2014 Lithys: Cisco - Lithium Platform Innovator

2014 Lithys: Cisco - Lithium Platform Innovator

Company: Cisco Cisco logo.png

Entry submitted by: Becky Scott (lolagoetz) Sr. Project Manager

Community: Tech Zone (techzone.cisco.com), internal community

Lithy category: Lithium Platform Innovator



Our group was able to leverage Lithium's capabilities to enhance the influence of Cisco's Technical Assistance Center (TAC) Engineers, enabling them to easily capture knowledge created through collaboration and share it directly with Cisco customers.  We implemented more than 80 custom components in Lithium to deliver a solution called Tech Zone to the TAC organization that is optimized for their needs and fits within their standard workflow. We utilized Lithium's REST APIs to create an externalization channel to migrate the most useful articles from Tech Zone to Cisco.com.  Moreover, we extended our platform to enable our partners to collaborate with us on joint customer opportunities and challenges, and to retain these interactions as part of corporate memory.


The business impact for Cisco's TAC grew significantly in 2013 due to increasing participation driven by further integration of the Lithium platform within the existing workflow, mobile access, and content externalization.  Articles published on Cisco.com that resulted from collaboration within Tech Zone received 1.7 million views and saved Cisco nearly $10M due to case avoidance from February 2013 through January 2014.  The rate of cost savings due to external articles has grown significantly each quarter, and this trend is projected to continue.  For example, the quarterly cost savings increased by 48% over the last two fiscal quarters.


The Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) is staffed by over 3,000 engineers; this team spans 20 TAC facilities worldwide, bringing support to Cisco customers in over 180 countries and in 17 different languages.  Cisco's TAC, enhanced by Lithium's capabilities, continues to change the way engineers think about collaboration with robust, organic Social Knowledge Management Environments.  Powered by Cisco’s Intellectual Capital Transformation group (ICT), Tech Zone has become a preferred channel for these engineers to collaborate, share and publish valuable content directly to customers via the web or mobile applications.  Since its launch over two years ago, Tech Zone has transformed not only the way TAC manages their intellectual capital but how Cisco communicates, collaborates, and serves partners and customers.  In addition, Tech Zone influences other engineering and consulting business units inside Cisco seeking similar benefits from Social Knowledge Management Environments.


Since its origins, Tech Zone has been pushing the boundaries of what a Social Knowledge Management Environment (SKME) is and what it can become. In addition to Lithium out of the box capabilities, we have enhanced the collaboration experience of the engineers with features such as:

  •        Raise Hand Subscription

The "raise hand" feature allows users to draw attention to a discussion in progress in order to ask for additional help. This feature was enhanced by allowing users to subscribe to raised hand events, enabling community experts to be easily notified when other engineers need assistance.


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You can enable this subscription under your My Settings > Notification Settings


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  •        Solution Buddy

Solution Buddy powers the reuse of the Tech Zone content by automatically surfacing relevant content directly within the salesforce.com interface that will assist the engineer in solving the customer issue quickly without the need to search or leave the salesforce.com interface.


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  •        Externalization Workflow

Leveraging Lithium REST APIs, we created a path from within Tech Zone to externalize valuable content to our corporate website at Cisco.com. In addition to powering the externalization channel, we created a publishing lifecycle widget that lets engineers know the state of articles within the externalization pipeline:


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  •        Collaborative Review for External Publication

To reduce redundant efforts to externally publish the same article, engineers can now see and join other engineers that are preparing an article. If no engineers are working on the same article, the default option is 'Initiate External Publication'. However, if engineers are already working on the document, others may 'Join'. Engineers may 'Unjoin' at any time, and if the engineer is the last to 'Unjoin',  the available option is 'Cancel External Process'.


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Example actions for collaborating on external publication of documents

  •        Related Content

One of the key missions of Tech Zone is promoting content reuse. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we want to ensure engineers are consuming and leveraging already existing content, and adding to it as appropriate. With this in mind, we developed a widget that returns articles and posts containing content similar to the one being viewed (especially content related to the linked case in salesforce.com).


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  •        Empower External Publication of Naturally Captured Content

Discussions that have accepted solutions will trigger the button "Share it for External Publication". This button triggers the Lithium feature "Start Article" from a discussion.


