The consolidation of communications infrastructure, including platforms to facilitate social networking and all devices, is now widely accessible and represents a basic standard for business development going forward.

This is the view taken by management at the Integr8 Group, South Africa’s largest privately owned ICT managed services provider.

Robert Sussman, joint CEO, Integr8, says Unified Communications (UC) has been on the growth path for some time, with innovation and mass production consistently reinforcing its reputation as ‘bleeding edge technology’.

“Today unified communications is much more than digital interaction between people using various devices and platforms. Businesses are more inclined to seriously consider standardization on complete unified communications solutions,” says Sussman.

According to Integr8 the business case for UC is that decision makers see the benefits of using technologies – such as email, instant messaging, voice and video conferencing, to boost exposure and widen presence.

But it is not only its status as platform to allow for businesses to engage mass audiences instantaneously that makes UC attractive. Sussman says the technology has revolutionised the workplace and empowered businesses as far as human resource management is concerned.

He says that UC and converged technologies has resulted in more productive workforce and the ability to manage resources more effectively.

“The fact is that convergence of communications infrastructure and applications across a unified platform means that users have the ability to multi-task, to achieve results quickly and perform duties on a new level. This obviously benefits business,” says Sussman.

Charndré Mey (ITS) Integr8 Technical Services, agrees with Sussman and says the ongoing integration of various technologies represents a turning point in the way a business communicates internally and externally.

“The birth of Unified Communications saw technologies such as e-mail, instant messaging and conferencing integrate into one another providing the perfect form of business communication,” says Mey.

“Although these technologies are vastly used today they form only the very basis of what we now know as Unified Communications. Unified Communications has evolved into something that no longer combines technologies to form solutions, but combines solutions to form business, something known as convergence,” he adds.

The advent of social networks, as well as significant trends such as cloud-based service provision and virtualisation, has fuelled interest in- and adoption of unified communications and convergence say specialists within Integr8.

“Our networks, whether business or personal, converge in our unified communications tools. Social media networking has become an important part of driving mobility advances and our work/life style changes,” Mey continues.

Managed ICT service specialists at Integr8 believe that these trends will continue to develop and add value to UC.

Against this backdrop, the company also suggests that the growth of UC and technologies (like smart devices and the ‘mobile office’), the credibility of the concept of a Personal Area Network (PAN) will also escalate.

The days of people being ‘always-on, immediately and easily accessible’ are here and reliable connection to both personal and business networks is a reality.

According to Sussman and Mey this is indicative of the inevitable rise of true Unified Communications.