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Back-end business applications, like CRM and key performance indicator software, augment the value of today's contact centers. But these integrated apps complicate the move to contact center as a service. In addition to moving contact center services to the cloud, organizations need a plan to reintegrate associated business applications.
"The challenge isn't just moving an application to the cloud," said Sheila McGee-Smith, principal analyst at McGee-Smith Analytics, based in Etna, N.H. "It's really building your business in the cloud."
The move from on-premises contact centers to contact center as a service (CCaaS) is often a result of digital transformation initiatives. These initiatives use technology to make businesses more agile and enable them to respond to new demands quickly, she said.
Traditionally, most organizations that moved contact center to the cloud were small, often composed of fewer than 50 agents, and had few integrations, if any. Over the last decade, organizations have added many custom integrations to contact centers. These integrations act like software fixes to make business applications and contact center work together, McGee-Smith said.
Now, contact center isn't just about how to route calls or emails to the proper agents; it's about how information is tied together on the back end. Part of a contact center migration plan needs to include how these back-end applications will be reintegrated, McGee-Smith said.
Integration partnerships increase value proposition
The number of CCaaS integrations continues to grow to include applications like workforce engagement and AI-enabled speech recognition. CRM, however, remains the most popular integration, and it isn't just used to capture the history of a customer interaction, said Drew Kraus, research vice president at Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn.
"In some cases, organizations are using CRM platforms for managing digital interactions with their customers," he said. "They could go to a contact center vendor to get embedded chat, SMS and email, but they can also get those same capabilities from their CRM vendor."
To meet the demand for tightly integrated contact center and CRM, some vendors are focusing on integration partnerships. For example, in November 2019, AWS announced a tighter integration between its CCaaS platform, Amazon Connect, and Salesforce, enabling both products to be sold as a single integrated offering, McGee-Smith said.
These partnerships eliminate operational downtime because they are already integrated prior to deployment. Additionally, by having all core applications in the cloud, IT can shift management of these applications to the vendor.
CPaaS offers APIs for reintegration
After migrating to the cloud, communications platform as a service (CPaaS) can facilitate contact center integrations using APIs. IT decision-makers can purchase APIs individually or packaged as a platform to reconnect business applications.
Before CPaaS, organizations would need to code each integration line by line, Kraus said. Now, the methods for integration are far more mature and save time and resources.
Integrating each business application with its own API can still be time-consuming, McGee-Smith said. For organizations looking to streamline the process, choosing a low-code/no-code API option may be best. These options enable nondevelopers to customize API integrations using a visual drag-and-drop configuration rather than code, she said.
IPaaS fast-tracks integration during CCaaS deployments
Although CPaaS APIs are an option for connecting applications to CCaaS, the integrations happen after a deployment, which can result in significant downtime, McGee-Smith said.
Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is another option for organizations that need to streamline contact center integration. Unlike CPaaS, which handles reintegration after a migration, iPaaS integrations happen simultaneously. IPaaS can also federate data between on-premises and cloud applications, such as custom on-premises key performance indicator software and CCaaS.
Once a CCaaS platform is chosen, IT decision-makers can purchase an iPaaS offering with prebuilt connections between all necessary applications and the chosen contact center platform. When it comes time to deploy, all applications will be preintegrated in iPaaS, enabling migration and integration to happen simultaneously, McGee-Smith said.
For example, a company transitioning from an on-premises Avaya contact center to an Epic Connections CCaaS platform can purchase an iPaaS offering such as Five9's Whendu platform. The Whendu platform would integrate with Epic and all back-end business applications, enabling organizations to roll out a new cloud contact center with minimal downtime for integrations, McGee-Smith said.