Q&A with a Cisco Spark Evangelist

November 28, 2016 - 10 Comments

Hello there, I’m John Sayer. I work in Cisco’s Cloud Collaboration Technology Group as the Lead Cisco Spark Adoption Specialist for our Customer Success team. Over the last year, I’ve been spreading the good word of how great Cisco Spark is to anyone who’ll listen!

Cisco Spark is Cisco’s next-generation collaboration platform. More simply, it’s a place where teams get stuff done!

I get a lot of questions about Cisco Spark and how to get the most from it. Here are some of the most frequent and how I answer them.

How do you use Cisco Spark in your own work? I travel frequently and work with people all over the planet on a daily basis. Beyond other Cisco employees, many of the people I work with are often Cisco partners or customers. Spark gives me a single space to keep all my projects, workstreams, and conversations. It keeps me connected to everyone I work with and has the tools I need to get my work done.

What’s your favorite part of Cisco Spark? Cisco Spark is the only place I need to be to get work done. The integrations are great. For example, if I’m working on a particular project, in just a glance I can:

  • See the latest updates from my task management integration
  • Query my to-do list from a bot
  • Re-assign a task to someone else with the bot
  • Then, update my project tracking sheet.

From that same space, I’m able to chat with my team, share the latest files, and pop right into a video meeting with them. All  from a single app.

That’s cool, but I already have Jabber, WebEx, and email. Why should I use Cisco Spark? Good question. It helps me streamline my workload so that everything is one place.

You may have heard Rowan Trollope, our senior vice president, mention that he’s reduced his email by 80%. That’s not an exaggeration. I’ve experienced the same, and there’s a lot less noise for me to wade through every morning.

Through Cisco Spark, I’ve unified the communication streams I use on a daily basis. Think of Cisco Spark like a toolbox: Each app or tool you use is all connected in one place. When I first started using Cisco Spark, I was resistant to fully convert. It felt like it would be just another place for me to check for notifications. But, I soon realized that I could make Cisco Spark work for me, rather than the other way around. By starting to work almost exclusively in Cisco Spark, I drastically reduced the number of emails I received. Spark gave me one place to work with my various teams and projects.

Alright, I’m interested in Cisco Spark. How would I use Cisco Spark in my day to day work? It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that Cisco Spark can do anything. So the first thing I reply with when asked this question is this: What do you do every day? And what do you use to do it?

Speaking with one of my friends in a tech-support group, his answer was “incident management.” His tools are ticketing systems, analytics tools, email, and paging systems. So how do we improve this workflow with this product? Easy enough. First, we connect each of these isolated systems. One of his team’s main complaints is that the systems don’t talk well to each other and slow email causes inefficiencies in time to resolution. So we connect all the tools using Cisco Spark APIs and integrations, letting bots automate parts of the process. Now the workflow looks like this:

  • The analytics tool detects an outage and creates a ticket for tracking, then automatically creates a Cisco Spark room with the on-duty technicians and adds the logs and data needed to start remediation.
  • A Tropo integration also pings the techs with an automated SMS in case they’re away from their screens.
  • Now all of the techs are in the same collaboration space, on the same page, with the tools they need to get things fixed.
  • They communicate and share files in the room as they address the ticket.
  • Once the fire’s out, a bot archives the room contents for record keeping.

I always like to say that the goal is that you forget you’re working in Cisco Spark — you’re just working.

What’s your best advice for using Cisco Spark? My best advice is to jump in with both feet. Cisco Spark’s real power is that it’s a platform. It works well as a business messaging client or as a meeting application. But where it really shines is having all those collaboration tools in one place — and being able to connect into all the tools you use every day.

Download Cisco Spark and try using it as the primary tool for one of your teams or projects. I believe you’ll soon see how Spark helps teams get things done!

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  1. spark is great…but we may need to remove other tools so people get used to spark and realize its full potential

  2. I’m using Spark and have created rooms for my teams, but they are resistant to making the switch. Other than a mandate, how can I get my team to convert?

  3. Hi John, l a new adopter of Spark and read about Spark integration with tasks. can you tell me how l can integrate spark with Office 365 tasks and/or Dynamics tasks?

  4. I think Spark has tremendous potential but one of the challenges I’ve faced internally is getting new Spark users to open or look at Spark for communications. Is there a BOT or option to send a email notification when a message is delivered in Spark? I know Zapier has a function like this but it requires a zapier email address (which we don’t want). I know this defeats the purpose but I think it would help users adopt quicker.

  5. Is Spark for IT users? Or can it also compete with Skype For Biz?

  6. Spark is an awesome tool for collaboration in and out of the corp walls. I use it for my collaboration on my stories in the enigma book series!

    • Glad to hear! Super cool that you’re using it in your authoring process- would love to hear more about it!

  7. The Collaboration Team at my company love spark, we think its great. However the lack of integration with Cisco Jabber is holding it back (in our Environment). We use Cisco Jabber softphone for our call center agents, and we would like to use spark for all non call center users. However in order to share IM and Presence between the two groups essentially we would have to run two separate applications (Jabber and Spark). Which basically puts as where we are now (running lync ,and Jabber for softphone).

    Is Spark and Jabber integration / federation on the roadmap ? or perhaps a Spark Softphone supported by call center ?

  8. Absolutely love Spark. We’ve integrated into our Sales Engineering processes for enhanced Engineering/Sales interactions. Keeps the conversation going in a very natural way! A super simple Python script integrates our CRM with Spark, auto-creating rooms as Opportunities are inserted, and monitoring closures in CRM and updating relevant Spark Rooms.

    Any suggestions for finding good example code to archive room contents post incident/task/project? Would like to capture text/images (and possibly attachments) shared in a Spark Room and export them. (like to a simple PDF or tarball)

    • Hey Jonathan, great to hear you’ve plugged Spark into your SE processes, always good to see how it’s being implemented. I don’t personally have any example code, but I was able to build a fairly simple Built.io Flow to vacuum the contents of a room and write it to a .csv. One of the Spark API commands is to archive a room, so it’d be simple to add that on at the end.

      If you haven’t already, I’d suggest joining our #Spark4Devs room here: https://developer.ciscospark.com/support.html. Lots of smart folks in there who may have already built out that code!