Got UC Developers?

When people talk about unified communications, they are usually referring to integrated applications that provide seamless access to real-time conferencing and collaboration applications like voice, video, and screen sharing.

For most organizations, these applications exist on their own and aren't integrated with workflows or business process applications. This means that if someone wants to collaborate with co-workers on the development of a piece of content, a report from a CRM system, or an adverse event from a process control application, or if they want to perform almost any other business function, they must do so outside the context of the topic at hand. In this model, workers continually alt-tab between applications; sending an instant message containing comments about a piece of sales collateral, an email about next steps for a project, a text about a performance report for a new hire, or, sadly, a voice mail saying, "Did you see the alarm on generator number 2? Please call me when you get this message!"

Now, thanks to a variety of factors, hitting alt-tab to access UC features may soon become a thing of the past:

  • Communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) and open-source library offerings are enabling application developers to embed messaging, voice, and even video communications directly into their apps
  • UC platforms are offering pre-packaged plug-ins as well as APIs to enable integration of features like click-to-call directly into business apps
  • WebRTC is enabling access to rich media communications directly from within any browser
  • Digital transformation projects are focusing on identifying processes that can be improved via the implementation of innovative new technologies
  • UC application development platforms are enabling easy drag-and-drop creation of new capabilities or integrations with existing applications and workflows
  • Increasing UC application development capabilities are available from systems integrators

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UC leaders must transform their thinking from simply providing a shared service to providing a platform that application developers can extend and integrate into their business applications and processes. This isn't an easy transformation for many, as their incumbent organizational architecture is often configured into plan-build-run silos, each with well defined areas of responsibility, and each focused on delivering their applications in ways that maximize reliability and minimize costs. Meanwhile, application development groups may not be aware of the opportunities available to them via existing APIs from current UC providers, or new features possible via CPaaS and WebRTC. What is required for success is a bridging of these two worlds!

As part of our 2018 Research Study on Unified Communications and Collaboration, Nemertes asked the more than 650 participants about their plans to embed UC into their current business applications. Just 13% said they were doing so today, while another 25% plan to do so in the next two years. Only 9% are creating customized UC applications using existing development environments or platforms like Avaya's Breeze. We asked as well about CPaaS plans and found that 8% are using CPaaS now, while 23% plan to do so by 2019, though we've found in recent years that most CPaaS plans are in support of digital transformation initiatives that are often customer-facing (e.g. adding the ability to text customers about order status).

What these data points tell us is that UC application development is still in its early stages. Clearly, organizations need to do more to raise application integration and development awareness among UC teams, application developers, and end users.

UC teams must strive to create their own application development capabilities (our research has shown that in most cases, UC groups have had to go to other functions within IT or to third parties to obtain development resources). Application developers must become more aware of APIs afforded by UC platforms, and end users must be educated on the opportunities to improve processes and workflows via integrated, or customized communications. Obviously, there's a role here as well for vendors and systems integrators to act as evangelizers to educate customers of the potential of UC AppDev.

Achieving UC application development success will require a great deal of communication and coordination to develop synergies between developers and system owners, and it will require investing resources into identifying opportunities for business process improvement. If you haven't already developed a strategy around UC application development, now is the time to begin.

Explore this topic further in the Enterprise Connect session, "Building Your UC Developer Community," taking place on Wednesday, March 14, at 4:00 p.m. And learn more about APIs & Embedded Communications at Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Regular Rate or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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