2017 UC Outlook: The Platform Trend Continues
UC leaders that proactively plan for growing use of APIs and cPaaS in 2017 will also find themselves better positioned to support digital transformation plans.
Many IT leaders have struggled with the definition of Unified Communications. Does the term UC define an app that one purchases from a UC vendor? Or is it an architecture that integrates real-time (and even non-real-time) applications like telephony, video and Web conferencing, presence, and messaging into a common and consistent set of user interfaces across desktop and mobile devices?
Now, there's a third definition to throw into the mix: UC as the unification of communications capabilities with business process applications and workflows. In this new paradigm, communications capabilities like chat, voice and video calling, and conferencing are not only extensible into existing applications, but may form the basis of new applications and services. These range from simply embedding click-to-call into an existing app to creating an entirely new application to meet a business need. Consumable APIs delivered from the cloud via communications Platform-as-a-Service (cPaaS) providers offer an additional means to incorporate communications features into apps and processes.
The recently published Nemertes Research 2016-17 Unified Communications and Collaboration Benchmark highlights the growing importance of UC-as-a-Platform:
- 47% of benchmark participants are either currently embedding UC features into other apps or are planning to do so in the next year
- 29% are creating their own apps using UC development platforms or APIs available from their current UC providers
- 26% are either using cPaaS or evaluating it for future use
- 27% are either using, or planning to use video cPaaS
Use cases for embedding UC features into apps include enabling click-to-call from within CRMs, tying business process apps into messaging tools to enable sending of workflow notifications to IM or team chat apps, and integration of telephony and messaging into help desk applications. Use cases for creating ustom apps include data dips into CRMs for inbound calling, custom call routing, support for PCI call handing, call reporting, and more.
cPaaS initiatives largely focus on customer-facing services such as sending notifications to customers to alert them that their order has shipped, or is ready, or to provide a reminder of an upcoming appointment. Often these efforts are part of digital transformation initiatives that live outside of the UC domain. Video cPaaS efforts support initiatives around telemedicine, IoT, and delivery of video content across the organization as well as to customers.
UC teams are struggling with their role in all this; staffing is also a challenge as they transition to an environment where having coding skills are as, or perhaps more, important than knowledge of UC systems and networks. Now, roughly 67% of organizations that participated in our benchmark rely on application developer resources from outside of their UC team; just 17% are developing applications within their UC teams.
Most IT leaders surveyed indicated that they plan to hire dedicated application developers to focus solely on linking communications to business apps and workflows to support digital transformation projects. Perhaps more strikingly, nearly 80% say they are actively working to educate application developers within their organizations of the capabilities provided by UC APIs and cPaaS. Further, 46% are going out directly to lines of business to show digital transformation leaders what they can deliver by using UC APIs and cPaaS.
In addition to the need to organically grow developer talent, UC leaders tell us they are looking at ways to identify and manage costs of app development, create business cases to justify investment, determine how to manage performance and security of embedded apps, and to create internal app stores and other resources to enable developers to share and collaborate around different initiatives. They wish to avoid scenarios where different groups are using different cPaaS providers and instead leverage economies of scale to simplify app delivery and minimize costs.
UC leaders should plan for a more app-centric future in 2017 and beyond. Start now by identifying the extensible API capabilities available from both your current UC providers as well as in the larger cPaaS marketplace. Create a plan to develop (or broaden) internal app development capabilities, either organically or by engaging with partners. Don't forget to address how shifting to UC-as-a-Platform will impact your security and performance management efforts as well. UC leaders that proactively plan for growing use of APIs and cPaaS will also find themselves better positioned to support digital transformation plans.
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.