place outside of one team member’s working hours too often, for instance.

Finally, “Organizational Insights” will offer a high-level view of collaboration trends and patterns across an organization. The Organizational Insights analytics could, for instance, highlight the importance of workers who serve as connectors between the divisions by communicating frequently. Identifying these patterns could allow businesses to focus on nurturing relationships and ensure better alignment, said Patel. The organizational analytics will show aggregated data, not metrics related to individuals, he said.

Both sets of analytics will be made available “shortly after” the Personal Insights, though a specific timeframe was not announced.

The metrics surfaced via People Insights could be very helpful, said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC. “Most people want to be more productive, improve family/work balance and avoid burnout,” he said. “Webex wisely took great pains to communicate that privacy is key to these insights: some personal, some aggregated for teams, and some aggregated for organizational insights.”

With the introduction of its People Insights analytics, Cisco joins other collaboration software vendors that have sharpened their focus on both personal and business insights. That includes Microsoft’s MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics (both being rebranded as Viva Insights), as well as Google’s Work Insights feature.

The use of analytics has drawn criticism in some cases. Microsoft’s inclusion of individual worker data in its Productivity Score tool — something it said was aimed at IT admins rather than business leaders or managers — raised concerns before the company moved in December to anonymize the data.

Patel said Cisco is conscious of the need to protect workers’ privacy. “We’re going to build this with the utmost focus on privacy; that’s going to be one of our key differentiators in how we think about this,” said Patel.

“We believe privacy is a basic human right. We need to make sure that we can actually honor the privacy of every individual that uses our system. They should be relaxed that it is their data and we’re not going to do anything except … make them more productive and look after their well-being and relationships.”

Eagleton said that, while there may be some initial hesitancy about using People Insights due to privacy concerns, Cisco has anticipated those concerns by ensuring Webex users have control over how the analytics are used.

“For example, the personal analytics are compartmentalized from the team-level data, giving individual users management rights over their own insights,” he said. “This should go far toward reducing privacy concerns.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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