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IBM and Cisco are sneaking artificial intelligence into the workplace

As early as 2007, IBM and Cisco realised that two technology giants might be better than one in the increasingly fast race to create the next enterprise tech that businesses can’t live without.

While back then it was about unified communications and apps, today the pair are combining the power of IBM’s big data analysis engine Watson with Cisco’s at-work software to offer clients “next-generation, intelligent collaboration”.

It’s hoped that, combined, they will be able to offer companies the ability to pull together structured and unstructured data from any part of their business – and then make it useful.

Some key tasks the pair have suggested they might ‘revolutionise’ are scheduling and note-taking, with a promise the tech will “proactively bring people and content together”.

That’s whether you’re using Cisco Spark or WebEx, IBM Verse or Connections.

The companies have no doubt got their eyes on the growing number of off-the-shelf enterprise platforms out there, with the transformation of work now being pushed by the likes of Facebook, as well as startup darlings, like Slack.

“The irony of many workforce tools available today is that with because there are so many to choose from, they can reduce employee effectiveness,” says Inhi Cho, GM of IBM Collaboration Solutions.

Which no doubt speaks to CIOs trying to stop the millennials in the office from doing whatever the hell they like.

Of course, companies like Facebook and Slack were but a glint in the eye of their founders when Cisco started out in heavy-duty networking three decades ago. And none of this was possible when 100-year-old IBM first hit the market.

But that does mean they can act fast.

While IBM has successfully shed less profitable parts of its business as it’s moved away from hardware towards software, Cisco has made tens of acquisitions over the last decade to round out its armoury.

This is, of course, the second collaboration announced by the pair this month, with the combination of IBM’s powerful data analytics and Cisco’s remote networking ‘fog computing’ kit promised for big IoT projects.

Cisco’s wider industry partnerships made headlines already in June too, with Apple using its WWDC conference to show off how Cisco Spark will be deep-integrated into iOS 10. IBM’s also working with sometime rival Apple on its enterprise tech.

Who said this was a competition anyway..?