Sparking up a Conversation

Collaboration apps are gaining some traction in the market right now as constituent elements in the technology that supports many enterprise digital transformations so recent news that BT was boosting its own collaboration offering with Cisco’s Spark platform should have been no surprise.

Last month BT today announced the launch of their BT One Collaborate Spark, a new business collaboration service that allows teams to work together more intuitively and productively regardless of location and device used.
As you might expect the new service brings together the collaboration tools offered by Cisco Spark with the voice services of the BT One Cloud Cisco platform.

Cisco Spark is a hosted collaboration application, providing team messaging, online meetings, voice and video calling and interactive drawing. The service uses end-to-end encryption for added security and is provided on a ‘XaaS’ subscription model with customers paying per-user-per-month that allows services to be added on demand.

It is accessed via an app on desktop and mobile devices. On iOS, the service is available as a native application, meaning that calls are automatically routed via Spark rather than the public network. It can also be used on specialist desktop and room-based collaboration devices.

The perceived USP here is that the combination of Cisco Spark with the BT One Cloud Cisco platform’s voice services helps customers reduce costs by automatically routing calls via the One Cloud network, avoiding or reducing international call charges.

BT also offers the option of using Cisco Spark Board, a powerful new business collaboration device fully integrated into the One Cloud Collaborate Spark service. Spark Board is available at launch as a 55-inch presentation screen that also acts as a digital whiteboard and video conferencing tool.
Spark Board performs many functions that enrich users’ collaboration experience. It automatically detects Spark-enabled devices which allows users to seamlessly switch between mobile and room-based collaboration. A 70-inch version of the device will be available later in the year.
Andrew Small, vice president, unified communications and collaboration, customer relationship management and mobility at Global Services, BT, said: “Our research shows that improving collaboration across the business is one of the key factors in determining the success of digital transformation. BT One Collaborate Spark helps our customers create productive digital environments for their employees while reducing the cost of international calls. It gives their employees the ability to collaborate more simply and intuitively regardless of where they are or what devices they’re using.”

One Cloud Collaborate Spark adds an ad-hoc, project or team-based communication and business messaging tool to the extensive portfolio of BT One collaboration services. As well as allowing calls to be made externally to users not on the Spark cloud, One Cloud Collaborate Spark enables customers’ employees to initiate, answer or transfer calls to anyone in the company directory. Its messaging functions allow employees to easily message contacts directly or in a group chat, share content, or set up virtual meetings with audio, web, and video conferencing capabilities.

Commenting specifically on the Cisco offering in the context of UC, Dominic Black of Cavell Group noted in his recent blog ‘the increasing importance of collaboration technologies such as Cisco Spark’.

Black noted, “Using figures from KMPG, Snorre Kjesbu (Cisco) argued that 82% of CEOs do not know whether their products would still be relevant in three years’ time. The speed and innovation required to stay abreast of the rapid changes faced today is demonstrated by the Cisco Spark Board, which allows for wireless presenting, white boarding and of course video/audio conferencing.”

Ed Says…

Cisco Spark competes with the likes of Slack and Microsoft Teams for enterprise collaboration. The market is getting competitive with other apps from the likes of Broadsoft Team-One for business collaboration also entering the fray with an already large worldwide base of their hosted telephony users to target.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine