Revolutionize the way you meet!

One of the main challenges organizations are faced with daily is the ability to have productive meetings.  Disjointed tools and legacy technology create complexity, resulting in decreased productivity and a poor user experience.  Meetings rarely start on time, and for many participants, meetings can be a giant waste of time.

Having just attended my 8th meeting of the day (before 2:00pm), it’s very apparent that productivity is not a singular event.  Productivity happens when people exchange ideas, share and review content, and collaborate over time via numerous interactions.  To put an end to painful meetings, you can’t just add a new device or app.  You have to take a unified approach and design something that is elegant, simple to use, comprehensive and affordable, so that everyone has access to it.

DarlingOn Tuesday (1/24/17), Cisco launched its latest meeting room product and it’s setting the Unified Communications and Collaboration industry on fire.  The device, known as the Spark Board, packs wireless content sharing, ultra-high-definition video conferencing, voice-tracking technology and an advanced interactive whiteboard into a single offering.  When you couple this with Cisco’s Spark Message and Meet platform, you instantly enable dispersed and virtual teams to have a richer collaboration experience; one that is part of a continuous work stream.

The Spark Board is a cloud-based solution that easily connects your digital and physical workspaces.  The reimagined, interactive whiteboard allows anyone with the Cisco Spark app to draw on, mark-up, comment, and collaborate in real-time, regardless of where they are physically. Content is saved instantly, so it can be shared or viewed by anyone that is part of the meeting or space. Once shared, the content and whiteboard are living documents that can be edited at any time.  The entire work stream is persistent.

To satisfy the need for face-to-face communications with those who can’t be in the room, Spark Board comes equipped with twelve microphones and a next-generation 4K camera.  There is no need for a separate voice or video endpoint in the room to make and receive calls. And with the built in voice-tracking technology, the system automatically focuses on the active speaker, even in large rooms.

To round out the board’s capability, it comes native with Cisco’s proximity technology, enabling laptops and mobile devices to pair with the board using high-frequency audio. Seamless pairing happens automatically with any Spark Board – yours or not.  There is no need for cables, Bluetooth, NFC, PIN codes or anything else to connect.  As you walk into a room, the board automatically wakes up.  As you approach the board, the board recognizes and greets you, and then suggests an activity to choose from.  Users can then share and receive content wirelessly, addressing a major pain point that we have all experienced in conference room and huddle spaces for years.  Further, basic endpoint control of the board can be done through your Cisco Spark app-enabled mobile device, allowing you to make and disconnect phone calls.  It’s truly unprecedented.  Cisco is creating a global, worldwide network of workspaces, which can be individually accessed from anywhere.

The Cisco Spark Board is revolutionary in its usability, capability, and design.  Cisco Spark provides a phenomenal end-user experience with a reliable and consistent user interface across all Spark-enabled devices.  Spark is delivered simply and securely through the Cisco cloud and is offered on a subscription basis, allowing organizations to update services automatically or on demand if they desire.

Welcome Spark Board to the collaboration landscape!  And thank you Cisco for continuing to find innovative ways to bring people together in this increasingly connected world.  Let’s make collaboration simple together.  Meet less; meet better.

To learn more about Cisco Spark Board, click on the videos and articles below:

Cisco Spark Board Keynote (Chuck Robbins, Rowan Trollope and Jonathan Rosenberg)

Experience the Cisco Spark Board

Cisco Spark Board Launch

White Boarding in Cisco Spark: Always Yours, Always Live, Always Secure

Cisco Spark Security and Privacy

Access, Access, Access

The concept of a digital workspace has evolved over time. Most clients we speak to can imagine new ways of offering services to their users. Questions remain though;  How much gear do I need to provide them? How can I make it simpler for my users to access and keep pace as the industry continues to introduce new applications and methods to consume and create content? How can we maintain security and ensure data is protected? Most IT professionals are working with their organizations to shore up screen-of-life-blog-imagethe gaps in their security when lines of third-party SaaS providers are introduced and then have difficulty retaining control and accountability for access. Time-to-value for new methods, mobile apps and change of any kind that promises improvement to their organization is many times not accurately accounted for. Screens have continued to explode in popularity throughout organizations globally. These portals into the world of digitized information empower users to impose requests for the latest consumer technology and BYOD upon IT that bring both opportunities and threats. Let’s take a closer look at these screens and the power they hold.

