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Don't Call, Text... Maybe?

I have a confession to make. Here, as I work in my home office, I just text messaged my teenage son. I know, I know, big deal, right?

But I confess because he's at home, too, just up the stairs from where I sit, and talking to him in person would have been... well, if not more appropriate then certainly not so lazy. But why expend the energy? All I needed to say was easily contained in the 160-character SMS format: Please turn the TV lower. (Don't we all know how the O.J. trial turned out anyways?!)

Of course you have your own text messaging transgressions -- anybody who has a smartphone surely does. Person to person, some might say we border on being over-reliant on SMS. Sure, you could call... or you could text instead. Sprinkle in an emoji or two and even your mom won't perceive your unwillingness to engage verbally as a slight.

Increasingly, enterprises too are turning to SMS as a default mode of communications (usually sans emojis). Who among us hasn't received a text message delivering a password reset code, appointment reminder, flight change notice, delivery status, or payment notice, for instance?

As Portio Research, an independent telecoms research provider, noted in a June 2015 research report, SMS is a cheap and easy way to enable internal or external communications for any company, regardless of size. "There could easily be up to 50 or 60 use cases in a large corporation where SMS could be implemented to communicate up and down the structure -- with customers, suppliers, staff and partners," Portio Research said.

SMS escalation isn't unusual, Steve French, global VP of product management and marketing at OpenMarket, an enterprise engagement platform provider, told me in a recent call. As an example, he cited a recent financial services win in which OpenMarket was brought in for a single SMS use case. "The deal wasn't even signed yet, and we were already getting additional requests, 'Hey, can you do this? And this? And this?"

Enterprises are getting smarter about how to use SMS with mobile apps and integrate SMS more deeply into business processes, French said. You don't just want to receive a general account alert from your bank. You want specifics, and the ability to take immediate action. "Your mortgage is due today, but you have no scheduled payment. Text 1 to initiate payment from checking. Text 2 to pay from savings. Text 3 to reschedule payment. Text 4 for information on refinancing."

Based on recent activity, it's safe to say that neither OpenMarket nor its competitors intend to be left out of the action. In February, for instance, OpenMarket launched a global SMS API aimed at letting enterprises create and manage multiple originating message types -- short codes, text-enabled toll-free and local numbers, and alphanumeric codes, for example -- for delivery worldwide. (For related No Jitter coverage, see "Text-to-Toll Free: Coming to a Contact Center Near You.") Previously the company offered an SMS API for the U.S. and another for the U.K. -- "but global companies need to be able to do global campaigns," as French said.

To reduce the technical complexity of using SMS, OpenMarket's global SMS API automatically selects the best messaging originator -- short code or text-enabled phone number, for example -- for the destination address. In addition, it optimizes and delivers the message in preferred format based on global operators and languages, French said.

Earlier this month, Flowroute got into the SMS game, too, as announced at Enterprise Connect. "What you can do on the Flowroute network with voice, we've now extended to SMS," said Dan Nordale, who heads sales and marketing at the company. In other words, calling and text messaging are unified on a single toll-free or long code phone number that developers can embed in their applications and services.

The Flowroute SMS offering includes capabilities such as customized routing for specifying delivery at the account of individual phone number level, and detailed real-time reports on SMS usage.

Like OpenMarket, Flowroute has seen mounting interest in enterprise SMS -- in its case specifically, for the last 18 months or so, Nordale said. "We've taken a measured approach, in terms of understanding the volume of messaging and when messaging would really take off. And now is the right time."

And so I see far more SMS in my already mobile message-laden daily life -- that is, unless SMS gets eaten up by over-the-top messaging, as suggested in this recent No Jitter post: OTT Messaging Apps Chew Away at SMS."

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