Enterprise Connect: Beyond the Hype of Cloud Communications, Collaboration, and APIs
The third day of the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando featured several sessions promising to sort hype from substance for team messaging, unified communications as a service (UCaaS), and cloud APIs. RingCentral was in the middle of those conversations, making the case for a collaborative communications platform that pulls all those elements together.
In a keynote stage panel interview, Beth Schultz, conference co-chair and Editor of No Jitter, called team messaging a “crazy market” with new entrants continuously appearing on the scene. She suggested one problem is leaving users confused about which application is supposed to be the center of the experience, their unified communications client or the new team collaboration experience and established companies like Cisco and Microsoft overhauling their product lines to make team messaging a central feature.
For Kira Makagon, EVP of Innovation at RingCentral, that was an opening to explain that it doesn’t have to be confusing. “It’s one experience, it’s unified,” she said, referring to the recently introduced next generation RingCentral Office experience, where sending a team message, placing a call, or launching an online meeting are all part of the same user interface for both desktop and mobile users.
The other speakers on the panel, leaders from Cisco, Microsoft, Unify, and Atlassian HipChat, all had a story to tell about allowing hybrid deployments that mix cloud and on-premises technology. RingCentral was the proud exception.
“We’ve always been pure-cloud,” Makagon said. “We have huge experience running mission critical systems in a pure-cloud environment – and, with voice, that’s not an easy thing to do.” By adding team messaging, document sharing, and video calling, RingCentral can address all the communications needs of a business without forcing users to waste time switching between the context of different applications, she said. “We’re also mobile first – so we can be wherever our users are.” As a complete business phone service, RingCentral also handles sending and receiving faxes – a mode of communications that’s easily written off as outmoded but still important in some industries like healthcare.
“Users tell us they would rather have fewer tools where they have to switch context,” she said.
David Sipes, COO of RingCentral, had a similar opportunity to make his case on a panel that included speakers from rivals 8×8, Vonage, and Microsoft. But when moderator Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan analyst, flashed a slide on the screen showing the most prominent UCaaS vendors, he had to laugh to see RingCentral’s name written larger than any other.
While cloud adoption began with small businesses, “we’re increasingly seeing more midsize and large companies begin this transition to cloud unified communications,” Popova said. They may be switching one office at a time, but they are beginning to make the leap, she said.
“The biggest concern for enterprises right now is not to get stuck on a dead platform,” he said, mentioning the Avaya bankruptcy as evidence that established vendors are not necessarily safer bets. Certainly, enterprises with on-premises technology are concerned about how to transition to the cloud, and RingCentral wants to help – but not by compromising its technology strategy, Sipes said. “A lot of vendors talk about hybrid solutions, but at the end of the day that’s a temporary measure.”
An open cloud platform can accomplish much more than a change in phone systems, making it possible to pull together many business workflows into a single experience, Sipes said. “We can change the way enterprises orchestrate themselves.”
APIs are an important part of that story, which RingCentral customer Naked Wines helped to tell. Ian Cabalse, an operations analyst at Naked Wines appeared on a panel about the practicalities of implementing APIs moderated by Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst at COMMfusion LLC. APIs from cloud UC and communications platform as a service (CPaaS) suites are fulfilling promises that unified communications vendors have been making for years – but rarely managed to keep – about enabling new business processes that embed communications and collaboration.
“Now, with APIs and CPaaS, we can do all this stuff,” Pleasant said.
Cabalse explained Naked Wines runs its online wine sales business on a custom platform that manages its inventory, logistics, and customer relationships, which meant its phone system integration had to be custom, too. Working with RingCentral meant the company could take advantage of a complete and well-rounded business phone system, but still extend it via APIs.
Naked Wines also uses an SMS API from Twilio, which offers a menu of individual phone services, but is evaluating whether it can simplify its operations by moving those functions to the RingCentral platform. Both RingCentral and Twilio offer reliable APIs and good documentation, he said, “but when you’re partnered with RingCentral they give you a whole dedicated team to help you figure out what you need.”
The technology of APIs is actually straightforward, Cabalese said, but when picking technologies for custom needs, “you don’t just want a vendor, you want a partnership.”