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The Future of Over-the-Top Enterprise 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
Sales / Call Center Scenario
Consider a brokerage where a new investment opportunity is identified and the broker needs to call their target clients to see if they want to take advantage of the opportunity. Speed is of the essence, as it's about getting the clients to act quickly, or else the opportunity could be lost, e.g. the price rises too high or the option is no longer available. The calls line up automatically; as soon as one call is finished the next client is called without the broker doing anything. In financial services it's all about maximizing the utilization of their very well paid people.
Say the broker is diverted to a client's voicemail; then the system takes over and a personalized voice message is left, while the broker moves onto the next call, saving time. If it's a mobile number that's called and then diverted to voicemail, a text message can be sent as defined by the broker, perhaps summarizing the offer or simply asking for a call-back within the next hour.
As these calls are to existing clients, their communication preferences are integrated into the system, e.g. multiple phone numbers, with the mobile number(s) identified. Some clients may have gone as far as to share their Instant Message details, so the broker can broadcast messages immediately to those clients on the deal, and from an IM conversation escalate to a call.
Say a client calls back from one of the known numbers in their account; the broker immediately has the client's information on hand with the intelligence on what triggers will get the client to act, and the likely size of the investment they'd make based on the client's history.
This scenario is possible today but requires expensive integration across multiple providers, has limited flexibility, and requires specialists to customize or make changes. With the combination of salesforce.com and Twilio, the solution would move entirely to the cloud, lowering costs as the enterprise only pays for what they use, can take advantage of Twilio's disruptive pricing model, and enables greater flexibility, as the enterprise can make changes to the solution themselves.
Measuring All Types of Advertising: Call Tracking
Ten years ago, pay-per-click (PPC) Internet ads revolutionized the advertising industry. The once-tenuous link between online advertising and sales became concrete and measurable. Instead of preaching faith in the effectiveness of their campaigns, digital advertisers delivered hard facts.
But the PPC revolution was incomplete. It didn't affect the majority of advertising, which couldn't be measured on a pay-per-click basis, including newspaper ads, billboards, radio spots and TV commercials. And this meant that customers who clicked on an ad but subsequently called a store to make a purchase weren't counted as "conversions." Without a direct tie between online and offline behavior, claims about the success of various advertising campaigns remained fuzzy.
But with integrated marketing campaigns enabled through Saleforce.com and Twilio, the promise of precise measurement of advertising spend could be realized, as previously unmeasured ad inventory becomes tracked, traced and verified thanks to "call tracking," as businesses start using phone numbers to match online clicks with offline purchasing behavior. Call tracking works by assigning unique phone numbers to different campaigns, making it possible to treat calls like clicks in the back-end reporting, made possible through the integration of Salesforce.com and Twilio. As in the previous example, the fact that the system is cloud based means that an enterprise need only pay for what they use, can take advantage of Twilio's disruptive pricing model, and the enterprise can customize to their specific needs.
Say Mercedes is launching a new car model and wants to track the performance of the campaign across multiple media. Every mobile ad would include two things: click to call, which is the capability to directly place a call from a web browser, and call tracking. For each media/location/other criteria, different phone numbers can be used to provide detailed performance metrics. Advertisers who use call tracking are realizing conversion rates of 45% versus 3% for pay-per-click advertising.
Enterprise Social Networks Become Real-Time
Saleforce.com has a tool called Chatter, an enterprise social network. Think of it like a mini version of Linkedin, where you can see news, profiles, questions, and you can search for relevant expertise with your organization. Say a customer integration project is having problems with a particular legacy platform; the project manager can search Chatter to see if anyone else in the company has worked on that particular legacy platform. If they find such a person they could message her to see if she is available to talk, and then click to call. As the call progresses, they could message and then conference in the project's architect to discuss and solve the problem--all through Chatter, to whatever device the participants in that communication prefer, be it a browser, IP phone, desk phone, mobile phone, or VoIP client.
As the convergence of cloud based business processes and cloud communications enables SaaS providers to offer communication services, things get interesting for enterprises: Prices drop for traditionally expensive items like call centers and IVRs; functions or customizations that were prohibitively expensive become a matter of point and click to configure; business processes become slicker; advertising campaigns become more measureable and effective; and real-time communications becomes integrated rather than trapped in an expensive silo.
The future of over the top enterprise services is already here as Twilio's APIs are already available in Salesforce.com; it's just they're just not evenly distributed--the solutions using Twilio's APIs are not yet available to all enterprises, only those that can "build-it themselves". But that will change.