Screens were created to read or rather watch words. They are always on and have the capability to transform any space into a digital consumption platform. Being digital allows users to: annotate, mark up, underline, bookmark, summarize, cross reference, hyperlink, share and talk to content. Adding these capabilities allows reading or watching content to become social. In order for this to become a reality we must make content portable.

Possession is not as important as it once was. Now instant access is critical, and gives many of of the same benefits and few of the disadvantages.

There is a mythical dream to backup the entire Internet. Some are attempting to do this and “The Cloud”, built upon today’s technology can enable that dream. An achievement such as this will be remembered for all time and will contain the entire works of all human kind. This is a very large library, representing approximately 310M books, 1.4 B articles, 180 T songs, 3.5 T images, 330K movies, 1B videos, 60T public webpages. Today it would take the space the size of a bedroom. Eventually will fit on the future size of a phone.

IT professionals have two views on this type of power. 1) Half are surely hoping they die before such things happen and 2) the other half want to know what’s taking so long; summon content as desired from anywhere and securely access it from the screen of their choice. Delivering a new digital workspace built as a cloud-first service, where continuous development is employed to bring new innovations on a weekly and monthly basis; will allow IT professionals to meet business and user expectations at the accelerated pace we are now moving and our users have come to expect.

Failure to provide end user’s the ability to access the required applications and data securely efficiently and effectively can have a very negative impact on business. SMP works with clients to deliver IT solutions that provide highly efficient digital workspaces and mobility, leveraging cutting edge technology, enabling businesses to move forward.

Resilience: A Signifier of Success

Throughout the year, many of us find fortified passion and commitment to establish new goals or reinvigorate those that have gone stale. If you think to past goals, you likely began your journey with focus and honest intentions. Perhaps you did reach your vision of success, but you may have drifted off course or lost momentum. Maybe you achieved only a fraction of the progress that you had envisioned or you abandoned your goals all together. As you forge ahead, take a moment to reflect on those experiences and use them to strengthen your plan.

Regardless of how focused you may be on your goals, there will times when life gets in the way and forces you to redirect your focus. While preventing those disruptions may not be within your control, your response to them is. I find that many individuals spend more time thinking about how they drifted off course than determining how to get back on track. The emotion associated with these setbacks varies from person-to-person, and effect how a person responds to setbacks.  Some give up all together while others dwell on the setback as an indicator of failure.  Individuals often associate fleeting behavior patterns to character traits by saying: I failedI’ve been badI messed upI’m a slacker, etc.  Whether or not you made a homemade meal, met a deadline, passed an exam or went to the gym on a given day is not a measure of your self-worth.

As you start to establish new goals, acknowledge now that you will hit a speed bump.  Few people prepare for the negative events they will encounter, but knowing they will occur will help you to face them when the time comes.  To overcome setbacks you need to own them and quickly take action to get back on track; no dwelling and no self-deprecation. In terms of personal health, resilience becomes a differentiator in long-term success.  It is not the occurrence or frequency of obstacles, but the ability to move past them with a positive attitude and in a timely manner that will determine if you will meet your goals.

Self-improvement of any kind is difficult to achieve, it requires gumption and balance. If you let the first obstacle throw you off course all together, you will never achieve your potential.  Don’t wait to have time to work towards a goal or you will always be waiting. Start acting, even if it is with small steps.  Those first small actions will lead to bigger steps towards reaching your goals. Once you get started be resilient, don’t let anything get in the way of your success.

Are You Engaging Your Workforce?

