Spark or Teams: Getting to the Crux of the Matter

In the annals of enterprise communications, the battle for UC supremacy between Cisco and Microsoft will go down as one of the greatest of all times. Borne out of the old telephony vs. desktop dichotomy, the fight has waxed and waned over the years with each iteration of the core technology.

The hot spot for the battle today is in team collaboration -- a la Cisco Spark vs. Microsoft Teams -- and the stakes are high. Cisco and Microsoft are pinning their communications futures on these cloud-based team collaboration platforms, which are proving quite popular despite this being early days for them. Results from a No Jitter Research survey conducted this past spring bear this out.

Among the 422 members of the No Jitter enterprise audience who responded to our survey on team collaboration, more than three-quarters of respondents, at 77%, indicated that users within their companies had tapped into one or more team collaboration apps (see results slideshow). This percentage remains fairly consistent (76%) when looking at responses from large enterprises (more than 1,000 employees), but is even higher, at 82%, for medium-sized companies (from 100 to 999 employees). Additionally, among the respondents at companies not yet using team collaboration apps, nearly 30% reported having the technology on their roadmaps.

At this early stage, consistency of tool selection among different user constituents is hard to find. Nearly all respondents -- 85% -- estimated that at least two team collaboration apps were in use within their enterprises. And, most of those respondents (60%) selected "three or more" as the likely scenario within their enterprises. Companies that have long grappled with Microsoft UC clients here and Cisco UC clients there are no doubt finding themselves now dealing with Spark here and Teams there, as well.

Within such organizations, one of the big looming questions, as always, is whether this multi-tool, multi-provider situation is tolerable. The answer, inevitably, depends on your particular situation, as Brent Kelly, principal analyst at KelCor, reminded us during a TetraVX-sponsored Enterprise Connect webinar, "Cisco vs. Microsoft: Customizing Your Cloud UC Deployment" (if you didn't catch the webinar live, register now and listen on demand). But at least one situation does warrant a one-or-the-other choice, he added.

If one of your primary goals is to enable seamless movement from one communications modality to another -- IM to a phone call, and from there to an audio conference or video conference, for example -- then you'd best pick either Spark or Teams. "That would give you the most fluidity in how you communicate and in how you invoke these different modalities," Kelly advised.

A number of factors will come into play in such a decision, of course. Kelly presented four recommendations for IT decision makers working through their next-step plans for supporting enterprise communications -- premises or cloud, UC or team collaboration, one vendor or two. In a nutshell:

  1. Don't get sidetracked by the hype around cloud communications. If you decide to migrate your UC from an on-premises deployment to a hybrid or all-cloud model, make sure you do so based on sound business reasons.
  2. Identify user groups and create test cases for all the kinds of communications they'll need. "Test, test, test!"
  3. Make sure your service-level agreements "have teeth to them," including the ability to back out of the contract should the vendor fail to deliver as promised.
  4. If you're going to build a future on either the Spark or Teams cloud tools, understand how broadly you need to deploy those, and how they'll integrate (if at all) with the on-premises Jabber and Skype for Business clients, respectively.

Brent, along with fellow UC consultant Phil Edholm, of PKE Consulting, will pick up on this topic in the ever-popular Enterprise Connect 2018 session, "Cisco vs. Microsoft: Taking the Battle Beyond UC." They'll provide the latest lowdown on the Cisco and Microsoft UC and team collaboration strategies, and you'll come away knowing what factors to consider and what methodology to use in deciding whether you need to standardize on one or the other and, if so, which is best for your organization.

This a return engagement for Brent and Phil, whose perennial "Cisco vs. Microsoft" session is always among the most popular at Enterprise Connect. Don't miss out on your chance to hear what they've got to say this coming year. If you haven't yet registered for Enterprise Connect, which will take place March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla., do so now

using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Advance Rate or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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