Working preferences have never been so diffuse and diverse. Flexible working shows no signs of slowing down; IDC predicts that by 2020, nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will use mobile devices. And according to IDG research, enterprises already spend an average of $8.1 million on unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) products and services. Driving the growth are hybrid models combining on-premises infrastructure with cloud-based services.
Business leaders have more-progressive expectations than ever. Their forward-looking business goals call for integration with new capabilities and technologies—from artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to bots and cloud services. None can be easily integrated into older platforms. Alongside this trend, CIOs are seeking closer partnerships with other organizations in their business ecosystem and must develop ways to support borderless teams where internal employees, external team members, partners and contractors can work together and collaborate seamlessly, regardless of location, device or domain.
Workforces: Breaking Through Enterprise Borders
As shared workplaces and high levels of mobility become increasingly integral to cross-enterprise collaboration, the ability to offer a fully searchable archive of messages and files becomes critical for businesses. So does the ability to easily integrate with third-party applications from Salesforce.com to SAP, automating workflows and advancing collaboration among teams across enterprise boundaries. Yet often, legacy enterprise communications solutions lack the flexibility to adapt to new business goals and technologies.
Eliminating Borders With API-based Communications Platforms
This vision of the future is possible however, using communications platforms where open APIs take that essential next step to expand UC&C capabilities. Open-architecture platforms make it easier to integrate new business processes and technology into collaboration tools. They also offer a better connection between users and real-time information. This situation opens up new opportunities to connect not only with other employees but end customers as well.
Contextual awareness can also bring subject-matter experts into the conversation when customers and advisers need specific query addressing. For example, a connected platform can integrate with existing on-site clinic or hospital equipment to help manage critical, real-time communications. This capability provides essential notification services and alarms for doctors and nurses across a range of devices and platforms.
The same platform could offer real-time videoconferencing capabilities for doctors to check up on discharged patients recuperating at home. Some patients may need to be reminded to take their medication after discharge. By integrating a communications platform with the hospital’s processes and the patient’s electronic medical record, automated alerts can be sent via text or phone call to remind the patient.
Because a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) is cloud-based, developers can add real-time communications features such as voice, video and messaging in their own applications without needing to build back-end infrastructure and interfaces. A CPaaS with open APIs will integrate with in-house and third-party apps, providing a separate and secure environment. It will also allow multiple users to access the platform at the same time.
Processes: Ushering in Next-Generation Security, Physically and Virtually
CPaaS APIs also enable developers to extend connections to standalone infrastructures, providing a simple and secure way to bring communication and collaboration capabilities to systems and processes both inside and outside the company borders. They open the door to new collaborative working models based on innovations such as the IoT, AI and task-automating bots.
The open APIs behind the ALE Rainbow communications platform, for instance, allow teams to benefit from active notification services, which incorporate building-security devices, operational equipment and even fire-safety alarms into one connected communications platform. Such features can ultimately save lives, avoid production downtimes and securing buildings.
Lose the Borders, Keep the Control: the Four Levels of Security
As workforces become borderless and mobile, it’s important to manage security issues on four levels and to ensure security policies at the OS, transport and application layers, as well as at the user level. It’s also important to ensure company confidentiality so that users can only see people from their company, or those with a public profile.
There should also be a “second pair of eyes” to ensure total platform security. Any CPaaS solution should be under constant scrutiny by third-party software such as the Nmap network-security scanner, Nessus cloud for vulnerability management, Qualys for cloud security and SSL Labs for server testing. It should also be audited by an external independent company.
Systems: Apps That Are Enterprise Grade and Consumer Friendly
A number of vendors are now stepping away from proprietary offerings by providing open APIs to make it easier for IT teams to develop more apps, safe in the knowledge they can integrate them into existing communications infrastructure. As CIOs prepare their enterprises for greater digital interdependence, a CPaaS platform based on a hybrid cloud can be the catalyst to drive digital transformation for businesses. It can do so by enabling communication and collaboration both inside and outside the borders of the enterprise.
According to Salesforce, 79% of enterprise IT teams are now involved in building apps for customers, partners or employees. Conferencing, instant messaging and video calling can be added to these apps, bringing employee workflows in line with each other and being a powerful driver for digital transformation in the enterprise.
But enterprise-grade functions of these apps—be they VoWLAN, call routing, directory services or calendar integration—must be “consumer-grade” in their elegance and ease of use. The connected platform becomes a “relationship machine” that helps IT organizations deliver the services and technologies to transform how people work.
Prepare for Change
With open APIs we are truly on our way to a connected enterprise, with platforms that link workforces, processes and systems to enable real-time collaboration and make informed decisions across the entire organization. The vision is becoming reality—the enterprise without borders—but with the necessary border control to secure your business during digital transformation.
About the Author
Moussa Zaghdoud, as Senior Director and Head of Cloud Product Line Management at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), is responsible for the end-to-end cloud strategy, solution definition, offer management and business-model definition for the Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow cloud service. Moussa joined the company as a multimedia expert to define the ALE web business portals. He has also served with the company as IT project and program manager, product-line manager bringing new UC and mobility services to the market, and director for innovation with the invention of the first Rainbow kernel. In parallel, Moussa has created two cloud startups providing virtual call-center services and predictive routing services to enterprises. He holds a master’s degree in industrial sciences and automated systems from Louis Pasteur University, Strasbourg, France, and a degree in physics. He also won first prize in the French national physics competition.