Keep calm, it’s not another whiteboard

Image Source: Cisco Systems

It makes perfect sense to market the Cisco Spark Board as a competitively priced whiteboard and content display. If you accept the value of Spark Board as an interactive flat panel there is no need to sell you on the value of Spark, the platform, but this is where the true value of the Spark Board comes into play.

I don’t classify Spark Board as a whiteboard for the following reasons:

Context vs Content

Whiteboards provide a drawing surface for transient content; Spark Board’s focus is context: an associated history of interaction between, individuals, teams and content. I expect we will continue to see an evolution of greater contextualisation with the Spark Board and the Spark platform with the acquisition of Worklife and future development.

It’s Personal

Whiteboards are intended to be a common resource and as such be impersonal, they have no awareness of the individuals that use them. Spark Board identifies and interacts with the users in the room and seamlessly becomes their work space the moment they choose to connect. Every Spark Board is my Spark Board.

Remote collaboration is not an afterthought

It is often overlooked that collaboration is as much about who is not in the room as it is about who is. Video conferencing is a key part of remote collaboration. We design video conferencing spaces for the people that we hope will never want to be physically present in that space.  (If they feel the need to be there due to a poor experience we have failed).  The video and especially the audio experience must be of the highest quality to ensure that remote participants are engaged and included and never feel the need to be physically present to be an active participant. Cisco understands this and it’s clear to see in the Spark Board.

I see the Spark Board as an on demand personal collaboration device not a whiteboard.

Would I buy a Spark Board?

I see two target markets for the Spark Board:

Small and Medium Business

The price has democratised collaboration  for the small and medium business who may not traditionally have invested in Cisco collaboration. Those late to invest in collaboration may be some of the first to truly capitalise on the Spark Board. I would caution SMB customers who would focus on price, while the cost of entry is relatively low the decision to invest in anything must always be based on value. A focus on price is just a lower cost of failure.

Traditional Cisco Enterprise customers

It stands to reason that customer that have invested in collaboration understand its value and would have a keen interest in understanding where Spark Board and Spark can be leveraged in their organisation. A key considerations is integration. Cisco is not blind to this fact and the progressive updates to Spark  since it’s launch is testament to this.

Back to the question of would I buy a Spark Board. If you ever hear a consultant say the words “I would buy one”, don’t buy it, do some research first. If you here a consultant say “if I were you I would buy one”, then ask them why ? and give their responses due consideration.

The key to technology adoption from a users perspective is familiarity and consistency. Very often we go to meeting spaces to do the same thing we do at our desks or on our mobile devices,  just with more people. In the past the increased audience necessitated different technologies, user interfaces and workflows.  With Cisco Spark and the Spark Board this is no longer the case and that can only be a positive step in achieving a return on your investment in collaboration technologies.


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