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Level 5
Level 5

In the history of technology when a physical entity has been virtualized, it becomes the killer app of its time.  What's also interesting about these killer apps is they tend to be incredibly simple in what they do.  It's up to the people to use them to best suit their needs.

E-mail and Instant Messaging (IM) are virtualized forms of paper communications.  Before the advent of these new forms of digital communications you'd have to write a letter and it would be delivered by post.  If it were urgent you'd send by way of telegraph.  If you needed to communicate with the office, you'd dictate a memorandum, or "memo", which was then mimeographed and delivered intra/inter-office to a select list of recipients. E-mail and IM do nothing more then move a digital document from point A to points B-n.  The content of those documents is the responsibility of the person who has something to communicate.

The Private Branch eXhange (PBX) essentially virtualized the carrier and switchboard so companies could manage an internal system of phones.  Once you extend that capability with Voice over IP (VoIP) the entire physical telephone system including the patch panel is virtualized onto the data network.  The killer app feature of a virtualized phone network is the extended reach and range of the phone itself.  Wherever I am on the network, my phone number is with me.  The concept of add, move, delete goes away.

Not only is the telephony network virtualized, but so is the phone itself.  Your smartphone is not really a phone at all.  In fact, your smartphone is a pocket sized computer that's running a softphone on it.  A virtualized phone.  With a virtualized phone you can use any device as your phone; the smartphone in your pocket, the tablet next to you, or the computer sitting on your desk.  The softphone lets you use any device as your phone, but it only transmits your voice.  What you say is entirely up to you.

For the past several months I've been using Cisco Spark.  What Cisco Spark does is virtualize the meeting room and it does it for a purpose.  The purpose is to bring a team together to get things done.  Think about the last time you participated on, or heard about a "tiger team" in the workplace.  What typically happens is there's an event- a new competitive message or product, a requirement that can't be realized by development, or a need to strategize a move into a new market.  This event becomes the catalyst for putting together a tiger team that's tasked with the project of how to overcome the event.

The tiger team needs a place to work, so a meeting room is taken offline and turned into the "war room" for the tiger team.  The first order of business is to come up with a clever name for the tiger team and the project- such as Chupacabra.  On a regular basis "Team Chupacabra" meet in the "Chupacabra War Room" to collaborate, strategize, brainstorm, formulate a plan of action, and execute.  They talk in person, they post items to the wall or whiteboard, they share content, they use other avenues of communication to stay in touch such as e-mail, IM, voice and video calls when not meeting in person.  After the project completes the tiger team disbands and the war room is put back online to once again be a meeting room.  If it's been a successful project then members of the tiger team get a t-shirt with a clever logo and saying printed on it, so everybody knows they were involved.

Take that process and everything that goes with it and virtualize it.  I pull members for my tiger team from Active Directory (AD) and/or add external participants.  I create a room for us to work in, a virtual room with the appropriate name- "Team Chupacabra- Let's Save the Goats".  The members of the tiger team can now access our virtual war room from any device to post their thoughts.  They can upload content- documents, spreadsheets, images, and videos to name a few.  With a single press of a button they can join a synch-up with voice, video, and content share among some or all of the tiger team members.

I can now schedule synch-ups for regular real-time interactions, but I also allow members of the tiger team to contribute on their time, when they have ideas and input that's valuable to the project.  Other members can see and respond just as readily from any device.  The progress of the project keeps moving.  Since the rooms are virtual, as many as needed can be created and shared.  When the project is over and the goats have been saved the history remains in the room for those who want it, while others may choose to leave the room once the project is over.

Is this the next killer app?  I certainly think the idea of it is, but it's up to you how the rooms are used and what you do with them.  Register for a free account of Cisco Spark at and put it to use.  This is not a 30-day free trial, but rather a free account that is permanent, but has limitations on some features such as video synch-ups with a maximum of 3 participants.  While other features are fully available such as rooms and messaging.  Let me know what you think.  Where do you see value?  How can you use it?

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