"In my last blog, I explained why Cisco Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark) is the only online collaboration tool you need. My latest blog builds on this and looks at how Cisco’s heritage is written into the DNA of Webex Teams, delivering a quality immersive video experience that bonds people together."
If you have been around the industry for a while then you'll get a certain sense of déjà vu with the quote, "This is the year video becomes pervasive". You’d be forgiven for perhaps being a little cynical too. Video, and specifically video conferencing, have a reputation of being a dark art.
To steal a phrase from my friend Toby Ellis at Cisco:
"Dialling a video call required the very special skills of strange magical little bearded people hidden away in back rooms in the basement. These beardy-weirdies could conjure up different call qualities with their mastery of combining different sets of numbers and characters…"
Previously the cost and complexity of such systems relegated their deployment to the large boardroom and the corner office. The benefits of video enabled "visual" communication seem now well accepted, suffice to say, the more everyone is able to use it, the greater those benefits to the organisation.
The consumer video experience is driving demand, and expectation…
We shouldn't under estimate how the consumer experience is driving demand. My 18 year old daughter has just left home to go University. For years my wife shunned the Smartphone, she just wanted a phone that made telephone calls, the thought of a video call horrified her. A few years ago I forced my old iPhone 4 into her hands when I got a new device. Not only did the a whole new world of the internet open up in her hands, but fast forward to today, and she’s regularly using Facetime to catch-up with my daughter and can actually see how she is rather than just hear her.
Let's pick up on the analogy of the Project or "War" room as outlined in Danny Steventon's recent blog. Remember the room was where the project lived, the place where stuff got done. It was also the place where actual meetings would happen – where people would gather to meet face-to-face in real time. Not everyone would attend every meeting – sometimes they would be scheduled, sometimes they would be ad-hoc, sometimes it would just be impromptu discussion between those who were in the room at that particular time. These real time interactions were vital for bouncing ideas around, brainstorming, getting feedback, sharing and discussing ideas, or working out how to address problems.
This real time communication element is missing from a number of the players in the Team Messaging market where their focus was originally just on asynchronous chat. For others it was only added later as an afterthought or delivered via some integration into another service.
Cisco’s heritage in video conferencing, makes Webex Teams (formerly Cisco Spark) the natural way to communicate
Given Cisco’s heritage with Webex, it isn't surprising that with Webex Teams, this native capability was baked in from the very beginning as a core capability.
Furthermore, although we might have virtualised the old project room concept, the physical meeting room still forms part of the landscape. There would still be people who gather in an office in one or more separate locations that need to get together as a team to meet with others who are remote.
Cisco adopted the mantra "It's just a Meeting" - a meeting you join from wherever you are, whatever network you happen to be on, whatever device you happen to have access to at that point in time.
For those walking the floors at the recent Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando you would have done well to avoid the topic of "Huddle Rooms". Smaller meeting rooms where teams gather to collaborate and work together.
Whilst video technology might have been put into the larger rooms, these smaller rooms remained largely barren in terms of technology deployment due to the cost and complexity. Some would try and bolt together high end web cams and USB speakerphones with a PC and a large TV screen, in the hope that this might solve the problem. It didn’t – all it did was give the users a poor experience that got in the way of a productive and engaging meeting.
Once again Cisco’s video heritage ensured that with Webex Teams, this was considered from the very start. You can choose from a range of purpose built endpoints to suit the room size and layout – give them some power, plug them into a network (wi-fi or wired), register them to the cloud and away you go.
Further, the talk is now around "Ideation" - the provision of a digital environment for the generation, development and communication of ideas and concepts. Digital whiteboards are nothing new but stand-alone systems simply replaced a plastic surface with a screen that you didn't need to take a picture of to capture it.
Collaboration happens in a continuum
Asynchronous and synchronous, virtual and physical - collaboration happens in a continuum, not in discrete chunks dictated by someone reserving a room or sending out an agenda. Meeting is part of an organic, ongoing connection between people that bonds them together.
That's what's delivered by Cisco Webex Teams.