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New UC vendor trends shaping enterprise communications market

With more enterprises looking for a single vendor to meet all of their communications needs, vendors are adding to their portfolios to create more complete communications offerings.

It's no secret that the communications market is going through a transition. While the transition was initially driven by the migration from on-premises to cloud-based communications, it now goes far beyond that, and the cloud is only the catalyst.

The enterprise communications market can be split into three large segments:

1. Unified communications (UC). The focus here is on collaboration and internal communications within the business. Recently, the focus has also expanded toward web meetings and team collaboration.

2. Contact center. The focus in this area is on traditional customer-business communications, which are expanding from pure voice calling to omnichannel deployments, where voice, video, text and social channels are all supported.

3. Communications APIs.  A communications infrastructure can be used to build and embed whatever communications needs a business may have. In theory and practice, unified communications and contact centers can be built on top of communications APIs.

In the past couple of years, communications vendors have worked to consolidate these segments and experiences into comprehensive enterprise communications offerings.

Communications API vendors, on the other hand, have been focused on the API segment. The only outlier is the market leader, Twilio, which introduced the Twilio Flex contact center platform, taking the company from communications APIs toward contact centers.

Contact center vendors have done pretty much the same by focusing on their own markets and not much more.

Making acquisitions to expand communications portfolio

It seems unified communications vendors have been trying to play the contact center and API games, as well, with many of them acquiring contact center assets to increase their product lines.

In a typical example, a UC vendor would acquire a contact center vendor or offer its own contact center functionality. The next step would be to look inward and implement an API on top of its platform, exposing its capabilities to developers. While this is a necessary step in almost every business these days, UC vendors are only focusing on existing customers and their integration needs, and they're missing out on the wider communications API market.

Vonage has taken a different approach from other UC vendors through its acquisitions of communications API vendor Nexmo and contact-center-as-a-service provider NewVoiceMedia. Through these acquisitions, Vonage now has separate UC, contact center and communication API products. All of the products feed off of a common communications infrastructure, with its APIs serving API customers, as well as customers of its UC and contact center services. While this might not be the exact depiction of the portfolio at Vonage, this looks like a desirable outcome.

Extending enterprise communications capabilities with APIs

Why is the Vonage model desirable? Businesses require different means of communications. First is the need to collaborate and communicate internally, between employees and maybe a few external partners. This type of enterprise communication comes in the form of UC.

Communicating with customers and potential customers creates the need for a contact center service that enables easy communication with users, the ability to manage agents and sales teams, and integrate with customer relationship management software. If employees can use the same tool for their internal and external communications, even better.

Programmability, or the flexibility of integration, is often required to connect the enterprise software being used, which is where APIs come in. APIs can be placed directly above the unified communications and contact center services, but that isn't enough anymore.

Organizations want to stitch comprehensive communication experiences together within their business. Communications is a tool for organizations to create capabilities such as marketing automation via SMS or messaging, or to build a communication tool to connect customers with suppliers. These capabilities are no longer just integrations on top of a unified communications service, but applications that can be written on top of communications API platforms. It makes sense that these tools will be integrated with the other communications options of the business -- specifically UC and contact centers.

Moving forward, we'll see a greater desire by businesses to use a single communications vendor in order to meet their comprehensive communication needs. Until now, business communication needs meant UC and contact center. But, now, the need also includes tailored communications experiences that can only be met by using communications APIs.

Expect other UC vendors to follow suit and start looking at enhancing their services with a pure API offering, either through acquisition or in-house development.

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