Some quick history: 10 years ago, I attended a conference called Emerging Communications (eComm). It was an eccentric and inspiring collection of people focussed on the next chapter of voice and telecom technology. (It came on the heels of the “Voice 2.0” movement but with a broader vision.) The shared vision there was that a wave of innovation was coming because communication functionality would soon be as easy to access as web functionality (I’ll circle back to “the vision” at the end of this post).
eComm is now defunct but, if I recall correctly, one of the sponsors at their last show was a new start-up called Twilio. The term “CPaaS” arose a few years later, with Twilio leading the charge. The rest is history. But, in tech, nothing stays still.
What comes next?
I gave a presentation two weeks ago at TADSummit looking at how customer service tech (and call center tech in particular) is being built more and more on the same set of platforms. It made me realize that the vision from 10 years ago has been achieved – exceeded everyone’s expectations, actually – and now we’re through to the other side and thinking about what the disadvantages might be.
The deck is embedded below and you can listen to the talk that goes with it here.
The presentation pulls together ideas from these posts:
If you’ve read all of those, you won’t see much new material, but I tried to tie it together differently. The point was to assemble these ideas for a new crowd of ambitious thinkers and stir the pot. There are some slides about Vonage, which is getting more and more interesting, if you’re following their acquisition strategy. (By the way, the Vonage analyst event is on right now. Great tweet thread here.)
What’s Next for CPaaS?
CPaaS is a victim of its own success. The founding principle was to free communications from the grip of the carriers. But now many carriers have a CPaaS offering.
The CPaaS definition is also getting broader. Twilio acquired SendGrid last month. Is email part of CPaaS? Well, it’s communications, so why not? Does that make all email providers CPaaS?
Speaking of Twilio, they’ve also been expanding into IoT. As a category, IoT has always suffered from a bit of a fuzzy definition, but one aspect everyone agrees on is that the “thing” in question has to be able to communicate. It’s the fact that low-powered, low-cost devices can send and receive messages that launched the whole IoT frenzy. So, maybe IoT is a subset of CPaaS?
CPaaS and Customer Service
Now that everyone has low-cost and programmatic access to communications, the focus moves to optimizing business outcomes. In the customer service realm, that means delivering a good customer experience at low cost. How do we balance phone calls with chat, with SMS, with proprietary messaging channels? What are the pros and cons of each?
I’ll be joining a great panel for an online discussion on November 29 (TOMORROW!) at 2pm ET / AM PT. The panel will include Thomas Howe from TenDigit, Roland Selmer from Vonage, and Tobias Goebel from SparkCentral. Register here, and check out the banner above.
Three Cheers for Meatspace
Circling back to the eComm conference: It had an outsized impact for such a small, short-lived event. There was a focus on ideas, even if they were far from being commercially viable. The organizers pulled together a wide range of speakers, from students to senior execs. It encouraged me to focus on this space, and was the venue where we launched Fonolo.
I’m still in touch with many people that I met there. That group includes Alan Quayle, organizer of TADSummit /TADHack, which I see as a spiritual descendant of eComm. It also includes Dan Miller, organizer of the Conversational Commerce Conference, another high quality event. (I covered it here: What Does it Mean for Commerce to be Conversational?). It also includes two of the panelists for the hang-out I mentioned above. In fact, one can find members of the eComm “diaspora” in many influential positions around the industry.
It’s corny to say, but this speaks to the importance of human interactions, even in a technology-focused industry. There’s no substitute for IRL conversations.
PS: We Love You, Fax
A few weeks ago, I ended a post with a jocular taunt: “Die faxes, die.” I was thinking to myself, who am I going to offend? Nobody likes faxes, right? Ahem. The same day as my talk at TADSummit was a talk by Howard Avner on his fax-by-API company. Hashtag karma.
Turns out fax is still vital in certain industries and geographies and – shockingly – a $2.8B market. As restitution for my bad attitude, I recommend everyone watch Howard’s presentation. (Slides here.) Fax is probably not relevant to you, but it’s good to get a perspective of how varied the world of communication technology remains.