Coming for Comms in 2017: Year of the Developer
In this age of disruption, and with the rise of CPaaS and APIs, developers are taking on increased responsibilities and importance in the enterprise.
I am officially proclaiming 2017 to be the Year of the Developer for communications and collaboration.
As the business communications and UC industries have evolved, the key target audience has been changing as well. Communications vendors originally sold to the IT department, which purchased and deployed technology solutions. More recently, they have been targeting line-of-business operations, as individual users have purchased or brought in tools to help them be more productive and effective at doing their jobs. In many cases the LOB is still a key focus, but getting even more attention these days are developers.
In this age of disruption, and with the rise of communications platform as a service (CPaaS) and APIs, application and solution developers are taking on increased responsibilities and importance in the enterprise. As Salesforce found in this year's survey of 2,200 CIOs and industry leaders on the state of IT, the bulk of IT teams -- 79% -- are developing apps for customers, partners, or employees.
Integrating communications functions into business apps has been a possibility for a while, but it's been somewhat of a challenge, requiring specialized developers and engineers and development cycles. Things have changed, and integrating UC into applications today is much easier thanks to vendor-provided APIs and connectors, many provided via cloud platforms on an "as a service" basis. As I pointed out earlier this year in the No Jitter post, "You Say You Want an Integration...," as a result more and more companies are integrating voice, video, messaging, presence, and collaboration functions into their business applications.
Companies like Twilio, Genband (with Kandy), Plivo, Zang (Avaya), Vonage (Nexmo), Cisco (Tropo), and others have made it easier for developers to integrate communications into existing applications and create new workflows, business processes, and in some cases, even full-blown solutions. Most UC vendors are even providing catalogs or "stores" for their APIs and connectors so that developers can easily piece together new solutions.
As Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson told UC analyst Dave Michels, of TalkingPointz, in his recent No Jitter Q&A, "Today, every company is becoming a technology company and software is what allows one company to differentiate from its competitors. In this transition, developers are becoming a lot more important because they build the experiments and the prototypes -- and those turn into production apps and scale globally."
I recently spoke with Al Cook, Twilio's director of product, about the company's approach. Twilio provides developers with "Lego-type building blocks to compose a communications experience," he told me. Essentially, he added, it does the hard part of communications, and developers use Twilio APIs to stitch services together.
Enterprises like ING are even using Twilio to build complete contact center solutions to replace existing legacy solutions. Developers today have more freedom to create solutions that provide the functionality they need, without having to pay for bells and whistles they don't need, Cook noted.
At UCStrategies, we've been focused on the integration of communication capabilities and business processes/business applications (also known as communication-enabled business processes, or CEBP) since Day 1. UC analyst Phil Edholm, of PKE Consulting, explored the evolution in a recent UCStrategies post, "CPaaS 2.0 and The Next Generation." As he explained, "While earlier CEBP assumed that the business process would integrate with the traditional PBX, a new range of solutions integrated the applications directly with the PSTN for both voice and SMS. The app developer could invoke communications without involving the PBX or the telecom group by using CPaaS."
Using APIs, developers can easily and quickly integrate communications capabilities into business applications and workflows.
Zang is another company focusing on developers; it offers both CPaaS and a cloud communications platform with pre-built applications and tools, allowing anyone to create and deploy custom, communications-enabled apps as standalone or embedded features. With both an operational platform and a development platform, it combines CPaaS with rapid app development using drag-and-drop tools, pre-built applications, and APIs. Zang has come a long way since its introduction in March at Enterprise Connect 2016, and in addition to Zang Cloud now offers Zang Office, and will soon offer Zang Video, Zang Agent (contact center as a service), and Zang Spaces (persistent team collaboration as a service).
So now that developers have these great tools at their disposal to build communication-enable applications and workflows and to create new solutions, what are developers developing? In my opinion, not enough.
Most CPaaS/API integration applications involve basic SMS messaging for notification. When I get an analyst briefing from a vendor and ask about use cases, the most frequent example is a dental office notifying patients of upcoming appointments through SMS. Appointment reminders and delivery notifications seem to be the primary use case and examples, in addition to connecting various parties who may or may not know each other (e.g.; the Uber model). This is great, but isn't there more?
I'll be moderating a communications API case study panel at Enterprise Connect 2017, taking place March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. In the session, "Case Studies: Working with Communications APIS -- Tales from the Trenches," we'll be exploring how participant organizations identified communications integration as an opportunity and proceeded with their plans. If you've integrated communications with business applications or processes using CPaaS or APIs and are open to discussing your story, please email me. I'd love to have you share your experience with our audience.
Learn more about communications APIs at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. View the Communications APIs track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or get a free Expo Plus pass.