Making sense of UC in SA

Not embarking on the unified communications journey may leave companies struggling to build collaborative workspaces, says Telkom Business

By Suzanne Franco, Surveys Editorial Project Manager at ITWeb.
Johannesburg, 04 Apr 2014

Unified communications (UC) is becoming a necessity in the South African workplace, yet many organisations are still grappling with why it needs to be adopted as an integral part of business operations.

During the month of March 2014, Telkom Business, in partnership with ITWeb, conducted an online survey to gain valuable insight into the UC strategies within SA's organisations.

"In our view, the main objective for this UC survey is for us to get a clear perspective and flavour from the market in South Africa of what their UC needs are," says Johann Henning, acting MD of Telkom Business. "We were also looking at ways to ensure Telkom Business does not develop product offerings based solely on what the rest of the world is doing."

Henning states that, given that the company's aim to develop solutions that are relevant to SA, Telkom Business needs to test readiness as well as get a sense of just how big the market is, tying in with expected growth patterns.

"Organisations are faced with challenges to optimise costs and to automate processes to ensure that their businesses are lean, agile and efficient," he adds. "In the current economic climate, an increase in operational efficiency is imperative in order to remain competitive, not just in the local market, but also in the global market. Efficiencies in business processes are needed in order to continue to deliver high value to customers."

Don't stand alone

According to Henning, the capability of quickly engaging in the most appropriate form of communication to deliver the desired output can make a big difference to workplace efficiency.

"When UC is purposefully imbedded into a business process, the integrated nature of the solution allows employees to move from one task to the next more seamlessly than with stand-alone communications tools," he says.

Henning further points out that UC enables employees to share knowledge and expertise without physically being in the same environment. This, he believes, is essential for productivity, but equally important to cater for the needs of the new generation of employees.

"Not embarking on the unified communications journey may leave certain companies struggling to build collaborative workspaces and ultimately inhibiting their ability to effectively compete against companies that have harnessed the full potential of unified communications," says Henning, adding that there are a number of key considerations that contribute to the success of a UC project.

"A clear long-term view of the business and what role technology will play, the importance of user adoption of unified communications," notes Hennig. "Business processes must be redesigned to incorporate UC solutions and identified solutions should not be evaluated purely based on short-term cost saving."

Henning also raises factors that could lead to possible failure of UC adoption, such as a short-term cost view, the technology deployed not being used properly and no clear strategy for the future.

"UC is still in its early phase of adoption in South Africa and most companies have just begun the journey. I believe it will have a profound effect on how business will be done in the next two to four years," he says.

He concludes that unified communications is one of the key elements of the bigger digitalisation drive that will play out over the next few years as customers start to leverage other areas such as big data and cloud services.

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