For 99.99 per cent of the history of human labour, work has been location dependent. From the fields to the factories and on into the modern office, earning an honest crust has meant being in a specific place at a specific time.
But that is all changing as we speak. Mobile technology has shown us that we can all stay connected no matter where we are. Now, with the emergence of cloud-based collaboration services, we are also seeing how we can stay productive wherever we are.
For Cisco’s Marcus Gallo, marketing lead for Cisco Spark, this cross over into the way people work is the most exciting transformation the UC industry has undergone. “[People] are working where their content is,” he said. “They want to have their content available wherever they are and for whomever they meet with.
“It’s all about enabling new ways of working, providing more collaborative environments. This is why we developed Cisco Spark. We combine meetings, messaging, and content amongst other things. We give people really powerful apps and capabilities to work together. Our customers are telling us that it gives them access to their content right where they are working, plus the ability to work on it together – regardless of whether they’re together or apart, in real-time or not. So we are all about providing that choice.”
Cisco has a name for this approach – the continuous workstream. It is an approach based on using communications tools and the architecture of UCaaS services to enable new, flexible ways of working.
“Businesses want better teamwork, they want more flexible workspaces, and they want to transform the way they work to drive innovation and growth. We think that is about not only being better connected but also working more effectively,” said Marcus.
“Digitisation is transforming the tools we use (the workplace) and the way we work together (workstreams) with organisational processes and with business process applications and tools. This is why we build the Cisco Spark Platform the way we did, and made it extensible.”
Integration is key to the concept of a continuous workstream. Marcus acknowledges that there are a lot of very good apps on the market which provide useful tools for improving communication and collaboration. But without taking a holistic approach, looking beyond the connection to see how the tools fit into wider business processes, Marcus believes the UC industry misses an opportunity to drive wider digital transformation.
“There are some really cool apps and services available today being driven by a thirst for agility and better, faster working,” he said. “Often users break away from sanctioned tools and use their own. While this may help them be more productive, it can come at a cost. It can expose risk and open up opportunities for data loss from an organisation.
“Also, one app may help with one workflow. Often people end up with lots of disconnected services that are unconnected to wider business processes, and outside any governance structure or visibility for support or compliance teams.”
One size doesn’t fit all
Marcus argues that a key point of difference with Cisco Spark is that it is designed to fit seamlessly within existing workstreams and wider operational structures, therefore providing the opportunity to improve and rationalise entire business processes.
“We built the Cisco Spark Platform with a view to providing a connected experience across all types of communication and with the ability to integrate with business process tools and services,” he said.
“I would encourage people to look deeper than the app. Look for app-centric services that can also integrate with what you have today and with what’s starting to emerge with exciting developments around VR and IoT.”
We know one size doesn’t fit all, so we have worked with the developer community to create an ecosystem and a broad range of APIs, SDKs, and Bots to enable users and programmers to easily integrate other tools and applications. The Cisco Spark Platform is open and extensible, enabling you to accelerate your digital business transformation with your own custom solutions and services.”
Marcus gives two examples of how this can work with the Cisco Spark Platform. “You can integrate Cisco Spark with apps you use every day to make Cisco Spark the hub for your teamwork, creating a rich collaboration experience. You can, for example, place a bot into a Cisco Spark space that can then be used to take action for the team, such as accessing information or asking another app to perform an action. Integrating with third party apps also means you don’t have to keep lots of different apps open all the time.
“The alternative is to embed Spark collaboration capabilities in other platforms. Cisco Spark APIs and SDKs can be used to embed collaboration services into any business process. You might, for example, program marketing campaign notifications so customers receive updates on deals, or set up appointment reminders so patients can confirm appointments.”
“For employees, this provides connections between communications and essential tools of the trade, so users benefit from seamless working across the tools that they use. For customers, you can embed collaboration into your service offerings so you can get closer to your audiences and become more responsive to their needs.”
Finally, Marcus adds that the integrated approach offered by Cisco Spark guarantees a much higher level of data security than the piecemeal use of lots of different applications.
“Cisco Spark has end-to-end data encryption. Just protecting data at rest isn’t sufficient. Neither is it adequate to just encrypt data in transit anymore – network taps are increasingly sophisticated, we know nation states are now up to this. So we took a different approach with Cisco Spark to ensure that data is encrypted before it leaves a user’s device and stays encrypted until an authorised user reads it – an authorised user who holds the encryption key. So, if anyone unauthorised gains access to any content through foul play, it’s useless because it is encrypted.”