Cisco Seeks to Reinvent Tech Ed and Skills Development with New SaaS Platform

Hands on a puzzle piece collaboration concept

Here's a new development worth monitoring. Cisco has just released Cisco Collaborative Knowledge, a cloud-based services offering that supports continuous learning, expert identification, social networking and digital mentoring, all in the context of enterprise knowledge exchange. CCK could change the way that organizations acquire, distribute and share knowledge. As such, it could be a major game changer!


Based on an ongoing, multi-year in-house development effort that builds on Cisco's multivariate expertise in network infrastructure, virtualization, mobile computing and online interactive communication/collaboration, CCK rolls up into one everything most organizations will need to create and share organizational knowledge and technical content. All that, and it's leavened with insight from, and interaction with, experts who truly know and understand the subject matters of interest to employees and partners.


Cisco announced CCK on Tuesday in a multi-pronged series of activities and information releases. You can read about the platform in a press release, or watch a cool YouTube video that explains how high school students in the NYC area will be able to use CCK to enhance and expand their access to STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) courses that go far beyond what's been available in the past. There's also a slideshare presentation of high-resolution images that show the interface for CCK in action around its primary functions and capabilities:


1) It starts with a home page where a user can browse what's available, or jump right into known assets at his or her disposal.

2) Next up, we see the My Connections page, which shows a Knowledge Map with links to people, content, and knowledge elements available to an example user, with a long laundry list of topics and subject matters available.

3) Collaboration features show up on a Mentoring page, which lists peers and experts to whom a community member can turn for input, insight and advice. Other elements include memberships, blogs, discussions, a Wiki library and an RSS feed to which users can subscribe.

4) Documents, videos, specifications, and other materials appear as entries in a Knowledge Library, where elements may be searched, browsed and read or viewed at a user's discretion; completion status for materials is also visible and current.

5) CCK supports mobile devices and access through the Cisco Mobile Knowledge portal, which makes all CCK materials, information and services available on mobile devices.

6) Users have individual profiles which include contact information, areas of knowledge and expertise, and learning plans that may be prescribed to support learning, upskilling, or reskilling. Colleagues and coworkers can find each other through these profiles, and users vote to recognize expertise (and award insight and assistance) from fellow community members.


What I'm seeing is a combination of an online forum, course delivery environment, content library, and mentoring or expert referral service, with everything rolled into a secure, controlled organizational knowledge management environment. That's why I was glad to hear that Cisco's early adopters included a mix of Fortune 500 companies, colleges and universities, and high-end global training companies.


As the afore-linked video that explores how CCK could be used at the New York Academy of Sciences illustrates, CCK has the potential to recast the educational landscape as we know it today, and to provide a powerful melding of hands-on, interactive access to people, materials and information. You get all of that with a state of the art assignment, tracking and monitoring system suitable for all kinds of scenarios, from outright academics to highly-focused commercial and technical training programs.


The real proof of the concept will have to come from successful adoptions and implementations. Cisco itself has been using CCK for over a year, and already reports significant gains in employee learning, especially for onboarding new employees and reskilling current employees whose jobs are scheduled for retirement, but whose presence is desired in other new technical job roles.


Business colleagues collaborating

I spoke to a handful of Cisco Learning Network representatives about the CCK environment on Tuesday, including Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, VP and GM; Tejas Vashi, Director of Product Strategy & Marketing (Cisco Services); Kathy Bries, Senior Director and GM; and Ryan Rose, Business Operations Manager. From them I learned that CCK works like a typical Software as a Service (SaaS) offering, in that companies buy in to acquire licenses for employees to use the platform (seats at the table, as it were).


The minimum buy-in for an annual subscription appears to be about $150,000, which might appear to put it out of reach for small businesses in general (1 to 10 employees), and even many medium-sized businesses (11 to 500 employees). The strong interest from academia and commercial training organizations could point to an opening, however, for such smaller organizations with limited means. There's a very good chance that they could buy into CCK-based offerings from Cisco Partners interested in using the platform to offer training, community and mentoring services to their customers.


The real effort in using CCK is the ramp up required to import and categorize the learning materials and content used to impart knowledge, and to build the communities and databases necessary to identify, authorize, and categorize the users who will put the system to work. That's why I was also pleased to hear that, for its own part, Cisco is already working with Pearson IT Certification (the company that handles Cisco Press and its raft of certification-centered books, videos, simulators and practice tests, along with its huge library of technical books, guides, and references for Cisco and general networking protocols, platforms, services, and technologies).


The promise of great things certainly inheres to CCK and it already appears to be working well for Cisco in-house. I will be fascinated to watch and learn how CCK works in other environments, and how well it fares in providing a general-purpose learning and collaboration environment to impart skills, knowledge and expertise to organizations of all kinds and sizes. Here's hoping that CCK turns out to truly be the kind of big deal that it potentially could be. Cheers!


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.