Think about it: Ten years ago, if you wanted to make a telephone call, you picked up a telephone—a device manufactured to do that one thing forever. On the day it rolled off the assembly line, it had all the capabilities it would ever have. Want a new feature? Throw that thing away and buy a new device.
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Thanks to a new generation of smartphones and also, increasingly, anything with a Web browser, a new generation of consumers now expects real-world problems to be solved by software. Even when they're not coders themselves, this generation understands that with a software mindset, almost anything they can imagine is not only possible, but practically inevitable.
This has led to an increased focus on the user—and the user's experience. Software people know they have the power to fix things, for their customers, for their friends, for themselves.
Are you frustrated by the long line for a table at your favorite restaurant? Go for a walk and get a message when your table is ready. Don't have change to pay the parking meter? Pay by text. Can't get a cab in San Francisco? Download an app that shows you where the closest cabs are, order one with the push of a button and receive an SMS when your ride is on its way.
Inside enterprises we are seeing communications being embedded at just the right moment in a business process. Malfunctioning equipment can now trip an alarm, send an SMS, escalate to a voice call, and depending on the severity of the issue, set up a conference bridge with key players.
Last minute staffing changes can be communicated automatically, with employees using text messaging to accept work schedules. And instead of manually dialing from their desk phones, salespeople click to call from inside other cloud software like Salesforce, which also records the interaction.
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If you are familiar with the traditional telecommunications industry, you'll know how unusual all this innovation is. For decades, communications-related initiatives foundered on the twin shoals of high cost and complexity. Adding voice or SMS to another program meant buying expensive hardware, installing and updating software and hiring someone with specialized telecom expertise.
There were only a few players, and they charged for everything from annual licenses to upgrades, maintenance and support. Customers were pretty much locked in by whatever their gear—or high-priced consultants—could do.