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Grinding Away at Communications-Enablement
For the last month -- well, ever since listening in on an EC Summit at Enterprise Connect 2015 -- I can't get the idea of communications ubiquity out of my mind. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy shop, looking around, eyes glazed, thinking, "Could we communications-enable this...or that?
I might sound naive, but isn't that sometimes what makes for the best ideas? If you don't know something can't be done, you presume it can -- or at least don't see anything wrong in the asking. If you think positively, rather than pessimistically, good things tend to happen. If you don't know what-all communications-enabling an application entails, then you simply think, "Yes, let's!"
You might, of course, find your enthusiasm tempered rather quickly -- unless you've got troves of communications-savvy developers at the ready. If you don't, no need to lose heart. As I discussed in my post-EC Summit report, "Marching Toward Communications Ubiquity, you have plenty of options in this cloud-based, software-intensive future into which we're heading. Namely, these come in the form of communications platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings or application programming interfaces (APIs) for creating embedded communications.
These sorts of capabilities are available from companies like Bandwidth, Digium, Genband, and Twilio, as well as from legacy telephony vendors like Avaya, Cisco, and Unify -- each of which puts its own spin on communications-enablement.
Just the other day I talked with Preet Anand, CEO and founder of BlueLight, about the lightbulb-on moment that illuminated his thinking about a troublesome social issue that had been bothering him since his days as a young college freshman -- sexual assault on campuses. You can read last week's No Jitter post, Startup Taps In-App Calling, Messaging for Campus Safety, for the story of how he came to found and develop the BlueLight mobile safety service, but suffice to say working with voice and messaging APIs from one of the above-mentioned communications companies -- Bandwidth -- played a critical role.
With the "Yes, let's" attitude of the young entrepreneur that he is, Anand recalled his thinking: "We use the smartphone for so many different things. I realized if we were going to make a dent in this number [of campus rape victims], it had to live there, on the smartphone." Once he'd made that connection, he then had to find a communications partner, one that lived "on the telephony stack, at that underlying telecom level," and that provided easy-to-use voice and messaging APIs for his developers.
Whether the effort comes from a startup like BlueLight working toward social good or a Fortune 500 looking to boost customer service, companies large and small need to start thinking about what applications would benefit by having communications wrapped into them. And then they've got to figure out how to go about that. Develop internally? Use one of the newfound PaaS or communications/collaboration-as-a-service offerings?
There's no right or wrong answer, as long as the end goal is to help developers make communications part of an in-app experience. I like the phrase I've heard Stephen Leonard, Bandwidth EVP, use to describe the trend: "grinding telecom into software."
Grind away, I say.