A Spark in the Cloud: Why Cisco is Putting Its Money on Service Agility
Cisco’s Marcus Gallo talks to CommsTrader about collaboration, security and service.
By any estimation, Cisco is a giant in the telecoms world. Historically one of the global leaders in the manufacture and supply of business communications and networking hardware, the Silicon Valley-based corporation has in the past decade also been at the forefront of the Cloud revolution which has swept through the industry.
Regardless of what you call this new service-led model of supplying applications and software platforms – /unified-communications/ucaas, cloud communications, hosted communications – Cisco’s Marcus Gallo, Marketing Lead for Cisco Spark and Cisco Spark Hybrid Services, sees only one thing which should matter to vendors. Cloud-based services have changed the market irrevocably because they give customers exactly what they want, namely flexibility, control and value.
“The Cloud model has become popular for many reasons, ranging from cost to flexibility,” Gallo said. “The biggest reasons we hear are agility and velocity. Modern IT teams are looking for all the latest capabilities with agile delivery. Cloud based services provide both and can be deployed by a company very quickly and very simply.”
This, in a nutshell, is why Cisco embraced the UCaaS model early and wholeheartedly. Anticipating customer demand has shaped the company’s approach to providing cloud services ever since.
All About Apps
Cisco’s current flagship UCaaS product is Cisco Spark, which Gallo describes as “an app-centric, cloud-based service that provides a complete collaboration suite for teams to create, meet, message, call, whiteboard and share, regardless of whether they’re together or apart.”
Discussing Cisco Spark, he reveals much about why Cisco believes the cloud is so important to its business model, and where it believes cloud communications services are heading in the future. He describes the app-based model, where customers can pick and choose specific tools and platforms to suit their needs, as more “natural and accessible” than the traditional all-in-one software package. By making it easier for customers to get exactly what they need, cloud services actually boost uptake.
But alongside choice and easy access, Marcus Gallo’s definition of ‘agile delivery’ also has a third, all important factor – integration. Cisco Spark is designed to break down the barriers between different communication methods and functions, so whatever apps you are using, it is easy to move from one to another seamlessly.
“Our customers really like the integrated nature of [Cisco Spark’s] capabilities and how they help them work within a continuous workstream,” he said. “It means they avoid the traditional pain points that occur when you move from an instant message to a call or a meeting, let alone try to share content.”
So was it the potential for flexibility opened up by offering app-based cloud services which led Cisco beyond pure communications and down the collaboration path?
“Let’s take whiteboarding as an example,” said Gallo. “Sometimes you need to do more than just talk. You may need to sketch out your ideas, what we call ideation.”
“So we decided that Cisco Spark should include a digital whiteboard available in the app, on any device. By choosing this option you can get creative and draw out your ideas. This is the industry’s first native multi-party white boarding experience that works in both physical and virtual environments. It offers an integrated and comprehensive life-cycle approach to teamwork that is as yet unmatched, by any other solution on the market.
“Now imagine how virtual reality and IoT can further extend the experience of digital transformation…”
This ability to embrace the future by adding new platforms to the app suite makes a for an appealing business model because it means Cisco can respond both to emerging technologies and changing customer demands.
The customer-focused, service-focused drive for agility has also led Cisco to throw off the shackles of proprietary IT product lines. Cisco Spark’s APIs are readily available, with Cisco actively encouraging customisation and integration with third party platforms.
“With open platforms and APIs, customers are starting to gain real benefit from extensibility and integrations, allowing them to digitize and transform their businesses,” said Gallo. “For example, the including of a bot into a messaging service can automate repetitive tasks freeing up time to drive innovation. Likewise, integrating [Cisco Spark] to a sales automation application like Salesforce can speed up business process.”
Asked about the old accusation that, as they are run on public internet networks, cloud services are not as secure as premises-based systems, Gallo said that if anything the opposite was more likely to be true nowadays.
“Often cloud-based services are more secure than on-premises solutions because vendors like Cisco are specialists in security as well as communications,” he explained “For example, Cisco Spark uses industry-leading encryption to ensure that Cisco Spark messages, files, and whiteboards remain confidential, available, and secure at all times.
“The Cisco Spark app encrypts your data before it leaves your device, and data stays encrypted when it’s in transit to our cloud servers – both when we process your data (data in use) and when we store it (data at rest).”
“Also the identity and access management service within Cisco Spark provides one of the key pillars of the security protection for customers.”
Finally, Marcus Gallo believes that service will increasingly become the defining focus of UCaaS – particularly providing flexible tools which help clients deliver better service to their own customers.
“Improving the user experience, speeding up business processes and helping people get things done quicker will help the customer experience,” he said.
“A good point to look at is small to mid-sized companies. Existing customer care solutions are typically too expensive and complex for small customer care teams, which often have limited budgets and little or no access to IT resources. Lacking attention and support from IT, smaller care teams are often forced to implement shadow care solutions by buying direct online, which can ultimately lead to security compromises and disjointed experiences.
“Here at Cisco, we have already delivered Cisco Spark Care which solves these problems by offering a cost-effective customer care solution that can typically be set up by users in about fifteen minutes. Cisco Spark Care leverages the tool’s core capabilities to deliver a digital customer support solution for help desks and small teams up to approximately 20 members.”
“Cisco Spark Care can be embedded on your website to offer chat and callback services. Users can view a history of the customer’s previous interactions, leveraging the Cisco Context Service, and allowing them to provide a faster, more focused service.”
This article is part of the July Series of the Technology Track on Cloud Communications, follow the link to see all published and planned articles.