At CDW we solve a lot of collaboration technology problems for our customers. But we are also intense adopters ourselves.

In fact, one of the reasons we are so good at addressing customers’ collaboration issues is that we have encountered many of them personally. And one of the reasons we’re so passionate about collaboration technology is that we experience its benefits first-hand every day.

Spark-ing Productive Conversations

A prime example of CDW’s Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) Practice internal use of collaboration is Cisco Spark. For those of you who don’t know, Spark is a great tool for setting up persistent virtual “meeting rooms” for teams to engage in secure, end-to-end encrypted conversations and share relevant content about specific topics. You can connect with people in different ways — and the conversations can include both video and messaging.

In our case, we’ve primarily focused on collaborating around customer pre-sales efforts. We have a Spark meeting room where our pre-sales solution architects can exchange insights and quick ad-hoc questions with each other. It was important for us to create this room, because that particular constituency tends to be very “heads down” on whatever technical challenge they need to solve at any given moment. By guiding pre-sales architects into conversation with each other, we are more quickly and consistently propagating high-value technical experiences from the field across the company.

Just as important, we are resolving problems in just minutes that previously would have taken us several days to work through via email. That’s because Spark’s secure and speedy messaging is much more of a pervasive real-time medium than email. Also, with Spark, new participants in a conversation can quickly scan recent comments and jump into the fray.

It was in just such a room that we gathered our technical and user experience feedback about Spark (which at that time was still known as “Project Squared”). It allowed us to not only provide product evaluation and feedback to Cisco’s product team but also greatly accelerate our engagement with the group, thereby helping shape the current and future Spark people-centric user experience.

Information Exchange – Fast

We also use Spark to set up rooms with customers so we can quickly and efficiently exchange information with multiple account shareholders — and get immediate feedback about whether we are on the right track.

One of the most exciting ways we are making that happen is by extending the conversation when an initial WebEx Meeting concludes. In the past, that would have resulted in follow-ups via email, which often take days before everyone has a chance to respond after wading through their mountains of email. Now we are leveraging the native APIs within Spark to sync the mobile iOS Calendar client to instantly create a new Spark room with all of the participants in the WebEx Meeting with a single click from the Spark client. Now we are extending the conversation after the WebEx meeting concludes within seconds, hence greatly fast tracking our post meeting collaboration efforts.

Another excellent example of Spark adding immense value is during trade shows such as Cisco LIVE or Enterprise Connect. We use Spark where we have a lot of people who have to coordinate a lot of activity in a very compressed time frame. Spark, with its Box integration, helps keep everyone at the event stay securely connected up to the second while enabling the team to share important information such as meeting agendas and notes during the trade show.

Uptake and Upsides

One of the big upsides of Spark is that it cuts down on email. Anyone who uses email a lot can attest: It can also be confusing and “noisy” when multiple recipients get into the act. Spark reduces that noise-to-signal ratio considerably.

We’ve also seen Spark lead to increased use of video communication. Essentially, what happens is that an ad-hoc room discussion brings us to a point where it’s time to stop typing and establish a quick real-time voice and video meeting. In those situations, it’s a simple ‘click’ to escalate from the chat session to a secure and frictionless real-time voice and video meeting.

Of course, like any other new tool, Spark introduces change — and not everyone embraces change immediately or enthusiastically. This makes adoption a process rather than an event.

But no change occurs without a catalyst — and Spark has turned out to be a great catalyst for CDW’s UC&C Practice. That’s why we encourage customers to start piloting collaboration tools like Spark sooner, rather than later.

Today’s organizations have to be more agile, more innovative and more intentional about promoting the full-on engagement of their best and brightest people. Collaboration tools like Cisco Spark do exactly that. We know, because we’re living it. Reach out below to comment or to request more information and learn more about the unified communications and collaboration solutions that we offer.