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Cisco Spark: 20-20 Vision in 2020

The Wainhouse Research Blog

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on Unified Communications & Collaboration


Cisco Spark: 20-20 Vision in 2020

By: -
14 Dec 2015

What might the world look like in 2020, slightly more than 4 years after Cisco's Spark announcements of last week?

January 22, 2020

To: Everyone on the Project Cougar team:

Congratulations to all of you on the most successful product launch in the company’s history.  Project Cougar was the result of an intensive 16-month development effort that involved our design experts in Boston, the marketing team and social media consultants in San Francisco, and the programmers in Berlin and Kiev along with senior managers in multiple locations.  

When I look back on how we were able to complete this project on-time and on-budget, I recall several technology events, company decisions, and internal inflection points that ultimately created the rich collaboration environment demanded by Cougar.  The starting point might be linked to Cisco‘s December, 2015 announcement that Spark was shifting from being a product and evolving into both a service and a platform.  That event coincided with our internal review of our unified communications (UC) platform and our anticipated future enterprise communications needs.  The UC solution deployed at that time provided a single user interface to voice, video, and text chat but relied on email for document reviews and project management tasks.  Many information workers complained about email overload, long threads, and no apparent organizational structure that suited a long term, multi-dimensional development project.  They believed that the future should revolve around messaging with integrated real-time and non-real-time communications. 

In mid-2016 our IT leaders convinced us to trial Cisco Spark; following that we did a full scale rollout in 2017.  I remember it well because the decision was made right after the Red Sox won their second consecutive world series and just before we began the Cougar project.

Spark’s messaging, meeting, and calling capabilities are integrated into a complete user experience and fit perfectly with the Cougar team’s need for persistent collaboration that accommodates the time shifting required by any team dispersed across multiple continents.   The new marketing manager for our RedCat product line reminded me that because of persistent Spark meeting rooms, she was able to review text chats and documents that were created during development and see the entire history of Cougar decisions.  The result:  she has come up to speed faster than was ever possible with older UC solutions.     

By the end of 2017 we integrated all of our mobile, desktop, and room video conferencing devices to the Spark platform.  The ability to swipe sessions seamlessly between the three caught on quickly between Cougar team members who, by mid-2018, were able to meet virtually, face-to-face as often as needed.  Spark was instrumental, not only in speeding decision making, but also by enabling the business travel reduction mandated by the Greenhouse Gas Act (GGA) of 2018.   Then, in Q4-2019, Spark played a crucial role as we trained our internal sales people and our channel partners on the features, functions, and benefits of the Cougar product line prior to our January 2020 launch.   

With 20-20 hindsight, I am convinced that deploying a secure collaboration service with integrated voice, video, chat, and document storage was a tipping point for our development and marketing teams.  Our IT experts also made another good decision – deploying our Spark collaboration experience as a cloud-based service.  “Cloud” allowed us to take advantage of flexible, seamless growth and reduced IT overhead while also enabling users around the globe to experience superior performance.   

Many of you have pointed out to me that my continuing use of email and a separate web conferencing service has become an impediment to productivity rather than an enhancement.   I have therefore resolved to use Spark for all my future communications.