Enterprise Communications

It is Still Early Days for CEBP but We're Getting There

by Rob Arnold 30 Dec 2010
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Although the concept of communications-enabled business processes (CEBP) has been around for a while, it is still a hot area of marketing for UC and other ICT companies. Given the persistent buzz, my colleague Melanie Turek and I thought the time was right for a reality check this market. We wanted to get behind the hype to gage the state of actual provider initiatives and enterprise adoption.

As part of our study we interviewed numerous vendors, service providers and VARs.

Our most immediate discovery was that CEBP continues to be ill-defined. In a sense the concept and terminology has become like UC, a catch-all marketing term that has been overly used and in many cases abused. It has become watered down to the extent that it now describes a very loose and broad array of solutions and capabilities.

The lack of a widely agreed upon definition throughout the industry has lead to a lot of confusion. Some providers inappropriately (either opportunistically or unknowingly) label more simplistic solutions, such as click to call from a CRM app, as CEBP. The confusion appears to be pervasive, as evidenced by the customer case studies that we received which simply don’t qualify as CEBP under our definition. The mislabeling causes some customers to think they have implemented CEBP when they actually have not. Other customers may have in fact deployed a CEBP solution but may be referring to it by another name, such as BPO, BPA or UC. The confusion makes it very difficult to measure enterprise adoption.

We have a more in-depth definition in our report, but in essence, CEBP puts communications into context within a business processes, connecting people with the right information at the appropriate time. By making contextual communications part of business processes CEBP increases control and reduces latency in workflows.

Per our definition, communications applications that can be part of CEBP solutions may be real-time or asynchronous. UC, SOA and web services integration enhance CEBP solutions but these elements are not required. Integration with reporting, monitoring and analytics software is key to identifying inefficiencies in business processes. Furthermore, CEBP solutions can be based upon CPE, hosted or cloud components or consist of a blend of these elements.

CEPB solutions often address complex business issues. As a result, consulting, assessment, integration and customization services are pivotal to creating and implementing CEBP. And because each business has unique requirements and a unique mix of assets (budgets, people, applications and infrastructure) there are no true plug and play CEBP solutions. More packaged applications are being made available, but even these require upfront professional services and individual tailoring to be effective.

The solutions are enabled through professional services but are founded upon products. Line of business applications and communications software are building blocks from which CEBP solutions are constructed. Because of this most providers in the market today target their existing customers to sell CEBP solutions. These customers often have the foundational products in place and the provider has the existing business relationship to know the customers’ pain points.

Businesses of all types can benefit from implementing CEBP. That said, it is widely recognized that business processes must be well defined for CEBP solutions to be effective.

CEBP can be applied horizontally across different lines of business and different industries. Therefore, many solutions today are line of business and industry-specific.

CEBP solutions are well-suited to organizations within regulated industries, such as healthcare, finance, utilities and education, where compliance mandates are a priority.  

More broadly, CEBP solutions are optimized for businesses:

  • with people- and paper-intensive processes
  • needing to comply with service level agreements
  • with requirements for real-time reporting in parts of the organization outside of the contact center
  • with repetitive tasks and processes
  • with processes involving staff distributed across sites
  • that have identified specific pain points within existing processes.

The confusion over what qualifies as a CEBP solution continues to make adoption extremely difficult to measure. However, we believe that CEBP solutions can be valuable investments that can create competitive advantages for customers. We believe that increased use of open standards by vendors and service providers as well as introduction of a broader array of packaged applications will continue to make CEBP solutions easier for customers to understand and less expensive to deploy.

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