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Notebook with Teamwork related doodlesOver the last decade, collaboration tools have become standard issue in the modern workplace, in large part due to the popularization of early business-messaging platforms like AOL Inc.’s, AIM and Yahoo’s Messenger. Not to say collaboration wasn’t a critical component of business before the time of messaging platforms—collaboration has always been an important aspect of business—but prior to the era of business-messaging, collaboration, in general, required face-to-face interaction equating to wasted time and resources…and money!

Today’s collaboration tools offer a range of capabilities that have transformed the ways people work. Time and physical space become irrelevant when your team has the ability to chat and to share documents inside an application designed specifically for that purpose, or to place a video call within the same space without having to deal with calendar invites or outside applications. And, in an era where hackers have the ability and motivation to take over entire companies by delivering malware within an email, collaboration tools have become a welcome addition to every organizations toolkit because of the security features they offer.

When it comes to budget, the amount of money that can be saved by cutting out business travel and by speeding up efficiency and productivity, can make an organizations initial investment in collaboration technologies easy to justify. It has also been proven that happier employees tend to be more productive, and employees are happier when they have the ability to enjoy flexible work and can use tools that are an enhancement to the ways they work instead of a hindrance. It’s not hype when technology insiders say that collaboration technologies represent the future of work.

Photo montage of different coworkersAt iConvergence, we’ve observed the evolution of business collaboration technologies since the beginning, and have ourselves worked with a number of them. Prior to implementing Cisco Spark as our in-house collaboration tool, we experienced the same issues that many of our customers have faced. In the past, IP communications were inefficient and cumbersome and in many cases impossible. A lack of industry maturity and standards meant that communicating via video or sharing content with an outside organization without using email was extremely difficult. The ultimate goal has always been to enjoy the same communication experience whether speaking with colleagues inside iConvergence or collaborating with friends outside of our organization.

For us, Cisco Spark became an attractive solution when we realized we’d have the ability to communicate with anyone else, anywhere in the world, at virtually anytime. If we are collaborating with colleagues outside our organization who also use Cisco Spark, there is no extra work involved for IT administrators because there are no bilateral peering agreements and no need for clearinghouses. All that’s required to start collaborating is the email address of the Spark user you’d like to reach. To make things even more attractive, there is no loss of functionality when working with an individual outside the organization, versus those inside. You’ll enjoy all of the same features—document sharing, voice/video call capabilities, real-time communication regardless of time or location, spaces, group read notifications, message deletion etc.—whether you are working with individuals inside or outside your of company.

For individual users (non-enterprise), Cisco Spark is available as a free download accessible from mobile, web or desktop devices, and allows users to communicate freely with paid Cisco Spark customers within the enterprise, or with friends, or really, anyone. Cool, isn’t it?  We certainly think so.

As we’ve observed, the earliest incarnations of business messaging platforms pale in comparison to the tools available today. Technology providers like Cisco are continually innovating, altering what the future of work will look like for us all, and creating possibilities unimaginable just ten years ago.

Now that business leaders have started to realize the power of allowing teams to work together in a flexible, virtual environment, the collaborative work revolution is fully underway. At iConvergence, it is our goal to introduce these powerful new tools for business to all of you, our friends here in Louisiana, so that you, too, can realize the positive outcomes that are available by harnessing the power of collaboration in the cloud.