Keeping employees informed and engaged in the workplace by providing information that aligns with their priorities, enables collaboration between team members and across divisions, fosters creative thinking, and ultimately contributes to your organization’s productivity. Effective communication is important for any organization. How you manage information, present information, and engage your employees and customers can be the differentiator in the success of your company.

SMP collaboration team can help you communicate with your workforce
Digital Signage can help you communicate more effectively with your workforce

Static messaging and mass distribution are great if the goal is checking the box marked “Information Delivered,” but information is retained far more effectively using dynamic visual content in the delivery of your message. By pairing timely messaging with relevant content, employees feel more involved, which results in a more-connected workforce and a more-connected workforce is a more effective workforce, leading to an increase in productivity, higher morale, improved employee satisfaction and less turn-over. All of which contribute to a stable and predictive work environment.

So, how can a company improve their communication and generally improve their culture? With Digital Signage.

digital signage to ensure teams can collaborate
Use targeted digital signage to ensure teams can collaborate and stay connected.

A Digital Signage application engages business professionals with targeted messaging in the right place at the right time, which essentially allows you to stretch your messaging much further than emails or memo boards. The software technology even provides the ability to communicate with associates through their mobile devices and also integrates with existing reporting systems to display information like sales performance metrics, employee schedules and more in a viewer-friendly fashion.

• Unified Messaging
• Process Improvement
• Alerts and Announcements
• Employee Morale
• Health and Wellness

We have a state-of-the-art Solutions Center where we can demonstrate the latest and greatest collaboration technologies in person or remotely. We pride ourselves on enabling our customers so they can keep up with both the speed of business and IT. If you would like to learn more on how a Digital Signage solution can help improve your workplace experience, please reach out to the SMP Collaboration Team. Contact SMP »

They call me the seeker…

Our customers put a lot of hard work into maintaining best practice operations in their complex technology environments. Often these same customers have users who desire noticeable improvement in the way IT delivers services for their organization. The pace of change is continually putting strain on IT staff to achieve higher levels of service and increase agility. This becomes very difficult when there is a lack of visibility into how IT is delivering services.

Enter “The Seeker” into the picture. This person embraces the customer requests, listens to concerns, and drives an organization toward developing the willingness to make the decisions that enable change. Often times Seekers gravitate toward a tool or set of tools to assist them in mission. These tools—acquired over the years—now lay on the virtual shelf; having been abandoned through attrition or growth, or no longer providing the insight needed as the problems to be solved become more complex.

Throughout the journey to help solve an organization’s challenges, usually Seekers encounter some bumps along they way. IT silos created over the years can result in “finger pointing” with no one to taking ownership to resolve the real issues causing pain. Complex technology environments result in difficulty ensuring you have the right people looking at the right areas. In an effort to solve this problem, the idea to build a communal work space gets tossed around and a plan is laid out from the request to “Build me a WAR Room”.

The Situation Room of the White House, Dec. 30, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Instead, this room often looks like the picture below with “inspirational” corporate art to encourage people to stay for 24-hour sessions to solve, what in their minds, is someone else’s problem. Sitting squarely in the middle is the “King of IT” to rule them all and provide a root-cause analysis.

Real World IT Problem Solving

Our customers may have the ability to proactively monitor their data center infrastructure components; however the true value in this ability is ensuring immediate visibility into down/troubled platforms and subsystems, then taking the appropriate actions to prevent or resolve problems. This is the hard part because it requires time not only during business hours, but around the clock. Today’s consumer is wired for instant gratification and 24/7 response, however, humans are not wired for 24/7 availability and this becomes a challenge, especially if you lack visibility across the IT service delivery.

“I’m happy when life’s good and when it’s bad I cry

I got values but I don’t know how or why” – The Who

I have been involved in building our SMARTcentre, SMP’s managed services offerings, over the past three years to help ensure application availability and ensure access for our customer’s workforce. Our certified experts can track your environment’s performance from the end-user to the data center, the cloud and across networks for organizations of every size. We project changes so administrators can re-engineer apps, balance workloads, or add capacity if needed. SMP also tracks real-time activity in order to be proactive, cut through the noise, and simplify your workflows to improve IT service operations. Our expertise is assisting our customers as they drive real impactful change and focus on building next-generation IT service delivery for their organizations. If you seek the IT Truth, SMP can help.

