Understanding What the CPaaS Hype is All About
Guest Blog by Matteo Kotch, Cloud Business Development Manager - Europe North, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise
When it comes to searching for potential Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) technologies, businesses needn’t spend too much time browsing the internet for a list of potential vendors. With a plethora of solutions out there purporting to having the ‘best in class’, most ‘seamlessly integrated’ technology that will ‘instantly boost productivity’, many businesses are left uncertain as to which vendor to proceed with. While many of these standard UCaaS solutions are ultimately boasting relatively homogenous feature-sets (instant messaging, file sharing, audio and video conferencing etc.), rather than simply basing a decision on brand recognition, what other differentiators can businesses look for when deciding on which solution to deploy?
With a history only stemming back to the late 1990s, a Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) is a relatively new term that is being used to describe any digital hub provided by a vendor or third-party that offers application program interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) to enable connections between people, objects, and applications. While previously businesses needed to adapt the way they worked when a new technology was deployed, with CPaaS they can now work directly with vendors or internal/external developers to integrate that technology into their unique ecosystem. In other words, rather than having to alter the way they work or invest in additional software or hardware to accommodate the limitations of any new system, CPaaS provides businesses with the tools they need to be more flexible in terms of how they deploy, consume and pay for their new solution. But how does this apply to the UCaaS industry and its users?
A recent academic study concluded that the rise of:
“emerging technologies…[has] the potential to affect work and employees significantly…[with] the degree and speed of this impact depend[ing] to a large extent on developments in the technologies themselves and the willingness of organisations to adopt them”
While most UCaaS platforms available these days are cloud-based and, therefore, do not require customers to install any physical hardware on-site, they can none-the less still be very invasive in terms of altering the way staff work. Many staff-members will be so used to working in certain ways or using specific applications that they may either be reluctant to start using the new technology or could even flat-out resist the change. Therefore, for senior management the ability to find a solution that not only accommodates these ‘legacy habits’ but also which incorporates the businesses’ ways of working can not only ease the migration process but can also help streamline user-adoption after the new solution has been deployed.
While there are a number of businesses purely specialising in CPaaS (Twilio, Plivo, and Kaleyra to name a few) one example that I’d like to focus on is the Rainbow CPaaS platform provided by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) that allows customers to integrate its standard Rainbow UCaaS client into any specific workflow. Not only does the platform enable third-party developers to add unified communications capabilities to their applications, but it also permits ALE’s customers to create bespoke adaptations of its standard UCaaS client, to ensure minimal impact on existing workflows. What this achieves is that rather than forcing the customer to have to adapt the way they operate and being impacted by some of the constraints listed above, with CPaaS they can integrate UCaaS into existing systems, applications and devices. In doing so, this not only safeguards any existing investments they’ve already made in hardware and software, but it also reduces the time it takes for employees to get accustomed to the new technology. And, when we think about this in-light of the recent surge in businesses embarking on digital transformation initiatives, this flexibility is key.
As a real-life illustration of this, let’s use the example of Salesforce.com (SFDC). While it’s probably not news to anyone that most businesses use Salesforce as their preferred customer relationship management (CRM) platform, any vendor would be hard-pressed to get them to stop using it in favour of their own solution. Therefore, to accommodate those customers, through CPaaS you can actually feed the data held within SFDC into a business app to enable immediate communications and remove the human latency of an order flow or business process. What this does is that it enables the technology to essentially get out of the way of what people are doing by facilitating the seamless flow of communication, thus enabling staff to be more productive.
While it is often very hard to concisely convey the benefits and possibilities associated with CPaaS, one way that we like to refer to this is ‘the art of the possible’. Rather than just looking at the feature-set of the client itself, when browsing UCaaS solutions look at how you want your users to use that capability. How can you bring context and intelligence into to the way your business communicates? To do so, you will need to be considering UCaaS applications based on if and how they can integrate with a CPaaS platform.