December 14, 2022

Article
5 min

CDW Delivers at the Cisco Partner Innovation Challenge

CDW gains major insights, works with emerging tech and creates customer solutions during Cisco’s annual challenge.

Mike Robinson

The Partner Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Cisco, is designed to drive awareness and adoption of Cisco Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) across the global Cisco partner community. CDW has participated in the Partner Innovation Challenge for all five years of its existence.

Through the challenge, Cisco strives to:

  • Accelerate partner-developed applications that will add value on top of any existing Cisco technology
  • Encourage partners to foster a culture of innovation and accelerate programmability skills
  • Drive partners to create new programmability business use cases for Cisco solutions
  • Accelerate the creation of partner programmability practices that include Cisco

The goal for every submission is to create an original and innovative solution to solve a business problem using Cisco Programmable Technology.

CDW has built different teams for each of the five years of the challenge. Our teams have consisted of technical architects, network engineers, solution architects, managers, collaboration engineers and directors, to name a few. Each year we attempt to integrate as many emerging technologies as we can into a single solution to solve a business problem.

Turning Ideas into Solutions

Every idea is formed by perspective. Therefore, we believe it’s best to cull ideas from all areas of the company for the broadest perspective on the most pressing technological needs. We ask for ideas from anyone in the company and review each for the most interesting and viable solution.

Five years is a significant milestone, so let’s look back on the solutions we submitted.

Personal Assistant

The goal of this solution was to provide a personal assistant experience in a 1:1 space within Cisco Webex Teams (as it was called then). The personal assistant bot served basic functionality for all employees, such as retrieving emails and IT support features, as well as customized features based on job title. For example, a network engineer could access Cisco’s DNA Center to perform duties within Webex Teams, such as checking device status.

Having a vast array of information and the ability to manage meetings in one portal is a huge time saver for end users. Within Webex Teams, the personal assistant bot could:

  • Schedule meetings
  • Verify upcoming appointments
  • View most recent emails
  • Find office location information
  • Make IT support requests
  • Perform knowledge base searches

This idea finished in the top 5 in the 2018 contest.

Building Management Suite

The goal of this solution was to provide a total building management suite with an emphasis on eco-friendliness. By using the building management suite, we believed there would be large cost savings, a noticeable amount of time savings and the ability to run reports to monitor activity.

Our thought was building owners needed to see significant cost savings from automated temperature and heating/cooling controls and have a peace of mind regarding security. Employees needed to be able to seamlessly find EV parking, schedule meetings and meet visitors without issue. With this solution, visitors would remember how pleasant it was to check in, meet with their party and easily connect to Wi-Fi.

Among the features the building management suite provided:

  • Meeting room management
  • EV parking
  • Door security
  • Visitor management
  • Reporting

This idea finished in first place out of 156 entries in 2019.

Device Dashboard

The idea behind this solution first sprung from the increase in employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulty in managing devices throughout the organization. The Device Dashboard provides historical reporting and near real-time visibility into connectivity issues affecting Cisco collaboration endpoints registered to Cisco Unified Communications Manager or the Webex cloud. The application collects data from the call control platforms on a regular schedule and provides intuitive analytic visualizations, enabling support teams to quickly identify large-scale issues and isolate user-specific connectivity events.

This solution met multiple business needs, including the ability to:

  • Extract useful and actionable information related to outages from a large volume of log data
  • Categorize events in useful ways to expose difficult to see trends and relationships
  • Provide a single view of all collaboration endpoints across all call control platforms
  • Provide basic alerting capabilities based on configurable thresholds
  • Provide quick and easy access to the most useful information over multiple channels

The Device Dashboard entry finished in the top 5 in 2020.

Inclusive Healthcare

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became obvious that the healthcare industry was going to become overloaded with patients. This solution attempted to alleviate the issue of long lines at health facilities by using a virtual assistant to automate patient intake, triage and diagnosis.

The value of this solution can be experienced by the patient, the healthcare provider and society as a whole:

  • With a low barrier to receiving first-level care, the patient could overcome hesitancy to seek treatment due to geographic and/or financial constraints
  • Healthcare professionals would be able to effectively diagnose, treat and monitor patients remotely, thereby driving higher efficiencies in the healthcare system
  • Society would benefit by extending healthcare into medically underserved communities

This solution finished in second place in 2021.

Clearly there was no shortage of creative solutions to choose from and we are very happy to know Cisco agrees with us that anything is possible when it comes to creating innovative ideas using emerging technology. The 2022 Cisco Partner Summit takes place Nov. 1-3, and we will anxiously await the results of our entry. 

While participating in the challenge, CDW has gained valuable knowledge into emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition and machine learning, as well as working with multiple Cisco and non-Cisco platforms. We pride ourselves on learning as many new technologies as possible while continuing to focus on the technologies widely used today. This ensures we can deliver on any solution our customers demand.

The challenge illustrates how people with different backgrounds can collaborate and come up with an innovative idea and how each person can contribute something to the final product. Our entries into the challenge have been true team efforts with everyone participating equally over the course of building the collateral while also concentrating on regular job duties. The process of ideation CDW follows can be replicated either internally within CDW, or in brainstorming sessions with our customers that drive real business outcomes.

What can CDW deliver for you?


Story by Mike Robinson. Mike has more than 20 years of IT experience in the collaboration space with a focus on automation. Creating software for engineers and customers to streamline workflows are examples of his most recent endeavors.