There is no shortage of communication platforms and tools for businesses and users to choose from today. It ranges from consumer focused single use apps to enterprise-grade, feature-rich clients. While there is no shortage of options, a problem still remains. How do companies offer an exceptional collaboration experience for their users with the security and scalability required for business?

This is a problem that Cisco, a leading communications technology provider, recognized and set out to solve. Its answer: Cisco Spark, a new cloud-based collaboration platform that provides message, meet and call capabilities. Spark is secure by default (encryption is “on” and can’t be turned “off”) and delivers a consistent user experience across multiple platforms (mobile, desktop and endpoints).

As a technology architect for CDW, I am part of a team that has been directly involved in early field trials for this platform. Here’s a typical assessment of what I hear from some of the Spark users I’ve talked with: “It is evident that the real focus is on the user and the desire to make things simple yet powerful.”

Spark is already helping one of my clients solve a significant business problem. This startup in the marketing industry operates two offices that are geographically separate, but high-touch communications are essential for its business. Company managers installed a Spark-powered video system in conference rooms at each location. When coworkers need to meet, they simply message one another on the Spark app and walk to their respective conference room. Thanks to Cisco’s proximity feature and ultrasonic technology, the mobile app and video endpoint, which is running in the cloud, are securely paired. In an instant, coworkers located in two different cities are meeting “face to face,” showing content on whiteboards and interacting as if they were in the same room.

 

Simple, Yet Sophisticated

I think what makes Spark stand out among a crowded field of cloud-based collaboration solutions is that it’s easy to use, while providing high-quality audio and video interactions. Spark’s mobile app and IP phones give users a simple interface to the platform’s sophisticated features and enhance the user experience. For example, users can utilize the Spark mobile app on their smartphones to control video conferencing endpoints. Or they can use a mobile device to attend meetings remotely. The platform can also create virtual meeting rooms, enabling attendees from multiple areas to communicate via voice or video and share content from their desktops.

Use Your Imagination

Although Spark already offers many benefits, it’s only scratching the surface of its potential. We’re still early on (barely over a year old). I’ve been using the platform since its inception and have seen how far it’s come.

What people are getting most excited about are the application programming interfaces (APIs) that area being developed for Cisco Spark. APIs essentially enable developers to create custom apps that plug into and extend the Spark platform, providing an even better user experience that drive towards real business outcomes.  For example, an app could be integrated with a company’s customer relationship management system, allowing a user to instantly access data that’s relevant to a customer participating in a video conference. The user could then obtain detailed information about the customer’s purchase history and preferences to improve the results of the conference.

Ultimately, users are going to find that Spark’s true potential is limited only by their imagination and the realization of developers.

To learn more about cloud collaboration, check out this infographic on five ways it will help your teams work smarter.

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