Although Cequens has started off as an SMS aggregator, serving customers in the Middle East and beyond, the foundational tenets of the company has now changed: it is now a Communication-Platform-as-Service (CPaaS) provider.
In an interview Cequens Former VP of Products, Karim Zaki, we talk about CPaaS, what it means for the Middle East and Africa (MEA), the region's burgeoning need to go digital, and what the future of CPaaS looks like.
Q: What is CPaaS to you?
- A: We can all agree on the textbook definition of what CPaaS is: A mashup of programmable telecom and cloud technologies to provide a complete off-the-shelf environment of communication tools – covering messaging, voice, and video, all without needing to build supporting backend infrastructure..
- But personally, I see it’s much more than that. Based on the various discussion with clients in the region, I have come to a different definition of what CPaaS is, one that’s more customer-centric:
- First, it’s an accelerator for businesses. It facilitates time to market for businesses, allowing businesses to simply “plug and play” a solution skipping all kinds of operational headaches, red-tape, carrier relationships, …etc. It essentially reduces barriers to entry into the communication terrain. That’s highly valuable for businesses with multiple regional offices.
- Secondly, a one-stop-shop for all enterprise communication needs. A digital enablement platform, one that is infrastructure and hardware independent, allowing businesses to focus on their core business – without worrying about hardware costs, regional regulations, and the know-how expertise to handle it all.
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Q: Where is CPaaS going?
A: I believe the future of CPaaS will depend heavily on four pillars, which I believe they are dependent on one another.
First, contextual communication. It’s all about meeting customers where they are, it's about leveraging the right communication channel, or channels when necessary. For example, let’s take advertising. A young woman is shopping in the mall, she receives promotional texts from her favorite store, Levis which she has expressed interest in on social media. Communication here is based on a known interest in a particular brand and has been leveraged accordingly.
Secondly, visual and easily customizable CPaaS offerings: long gone are the days when software was only accessed and used by someone with a technical background and where a solution can fit a wide array of business cases.
When we talk about CPaaS technologies, infrastructure and how integration works the first thing everyone would imagine is CPaaS for developers, integrators, or engineers. It shouldn’t be that way anymore. CPaaS will and must evolve to grow the service beyond developers, making it easier to use and faster to deploy with the concept of visual tools requiring less coding, which will greatly increase productivity and the target users/audience of these tools.
By further deconstructing the toolset and making operations more visual, these platforms are enabling employees who don’t come from an IT background to support new segments and take on bigger roles.
Many initiatives were launched in the past year and a half, specifically for communication studios and workflow builders introducing the easy-to-use drag and drop concepts for building your communication workflows. We believe we will see more demand on CPaaS visual offering in the coming phase.
All of which leads us to conversational commerce.
Thirdly, machine learning, AI, and chatbots: they will all come into play to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Improving real-time communications with machine learning, CPaaS providers should not only focus on optimizing and expanding their reach. In fact, they should start thinking on what they can offer for their brands to help them analyze their customer data for more effective communication.
And finally, all of what I just mentioned is great but what really determines the success or failure of any of the promising technologies of the future is its ability to integrate with legacy systems. We have witnessed firsthand in the MEA region how a great product can plummet for the simple reason it cannot be integrated into the system. To reach true digital transformation, we, as CPaaS providers must be able to integrate with legacy systems.
Q: What is going to be important to be successful as CPaaS evolves?
- Regional Compliance: compliance with regional telecommunication regulations and fulfilling enterprises and governmental compliance policies for a cloud offering
- End-to-end solution offering: facilitating digital transformation enablement by providing end-to-end solutions for enterprises to overcome integration issues
- Agility and flexibility of customization: Agility to fulfill customization required by customer and reducing the time to market when it comes to implementing business use cases by leveraging the right technology.
- A robust platform: strong infrastructure is essential to fulfill what we have promised, with a true auto-scaling mechanism is and will continue to be a key differentiator to be a successful CPaaS provider
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