Introduction

APIdays has organized 39 events in 11 countries, including APIdays Amsterdam, "The Rise of Contextual Communications." The event covered a wide range of topics including hands-on workshops on integration and app development and presentations on API security and architecture, as well as discussions on the customer experience (CX) and single consciousness artificial intelligence (AI). Featured speakers included participants from API platform vendors Apigee (Google), IBM, WSO2 and NGINX, cloud communications and CPaaS providers such as Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), Avaya, Kandy from Ribbon Communications, Mavenir, TeleStax, Twilio, VoIP Innovations, Vonage, Voxbone, Voximplant and Wazo, as well as telecoms KPN and Proximus. Here we share insights from our presentation "CPaaS Is Turning Business Communications Inside Out" and our key takeaways from the event.

The 451 Take

APIdays Amsterdam provided an opportunity to gauge the current status and adoption of CPaaS. CPaaS emerged 10 years ago and has evolved beyond its initial core base of developers and digital-native companies, expanding into the enterprise segment. We believe it is now entering a new stage that will be largely defined in terms of the 'programmable' enterprise, where the emphasis will be on workflows and business application integrations. It also presents an opportunity for telecoms to redefine the role they play in the value chain. This will not be an easy task, but early initiatives show promising results. We expect some of them will emerge as key players in the next stage of programmable communications.

The Rise of Contextual Communications

APIdays Amsterdam gathered 600+ technology and business professionals – including CTOs, marketing executives, software engineers, project managers and developers – to discuss how to plan and execute an API-based strategy and the role that communication APIs play for digital transformation. APIdays conference attendees are typically practitioners from organizations that are early adopters and ahead of the curve when it comes to deploying API-based initiatives. This results in a level of conversation in workshops and presentations that tends to be more technical and advanced than other events focusing on business communications.

This was reflected in case studies from 'brick and mortar' organizations like Sephora, a multinational chain of personal care and beauty stores, which shared its experience developing a 'smart' API-based CX. Rather than competing as separate entities, Sephora brought together its in-store and online operations, including customer service. This enables a unified experience for Sephora customers, regardless of whether they choose to interact in-store, online or via the mobile app. An example of how this builds synergies is the Sephora Virtual Artist, an in-app augmented reality tool that allows customers to try different combinations of makeup and purchase these products online or at a store.
Another case study presented at the event came from an organization in a highly regulated sector. ING Group, a Dutch multinational banking and financial services organization based in Amsterdam, shared their experience replacing their legacy systems to API-based communications. ING developed its new contact center using Twilio's programmable voice, IP messaging, programmable video and TaskRouter
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Twilio first introduced its experience with ING at SIGNAL 2016 in London, and Sephora has shared its CX experience since 2018. Both case studies, however, have continued to evolve and remain relevant; they are also good examples of the 'programmable' organization, a topic we discussed in our presentation at the event.

The Rise of the 'Programmable' Enterprise 

451 Research believes that programmable communications will play a key role in enabling the 'liquid enterprise,' which we define as a new breed of highly responsive, digital-native businesses. A distinctive element in these organizations will be 'programmability,' or the ability to manage workflows and applications in a highly customizable way. This represents a major shift in how organizations plan and execute work, as described in our report "WorkOps: A primer on the new way of working."

We believe this will result in a shift from siloed, 'one-size-fits-all' solutions; i.e., unified communications and contact center – to an ecosystem that enables intelligent, communications-enabled workflows for customer and employee interactions. The emerging software-defined business communications ecosystem (Figure 1 below) will evolve based on a series of attributes which we outline in the report "CPaaS Is Turning Business Communications Inside Out."

The attributes in the software-defined business communications ecosystem include:

  • Ubiquitously accessible. Mobile communications and cloud-based collaboration are key components in the software-defined business communications ecosystem, providing employees with ubiquitous access to content and applications, regardless of their location or the device or network they choose to use.
  • Workflow-defined. Communications and collaboration will be tightly integrated with business workflows and business applications in the software-defined business communications ecosystem. Two key capabilities will enable this: pre-built and do-it-yourself integrations that enable integration with business processes and other applications, and programmable communications that will allow organizations to further customize workflows.
  • Intelligent. AI in the form of machine learning (ML) and natural language understanding (NLU) will have a major impact in the evolution of the software-defined business communications ecosystem, enabling organizations to intelligently orchestrate interactions with and between employees and customers in real time.
  • Secure and compliant. Security and compliance will become increasingly relevant for business communications and collaboration, given recent events that are influencing the evolution of security standards such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act. A key attribute in the software-defined business communications ecosystem will be the ability to provide secure access to business resources, regardless of the location or device that employees choose to use. This includes use cases with higher complexity such as mobile and remote workers, as well as employees whose work location and schedules are dictated by their workflows, as in the case of healthcare practitioners or field technicians that move between locations.

We believe the emergence of the programmable enterprise is also evident from the evolution and convergence of enterprise software categories including productivity software and team collaboration. This is giving way to new types of intelligent digital workspace, a new cohort that 451 Research refers to as Workforce Intelligence Platforms.

Key Takeaways

  • API architecture design is a complex endeavor. The variety of sessions and workshops – covering topics such as partnerships, monetization, compliance and security, among others – showcases the complexity that developing an API-based strategy entails. Nonetheless, the experiences shared by organizations such as ABN, ING, KPN, Proximus and Sephora as well as thought leaders from Osaango Oy show a variety of viable options for deployment.
  • Telecoms are emerging as key players in the next stage of programmable communications. Telecoms have always played a key role, but we expect they will jump to the front lines as CPaaS expands into the mainstream enterprise segment. The experiences shared by Proximus and KPN as well as CPaaS providers Kandy, TeleStax and VoIP Innovations show that the API marketplace can be a viable model for telecoms to redefine their role in the value chain. They also highlight that the CPaaS market opportunity continues to grow with new use cases that telecoms are uniquely positioned to address.
  • The programmable enterprise will continue to evolve with an emphasis on customizable workflows. This is consistent with the central theme of the event, which focused on contextual communications. While unified communications and contact center received some mentions, the emphasis was on communications-enabled workflows. This was evident from the messaging of cloud communications providers ALE, Avaya and Vonage – which emphasize customer and employee engagement workflows – and emerging providers like Ottspott, which aims to streamline customer engagement by embedding telephony capabilities into business applications like Slack and HubSpot.
Raul Castanon-Martinez
Senior Analyst, Workforce Collaboration and Communications

Raúl Castañón-Martínez is a senior analyst based in Boston focusing on business communications and collaboration technologies such as enterprise messaging, voice, bots, speech recognition and unified communications.

Brenon Daly
Research Vice President

Brenon Daly oversees the financial analysis of 451 Research's Market Insight and KnowledgeBase products, having covered more than a quarter-trillion dollars' worth of deal flow for both national publications and research firms.

Partick Daly
Analyst, Information Security

As an Analyst in 451 Research’s Information Security Channel, Patrick Daly covers emerging technologies in Internet of Things (IoT) security. His research focuses on different industrial disciplines of IoT security, including the protection of critical infrastructure, transportation and medical devices.

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