What is Wellness at SMP?


In my role as Wellness Director at SMP, one of the first things I like to ask new employees is “Did you have a wellness program with your past employer?” Corporate wellness programs today take on so many different forms that I enjoy hearing about the wellness experiences our employees have had and then sharing the details of our program at SMP.

But what is wellness at SMP? I often ask myself this very question to guide my program planning and development process. Corporate Wellness is a field that is continually evolving and can be broadly defined. In staying abreast of industry trends, I judiciously ask myself if these trends are right for SMP, taking into account our culture and employee interests. Delivering wellness at SMP is as much about about evolving and expanding our offerings as it is about recognizing and avoiding programs or models that are a poor fit for us, even if they are popular.

What is right for SMP? The goal of the SMP wellness program is to make a healthier lifestyle more attainable. We don’t focus on rewards or penalties, because feeling well and happy is rewarding on its own.

Sometimes our wellness program is about continued learning and self-discovery through a lunch and learn or a health program like the Fake Our Food Challenge. At other times, wellness at SMP is simply about having fun through events like our Snowman Showdown. Wellness at SMP is about continually assessing the pulse of our community and keeping that in focus when designing and delivering programs.

Social Media Content Mining for Social Improvement

SMP blog post on monitoring Social Media
On my drive in to work, I heard a story by Cheryl Corley, an NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. “When Social Media Fuels Gang Violence” tells of the use of social media by gang members in a practice called “cyber banging.” Social media is being used by gang members to promote themselves and their gang, and to issue taunts to other gangs. These posts go beyond the digital realm and have resulted in retaliation deaths. Cheryl reported, “This year, [Chicago] police say cyber banging fueled the death of another Chicago rapper.”

It has also been widely reported that social media is a vehicle for cyber bullying. Chicago police have been working to monitor the social media sites and partner with schools and counselors to address some of the violence. Meanwhile, at the university level, research is being done to decode the language that could send triggers to officials working in those neighborhoods.

As I listened to all of this, I thought, how do you monitor all those social media sites and all of the posts out there? What came to mind is that there are tools out there used by business to monitor those same social media sites for managing comments about their products and services, such as Cisco’s SocialMiner.

“Cisco SocialMiner is a social media customer care solution that can help you proactively respond to customers and prospects communicating through public social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, or other public forums or blogging sites. By providing social media monitoring, queuing, and workflow to organize customer posts on social media networks and deliver them to your social media customer care team, your company can respond to customers in real time using the same social network they are using.” [From the Cisco website]

Now, this is written from the standpoint of business but if your “customers” are gang members posting to social media and by monitoring the sites, SocialMiner can relay the information to the “social media customer care team,” aka police and civil violence protection authorities, a product intended to improve business can also aid in the curbing of gang violence through intervention.

SMP and the Rochester Triathlon

Saturday, August 23 marked the 5th annual Rochester Triathlon and the 4th year that SMP has served as the title sponsor of this unifying event. We truly enjoy working with the race committee and the Rochester Area Triathletes (RATS) to see the event come together. Triathlon is a unique endurance sport as it is well suited for spectator enjoyment as athletes flow into and out of the transition area for the swim, bike and run legs of the race. Due to the nature of the sport, the triathlon gathers larger crowds than one might expect. This year, many spectators sported their SMP temporary tattoo to receive an SMP t-shirt commemorating the event! In addition, we had a strong SMP turnout this year from both athletes and volunteers; showing the community a unique aspect of our culture. Together we were able to enjoy this exciting event, beautiful weather, great location and fun company!

