Businesses of every size and industry rely on a wide array of technology to enable communication and collaboration among employees, customers, suppliers and partners. Yet, all too often, businesses are compelled to work around the limitations of these tools. Business processes and workflows are sometimes structured around the communications platforms and services’ capabilities, rather than focusing on the most productive ways to complete work tasks. In other words, the platforms and services designed to enhance a business’ productivity are instead an obstacle to seeing those benefits. As businesses place greater focus on digital transformation, IT staff and software providers will feel increasing pressure to tightly integrate enterprise communications platforms with core business applications to achieve more tangible benefits from communications investments.
Forward-thinking organizations are also acknowledging the value of communications services embedded within their business or consumer applications. In these cases, the embedded communications and collaboration services are simply a feature of the larger application and, are rarely the primary focus of the application. For example, consumer-focused ride-sharing applications require a means for driver and passenger to connect with one another via short messaging service (SMS) or a voice call. Smartphones and mobile apps have raised customer expectations that all functions, including business interactions, can be accomplished in-app.
However, these levels of integration have been a challenge for much of the deployed on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) or unified communications infrastructure, as well as many general-purpose hosted telephony or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solutions. For on-premises solutions, exposing application programming interfaces (APIs) beyond the corporate network has been a risky proposition, while many UCaaS and hosted services are too generic, unable to allow the customization through APIs. As a result, a new type of cloud-based communications service—the communications platform as a service (CPaaS)—has come to market.
Frost & Sullivan defines CPaaS as any cloud-based platform that enables developers to programmatically embed voice, video, chat and messaging services within their business or consumer applications. By leveraging APIs, developers and businesses of all sizes can embed on-demand voice, text messaging and video communications within software applications. Similar to other cloud-based services, CPaaS solutions typically operate on a usage-based model, whereby businesses only pay for what they use. For businesses, CPaaS can provide a critical missing element in their communications strategy by compensating for the existing limitations of on-premises infrastructure, as well as offering a bridge to new in-app and software integrations.