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Choose a Right-Sized CPaaS Solution

Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) solutions offer a useful way to enhance the communications functionality of your existing business applications without needing to rip and replace your telephony system. This note walks through the process of determining whether CPaaS is right for you and, if it is, how to choose a right-sized CPaaS solution.

What is CPaaS and why is it different from UCaaS and CCaaS?

Perhaps the most important starting point is understanding what CPaaS is, what its solutions can offer, and why it differs from similar cloud-based communications services, such as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS).

CPaaS is a cloud-based delivery model that enables real-time communications functionality in your existing business applications. It does so through software development kits (SDKs) or code builders or through embedding a collection of APIs. CPaaS solutions are flexible and scalable, allowing your organization to quickly ramp up specific kinds of communication (such as SMS notifications) by deploying them directly into the cloud platform. As such, you can pick and choose the kind of communications enhancements you need, as long as the solution integrates with your current IT architecture.

Whereas CPaaS is implemented through APIs or code that allow for more customization with existing business applications, UCaaS solutions are a ready-to-go model. Typically, implementing a UCaaS solution would necessitate broader conversations about what the organization’s telephony system ought to be. As UCaaS is a much broader solution, CPaaS solutions are sometimes bundled into various UCaaS providers’ offerings.

CCaaS solutions are also a ready-to-go model, specifically focusing on the capabilities required for contact center telephony. It is possible to implement APIs through a CPaaS solution to provide contact center capabilities to an organization; this DIY solution might be helpful if you only need a few capabilities (such as interactive voice response). If a whole suite of contact center capabilities is needed, however, CCaaS solutions are the least time consuming and the easier option to implement.

As such, if what your organization needs is a specific communication capability add-on to an existing system, CPaaS is the way to go.

What capabilities do CPaaS solutions have?

Before researching vendors, think about the capabilities you want to get out of a CPaaS solution. There are a range of tech stacks that can be utilized, so getting clear on what your requirements are will be useful for differentiating between necessary and nice-to-have capabilities. You do not want to end up paying for capabilities you will never use.

Key capabilities offered by market leaders in the CPaaS space include:

  • Short message service (SMS)
  • Multimedia messaging service (MMS)
  • Audio/video conferencing
  • Push notifications
  • Click-to-call
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Authentication

These capabilities can be added to your current business applications to enable services such as video-enabled help desks, appointment reminders for customers, and authentication services.

Can you leverage your current telephony vendor for a CPaaS solution?

Before exploring the CPaaS marketspace, investigate whether your telephony vendor can offer the specific communications capability you need. This is especially important if you have already invested in a cloud-based communications solution; often, UCaaS vendors will offer CPaaS solutions as part of their overall package. See if you can leverage your current vendor for a particular API collection. If this is possible, this would save you from scoping the marketspace, align integrations with current systems, and prevent having to manage multiple vendors within the same IT process.

What payment model best suits your context?

There are two major pricing models in the CPaaS marketspace: pay per use or a fixed subscription cost. The pay-per-use model applies to the specific capabilities your organization is after. This could cover a cost per SMS or the number of devices that use the service. This option may be beneficial if you only want minor customizations to your communications system; you would not need to pay for the other features that typically might come with a full CPaaS bundle. However, this option does require foresight: if there is a particular time of the fiscal year where certain CPaaS features will be used more heavily, plan for this in your annual budget – some months may be more expensive than others.

The fixed subscription cost gives you that comfort of being able to plan the CPaaS costs into annual budget. Indeed, if there are several features you want to use that come as part of a CPaaS bundle, this option may prove to be more cost efficient. However, ensure that you are leveraging this bundle as much as possible. Otherwise, you will end up paying for capabilities you do not need. As this note stated earlier, getting clear on your necessary vs. nice-to-have capabilities is useful to determine how to best price your CPaaS use.

What SLA metrics should you think about?

When negotiating a contract with your chosen CPaaS vendor, there are several SLAs you will want to make sure are explicit in the text. This will ensure you can hold the vendor accountable. Of course, part of knowing what SLAs to hold the vendor accountable on depends on your organization knowing what key metrics it itself must meet. The vendor’s services, after all, are there to help you reach those metrics.

Once you are clear on what relevant metrics your organization needs to meet, consider the following SLAs in your contract agreement to ensure you reach them:

  • Time to first response
  • Time to resolution
  • Time waiting for support
  • Time waiting for third party
  • Training availability rates
  • Update amounts per cycle
  • Performance monitoring
  • Uptime guarantees
  • Descaling possibilities

What other important factors should I use to judge a vendor?

  • If your industry must be compliant with a number of regulations, laws, and security practices, you will need to ensure that the vendor you choose can clearly demonstrate it would meet those requirements. If the vendor cannot satisfactorily show that it can, consider another vendor. When signing a contract, all requirements ought to be demonstrably laid out.
  • Does the vendor have experience working within your particular industry, or is it able to adapt to your particular geographic constraints? If you cannot build a confident working relationship with the vendor, then consider another one. SoftwareReviews finds that most contract renewals are based on the trust and relationship the client has with the vendor.
  • Ask what the vendor’s business continuity plan looks like. If a crisis occurs, what plans are in place so that the vendor can continue meeting SLAs? If a certain crisis would impact its ability to meet its SLAs, what contingency plan could be put in place to account for this – one that is satisfactory to both vendor and client?
  • Outline your requisite privacy and security concerns. Will you need end-to-end encryption, for instance, to protect customer data? If the vendor cannot offer these security capabilities, this should be a redline.
  • Determine whether the CPaaS solution integrates with your organization’s current IT architecture. If the solution does not integrate with your current customer relations management system, for instance, this will create friction down the road for sharing information seamlessly. Expect an increase in end-user dissatisfaction if this happens!

Ready to pick a vendor?

Consider these ten CPaaS market leaders:

Source: Twilio Scorecard at SoftwareReviews. Accessed July 14, 2020.

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