SMP Volunteers SMP's triathlon team

Introducing the Cisco 8845 and 8865: Affordable HD Video for Every Desk

For those who missed it, Cisco recently released two next generation video phones called the 8845 and 8865.  The phones are richer in features than their 8900 and 9900 predecessors, and while nothing has been officially announced, the writing is on the wall that these new endpoints will phase out both the 8900 and 9900 in the very near future. Combine that with last weeks End of Sale announcement for the legacy 7900 series phones, and Cisco’s personal endpoint portfolio will soon consolidate to only the 7800 and 8800 series phones, along with Cisco’s desktop experience endpoints known as the DX series.

The 8845 and 8865 are orderable now and can be added to any Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM) cluster running v8.6.2 and later.  Their value is superior to anything else in Cisco’s endpoint portfolio, with a street price of approximately $300 and $400 respectively.  Both have 720p cameras and 5 inch screens, support Intelligent Proximity and have Bluetooth.  The 8865 adds the ability to use USB headsets and attach up to three expansion modules (sidecars) as well.  Both will support Mobile and Remote access through Cisco Expressway (VPN’less connectivity no matter where you are), providing a secure, seamless experience whether you are in the office or working out of your home.

The 8845 and 8865 communicate natively with Cisco Jabber, 8900/9900 video phones, DX series endpoints, existing TelePresence and Conferencing infrastructure, and support both Business to Business and Consumer to Business video as well.  With the Video Call Back feature being added to WebEx in the very near future, even deeper integration is right around the corner.

If you already have a Cisco Unified Communications platform and are looking to refresh your phones, choosing the Cisco 8845 / 8865 is an economical way to add HD Video Telephony to workspaces where it doesn’t exist today.  If you are looking to replace your telephony platform with something new, this is just one more reason why you should consider selecting Cisco as your vendor of choice.

List pricing and datasheets for both endpoints are below.

CP-8845-K9= / $575 List price

CP-8865-K9= / $795 List price

8845 Charcoal8845 White

NOTE:  The white model won’t be available for a couple of months, but the grey version is orderable now.

If you would like a demonstration of the 8845 or 8865 IP phone (or any Cisco Collaboration endpoint for that matter) please do not hesitate to reach out to the SMP Collaboration Team.

SMP is a Cisco Master Collaboration and Cisco Gold Partner, and we have a state of the art Solutions Center where we can demonstrate the latest and greatest in Cisco technologies in person or remotely.  Please reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you with your IT challenges.  We pride ourselves on enabling our customers so they can keep up with both the speed of business and IT.

Sean Wilson – swilson {at}

Collaboration by Design

“Without a solid foundation, you’ll have trouble creating anything of value.” – Erika Oppeheimer.


  • When it comes to the technology, Unified Communications is built on a computer network infrastructure and like a house, a solid foundation that has been well planned is critical to the success.


  • When planning your UC system, one for one replication of the legacy system may not be the best approach. Legacy system functionality is as it is due to the limitations of the technology and people at the time it was implemented.  Today’s workforce and technology are much more capable and at this inflection point, you have an opportunity to address those pain points experienced in the past.

Build It

  • The migration roadmap to the new system has a great impact on the quality and cost of the project. A phased approach is often necessary due to the size of a project but the transition cost can be reduced and user satisfaction increased if the migration is not drawn out too long. During the migration from one system to the other, two systems are running. This creates two cost points for the business to bear. There will be a point where the cost of the legacy system is so high per user that accelerating to finish the migration will be more cost-effective than continuing to have both in use.


  • Many users are very content in how they do things now and if you only replicate functions without providing some advantage to the end users, their satisfaction and adoption rate may diminish. User communications on what is coming, why and what is in it for them are effective tools to gain user support. Involve the users, make them part of the process.
  • Training is very important, don’t just drop the technology and run. Provide training in different ways to reach people with different learning styles.

Do It

  • Unified Communications is not just a phone system. It is also the basis of video communications, real-time text messaging, user presence and current availability and all this integrates to create a communications package that is not a set of towered, isolated applications but a homogenous blend that enables group collaboration.