The innovative and mobile-centric Cisco Spark is described by Cisco as a simple, secure and complete communication and collaboration service, delivered from the Cisco Collaboration Cloud.
Providing all the messaging, meeting and calling capabilities needed for organisations to collaborate with anyone, anywhere and anytime, you would be mistaken not to at least question why Cisco would be putting efforts into a new service that is competing in the same space as their long-standing and hugely successful Cisco WebEx.
And whilst Spark provides most of the features available within WebEx, it also demonstrates a huge array of additional features designed for today’s mobile “anytime, anywhere” world.
“WebEx on Steroids” is one of the descriptions we’ve heard in the past few weeks, from an avid WebEx user who has recently glanced at Spark. So what makes it so? What’s the difference between the two, and why would long term WebEx customers now be opening their arms to the world of Spark?
Meetings vs Workspaces
In the physical, traditional working world, people and teams have work and projects to complete. We go to work in offices with many types of workspaces – perhaps a combination of open plan desks areas, large meeting rooms and small huddle spaces. We have meetings with our teams, about our work and projects, in a workspace. There’s probably a reception, a loo and a water cooler too.
When it comes to WebEx and Spark in this scenario, WebEx is providing for the “meeting” part. Spark is providing the “workspace” part. In fact, Senior Analyst at Wainhouse Research, Andrew Nilssen, describes WebEx as “a platform for online, real-time meetings,” with Spark “focused on virtualising the team workspace”.
“Spark is much more of a free-flow collaboration environment as opposed to a strictly meeting environment”
– Nilssen, Wainhouse Research
However within a workspace is where meetings take place. Spark workspaces provide not just a space for working but a space with all the tools needed today for efficient meetings to take place too – HD video, integration with meeting room systems and whiteboarding, content sharing & presentations, audio integration, chat, mobile calendar and contacts, file sharing, and even integration with WebEx users. So why would you work, chat and share content within Spark, and then move to a different tool for your meetings? With one button to click to transform a simple chat into a live HD Video meeting, you could just meet within the Spark platform itself. Much more simple, efficient and productive, if you ask me.
Today’s teams are mobile. Remote workers, home workers, people on the go, working from lots of different locations at different times. Teams are separate, based in different offices, or different countries. Many organisations have distributed supply chains or manufacturing plants, provide services a wide reaching customer base, or require skills from different experts and specialists at different times.
Therefore organisations need virtual team spaces that are always accessible and on, even if people are not physically together. A shared space where projects can live and everyone can meet and share on a team-by-team and project-by-project basis.
Spark has been designed around being mobile, rather than trying to change and modify a platform that has not. By providing a space in the Cisco Collaboration Cloud and enabling all devices to connect into it, it doesn’t matter what device you use, your collaboration space is central for everyone, anywhere to connect into and pick up where they left off.
Video and Integration
From a video point of view, we have to admit, we’ve never been huge supporters of WebEx. In comparison to other Cisco software or hardware that we have worked with and integrated with from Cisco in the past 15 years, it has never really cut the mustard. The likes of Jabber Video for Telepresence (previously Movi) at the desktop and Cisco and Tandberg meeting room endpoints all oozed superior video quality, but our teams have always felt WebEx had emerged from “the other side” (as apposed to the video & collaboration faction of the Cisco business) and for those who have grown up in the Video Collaboration world, we wanted and needed something that little bit more.
We feel differently about Spark. It’s got the functionality and features for team collaboration, with the quality of video and communications that we’ve been wowed by from Cisco in the past.
Neat integration with the sleek and stylish Cisco MX series room systems, the SX devices and the DX desktop solutions that are now built to work directly with Spark. Apps and software designed around a fantastic video experience, whilst not neglecting the key features needed for team collaboration. Intuitive meeting room technologies with the Spark Board and Intelligent Proximity for simple face-to-face interaction and meeting control. And content accessed straight from the virtual meeting space whichever room you are in, shared with your whole team, wherever they may be.
WebEx still has it’s place…
From what we are hearing from Cisco and the WebEx world, it still has it’s place, and don’t expect Spark to replace WebEx anytime in the near future. Spark hasn’t been created for large web conferencing, for large corporate streams and major participant management, and WebEx Training Centre and WebEx Support Centre (see a WebEx comparison here) are designed for ways of working that Spark just hasn’t been designed to replace.
However we also recognise that many organisations aren’t actually look for that kind of functionality. Organisations need improved ways of communicating between teams and on projects, ways to improve collaboration, integrate Video into the meeting space, make remote meetings simple and intuitive for everyone, and not, in general, solutions for major corporate announcements.
… But if you’re looking for Better Overall Team Collaboration…
Then we’d suggest to start taking a look at Spark and understanding it’s features. For team collaboration, the Spark service enables:
- One-to-one messaging & group chat
- Virtual Meeting Rooms
- Web, audio and video conferencing meetings
- Before, during and after-meeting messaging and content sharing
- Scheduled & unscheduled catch ups
- Join from home, branch, mobile or room based Video Conferencing systems
- PSTN in the cloud (coming soon) with one-touch directory dialing, single number reach & voicemail
Will WebEx remain in the mix for years to come? Are you a WebEx user yourself? Have you been awaiting a tool that connects your WebEx with your meeting rooms systems? We’d like to hear from you and feel free to pop us a message to chat in more detail about what Spark, or WebEx, could do for you, or to arrange to see Spark in action alongside the new Spark Board.