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Walkthrough Wednesdays

External Collaboration - what if???


Email is the default/defacto mechanism for asynchronous communication between individuals and organisations - everyone has an email address whether it be business or personal and once I have your email address we can exchange email. There's no configuration to be done to connect us, all that magic happens across the internet - it just works! Well most of the time it does - occasionally emails will go missing, be caught by Spam Filters, blocked by firewalls etc. - but most of the time it just works and we rely on it.

In the Enterprise we augmented the communication channel (real time or near real time) with Jabber for Instant Messaging and Presence. Some of customers and partners started to use Jabber, others went with Microsoft Lync or IBM Sametime or some relied on "consumer" tools like Skype, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger.

Isn't it useful if you are working with some outside Cisco and you can get them on IM (rather than send them an email).

But here's the problem, most of the time these IM systems don't talk to each other, the standards they implement are different and even if there is a common standard it requires IT to federate the systems or deploy something like NextPlane to connect them. What works for one organisation probably doesn't work for the next so the cycle repeats, each time you work with different external organisation there's no guarantee you could talk to them via IM.

Now let's think about real time communication. If you've got their phone number you can call them, if they have your phone number they can call you - it just works.

But what happens if you decide it would be much better to have a video call - have they even got a video calling capability, even if they have can we make video calls between us?

We could always revert to WebEx - but what if the external party doesn't have WebEx, whilst they can join our WebEx Meetings they can't initiate themselves.

So what if there was another way to do this? A way;

  • by which we could simply engage with people outside our organisation without being tied to just email.
  • by which we augment the communication channel with persistent messaging and which included voice and video.
  • that doesn't require complex configuration or IT involvement.
  • that just works!

Wouldn't that be cool?

Well guess what - there is - and it's here today and it's called Cisco Spark!

How? Easy!

  1. Open up Spark and create a room with the person or people you want to communicate with. All you need is their email address and we all have one of those, right?
  2. They will get an email invite to use Spark - you might want to follow this up with a personal email or a quick call and ask them to install Spark. Or just have them point their web browser to
  3. They login to Spark and will see the room that you invited them to.

That's it! You are ready to go!

You can now chat in the Spark room, you can post content. How many times had they asked "Can I get the slides?".

Unlike IM the chats are persistent, so you no longer need to try and remember that IM conversation from last week that you didn't note down.

Want to talk over Voice/Video simply click this icon in the room.


If you are using the desktop client or a web browser and you join a Spark call and need to share your desktop then you can.

So next time you need to collaborate with either a person, or group outside of your organisation, think Spark and give it a go - it just works! - Oh and the by the way - for 3 or less people in a room it's all free!


Please post your comments and experiences if you try this out with your partners and with your customers.

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