Categorized | Unified Communications

How Open Are You to Open Platforms?

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Poll question: How many cloud-based applications does the average organization use?

  1. Fewer than 200
  2. 200-500
  3. 500-700
  4. More than 700

Answer: D. Organizations now use an average of 730 cloud-based applications, and a large percentage of those apps are unsanctioned by the IT team, according to an April 2015 Netskope Cloud Report. Companies can’t prevent employees from using their own devices and apps at work, but they can maintain a higher level of control by embracing an open environment for their communication technology.

For decades, employers and IT departments relied on a single vendor to supply all of their communication technology, which allowed them to manage every communication pathway and touchpoint employees used. But Bring Your Own Device and Bring Your Own Application trends changed the way businesses operate.

Today, employees believe they should be empowered to choose the devices and apps they use to do their jobs—regardless of whether those tools are provided by their employer, a trusted vendor, or a startup they read about on their favorite blog. Fighting this trend isn’t an option, so IT departments have to find a way to create a safe, secured, and controlled environment in this bring-your-own-everything world.

Open vs Closed Loop

As these heterogeneous tech trends take hold, IT leaders have to deal with interoperability issues, heightened security risks, and the need to provide seamless communication capabilities in their traditionally closed-loop environment. This can be particularly difficult when these closed systems consist of highly proprietary software, which are difficult to integrate, and lead to higher costs to procure and support.

But what if their communication platform wasn’t a closed loop?

An open communication platform could provide teams with ways to support a varied collection of applications and workflows, while still giving companies a foundation to establish security and seamless endpoints. This is not a new idea; many tech verticals are successfully using open solutions. In the customer relationship management space, for instance, companies like Salesforce.com tout their open platform as an opportunity for developers to build their own apps and expand the capabilities of the system.

No single vendor can provide interoperability for every system. But an open platform gives the freedom for IT departments and third parties to develop new features, and bring interoperability to the market more rapidly. That flexibility and openness creates the potential to remake industries.

Consider the iPhone, and Apple’s willingness to design a platform where users could build their own apps, which lead to the creation of more than a million new applications (at a must faster rate than if Apple had to design each new app themselves) and a fundamental shift in the way users viewed their devices.

“An open platform environment drives collaboration and diversity,” says Dr. Timothy Summers, Ph.D. a former hacker and current information security consultant with Summers and Co. in Washington DC.

Creating open platforms that allow end users to innovative and adapt the system can shorten development times, improve quality of the product, and provide greater control over the user experience. And those benefits aren’t limited to smart phones, Summers says.

“This model could bring a huge competitive advantage to any communication technology field,” he says.

The concept of “openness” is disrupting networking, personal computing, wearables, enterprise communications, and many other sectors.

The Way of the Future

When companies opt to implement an open system from a reputable vendor that offers the necessary support, security and development tools, they can eliminate the hassles of trying to force proprietary solutions on their teams. Instead, they can focus on managing and implementing innovations that arise from an open environment.

A secure, open communication platform enables rapid deployment of new solutions, giving teams a way to contextualize and format data for their needs while allowing the IT team to maintain control over the data movement within the organization. It’s the best of both worlds, Summers says. “Communication technology companies can leverage these opportunities to develop new protocols and to better support the way users want to connect with each other around the world.”

Recent surveys show up to 90 percent of the cloud apps being used in organizations are not coming in through the IT department, and 70 percent of employees admit at least some of the apps they use aren’t sanctioned by the company. IT departments need an alternative to spending their days blocking apps, and juggling multiple communication platforms.

While open platforms still have room to grow before being the standard among communication technologies companies, the increasing demand for greater flexibility in the tools employees use will soon drive the industry to embrace “openness” as a way to maintain their competitive advantage and meet the needs of customers in the future.

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