Empowerment. That is the word that comes to mind when one considers how recent technological changes have affected a business’ ability to create compelling communication experiences. Despite the fact that the basic tools for making a phone call haven’t changed much in the last 150 years (even your smartphone still offers you a standard numeric keypad, not so different from the rotary phones of old), we are entering an age of innovation around communications such that the world has never seen before. And best of all, many of these technologies don’t require heavy-lifting from IT teams.
Unlike the monolithic incumbents in the enterprise communication space that require multi-million dollar upfront investments and multi-year deployment schedules, the future of communication lies in software. Developers are now able to leverage communication APIs to build proofs of concept in hours or days that they can share with their business partners. Similarly, business analysts can leverage drag-and-drop user interfaces to build communication solutions in minutes, without having to request development resources. Never before have both technical people and non-technical people had so much ability to create meaningful solutions.
However, there are real risks and process challenges to account for when trying to build your own communication solution. There are both technological and experiential conditions that you must account for.
Getting company-wide buy-in
Getting company-wide buy-in is crucial for any project’s success, and it is not always easy to ascertain. One of the leading causes of project failure is lack of collaboration; over 85% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration as leading to a project’s failure. Furthermore, 75% of business and IT executives think their IT projects are doomed from the start, and project managers say executives ultimately determine what the fate of the project will be 63% of the time, be it elimination or deferment.
By taking a new approach (either building a POC on top of a communication API or a Software-as-a-Service application), the “go/no go” discussions will be far more productive. Think of it this way–in less time than it would take a business analyst to document requirements and engage with their technical counterparts to scope out level of effort, that same person could build a proof of concept and share a working example of a proposed solution to spark more productive conversations with the stakeholders. This makes it easier to achieve a shared vision and more buy-in.
Lack of user experience expertise
Communication solutions are usually customer facing, thus amplifying the risk associated with introducing a new experience. Creating an ‘on-brand’ customer experience is no small feat, and requires rapid cycles of design, build, test, repeat.
Leaving experience design in the hands of a developer (or skipping the experience design process altogether) is risky; customers have expectations that you’ll likely want to meet and understand. If they’re not trained in UX design, your developers may end up creating an experience that isn’t on brand and doesn’t improve the relationship with your customers. Furthermore, custom programming a solution may inhibit the ability to iterate rapidly and improve the experience over time.
For example, building a text-messaging notification solution using a communication API provider is quite simple, but developers often neglect the fact that recipients will reply to those text messages and therefore don’t have any response strategy. In addition, if you develop your own solution, you will also have to build a user experience report in order to know where and how the solution can be improved.
Conversely, using a SaaS application that has productized many features that protect the ability to iterate rapidly based on real data allows for the experience to be improved over time, and without having to request developer resources every time a change is requested. The pace of improvement is therefore instant.
Cost of development and maintenance
Developers love to build things, but they don’t enjoy the ongoing care and feeding that enterprise communication solutions require. And the ugly truth is that developing a custom solution, rather than configuring it through an existing software application, requires much more investment than you might think. Developing against third-party communication APIs removes nearly all of the complexity surrounding the complicated telephony network, but the normal software costs are still required, including:
- Application monitoring
- Infrastructure monitoring
- Load balancing
- Database management
- Quality assurance testing
- Infrastructure maintenance
Benefits of using SaaS applications
As outlined above, developing your own cloud communication solution can come with some big risks. However, creating it through a SaaS platform offers several key benefits:
- Time to market. Even if you have a very clear vision for the ideal solution, it can take time to get your solution to where you want it to be and constant change requests burden the development team. With a hosted cloud communication solution, you can get any changes or updates deployed in no time.
- Built-in features. Most cloud communication platforms will come with built-in features to eliminate the complexity of custom development. By productizing certain features, including integrations, users can leverage best practices and benefit from features that would otherwise be left in the ‘nice to have’ column and never be developed..
- Flexibility. Hosted cloud solutions come with a lot of flexibility, from custom design for communication flows to integrations to even custom skins that reflect your brand.
- Built-in support team. If something were to go wrong with your own solution, you’d have to devote your own resources to troubleshoot and fix it. With a hosted cloud communication solution, you have a dedicated support team on hand that will diagnose and correct any issues without you having to do a thing.
- Business continuity. Instead of having to custom develop integrations with CRMs or other systems you might use, a hosted cloud solution will usually come with built-in integrations with the most popular CRMs. This way, you can ensure the right data is being passed between your cloud system and CRM. And if you’re using proprietary systems, it is easier to configure a custom integration than it is to develop one.
Developing your own cloud communication solution comes with inherent risks and pitfalls. By investing in an existing cloud platform, you’ll save money in the process and be able to provide your customers with a professional, well-designed customer experience.
To learn more about designing a great customer experience, download our whitepaper here.
Image by Unsplash via Pixabay. CC0 License. Edited.