It’s been a year since Apple and Cisco Systems announced their partnership to “transform business through mobility,” so what’s come of that pairing?  There has been a considerable amount of collaborative innovation.

The companies have worked together to build in the necessary integration for devices running the Apple iOS 10 operating system and Cisco network and collaboration platforms to provide a greatly improved user experience.

The integration between iOS and the Cisco network turns on Wi-Fi optimization and prioritization for business-critical apps. For Cisco collaboration, iOS 10 enables Cisco Spark (and soon Cisco Jabber) to provide first-class voice and video calling experiences on iOS devices.

Over the summer, more than 30 customers and partners participated in Cisco’s Early Field Trial (EFT) to help Apple and Cisco refine their solution and deliver high-caliber collaboration capabilities for enterprise mobility. CDW also participated in the EFT, and we are excited to see where this will lead next in real-world environments.

The Way We Were

One thing missing from the articles and blog posts touting these new capabilities and enhanced performance is much talk about the previous user experience (UX) of Cisco applications on iOS devices, particularly Cisco Jabber or Spark. It’s worth noting because it helps illustrate why the new capabilities resulting from the partnership are so important.

Prior to iOS 10, the UX for Cisco Jabber and Cisco Spark on the iPhone was not ideal. These collaboration applications included functions such as instant messaging and persistent chat, but they could also connect back to other services on an organization’s Cisco network and collaboration platform. This gave users the ability to make and receive phones calls, voice and video while using the Cisco apps.

But it was difficult to simply answer a call, much less tap other services. If you were using a Cisco app on an iPhone, you would think the ability to answer a call would be easy. But it wasn’t. This oftentimes led to poor user adoption.

Additionally, the Voice over IP functionality on the Wi-Fi connection often resulted in dropped calls as well as poor audio and video quality. The UX was inconsistent. Unless you were a fairly knowledgeable user, with the wherewithal to look and see if you had an optimum Wi-Fi connection, after a few attempts (and failures) you just wouldn’t try to use the app for calls anymore.

In my job working with customers on collaboration projects, the question came up often: Why can’t users with iOS devices on our Cisco network have a better user experience?

I understood full well their frustration. CDW, like many businesses, uses a mobile device management system for its mobile devices. To answer a call on my iPhone using Cisco Jabber or Spark, I had to slide the home screen tab, enter my personal identification number, launch the app and (finally, sigh) answer the phone. That took six or seven swipes and clicks. I could rarely do it fast enough to answer before the caller hung up or the call was sent to voicemail.

Less Stress, More Use

But with iOS 10, Apple created a new application programming interface called CallKit. This new framework lets developers such as Cisco tap into the phone’s native call application allowing users to view and interact with Cisco Jabber or Spark calls from the iOS device’s lock screen.

So what does that mean? Now, if I receive a Spark phone call on my phone running iOS 10, I answer it just as if I would a normal phone call. I hit the answer button — no more swipe, swipe, click to answer a call.

Going forward, IT managers now can trust that their Cisco network and collaboration platforms will effectively support users of iOS devices. But that’s just the first step. The IT team must ensure users have the right mobile solutions for their work needs. That’s something we can help with — orchestrating a solution that encompasses the multiple practices and technologies within an organization.

An organization also must have the right version of an app, the right licensing installed on its Cisco Communications Manager, as well as the right level of code and design on its Wi-Fi network. Then, it’s equally important to drive user adoption and monitor performance. Beyond creating a training initiative, an organization will want to craft a plan to measure how well its mobile program is helping it achieve desired business outcomes.

Yes, the hard work by Cisco and Apple is promising. They have taken the baby steps; now the rest of us can run.

Want to learn more about Cisco Spark’s capabilities? Read how Spark can help your IT team create useful bots in this blog post and also this post.

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