Embrace API development to boost UC: Tata Communications

  • Demand for UC tools, especially notably contact centre and video-conferencing, to rise in coming months
  • Embracing power of APIs could potentially open up company’s ecosystem to untapped crucial resources

Embrace API development to boost UC: Tata Communications

DESPITE the much-touted benefits of using collaboration tools within enterprise environments, not many companies have been able to fully leverage or maintain their adoption.
Anthony Bartolo, senior vice president of Unified Communications and Collaboration at Tata Communications, noted that collaboration isn’t a new concept, with chief information and technology officers (CIOs/ CTOs) having dabbled with it for decades.
“However, even in 2013, collaboration tools devised for the workforce have been low on usability, high on awkwardness, and frequently fragmented. For enterprises, they are typically low on customisation potential and high on cost. Email and telephony remain the dominant communication tools for most employees,” he said in an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA).
Bartolo said that since the mid-1990s, technologists have been working on integrating workflow with a myriad of different communications channels, including instant messaging, telephony, video-conferencing, voicemail, email and text messaging. However, integration with workflow internally and especially externally remains the exception rather than the rule.
This has a lot to do with expensive, proprietary, technologies which impose high development costs and long deployment horizons on enterprises. The results include relatively low levels of customisation for individual enterprises.
“The way we communicate and exchange critical information has evolved with the times. Mobile workers are increasingly using new forms of communication such as virtual meetings, mobile video-conferencing and telecommuting.
“Such mobile workers account for between 7% and 8% of the working population. People are working from remote places, using different devices – collaboration warrants one common platform that’s compatible across devices and operating systems,” Bartolo said.
He also noted that this change in the workplace is to some extent driving adoption, pointing to a study of enterprise social media adoption by US-based AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), which highlighted that 60% of enterprises are either using social technologies in an ad hoc way, have partially implemented social technologies, or are working on a strategy for targeted usage. 
In 2013, Gartner ranked ‘collaboration’ fourth in its list of top 10 CIO business and technology priorities, and said it is one trend which will take centrestage in 2014. It is estimated that collaboration technologies could contribute US$900 billion to US$1.3 trillion to the global economy by improving productivity and consumer focus within and across enterprises.
In the Asean region, which includes Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, the 2014-2015 outlook for the unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) market remains positive with a year-over-year (YoY) growth expected to be sustained at between 6.2% and 6.5%, according to IDC.
The research firm reported that IP (Internet Protocol) telephony would continue to be the key revenue contributor (42%), followed by enterprise collaboration (29%), contact centre solutions (15%) and video-conferencing solutions (13%).
“Demand for UC tools is expected to rise in the coming months, notably contact centre and video-conferencing solutions, with double-digit growth in 2014, followed by enterprise collaboration and IP telephony with increments of 8% and 4% respectively,” said Tan Hwee Xian, market analyst for Communications at IDC Asia/ Pacific in response to queries made by DNA.
Barriers to collaboration
Tata Communications' Bartolo said that enterprises are beginning to make UC a part of their everyday work-life, so they’re definitely “committed to the cause.”
“However, the challenges can be significant. It can be difficult to connect closed and proprietary social platforms with the context of everyday workflow, which is necessary if they’re to become widely used.
Embrace API development to boost UC: Tata Communications“Mobile, social, gamification and video -- all can become part of the social enterprise’s toolkit. But we’re a long way from fusing these feature sets. Inside the enterprise, social platforms remain predominantly text-based,” he said.
IDC’s Tan (pic) said that there are two sets of challenges facing organisations in adopting UC tools.
“In terms of non-technical challenges, it is believed that most enterprises, notably small and medium enterprises (SMEs), are facing issues in obtaining budgetary approval for new capital expenses to upgrade a unified communications platform. This has inevitably accelerated the uptake of unified communication as-a-service (UCaaS) in the region,” he added.
In terms of technical challenges, most enterprises in Asean perceive security as the biggest challenge, followed by network issues (bandwidth, availability) and integration of various vendor technologies and platforms. 
Tan said that organisations generally cited security issues as their major concern in new technology deployment, especially organisations that have strict governance and compliance rules, such as the financial services sector.
IDC’s own research also showed that network issues such as bandwidth and availability strongly resonated in countries where bandwidth is relatively more expensive, especially when video is part of the entire solution as it is generally bandwidth-heavy.

The third technical challenge faced by organisations is interoperability, thanks to the distinct collaborative technologies they may have adopted.
“Businesses will continue to watch how vendors can integrate in principle and practice, as well as how far they go down in embracing industry standards,” Tan said.
The IDC analyst also noted that while the UC&C market continues to be promising in 2014, the growth rate however is expected to be deterred by some key threats like cloud and freemium app services that are causing the traditional on-premise market to slow and be replaced in the long run.
“For instance, Unified Communications as a service (UCaaS) is steadfastly moving to be a mainstream solution as more and more carriers have offered 'as-a-service' as part of their core collaboration portfolio.
“More importantly, as-a-service solutions could help enterprises, notably SMEs, to significantly save up the up-front cost, streamlinie business processes, and provide better disaster recovery and flexibility that scale to fit one's business,” Tan said.
According to IDC's 2013 Collaboration Practice report, the UCaaS market revenue in Asean will hit US$56.7 million in 2014 and will continue to increase to US$185.1 million by 2017.
“This marks a 90% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017. With widespread availability of as-a-service models in the marketplace, IDC is expecting more opex-friendly (operational expense) UCaaS offerings to appear in the market with increasing businesses, especially among SMEs, moving UC to cloud delivery or hosted services,” he added.

Next page: Making the case for UC&C

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