Collaboration Leaders

The New Webex App With Abhay Kulkarni

Explore Cisco's integration of Webex Meetings and Webex Teams into a unified app through an insightful interview with Abhay Kulkarni, Senior VP and GM for the Webex app.
Dominic Kent
Dominic Kent is a content marketer specializing in unified communications and contact centers.
Interview with Abhay Kulkarni

Abhay Kulkarni is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Webex App. He’s responsible for the clients, back end, and media services, and his P/L reporting lies within the Webex Meetings part of the Webex collaboration suite.

As Webex has recently integrated Webex Meetings and Webex Teams into a single unified app, I wanted to dive into why Cisco has moved this way and whether Abhay thought other vendors would follow suit.

“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.”

Is the new Webex app designed to keep up with Zoom and Microsoft Teams?

Abhay Kulkarni

In terms of the competition, Abhay is less concerned with keeping up with the likes of Zoom and Microsoft and more concerned with delivering what partners and customers need.

“We don’t look at competition but we are invested in solving the real hybrid work challenges end users face. We pride ourselves on the fact that we delivered more than 1,000 new features in the last year that were industry-leading. These new innovations have been really well received by our users.”

Abhay, like most of the people I talk to at Cisco, says collaboration has to be an ecosystem.

“It is almost impossible that there is going to be a single vendor that is providing collaboration services across the entire world.”

Unlike what we’ve seen with productivity apps where we have Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint pretty much used universally, Abhay believes collaboration isn’t (and will not become) that.

“It’s almost impossible for something like that to happen in real-time collaboration as there are so many players in the market. You are going to have meetings on different platforms, especially as you work with external parties.”

Webex is an open and interoperable platform

On working with companies using different platforms, Abhay describes Webex as open and interoperable. And he says it has to be that way so the end user wins.

“From a competition perspective, if you make the end user’s life easier, competition takes care of itself.”

I wanted to know whether Abhay thought other players in the collaboration market would follow suit and move everything to a single app. For example, Slack remains focused on messaging. Though the Salesforce acquisition of Slack may change that.

Citing multiple different markets, Abhay sees a way for best of breed to still exist.

“Some knowledge workers want a calling, messaging, and meetings platform. Others only need one or two bits. Then there are other verticals and worker types like frontline or deskless workers.”

In fact, we know there are over two billion frontline workers in the world. They don’t all need a complete collaboration solution so space remains for best of breed apps.

Integrating best of breed apps

When people use multiple apps together, Abhay says that emerging technologies, like Mio and other Webex partners, are doing some really important work to make users’ lives easier.

Promo picture for Abhay Kulkarni and Jack Ahn
“Enterprises will always be consolidating towards a single app but the reality is different departments will always need separate apps.”

To accommodate these other apps, Abhay highlights that the Webex platform is built on rock-solid APIs and SDKs that span across calling, messaging, meetings, and contact center.

Webex launched its own app framework in 2020 and even has a dedicated site “Webex for Developers.

But you don’t need to be a developer to take advantage of the Webex APIs.

For example, you can connect Webex and Microsoft Teams without doing any heavy lifting. The same is true for connecting Webex to Slack or to Zoom.

Abhay says the openness of the platform reflects the culture of the entire Cisco company.

Cisco culture and Webex rebrand

“I’m seeing amazing things that we have done with partners (not just resellers). And it’s these technology partners that keep us honest.”

Abhay compares Cisco’s partner background to what Zoom is executing now.

“If you look at Zoom, it was mostly direct sales. Its channel strategy is still not clear to me as I do not think partners benefit a lot from Zoom.”

In the collaboration industry, there is a history of competing with the owner of the service you are reselling. Something Abhay has always been keen to avoid.

I asked Abhay whether the rebrand of Webex and the unifying of the two apps was coincidental and whether it genuinely feels like a “new Webex.”

“I hope it feels like a new Webex for everyone.”

Abhay tips his hat to Aruna Ravichandran and her marketing team.

“We wanted to show we are on the front edge of innovation and a fresh brand image really helps.”

The future of Webex

Hybrid work is the future, according to Abhay.

“There will be intense innovation to solve real hybrid working problems. We must make sure that we power the full collaboration experience no matter where people are. They may be an introvert or extrovert. They may have disabilities or special requirements. We need to make sure we continue to develop features to enable everyone to work.”

Abhay also highlights the importance of emerging technologies like 5G and SD-WAN that will give more people access to Webex than ever before.

With all this in mind, Abhay concludes by announcing that every month for the next few quarters, Webex will be delivering new features and capabilities.

The future of Webex is open and interoperable. The future of Webex is innovative and accessible.

The future of Webex is the new Webex.

Next in the series: Webex Partner Ecosystem with Justin Ramirez

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