It’s difficult to overstate how important communication is in the era of the distributed workforce. Yet when it comes to remote collaboration, too many organizations rely on a brittle collection of point solutions that can frustrate efforts to work together over voice, text, video and shared digital environments. The result is predictable: Workers often default to the least painful option of scheduling an audio-only conference call or sending an email rather than initiating a video call or leveraging other business messaging tools. In addition, users think of a scheduled meeting as the only interaction where thoughts and ideas can be exchanged. Work that occurs after a meeting ends is typically sharing documents via email.

The solution is to support collaboration as a spectrum, rather than a collection of discrete tools and events. This is something Cisco Systems does well with its Spark collaboration platform, and the impact it can have on productivity is profound. One of Cisco Spark’s greatest strengths is how it supports the “perpetual meeting” in that it provides effective collaboration both before and after a scheduled meeting.

Features That Empower Collaboration

Cisco Spark allows interaction to scale seamlessly, from persistent messaging to voice and video calls to multiparty conferences and shared digital assets. Users can shift their interactions along this spectrum of communication and collaboration with the simple press of a finger, from any device, be it a smartphone or a dedicated room-based conference system.

Cloud-Based Calling

Spark features a cloud-based phone system that offers all the capabilities of a traditional on-premises private branch exchange, while mobile users enjoy a seamless call experience via the Spark mobile app. Integration with Active Directory via application programming interfaces (APIs) and support for Cisco IP Phone handsets make placing calls as easy as clicking a button on a screen.

Always-On Group Messaging

The problem with traditional instant messaging (IM) clients is that they focus on one-to-one conversations. Cisco Spark messaging is tuned to the needs of agile users who interact as a team on a shared task by setting up persistent, secure virtual spaces where they can exchange messages and share files. Conversations can be elevated to a video call or face-to-face meeting with a single click.

Easy, Scalable Video Meetings

Spark makes it easy to create, join and engage in multiparty meetings, whether from a smartphone, a home or office PC, dedicated video conferencing setup in a meeting room, or from a Cisco Spark Board, an interactive, digital whiteboard that enables rich interaction and data capture. Spark meetings can be linked from any Spark message space, making it easy for participants to join with a simple click. As many as 25 users can engage in a basic meeting within the Spark client software, while advanced meetings in the discrete WebEx client can host up to 200 participants.

File Sharing

Spark streamlines the sharing of documents, files and other assets with team members by making them available within the team space established for message traffic or video meetings. Face-to-face meetings also benefit from the Cisco Spark Board.

Bringing It All Together

It’s one thing to address the entire spectrum of collaboration activities, but it takes robust integration to make it work well. Cisco Spark provides integration via APIs that enable it to tap into Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory for rich calendar and contact interaction. These APIs open the doors for developers to extend and improve the experience, making it possible to automate workflows and further break down barriers to interaction.

Selecting a collaboration platform is a big deal. It affects every corner of an organization and determines how work gets done. By addressing collaboration as a spectrum, IT managers improve the chances of a successful deployment, as noted in my colleague Brian Dixon’s post on how to get the most out of collaboration solutions in the work-anywhere age. But simply selecting the correct platform is only half the battle. Just as important is having a solid adoption plan that addresses not only end-user enablement, but also provides analytics to measure business outcomes.

To learn more about how CDW’s solutions and services can enable seamless collaboration among a distributed workforce, visit CDW.com/collaboration

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