When I step out of the office, I am quickly reminded of how mobile we have become — so mobile, in fact, that we are able to continue working even after we leave the physical boundaries of our workspace. Indeed, technology has enabled us to take our email conversations with us and translate them to an office chat service and Bluetooth headset, seamlessly and regardless of device or location. It is the hallmark of the 21st century.

All this is thanks to cloud-based communications, which are increasingly becoming central to our work lives. In evidence of this point, you need only check the numbers: According to IDC (which separates the cloud communications market into two segments, Unified Communications as-a-Service and Communications Platform as-a-Service), UCaaS will grow to $33 billion by 2021, up from $20 billion in 2017, and CPaaS will grow to $8 billion in 2021, up from $1 billion in 2017. IDC suggests that, together, these components will constitute a cloud communications market worth $41 billion by 2021, a figure that represents nearly double its 2017 valuation.

Though the cloud communications industry is separated into segments, the market is converging. The leading players will likely be those that can offer an end-to-end communications platform, with fully integrated solutions incorporating both unified communications capabilities to enhance internal connections and embedded, contextual communications via APIs to drive deeper customer engagement. In fact, cloud communications will be a critical piece of the overall digital transformation that so many 21st century businesses are moving toward.

Cloud Communications: The Building Block for Agile, 21st Century Business

Whether it’s unified communications capabilities, programmable voice, SMS or chat, the cloud provides the services, resources and management tools to easily and quickly deploy communications and enable software applications. In addition, many of the capabilities that enterprises want to integrate with communications — such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and natural language processing — reside principally or exclusively within the cloud. Furthermore, the rise of communications via cloud-based APIs means that enterprises can easily customize their offerings using any number of new capabilities or tools available to them.

The cloud also ushers in new, agile communications features. An on-premises solution can be costly and cumbersome and is not agile in its ability to scale with a company’s growth. Conversely, a cloud-based solution is scalable and flexible, enabling IT teams to continuously add and remove different features and users as needs arise.  

For example, tools such as APIs and embedded, programmable communications platforms allow enterprises to develop digitized infrastructures and build customized communications solutions to address customer demands in a contextual, personalized way. Because the cloud offers the promise of a service-oriented structure, enterprises can pick and choose how they want to engage with their customers and quickly make changes as the customer’s preferences evolve or change.

Make Cloud Communications a Priority in Digitization Strategies

Organizations exhibit a variety of attitudes about the role cloud communications plays in a broader digital transformation strategy. When overhauling infrastructure, organizations tend to focus first on enabling faster, more effective rollout of end-user offerings and the data that supports those offerings. Communications can quickly become an afterthought within the context of digitization. However, IDC research suggests that “communications technology is an important driver of business success.”

The analyst firm’s research found that the organizations exhibiting the highest level of communications technology maturity enjoy faster time to market for new products and services, improved customer satisfaction and loyalty and reduced costs.

Clearly, cloud communications is transforming the way businesses operate, streamlining internal communications and enhancing external communications to drive success. So, given the flexibility and innovation inherent in the cloud, as well as our appetite for anytime, anywhere communications and drive toward digitization, there’s very likely to be a cloud in your communications future.

Omar Javaid is the chief product officer of Vonage.