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Transforming Business With Comms APIs

Digital transformation is all around us.

You may notice this in your dealings with your favorite companies -- the airline that addresses your complaints quickly via Twitter, the big-box retailer that sends you just the digital coupon you need while you're shopping, the local pizzeria that lets you pay via a smartphone app. And, of course, you've got your Airbnb, your Instagram, and your Uber.

Over the last couple of years you've probably read umpteen stories about digital transformation in the business and IT press -- just the other day on No Jitter Zeus Kerravala, UC analyst, told us about Cisco and its new digital solutions, "packaged offerings to help customers evolve into digital organizations." While Zeus focused on Cisco's Workplace Productivity solution for transforming the physical workspace, he noted the importance of digital solutions in general. "... natively digital organizations are creating upheaval in their markets at a speed never seen before in business, so IT and business leaders need to have a plan in place now."

APIs Are All Around
Many digital transformation initiatives hinge on application programming interfaces, or, if you're into the lingo du jour, what you know as APIs. They're all around us, too -- and have been for quite a long time. They're the stuff that makes software work and your Web pages easy to navigate, for example. What's newish, in the API realm in general and in enterprise communications in particular, are communications APIs -- but they are quickly becoming a staple of the digital transformation.

Mark Winther, IDC

I talked about this a bit in a call earlier this week with Mark Winther, group VP, telecom custom solutions, at IDC. Mark has written an in-depth report on cloud communications platforms that provide APIs, and will be kicking off the inaugural Communications API track at next month's Enterprise Connect conference with his session, "Introduction to APIs: Why They're Important for Communications." Whether looking to engage employees, customers, or business partners in digital ways, productively and efficiently, APIs are going to be key, he said. They will serve as the interface between existing systems of record -- your customer, inventory, pricing, and sales databases, for example -- and your users, internal or external.

This work is taking place horizontally and vertically, Winther noted. In an example of the former, Salesforce talked about this sort of capability earlier this month when it shared product plans for its next-generation CRM platform, Salesforce Lightning. Using Twilio Voice APIs, Salesforce will incorporate click-to-call, auto-logging of calls, and call forwarding in Sales Cloud Lightning in a feature it's calling Lightning Voice. And in an example of the latter, see a No Jitter piece I'd written last year about how McLeod Software is using messaging APIs from Bandwidth to improve communications between the transportation logistics companies it serves and freight carriers.

Development work, as we'll see during an "APIs in Action" demo session we have planned as part of the Communications API track, is taking place within enterprise organizations themselves, too. During this session, a telecommunications architecture manager with Michigan State University and the lead developer at Construction Monitor will give us live demonstrations of how their organizations are using communications APIs to better serve their users -- digitally, of course. You'll learn how they integrated communications APIs into their systems, what gotchas they encountered, and what benefits they've realized.

Power in the Knowing
The real power of communications APIs, as these demos will surely show, is in the ability to inject context into every call and message, Winther said. That context, he added, could be provided via user's browser activity, apps in use, device settings like calendar events, device capabilities like microphone, camera, and location, and so on. This is a topic we'll be tackling in another Communications API track session, "Contextual Communications: Coming of Age at Last?"

As you consider enterprise communications in a digital context, you might move from a premises-based PBX to a cloud communications system. And that'd be great, but that alone isn't enough, Winther cautioned. "You're still not going to get the context. You're not going to make those calls richer and more productive. The only way you're going to get there is with APIs."

Why is that? Because APIs allow you to embed real-time communications in any mobile app, website, or business process.

"Communications is no longer a standalone, dedicated, monolithic infrastructure somewhere," as Winther pointed out. "Now you can put it into anything, and with APIs, that's simple. You're talking about a couple of lines of code to get going. That's where the value comes in."

Are you ready to find out more about communications APIs and the value they can bring to your organization in this era of all things digital? Join us at Enterprise Connect, coming March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla., and participate in our Communications API track and visit communications API providers in the Exhibition Hall. We look forward to seeing you there!

If you haven't yet signed up, register today, using the code NJPOST, to save an additional $200 off the early bird rate. This discount code, which expires today, Feb. 19, is valid for Entire Event and Tue-Thu Conference passes and represents a total savings of $700 off the onsite price. As an added bonus, you can get even bigger savings when you register three or more attendees from your company.