Which CPaaS Do You Use Now?

Last week, UC and industry thought leaders convened for the eighth-annual BC Summit and one key message rose to the top: Change! Change is here in many forms, from networks (software-defined WAN), to information-driven automation (artificial intelligence), to the appearance of communications in almost all software we use in business communications delivered via communications platform as a service (CPaaS).

BC Summit participants broadly agreed that business or enterprise communications is rapidly transforming. The opportunities as well as the threats of business and workflow reinvention, fueled by the power of the Internet and forced by threats from Internet startups, are driving this transformation. A major symptom of these transformations is automation not only of workflows but also communications within these workflows, enhanced with bots and with AI. Additionally, the smartphone revolution has led to a shift from voice to text. Change is clearly here -- to stay!

Because of these changes, almost all enterprises will experience four simultaneous ways to deliver communications:

  1. Traditional PBX-type communications, especially for analog lines and for users who insist on using multibutton desk phones. This includes within the traditional contact center.
  2. Communications delivered in the cloud via UC as a service (UCaaS) and CPaaS. This includes moving groups of users, such as field personnel, to UCaaS and transitioning services such as SIP trunks or SMS texting to CPaaS.
  3. Communications provided by messaging-centric software such as Cisco Spark, Microsoft Teams, IBM Connections, and many more. These cloud-based software packages provide calling and conferencing without any need for the on-premises PBX.
  4. Communications provided by line-of-business (LOB) application software packages. This is the wave of the future, as AI-enhanced software boosts every employee's performance while also ensuring workflow compliance and excellent customer service.

Elements of CPaaS drive the innovations that occur in categories two, three, and four. CPaaS enables application software developers to respond precisely and quickly to LOB needs, and to build the needed communications tools into each activity.

Importantly, while the enterprise as a whole may simultaneously experience all four of these communications modes, each department may only need to be concerned with one, or perhaps two, of them. CPaaS allows for simple responses to user requirements without the complexity of a uniform enterprise-wide solution such as PBXs have provided for decades.

Enterprise communications managers and planners, in collaboration with their CIOs and IT architects, must now decide what to do about this CPaaS-driven change. Here are four possible options:

  • One option is to become your own CPaaS. Many PBX vendors have provided application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable the PBX to be a CPaaS platform. This can be an effective and proactive move that will make use of the existing PBX investment. However, this will require that the PBX vendor support an active developer community and also create plug-ins or modules for the most popular of the messaging-centric and LOB application packages. To some extent, Cisco provides this with Tropo, Avaya with Zang, and others with their API initiatives. However, this option will require added staff and new skills in the enterprise communications department, an upfront and recurring cost that's not needed with the cloud-based CPaaS option. If your enterprise is already actively developing customizations and extensions to your contact center solutions, this first option may be best.

  • A second option is to use CPaaS capabilities available from a UCaaS provider. This may work well if you're moving some or all of your enterprise telephony and UC to the cloud. For example, UCaaS provider Vonage Business has added CPaaS capabilities to its portfolio via last year's acquisition of Nexmo a leading global CPaaS provider. If you embrace this option, be sure to include the CPaaS requirements and capabilities in your UCaaS selection process.
  • A third option is to select one or more CPaaS providers as the standard for your enterprise. Make this selection with the CIO's blessing and in cooperation with enterprise IT architects to ensure that your choice does indeed become the standard for in-house and packaged application software used by the entire enterprise IT team and LOB initiatives, including for your contact centers and customer-facing marketing actions.
  • A fourth option is to do nothing. Any good strategic plan should include the option of maintaining the current direction. In this option, the enterprise communications department will simply "let a thousand flowers bloom." LOB departments will choose the tools they need, including included or embedded communications tools, and subscribe to those services in the cloud. Enterprise IT developers who need communications tools such as SMS or video meetings in their workflows will select and subscribe to the CPaaS that best meets the needs of their specific applications. Of course, over time, this will narrow the scope of the enterprise communications department, but that may align well with IT strategy in enterprises that focus on cost reductions and efficiencies.

One way or the other, every enterprise will be making these CPaaS choices. These choices may come by default, as with the fourth option listed above, or they may follow a more proactive and transformative approach that will require managing risk and change. So, be prepared for the crucial question: "Which CPaaS do you use now?" And here's to your success in this era of transformation.