It is challenging to provide an objective road test of new technology without appearing to jump on the bandwagon. However, the industry buzz around how Spark is changing the way teams collaborate is genuinely well deserved!
What’s new is Cisco Spark Board - it combines digital whiteboarding, communications, file-sharing, wireless presentation, and video conferencing. It’s a slimline wall screen typically mounted in the meeting room, but it’s the seamless connectivity to BYO-devices running Cisco Spark that enables a seamless workflow before, during and after project team meetings.
Shared online spaces for teams to call, message, meet, create and do
Using disparate systems for communication, file-sharing, messaging and so on means that each member of a team often needs to search multiple systems to find and interact with project information. One of the obvious strengths of Spark is the ability to quickly and easily set up secure online shared spaces for any team. This enables you to store, access, search and interact with information and team members with everything in one place. If you are working on multiple projects you can simply click up and down the list of your Spark spaces to move between projects.
Cutting straight to the chase; digital white-boarding is a hallmark feature of Spark and the new Spark Board. It’s the real ‘wow factor’. It recaptures the familiarity of the traditional whiteboard that users know and love, whilst adding the intelligent collaboration features of the new digital age. And when users see it, they love it. Project any document, diagram or blank canvas on the digital whiteboard and any member of the team can draw on it. The digital whiteboard can be accessed on your laptop or tablet, whether you are in the room or remote. If you are in the room though you can also simply walk to a Spark Board interactive screen on the wall and draw with your finger while remote meeting participants anywhere on the globe instantly see what you draw. It instantly transforms meetings from one-way, passive chalk and talk sessions into true interactive collaboration.
Collaboration needs to continue after you walk out of a meeting. Spark helps there too. All communication related to a project is instantly available within the team’s shared Spark space. Any team member can initiate an instant chat session that is also saved so you can search and refer back to it in future (this is a unique feature different to Skype). This is particularly powerful when someone new joins the team and needs to get up to speed.
Chat threads are great for teams working different hours and different time-zones because people can easily scroll back through the chat history then add in where the discussion left off. When you need to talk though, Spark provides that too with the ability to click to call any member of the team. Again, your list of past calls is stored within the space for easy future reference when you are grappling with questions like “I spoke to someone about that last week, who was it?”
Video meetings with screen sharing
When team members need to communicate across departments or offices in other cities, that’s simple with Spark video meetings and screen sharing. Much as you would wander over to a colleague’s desk with your coffee in hand, you can initiate a video meeting in Spark, chat while you finish your coffee, and share your screen to discuss the latest draft of a key document. It is this seamless ability to transition from one work mode to another, all within the same team space, that sets Spark apart.
The old practice of draft first, then email, then wait for review feedback is not the path to success. Enabling teams to collaborate in a shared Spark space online, means that team members can access all team files, update, annotate and collaborate without ever needing to remember “Did I receive that document on email? Who sent it? Where did I save it?”
On personal devices and on the wall
Spark team spaces can be accessed on desktops, laptops and tablets. The ability to download free Spark software makes it easy to add team members who can interact with all of the features on their device of choice. That is powerful and it is a compelling reason to investigate Spark. If we’re honest though, it is the combination of all that with the newer Spark Board that is generating all the industry buzz. The large elegant slimline interactive screen wall-mounted in a meeting room creates a wow factor that gets people up out of their seats and actively interacting with information on screen. That collaboration is gold. And at a price-point in thousands, not tens of thousands, it’s obvious why it is causing a storm. For example, Cisco Spark Board headed off competition from Polycom, Plantronics, Vonage, BroadSoft and Genband to be awarded Best of Enterprise Connect 2017¹, one of the leading industry conferences for communications, mobility, cloud, and collaboration.
If you’d like more information, or to see a demonstration, contact the UC & Collaboration team at Matrix. You won’t be disappointed!