Web Real Time Communications (RTC or WebRTC) entered the scene a few short years ago with the goal to turn every browser into an audio/video phone without users having to download plugins or other special software. Fast forward a few years, and WebRTC adoption remains low. Lack of support by popular browsers like Internet Explorer and Safari has been a key detractor. Other impediments include incomplete standards, lack of a compelling business case, and architectural complexity when connecting users within the enterprise.
Many business leaders would agree that when adopting something new, there is a very difficult balancing act that must go on to achieve success. This is particularly evident when the business takes into account the cost of disruption, training, and general difficulty of implementing change across an organization – made up of people who are not technologists. Technology innovation can be incredibly exciting, but if it doesn’t fit into the way businesses function, user adoption is likely to be limited.
While WebRTC may not be the panacea some projected it to be, it does provide a solid foundation for many innovative solutions proven to have a substantial positive impact on businesses. Augmenting WebRTC technology to bypass limitations associated with browser support, firewall traversal, multi-party calling, and enterprise policy conflicts is the first step to broad adoption and success. These enhancements pave the way for fully integrated omnichannel real-time interactions and collaboration.
WebRTC started the real-time ball rolling, and while there have been some great ideas spawned from the power and flexibility of the platform, a stratification of vendors has also emerged. On one side are the nimble start-ups with great ideas and creative solutions. However, in most cases, deep integration into the patchwork of existing platforms, systems, and services relied upon by many enterprises is not a key priority.
This lack of integration is a negative in the eyes of most users simply because they have to do something more just to use the service. An additional logon, a download, or changing a browser to get the new app to work can all contribute to adoption failure across an organization and can sink a good idea in a heartbeat. The key to success for those in the start-up camp is to understand how and where they can integrate into existing systems with context – while delivering real business outcomes.
On the other side of the RTC chasm are the institutionalized communications vendors – usually PBX (News - Alert), contact center, or UC vendors. They have a large piece of the enterprise pie already, and will adopt and deliver RTC-based services and solutions that feed their own ecosystem. Integration is inherent in the design, but it is also frequently locked-down within the ecosystem. The typical story is: If you are a Product X user, you can collaborate with anyone as long as they are on Product X too. Yes, there are gateway technologies, SBCs, transcoding, and other tools to interoperate with other platforms, but the operation is not easy, consistent, reliable, nor intuitive for the end user.
A common approach from institutionalized vendors is to aim for the middle and deliver a one size that kind of fits most users offering that often forces enterprises – and constituents – to change how they perform day-to-day tasks just to accommodate the technology.
And this brings us back to the users – the people who make up the enterprise and are tasked with getting the business of the day done. Balancing the desire to add new capabilities and understanding the impact to user performance, efficiency, and frustration levels can be a challenge. Forcing the organization into a new mode to accommodate technology is not easy, nor is asking users to piece together multiple point solutions so that they can perform their tasks. And lastly, the expectation that an enterprise will jettison its existing investment in platforms and services just to adopt RTC is unrealistic.
The real power of RTC comes with the ability to deliver innovation in manners that augment existing systems, integrate seamlessly with business workflows and current technology, and provide the power and flexibility first promised by the ubiquity of browser technology. To remain relevant for the long haul, vendors must use the perspective of the enterprise as the starting point to best determine how to deploy the right solution that delivers uncompromised business value.
Essentially, the RTC paradigm should be focused around getting the business to work faster, more efficiently, and less expensively – all while keeping the needs of the user firmly in mind.
Sajeel Hussain (News - Alert) is chief marketing officer at CaféX Communications (www.cafex.com), which creates software that makes it simple for people to collaborate in ways that work best for them.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi