It's All About the Apps, 'Bout the Apps, No Telephones
Growing availability of APIs means that communications-enabled business processes (aka “workflows”) are finally a reality.
With apologies to Meghan Trainor, the unified communications and collaboration landscape is on the cusp of a sea change. APIs are finally bringing about the long-discussed integration of unified communications, business applications, and processes. Workflow-enabled communications is quickly catching on as the latest buzzword, and the biggest focus areas for not only traditional UC/telephony vendors, but a slew of emerging startups as well.
APIs aren't new. Just about every UC vendor has provided its customers a means to write custom interfaces to their platforms for years. What is new, however, is that vendors are delivering APIs in new ways such as via SaaS-based platforms, and are broadening the scope of what those APIs can deliver. Examples include:
- Cloud-based platforms like CaféX, Cisco Tropo, Respoke, Tokbox, Twilio and more that are providing customers with lightweight, easy to use APIs for embedding specific communications capability like data dips, voice chat, SMS text, and messaging to enable developers to add these services to their own apps, or to corporate websites
- APIs and SDKs from UC providers like Avaya, Mitel, RingCentral, ShoreTel, Unify, and Vertical Communications, enable their customers to develop custom apps, or embed UC features into existing applications
- Network service providers like Agora.io, Flowroute, and Voxbone who provide APIs that interconnect to their SIP trunking or optimized services for transporting real-time communications over the public Internet
On the buyer side, we're seeing increasing interest in using APIs to extend UC services into enterprise apps as well as to create custom apps to improve business processes. More than half of the approximately 50 companies participating in the Nemertes 2015-16 Unified Communications and Collaboration Benchmark were already using APIs to embed UC into other business apps, planning to do so, or evaluating the applicability of APIs within their own organizations. Additionally, nearly 30% were either developing their own custom UC apps, or evaluating doing so. Examples include screen pop integration with inbound calling (e.g. for a call to a sales rep or account manager), establishing call recording to meet regulatory requirements for protected data such as personal account information, or simply enabling click-to-call or click-to-chat from within existing business process apps.
The biggest obstacle to API use is organizational, not technical. Many of the enterprises we work with have not yet bridged the gap between their telephony/UC shops responsible for operating UC platforms, and their application developers. Channel partners and VARs are in many cases just now ramping up their application development capabilities, often lacking in specific industry knowledge that would speed custom app development. Business leaders are not yet aware of how they can leverage APIs to deliver new services, improve customer engagement, or improve workflows.
As tangible examples improve, channels mature, marketing increases, and availability of APIs widens, I expect that 2016 will see even more rapid adoption of communications-enhanced workflows (did I just create a new acronym? CEW?). Get started now in talking to your UC vendors and partners to understand their current and emerging capabilities, and to your developers to build their awareness of not just what's available from existing UC platforms, but how they can leverage cloud-based services to deliver real business value now and in the near future.
Join Dr. Brent Kelly and me at Enterprise Connect 2016 on Tuesday March 8, from 1:30 – 2:45 PM in Osceola B for "APIs in Action: Demos of Real-World UC/Application Integrations" and hear from Michigan State University and Construction Monitor on how they are using APIs to deliver measurable business value today.