The speed of innovation in today’s corporate environment is accelerating exponentially. The time required to move from ideas to execution has decreased dramatically. What used to take decades or centuries now only takes years or months.
The advent of the digital computer was the launchpad of this incredible acceleration, and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) was the first step in the revolution of utilizing the digital computer in the creation of many products. It didn’t make the designs better, it simply decreased the time from idea to solution.
In the past, sharing this idea wasn’t very difficult because everyone involved in the product’s creation was most likely sitting in the same room. But, the information revolution changed that aspect of the business environment. Slowly the people involved in the product’s creation were no longer in the same room: they could be in a different building, city or even country. This created an innovation hurdle that was a little harder to jump. Sharing the information with colleagues now took months of letter and disk swapping.
The next step in this journey was the Internet. The Internet, with email and FTP (File Transfer Protocol), made this information collaboration faster and sped up the process of idea to solution in this dispersed environment. This too, however, had its limitations.
Time was lost while emails sat in inboxes waiting to be read. Files sat in folders while the email notifying the user of its existence sat in the same inbox. Today this limitation is compounded due to the sheer volume of emails we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Mobile devices have alleviated some of this strain, but they too have increased the volume of emails to be processed.
So, what is the next generation of features needed on this technology journey?
Real-time, interactive collaboration tools. These tools allow for real-time voice and video communications, as well as textual communications and file sharing. Studies have consistently shown visual communication is far more effective than simple verbal/written communication, lending credence to the enhanced productivity claims touted by the vendors of these solutions.
In this world of mobile workforces, a communication tool must also be cloud-based and designed from the ground up with mobile communications in mind. A report from IDC estimates nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will consist of mobile workers by 2020. And since all of this information will traverse the Internet, security must be a top priority. All aspects of communications should be encrypted.
Lastly, this tool must enable effective teamwork. The communication platform used by a worker cannot be a hurdle to participating in the collaboration environment, and access to the information must be homogeneous.
Team members don’t have time to waste trying to figure out who has the latest version of the content or bringing new team members up to speed with countless email threads and folder searches. The ability to group communications and content together will help accelerate the development process. No more flipping from an email to a file folder to view the content referenced in the email.
I believe Cisco Spark is the best next generation tool in this technology revolution.
Voice and video communications are native to the Spark application. Text-based conversations can be escalated to video with the click of a button, and team members can see each other and react to the non-verbal cues we all express, leading to more effective and effieient interaction.
It was designed from the beginning to be cloud-based and mobile first. Moving from your office to the car, hotel or home does not change the way you interact within Spark.
As for security, since it’s cloud-based and accessed via the Internet, all communications are encrypted both in transit and at rest. No one, including Cisco, can access your data when using Spark unless you grant it to them. The cloud also enables worldwide access and allows users to connect using any device.
Many applications have attempted to solve this issue before but always limited the end user to a specific platform to participate in the collaboration. The modern workforce requires a more open architecture to collaborate and Spark supports all major communication platforms (PC, MAC, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.). Workers can use whatever platform they desire and have the same experience, allowing them to collaborate the way they want to.
How exactly does Spark make team communication more efficient? Through the concept of rooms and teams; all communication and content are persistently stored in the same virtual room. When you need to find the latest version of the design it is in the room, not stored on a personal device or on a server you must search.
When new team members are added, they have instant access to all the content and communications in the room. No more endless email threads to correlate information. Think of it as a virtual conference room with charts and graphs taped to the walls or on whiteboards. You walk in and all the information is right there at your fingertips.
All of this enables your employees to move through the innovation process quicker, ultimately leading to faster solutions for your customers and employees and better business outcomes for your shareholders. What are you doing to accelerate innovation?
About the Author:
Marty Jefferson has worked in IT for over 30 years, with extensive experience in project engineering, management, collaboration technologies, voice solutions and computer networking. He began his career in the military, and after being honorably discharged as an FTG2 Second Class Petty Officer, moved into the private sector where he now works as a Director of Collaboration and Voice Solutions for Internetwork Engineering.