The Future of Over-the-Top Enterprise Services
What would happen if Salesforce decided to buy Twilio? Enterprises could wind up with some exciting new choices for services.
Much is made of the impact of OTT (Over The Top) services such as Skype--applications that run on top of legacy public networks and offer, at reduced or no cost, many of the same services that those networks charge for as part of their core business. Taking South Korea as an example, a popular OTT service is KakaoTalk, which provides free SMS and calling between its users. Within 2 years of launch it had 42 million users, with 20 million users every day, generating 1.3 billion messages. Today it has over 50 million users. This has resulted in a decline in the telecom operators' SMS revenues of over 10%. In South Korea, OTT has changed the consumer communication landscape.
To date, OTT services have been consumer focused. But what happens when the OTT services focus on the enterprise market? It's a large market; globally, enterprises will spend $650 billion in 2012 across all telecom services. This doesn't include enterprise hardware, software and professional services; include that and we're closer to $1.4 trillion across Information and Communications Technology (ICT). There's much revenue to be made in disrupting the enterprise ICT market, as all enterprises large and small are seeking ways to lower the cost of what they spend on ICT, while improving performance.
To understand how this lucrative market could be disrupted by an OTT service, we'll examine a scenario: What happens if Salesforce.com were to buy Twilio and become an OTT Enterprise ICT service provider?
Why would Saleforce.com want to buy Twilio? First, let us understand what Salesforce.com and Twilio provide.
Saleforce.com started business providing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software as a service. Its offer now covers sales, service, marketing, HR, and social enterprise software. Its aim is to enable businesses to run most of their operations in Salesforce.com's cloud, and enable businesses in that cloud to easily work together.
Twilio is a cloud communication services provider, delivering services such as call center, PBX (Private Branch Exchange), IVR (Interactive Voice Response), call tracking, conferencing, alerting, etc. They do all this through APIs, Application Program Interfaces that mean an enterprise's business applications can be easily integrated with its communication services.
Later in this article we'll explore some use cases for what this integration means in practice. The No Jitter article "Web APIs are Transforming Enterprise Communications and Collaboration" discusses the role of APIs in more detail.
Traditionally, Salesforce.com provides the CRM software that is integrated with a contact center infrastructure provided by another service provider. What Twilio would mean to Saleforce.com is that Saleforce.com could deliver the cloud call center as part of its offer to enterprises, all pre-integrated, easily modified/configured by any web developer, and at a fraction of the cost of today's situation.
It's possible to do this today, as Twilio's APIs are available in Salesforce.com, but it requires the enterprise to implement the APIs, making it addressable only to a niche of enterprises that like to build their own back-office systems. With an integrated Salesforce + Twilio entity, it would simply be offered as a cloud service, no development required, hence addressable to all enterprises.
We can see the gap in Saleforce.com's offer from their website: They talk about Chatter (enterprise social network) integration, email integration, but it's missing integration with real-time communication of voice and SMS, which is the foundation of how we do business each and every day (also see this post by Blair Pleasant).
Twilio is disruptive for enterprise communications because it does not charge for services like conferencing, IVR, PBX, Call Center, unlike your traditional communications service provider; they make their money on the 1 or 2-cent-per-minute charges for the incoming or outgoing calls.
Once upon a time, enterprises would look to telecom operators or specialized system integrators to deliver integrated IT and Telecom solutions--e.g. integrating the call center and customer relationship management software. This integration can be a difficult and expensive task with lots of finger-pointing throughout the project. But in this scenario, with the emergence of cloud communications, enterprises can look to their cloud CRM provider to also integrate the communications. Communications services like call centers, PBXs, IVRs, conferencing, SMS alerting, and call tracking have become applications in the cloud.
Let's examine some use cases for what this integration could mean to enterprises:
Next Page: Use Cases