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Crowded Collaboration Space: Can New Entrants Meet Demands? 

If you’ve ever tried to get your team on a conference call—on time—while sharing documents or chatting with colleagues online—you know how challenging it can be. Perhaps that’s why so many new players are popping up like weeds in the unified communications (UC) market, providing hope and accessibility to comm-addicted companies worldwide. Despite the growing number of providers—or perhaps because of them—UC has become an incredibly complex beast for many businesses. Many services have failed to deliver the quality, convenience, and security businesses need to keep their global workforces moving seamlessly. Amazon Chime is the latest newcomer in the UC space, proving that unified communications is a continued need in the workforce. But, the question remains: can these new entrants truly meet the needs of their clients, or will they be another “me too” to add to the chorus of providers?

Why the Fuss About Collaboration?

Clearly, the need—and push—for UC is growing. The number of remote and global employees is increasing every day, and all are hungry for better, more efficient ways to work and interact. There are obvious benefits. UC offers the promise of lowering costs, while improving flexibility, scalability, and overall office efficiency. Some new providers have even done it fairly well. Slack, for instance, has developed somewhat of a cult following for specialty services like simplified email filtering. Others have offered free or cheap video and voice conferencing, which seems like almost a no-brainer for any company on a budget.

Still, none have offered a one-stop solution for capturing all our business communication needs—at least not effectively. GoToMeeting still requires numerous downloads and log-ins that can be tiresome and time-consuming, while its ability to share files is similarly clunky. (The latter can also be said for one of the founding collaboration all-stars, Skype.) Amazon’s Chime aims to offer “frustration free” collaboration, with voice, video, and chat services connected via one cloud-based app. But as a new player in the market, it’s also a risky option for established companies looking to keep their data and information accessible and safe.

Indeed, while new technologies offer lots of promise to make our business lives easier, they also come with tremendous risk if they are not used—or built—correctly. These can run the gamut from inconsistent or poor quality (such as glitchy sound and shaky audio, or dropped calls) to greater security risks like data loss and data breaches. In addition, as companies begin to create patchwork UC infrastructure via the Cloud and third-party service providers, it can become increasingly difficult to ensure that systems will work compatibly. And if they don’t, trouble-shooting can be a serious nightmare. In that way, while businesses are using UC to make their businesses run more effectively, these issues can cause the opposite result.

So how does Cisco Spark fit into the crowded UC environment?

It’s Easy—and Trusted. As an established and trusted tech and communications partner, Spark offers a one-stop solution for UC that is tried and tested over time. Spark combines chat, video, and voice in one easy to use app. It also offers high-quality, advanced telepresence capabilities that today’s global business leaders do not want to do without.

Spark Ensures Interoperability. With Spark, users can “pair” their devices seamlessly, calling from one phone and easily transferring to a different room or meeting in another location, already in session. This exponentially reduces the set-up time—and stress—of trying to join groups of different sizes, in different places, using different technology.

Spark Offers Greater Usability. In addition to its Cloud-based app services, Spark offers interactive white boards and room service devices that work seamlessly together to provide high-quality sound, video, and interactive content in real-time. Users can join meetings and share files. But they can also sketch and share white board content to brainstorm with teammates around the world.

Spark is Secure. Cisco Spark—and its related devices—are fully encrypted from end to end with the kind of technology that many business customers have already come to trust with the Cisco name.

While the market may seem oversaturated, the truth is that a new product will always be welcome if it outperforms the others that came before it. Chances are good that Skype, Slack, GoToMeeting and other more limited UC services will still find audiences, especially for smaller businesses and individual users. Chime will also likely find a home for SMEs that don’t require the same sophistication as their larger, global counterparts. But my feeling is that Cisco Spark continues to hold the reigns in terms of offering a trusted, established solution provider that allows leading companies to push the limits of virtual collaboration without risking the companies they’ve worked so hard to build.

This article was written as part of a series of posts and brought to you in part by the team at Cisco Spark. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Additional Resources on This Topic:
An Easy Button for Collaboration: Reaction to the Cisco Spark Launch
Changes Coming for Unified Communication and Collaboration in the Next Five Years

Photo Credit: divinumphoto Flickr via Compfight cc

Daniel Newman

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change how business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 5x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group and President of V3 Broadsuite, a family of marketing and media agencies that help companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world. I also give keynote speeches around the world on the topics such as digital transformation, technology and marketing.