The world today is fundamentally different than it was just a decade ago. I remember when Cisco gave us a sneak peak at their first video TelePresence product in Silicon Valley right around the same time.
They took half of my team into one room that initially looked like a professional home theatre, and the other group into another similar room. When they turned on the system and we saw our peers sitting across the table from us on three large 60” screens, it was hard to believe.
Since then, not only has video conferencing come a long way but so has industry disruption. We now have to adopt agile frameworks and continuously improve our teams and businesses at the speed of light in order to stay competitive and relevant in this digital economy.
This is why I am ecstatic about the release of Cisco Spark (formerly Project Squared). I was quite skeptical about the Beta version when it was delivered last year. But once I installed the app and started my first conversation, I knew it would be a big deal. Still, I had no idea it would completely change the way I work and communicate with my teams. Welcome to the new era in collaborative technologies.
Cisco Spark delivers a modern, clean collaborative experience which is the direct result of combining the best audio/video/web conferencing, presence, unified communications, video telepresence and a rich cloud platform built specifically for collaboration. Spark’s interface is clean, crisp, modern, simplistic and jam-packed with collaborative features. Some of them include:
- Group Messaging: Start a new conversation by inviting coworkers into a virtual room, send continuous group messages back and forth on any device or a browser
- Document Sharing: Share a document or an image with Box integration natively within the Spark UI
- Video Conferencing: Spark has an instant video conferencing feature called ’Sync Up’ which allows breaking out a room into an instant video conference in HD
- Security: Every conversation is encrypted end-to-end
While the list seems minimalistic, the impact is overwhelming. Just last month, I wanted to get my team together quickly to ask their opinion on a pending IEEE standard. I was in my car, parked right outside my favorite coffee shop. So I clicked one button in Spark, which notified the other two coworkers in the room that I wanted to do a Sync Up. Within seconds, we were in a 3-way, full HD video conference.
Moments later, I was able to open a PowerPoint file so everyone could collaborate in real-time – on my iPhone! I was dumbfounded by the audio and video quality. I was on AT&T LTE in Chicago; another coworker was using Google Starbucks Wi-Fi in Los Angeles while the other was using Wi-Fi at his home in Detroit. This is the real deal and it doesn’t really click until you actually use this technology.
Today, at Enterprise Connect, I watched Rowan Trollope, SVP & GM, Collaboration Technology Group at Cisco Systems, show us the final shipping version of Cisco Spark. He mentioned that Spark helped him reduce email conversations. In fact, he even had the analytics to prove this. I’ll admit, I’ve seen my team’s email reduce significantly, but what’s really important is that we are having more meaningful and real-time conversations than ever before. After having used this tool in Beta for months, I can’t imagine life without it.
But there is a lot more to come. We were part of the Early Field Trial (EFT) with Cisco since early 2014, so we continue to help provide active feedback to develop the product further. But as Rowan previewed today, there is a lot more to come from Spark.
Try it out at ciscospark.com and ping us if you need assistance.