Have you ever had to work with others to plan an event or manage a project?

From the expert project manager to the soccer mom trying to coordinate carpool, we’ve all done it in some form or another. But has it always been as easy as you’d like? Have you had the right technology at the right time to simplify the task?

The unfortunate answer is “no.” But there is a better way.

My previous posts offer a behind-the-scenes look at Operation Encore, a group of active-duty and retired U.S. service members who share their experiences through music. Now completing its second album, “Monuments,” the group is using Cisco Spark to connect and collaborate, from wherever the members happen to be around the world.

From a musical perspective, Spark Meetings has enabled the team to collaborate on songs and rehearse via video conferencing, which helped speed up song completion. Now, with the song edits finished, attention needs to shift to finalizing the CD artwork and coordinating logistics for the upcoming CD release event in November.

Coordinating 12 people scattered around the world can be a tall order – from travel arrangements to event details and promotions, not to mention rehearsing for the live performance.

Sure, there is a vast number of group messaging apps out there like GroupMe and Messenger. But without the added capabilities of file sharing or on-demand meetings, they fall short. The expanded functionality offered by Spark, helps them get more done:

  • Group messaging helps the Operation Encore founders manage event logistics and share updates with the full team
  • One-on-one messaging helps each musician coordinate travel plans and schedules with the event organizers
  • File sharing lets the team share CD artwork and promotional materials to gather feedback
  • Meetings with video enable song collaboration and rehearsals

“We’ve used apps like Messenger in the past, but we still had to rely on email for exchanging files, or Facetime for video calling. Cisco Spark is the first application we’ve found that does it all.” –Erik Brine, Operation Encore

Last week, some of the Operation Encore members were working to select artwork for the new CD cover. The group founders created a secure, virtual room via Cisco Spark to gather feedback. In the room, they shared two artwork options for the artists to comment on, ask questions, and vote.  Within two days, the team members had weighed in made their selection.

cdw-logoAs the launch event approaches, others have taken notice of Operation Encore and its mission to provide outreach to the military community through music created by veterans. As a result of sharing the Spark story, Cisco reseller CDW has come forward to offer its support. CDW – a leading employer of Veterans recognized as a top Best for Vets and Military Friendly Employer —  is now working with Operation Encore both as a launch event sponsor and a technology provider to offer ongoing support.

When I began this story, I hoped to share an in-progress look at how a group of collaborators can come together and do more with the right tools. And while the Operation Encore team may be unique, its challenges are not. A dispersed team. Many communication vehicles. An inefficient use of time. The need to get more done. Sound familiar?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this inside look at how Spark can make a difference – even for non-traditional working groups. Our world is changing both at work and beyond. Technology is everywhere. Are you making it work for you?

Download Cisco Spark for your team to see how it can help you connect and get more done. And follow Operation Encore on Facebook as it prepares for its November 12th CD Launch.

To close out this post, I’d like to highlight Rachel Harvey Hill, a U.S. Air Force spouse who has contributed songs to both Operation Encore CDs.

Inspired by her Kentucky roots, Rachel’s love for music began as a child. Through a great deal of support and encouragement, Rachel has developed into a talented vocalist and guitarist. Written as an anniversary present to her husband, “Another Trip Around the Sun,” from Operation Encore’s first CD, offers a glimpse into the emotional trials of loving someone who is deployed, while maintaining the optimism and  strength required for love to endure in a time of war.



Erin Broecker

No Longer with Cisco