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  •        Me Too Integration with Case Linkages

We enhanced the Lithium "Me Too" feature by triggering a pop-up to capture the case number in which the engineer is facing the same issue as described in the thread.

  •        Label Widget

We implemented a widget to highlight the labels assigned to the article being viewed. If the engineer clicks any of these labels, a list of all articles containing that label is presented.


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  •        Injecting Content Impact into Federated Search Results

Results from our enterprise search engine now take into consideration the Content Quality Factor (CQF), which means the most valuable and useful content will be presented at the top of the search results. In addition, discussion threads with posts marked as Accepted Solutions will also appear at the top of the results. 


Tech Zone's success is the result of three main components:


End-to-End Content Creation and Consumption: Collaborations between TAC engineers often contain large amounts of information spread out over multiple emails, messages, and tools. Tech Zone is able to act as an environment that captures and compiles these chunks of information into cohesive articles that can be cataloged and later referenced by engineers experiencing similar problems. The most helpful articles are published outside Cisco where they can be directly consumed by customers either on the corporate website or via the Cisco mobile application.


Fully Integrated Workflow: Tech Zone takes collaboration to the next level by not only providing an environment for TAC engineers to work together, but also integrates within the existing TAC workflow.  The Solution Buddy application binds Tech Zone with the TAC engineer case handling tool, MyWorkZone (Salesforce.com), to surface relevant Tech Zone content for assisting engineers in solving open customer issues.


Solution Buddy video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eyhbWZ4L3s


Reputation and Gamification: Gamification is leveraged to drive user engagement and innovation. Tech Zone recently launched a competition called "Knowledge Champions League" to empower engineers and drive the creation of valuable content in their respective technology spaces by teaming them up with similar engineers from different countries. Winners will be able to travel around the world to meet their colleagues.


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Another successful gamification initiative was the “Best Greasemonkey Widget Contest,” for which engineers competed to create widgets that could enhance the Tech Zone user experience. Over 300 engineers submitted unique widgets and several were selected by the engineers to be implemented directly into Tech Zone.


1) Value

Tech Zone initially focused on creating an internal repository for content that TAC engineers could leverage to collaborate, improve, and reuse to better solve customers’ cases. The next step was to share this content with Cisco's customers by externalizing TAC-authored content from Tech Zone to the Cisco website. These externalized articles have saved Cisco a total of nearly $10 million from February 2013 to January 2014.


2) Participation

Participation in Tech Zone has skyrocketed since its launch. Tech Zone's user base has increased by 103% since 2012 to more than 26,500 registered users and content has grown by 145% to more than 23,300 TAC-authored articles. Although Tech Zone initially targeted TAC engineers, the user base has grown exponentially; so much so that the original TAC engineers represent only 21.6% of the population of Tech Zone.


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Feedback from TAC engineers: 


"Tech Zone has given a lot to TAC newbies like me and I sure would want to give back in whatever way I can!"

- Vinay Raichur, Voice TAC Engineer from India


 “This is an excellent website, I didn't know this existed until a couple days ago. The reason I like Tech Zone is the contributors are doing a fantastic job explaining concepts in simple and easy to understand language. I myself was able to understand quite a few concepts.”

- Rahul Munot, Sales Engineer from US


Tech Zone has successfully created a model for dynamic corporate memory, displaying how knowledge can be leveraged, not only internally, but externally across Cisco as well. So well, in fact, that other organizations within Cisco and Cisco partners have requested Social Knowledge Management Environments similar to Tech Zone.


3) Mobility

Starting December 2013, content from Tech Zone has been included in the new Mobile application (Cisco Technical Support), available for both iOS and Android. Since then, there have been almost 18,000 application downloads, and TAC authored articles from Tech Zone have received a total of almost 12,000 mobile views. The addition of these documents to the Cisco Technical Support mobile app has been well received by the Tech Zone community.


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Feedback from customers:


"[Tech Zone Docs] are the publicly available documents that TAC has written to recommended best practices or address common customer issues, and many of them are pure gold! …Priceless"

Review by Ethan Banks, Network Architect, Chase Paymentech Solutions, Co- Host of Packet Pushers


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Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Status changed to: 2014 Lithy Submission