Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) is currently one of the most exciting opportunities in the cloud communications space.
With businesses increasingly turning to the technology to drive customer experience (CX) transformation and streamline operations, Juniper Research forecasts that the CPaaS industry will generate more than $34 bn in sales by 2026.
This remarkable growth is being propelled by not only rising adoption of ‘traditional’ channels such as SMS and voice, but also a whole new wave of innovation. Key new technologies include real-time video, AI-powered conversational automation, advanced messaging channels, and omnichannel offerings.
With so much to offer, the CPaaS market is a busy space. We’ve already seen big companies like Microsoft enter the industry, joining a list of established players. In such a crowded market, it’s critical for those that make the purchasing decision to understand what sets CPaaS providers apart and the functionality they should evaluate.
Single applications grow into a central platform
One of the most important considerations for buyers is how their enterprise, which serves millions of customers, should implement CPaaS.
Traditionally, companies use SDKs and APIs to deploy communications in their messaging-enabled applications on a use-case-by-use-case basis. However, as businesses expand their efforts, what started as a single application for sending SMS notifications will likely grow into hundreds of disconnected applications. Each application will have its own code, system integrations, and logic to manage, and without significant developer and IT resources, this approach makes it difficult to scale communications and leads to broken customer experiences.
To solve this snowballing problem and proliferation of single-use applications, some CPaaS vendors provide all the capabilities required for automating journeys end-to-end and managing communications-enabled applications on one central platform. The platform acts as the glue between existing back-end systems and channels, providing a single point of orchestration that lays the foundation for delivering a connected communications experience.
Therefore, decision-makers should prioritise providers that will give their business the flexibility to deploy their first CPaaS-enabled applications on a use-case basis, prototyping new capabilities and channels, but also offer a central platform that they switch to as they start to scale. If they don’t, they may find they come to a point where their selected provider becomes a bottleneck to innovation in the future.
CPaaS: key functionalities to evaluate
When assessing different CPaaS solutions, these five capabilities should be at the forefront of a decision-maker’s mind:
1. APIs and SDKs
APIs and SDKs, or application programming interfaces and software development kits, are the cornerstones of CPaaS. Decision-makers should take stock of the APIs and SDKs their company needs and check their availability with a potential vendor. The more a vendor offers, the better – this way, if you want to leverage new channels or other CPaaS capabilities in the future, you won’t have to add stand-alone solutions to support them.
2. End-to-end automation
To make disparate business and partner systems interoperable, enterprises need a vendor to connect them. Inbound system integrations allow events ingested from business systems to trigger communications, while outbound integrations enable records within systems to be looked up and updated. These two-way integration capabilities permit the end-to-end automation of journeys that seamlessly orchestrate interactions between multiple systems and channels.
3. Network connectivity
Reliability, traceability, and scalability are massively important to global enterprises. As a result, the type of connection into carrier networks and digital messaging providers that CPaaS providers offer becomes another differentiator, impacting everything from latency, options for sender IDs, delivery reports, and message security. Therefore, it’s critical to look for a vendor that offers Tier 1 connectivity to mobile operators/carriers.
4. Tools across the application lifecycle
CPaaS providers are leading the charge in helping enterprises shift to a low-code approach to development. The centerpiece for many vendors is a low-code builder that allows developers to automate and progressively redefine customer journeys quickly. Decision-makers must evaluate a vendor’s visual builder but also ensure that there are tools for each stage of the application lifecycle that cater to a broader set of users. Check for in-built tools that simplify debugging, allow for communication templates to be set up, help to ensure compliance, and assist in optimising journeys through analytics.
5. Support beyond the platform
The communications landscape is complex, and expertise is required to design successful communications solutions, manage the different capabilities of each channel, and know what use cases will have a positive impact. Decision-makers need to gauge how much support they will need – not only at the moment of purchase but also in the future – because every CPaaS provider takes a different approach to how they help their customers.
For further information on best practices and other qualities to consider when selecting a CPaaS solution, download our IT buyer’s guide for CPaaS.
This article is part of a paid partnership with imimobile, part of Webex by Cisco.