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How UC channel partners can capitalize on communication APIs

IT teams often lack developer resources to integrate communication APIs. But UC channel partners can step in to help customers embed communications into their workflows.

An increasing number of organizations are leveraging unified communications APIs to extend UC functionality into business applications and workflows. 

According to a Nemertes Research study, 25% of companies are now using APIs to extend UC features -- such as click-to-call, presence and messaging -- into business applications. That number's up from 10% in 2015. Approximately 20% of companies are using APIs to build custom applications for call handling and reporting. That number's up from 7% in 2015.

UC channel partners -- long-accustomed to selling IP-PBXes, phones, video conferencing systems, and associated applications and hardware -- now enjoy a new opportunity to differentiate themselves by leveraging APIs to deliver customized, value-added services. 

The API opportunities for UC channel partners usually cover two areas: assisting customers with integrating UC into existing business applications and creating custom applications that partners could sell more than once.

Provide billable hours and packaged services

By leveraging APIs to integrate communications with business workflows, organizations can improve collaboration. Employees can chat, call or conference within the applications they use for work, without having to switch to a dedicated UC client or pick up a phone to make a call.  

However, UC teams are running into a key constraint as they evaluate how to take advantage of APIs: a lack of developer resources. Just 17% of UC teams currently have in-house development capabilities; the rest borrow developers assigned to other groups within IT. UC channel partners can supplement UC teams by providing dedicated and experienced developer expertise.

By using APIs, channel partners can offset the potential loss of hardware revenue, as customers shift to the cloud and virtual software. Channel partners can provide billable hours or packaged services that integrate the UC software they sell and support with other business applications in the customer environment. 

UC channel partners can bundle in management services, ongoing software support and resell communications-platform-as-a-service offerings. This could provide additional functionality that's typically not available from UC APIs, such as sending and receiving messages via SMS.

Build internal development capabilities

Another and potentially larger opportunity for UC channel partners is using APIs to create custom applications for customers, or creating applications that partners can sell to multiple customers. Examples of custom applications include call handling for inbound sales calls, screen pops for inbound calls, and management and reporting tools that enable lines of business to understand call patterns and the time employees spend on the phone. 

Some UC providers are already creating app stores that enable channel partners to monetize the apps they develop. UC channel partners should focus on building internal development capabilities, as well as educating customers on potential use cases for APIs. 

Nemertes has found roughly 80% of UC teams are already trying to educate lines of business about UC APIs; nearly 50% are working to bring awareness of UC APIs to internal application development teams. 

Channel partners can aid these efforts by demonstrating real-world use cases and business value from UC APIs.

Next Steps

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