Blair Pleasant
Blair Pleasant is President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of UCStrategies. She provides consulting and market...
Read Full Bio >>

Blair Pleasant | May 25, 2016 |


You Say You Want an Integration...

You Say You Want an Integration... From APIs and SDKs to CPaaS, communications integration is the name of the game.

From APIs and SDKs to CPaaS, communications integration is the name of the game.

To give a nod to the Beatles, the biggest "revolution" in business communications today is clearly the ability to integrate communications into applications, business processes, and workflows.

Many years ago when the UCStrategies team came up with our definition for unified communications, we defined it as "communications integrated to optimize business processes." That definition held true for a long time, but many vendors focused solely on 'integrating' the different modes of communications to enable users to initiate a call or IM from the same interface, for example. While an integrated communication interface on a telephone or a computer/tablet/smartphone screen is still useful, the real focus of integration as of late has become business applications rather than business processes -- as we intended from the outset.

As to terminology, instead of communications-enabled business processes (CEBP), we're now seeing the emergence of communications-enabled applications (CEA). Whether we're talking about a CRM application, a vertical app such as one for making dental appointments, or even IoT applications, the ability to integrate communications capabilities is key. We're seeing that the real value for most businesses and workers is in the applications that they use to get their work done, with communication capabilities integrated or embedded in those applications. In addition, voice-based communication is losing prominence as messaging-centric communication takes on increased value.

What's driving this is the user experience, based on the workflows and applications that workers use, and how they can be more effective and productive. For example, workers can be more productive when they have communications capabilities within the application or dashboard "where they live." If I'm always in Salesforce and that's what's open on my desktop or mobile device from 8-5, I want to be able to access my communication tools from within Salesforce, rather than having to open a separate application or pull up a siloed communication tool. By initiating communications from within the Salesforce application, it ties those interactions to the customer record and Salesforce can automatically log customer activity (and possibly do even more as software advances).

As Ali Rizvi, Director of Product Management at Fonality, explained to me, "Integration breaks boundaries that UC can't do by itself. The key is the user experience and being judicious about finding meaningful applications where you place communication tools and interactions. Look to where the value is added to business processes where customers are engaged."

Companies Zero-In on Integration

We're seeing more and more companies focusing on integrating communication functions into business applications by adding voice, video, messaging, presence, and collaboration to their applications. Developers have been able to do this for a while, but it's historically been somewhat challenging -- it required specialized developers and engineers, and it took a long time to do.

Things have changed, and integration today is much easier thanks to APIs that vendors can use to integrate UC with applications, as well as new Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) offerings, which provide cloud-based APIs and pre-packaged plug-ins or integration modules to developers on an "as a service" basis.

Vonage made a very bold move recently by acquiring the No. 2 CPaaS vendor, Nexmo -- a move that demonstrates the value of integrating communication capabilities into applications and workflows. There's a growing list of CPaaS vendors, including Twillio, Plivo, Cisco (Tropo), Genband (Kandy), CafeX, and Avaya's Zang, which all provide not only a cloud communications platform, but also applications, a development platform, and embedded tools.

Another integration approach for communication-enabling applications is for vendors to provide open APIs and SDKs for developers and enterprise customers. All of the UCC and UCaaS vendors understand the importance of integration.

Nextiva is also active in this area. As Nextiva CIO Josh Lesavoy explained to me during a recent visit, "Over the past few years, the desire to integrate telecommunication with other types of software applications has moved from a 'nice to have' to a business requirement." He noted that Nextiva has been offering a full suite of APIs for customers and their software vendors to leverage, providing both real-time control and historical data access via a suite of REST APIs to enable basic telecommunications functionality.

RingCentral introduced its communications developer platform, RingCentral Connect Platform, which offers developers a set of tools and services to build, deploy, and manage custom integrations using RingCentral open APIs. RingCentral has integrated with a number of SaaS providers, but also offers an integration with the Zapier platform to extend integration capabilities to customers. (See related post, " RingCentral Brings UCaaS to Zapier."

The driver behind all of this is business efficiency, and helping individuals work more effectively. During a call discussing Vonage's acquisition of Nexmo, Vonage CEO Alan Masarek told me, "This isn't something different -- it's the identical communications, just a different consumption model. Productivity verticals will be consumed via APIs as they get built in to improve the underlying business processes and applications." Masarek described how Nexmo helps Uber drivers and passengers connect so that the driver doesn't miss a revenue opportunity. Using Nexmo messaging capabilities, an Uber driver can send a text message (which costs only a penny or two) to the passenger and secure the value of the ride for the driver.

Expect to see more consolidation in the market, as UCC and UCaaS vendors acquire some of the remaining CPaaS vendors. In parallel, expect additional vendors and many startups to get into the game. Whether using integrations and APIs to communication-enable applications and workflows is a revolution or evolution, "It's gonna be alright!"

Follow Blair Pleasant on Twitter and Google+!
Blair Pleasant on Google+


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.