In a 2017 white paper, Frost & Sullivan excellently articulated a problem statement for communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) solutions: Though businesses deployed numerous communications technologies pre-CPaaS, organizations often had to work around these tools instead of with them to support their businesses. This often resulted in a climate where platforms and services designed to enhance business productivity became hurdles instead of tools to help.
With smart planning, creative design, and effective embedding of communications APIs, businesses are doing things that would’ve been too difficult or expensive prior to CPaaS technologies becoming available; this is a huge improvement compared to the old days, when adding even rudimentary communication features to apps took extensive technical work and carrier negotiations.
And we’re only at the beginning. The already considerable utility of CPaaS will only increase as it is integrated with emerging technologies such as bots and AI. In this sense, it’s fair to say the technology has abundant current-day use cases and boundless future potential—both of which help to erase memories of the tools businesses had to work around in the past.
Before CPaaS: The Dark Days
Until the advent of CPaaS, building apps that facilitated certain types of communication was usually not feasible. A regional plumbing business, for example, might have launched an application within its website where visitors could schedule appointments but likely couldn’t maintain the infrastructure and carrier relationships needed to send automated SMS appointment reminders within the software.
Businesses that had to have communications functions for their products were effectively forced to approach carriers directly. While the specifics presented to carriers naturally varied, these agreements carried a few common requirements, such as complex hardware, skilled personnel to manage it, or the significant sums carriers charged for the ability to patch directly into their networks. It’s understandable then how even a multinational enterprise that technically could offer a helpful communications feature such as in-app support calls for a complex new product ultimately might have found the feature too complex and financially demanding to pursue.
The Modern Benefits of CPaaS
These barriers created a demand in the market for a solution that supported easy, scalable communications features. CPaaS providers rose to meet that demand by enabling businesses to quickly integrate communications functions into their applications and business processes via APIs—without having to build or maintain the required communications infrastructure.
Because CPaaS is provider-held and cloud-based, management doesn’t need to spend major capex on infrastructure that supports a single feature or try to future-proof against an unscalable solution; apps that use APIs can be prototyped, implemented, and pushed to users far faster than any homegrown development. And adding a communications feature is a lot easier when someone else is providing the infrastructure.
So, that plumbing company could use CPaaS to easily provision virtual numbers for their SMS appointment reminder feature, while the multinational enterprise could build their in-app support call feature without overspending on the required infrastructure.
The Future of CPaaS
Other tech advancements will only boost the benefits of CPaaS. AI, an innovation primed to revolutionize service- and communication-related technology, is a prime example. As machines grow smarter and closer to communicative parity with humans, cloud-based communications platforms will take the idea of automated self-service, among other business functions, to new levels. AI in the call center is one example of this.
Combined, the technologies carry value that works in any sector. Smart shopping assistants will soon be better than ever at making purchase suggestions based on the user’s browsing history. Software will provide accurate, real-time translations, reducing the need for expensive multilingual customer support representatives. APIs could provide CPaaS video chat technology and AI capable of facial recognition to turn any phone or webcam into a biometric security checkpoint. Chatbots will continue to grow in scope and capacity, allowing any business to deploy entire teams of automated service reps made up entirely of bots.
Unlike with some other innovations, businesses can easily jump right in with CPaaS at a minimal cost. Instead of limiting the technology to companies that can afford it—and, even then, only those with projects “big enough” to warrant the human and capital investment—companies of all sizes can deploy cutting-edge CPaaS innovations. Small, digitally focused companies may leverage the merging of AI and cloud communications first (after all, startups were the earliest adopters of CPaaS), but agile enterprises will quickly follow suit with use cases of their own.
Businesses across industries are deploying CPaaS to great effect. As more in the market learn about the type of innovative customer experiences that can be created with this technology, CPaaS will earn its place in more and more digital strategies.