Business Communications in the Digital Transformation Age
There is no question that the digitization of business is underway, and with that the digitization of communications. Over the past 20 years, the first waves of digitization have transformed communications dramatically. Where we can communicate has changed through wireless and Wi-Fi enabling us to communicate from anywhere, anytime. The devices have transformed from a phone, generally fixed, but increasingly mobile to a world where each of multiple devices: Phone, mobile, PC, tablet conference room, ?, etc., can now be where we communicate, often based on the contextual capabilities of the device/space. Finally, our communications modality has expanded from voice to video, text, screen sharing, app sharing, whiteboarding, virtual reality, and more. The result is that the Business Communications market is ever more complex and challenging for both users and administrators. The intent of this article is to present a structured taxonomy of the industry to enable a focused discussion about capabilities and solutions.
Today Business Communications (BC) solutions can be segmented into three distinct taxonomy categories based on the groups and function: providing communications for users, managing customer interaction in defined ways, and integration of communication capabilities directly into applications. While these categories are not exclusive, they will provide a structured way to evaluate BC solutions and their applications going forward. Each of the three categories, IC, CC, and AC define focused capabilities that are unique and can be clearly defined.
IC – Individual Communications for users are the range of solution focused to solving communications issues for users directly. IC any product or service that is designed to deliver communications-focused capabilities for users. This can include simple telephony or extend to advanced video or web collaboration. The UC category can also extend to team messaging applications that are focused on generic team processes.
CC – the category of Customer Communications continues to be a unique category of BC. CC solutions include Contact Centers that are designed to provide a general platform to manage real-time and near real-time interactions with defined agents and customers and clients in a structured way. Customer Communications is a critical part of solutions to dramatically improve overall Customer Experience (CX). The Customer Communications category includes a range of tools, including recording, speech recognition, analytics, workflow management, etc., that are designed to optimize the process of customer interaction. While these technologies and solutions have typically been applied to focused groups interacting with customers, in the digital transformation age they will increasingly be used across much larger groups, both independently and integrated with applications.
AC – Application Communications are solutions that integrate specific communications capabilities into the workflow of applications. This integration can be to a communications platform that provides UC, to a third-party platform such as the CPaaS platforms now available, or through an implementation using standards and open source code like WebRTC. In these cases, the communications event is both under the control of the application as well as being an event in an ongoing set of activities of the application. Application integration can be either to the PSTN telephony network or using IP and the Internet to provide IP-based communications. A key difference between AC and UC is that applications in the AC domain are primarily not communications applications. While they may include communications, the primary application focus is on the business process.
The three categories in the BC taxonomy are not totally independent. In fact, as shown in the diagram, there are significant overlaps. For example, at the boundary of IC and CC, the integration enables experts to be integrated into the user experience. Some applications may have their communications provided by the IC capability, especially when the primary constituents are employees.
As both existing BC players evolve, and as new players and applications come into the BC market, a taxonomy framework is helpful to define how they fit into businesses and operations. The combination of IC, CC and BC enables a clear understanding of how these capabilities are provided and applied.