Businesses didn’t used to have a surplus of options to rely on when it came to staying in touch with coworkers or customers. Today, however, businesses and the people who run them are bombarded with communications options from texting and instant messaging apps to voice and video conferencing. While some people may malign the transition from true face-to-face interaction to FaceTime, the fact is that companies are saving huge amounts in telecommunications investments by augmenting their unified communications plan with Over-The-Top (OTT) communications applications. With the growth of OTT apps reaching maturation, integrating them as part of a comprehensive telecommunications strategy is integral to keeping business engines running smoothly.
You Down With OTT?Chances are that, yes, you probably are. Software Advice, the online software research and recommendation engine, recently published a report on OTT use in the workplace and found that a whopping 82% of workforces are already using some form of OTT app for business. Many OTT options include simple text or IM platforms but can get rather complex with real time video and screen sharing capabilities.
OTT apps are referred to as such because they circumnavigate traditional cost barriers that traditional telecom providers have for including specific, relatively sophisticated communications platforms by effectively hurdling them. Yeah, you get it, right over the top. Therefore, whenever you were to use Gchat or Skype to ping back and forth with a coworker, you are employing an OTT app that is saving money for your company. Kudos!
Making OTT Work for Your Business
I can hear some operations people reading this in their heads thinking, “82% usage? Well we need to get a policy in place for this!” Cool your jets, there are a few things to consider before jumping into a decision right away. Obviously it is always important to look at the costs of any service, but how familiar your users are with the technology and which platform works best for them should also be considerations.
- Open Source vs Free(mium): Open Source apps are great for companies that have the technological knowhow to put together a custom built suite of features for their company by using a platform already available online. The price is right for companies with a staff savvy enough to build a complex system with what is basically a pile of disassembled IKEA furniture minus the step-by-step instructions. Freemium is what most respondents recorded using and will likely be the most quickly adopted services is for nothing other than its familiarity alone. While a quickly adopted app that requires no technical expertise to deploy is appealing, the drawback of these aps is functionality and features. Many of the more compelling features of an app will be available at a subscription rate while the basic IM functions are offered for free.
- Platform Preference: The types of OTT apps can be broken into two basic groups, text and streaming. Texting or IM are advantageous because employees rank familiarity as one of the most important features in an OTT app at work and because the quality of service for simple text apps is routinely very high. OTT apps that offer voice and video streaming are more challenging in that these are often additional features of apps that are pay-per-use or that they are free but with unreliable quality.
Making Dollars and Sense
There is, of course, no one OTT solution that will be right for every company, but every company can find a way to benefit from augmenting their existing telecom platform with the right OTT. Daniel Harris, Software Advice’s Market Research Associate, is quick to note that both text and streaming application platforms have a role for the right company, though.
“Businesses should consider choosing freemium solutions for their text and instant messaging needs before they consider freemium solutions for audio and video interactions, in which audio and video quality is a consideration of paramount importance.” Said Harris.In other instances, phone and videoconference quality cannot be sacrificed. For those companies, it would be best to include those features as part of their telecom budget, rather than relying on cost-saving OTT apps. Often times, these are larger companies that can afford to dedicate a software platform other than an OTT to meeting with clients and dispersed team members.
“Business models in which phone calls and videoconferences are mission-critical may not be well-suited to freemium technologies,” Harris adds, “As savings in the communications budget could be offset by decreases in revenue, should the apps perform poorly.”
Just as the introduction of VoIP has retaught the conventional wisdom on how phone service should be delivered and billed, OTT solutions are well on their way to making their own mark on business as well. Furthermore, as long as adoption of these emerging technologies continues to be highest among younger employees, it is safe to say that finding OTT options that work for your business might be as useful for productivity as it is for talent recruitment and retention as well.
For more applications of past Software Advice reports towards the telecom business, check out these links-