Apr 12 2017

To Get the Most Out of Meetings, Technology Should Be Seamless, Cisco Exec Says

Collaboration and productivity tools need to be designed and implemented in a way that allows users to be engaged in meetings and get work done anywhere.

The collaboration technology market is split into different categories, according to Cisco Systems’ Mark Nash: different siloes for calling, video, meetings, meeting rooms and application programming interfaces. The problem? “That is not at all how the users of the technology look at those capabilities and consume those capabilities.”

Nash, Cisco’s director of strategy and innovation for worldwide collaboration, said that to get the most out of collaboration technology and transform the way work gets done, IT organizations and companies of all sizes need to make the tech seamless, and help meetings actually be productive rather than just blocking out time on users’ calendars.

Nash spoke Tuesday at the CDW Improving Productivity with Digital Transformation Summit in Colorado Springs, Colo., and noted that the way users get their best work done is “centered around interdependence.” By that, he means that the nature of work, especially for so-called knowledge workers, has changed — the best kind of work users can do is when they are creating a new idea or connecting with colleagues to help on problems or projects.

“The way that I do that is I bring together people, inside or outside my organization, to get the work done that I need to get done,” Nash said.

Make Collaboration Tools Seamless and Mobile

The average knowledge worker — IT workers, lawyers, project managers, data analysts, journalists, teachers, etc. — spends about 40 percent of his or her time on the job in meetings, according to Nash, meaning some spend a lot more than 40 percent.

“The key is you better make sure that when you are in those meetings you are having the most effective meeting possible,” he said. When users are not in meetings, they should be able to leverage technology to collaborate with their colleagues better, share files, send messages, and accomplish all of those tasks in a way that works across desktops, laptops and mobile devices, inside and outside the office, he said.

Nash went to great lengths to point out the strengths of Cisco Spark, a collaboration suite of tools for voice, video and messaging that work across multiple platforms and devices.

IDC predicts that there will be 105.4 million mobile workers in the U.S. by 2020, accounting for nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of the total U.S. workforce. Work is becoming much more “multi-modal,” Nash said, and users are working on different devices throughout the day — typing a document on a notebook and responding to email via smartphones.

“The reality is, we want this seamless collaboration experience to exist everywhere,” Nash said. “It shouldn’t matter whether it is the device that’s in my pocket, the device that’s on my desk, whether it’s a purpose-built device, whether it’s a device that’s in a room, or whether it’s literally integrated into the business processes and business applications that I use each and every day to get my work done.”

Users don’t care about the IT infrastructure that enables them to collaborate, Nash said. “They just want the capabilities to get the best work done at their fingertips.”

Cisco Pushes Forward in Collaboration with Spark

Nash noted that with Spark, Cisco has gone for an application-centric approach, because applications are how users get work done and are the magnet that pulls people together. Spark is designed to connect the physical capabilities of communications hardware and devices to the virtual work world, Nash said.

The goal is to leverage rich content and communications and let users access that content and those communications tools everywhere. Another goal: to let users access what they discussed in a meeting after it’s over.

In January, Cisco introduced Spark Board, a smart whiteboard aimed at all workers but designed to appeal to millennials. Spark Board allows users to wirelessly present content, collaborate via a whiteboard, and conduct video and audio conferences.

As Mashable reports: “By Cisco’s estimates, only 1 percent of small firms have dedicated video call equipment, like high-definition screens with microphones. That figure is 5 percent and 15 percent, respectively, at medium and large firms.”

Through the Cisco Spark app, users can connect to virtual teams outside the physical rooms, through the devices of their choice. The board can also be paired with video conferencing devices so that people who are not in the room can “feel like they have a seat at the table,” Nash said.


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