Technology convergence in the workplace has come a long way since the days when separate technologies such as voice (telephony), data and video were united onto a single network.

Now, says Debbie Pretorius, GM at MWeb Business, convergence is moving rapidly towards what many technology pundits refer to as “true convergence” – and it is delivering new challenges and rewards for South African businesses.

“Early convergence not only resulted in cost savings, but the synergistic functioning of the three technologies was able to deliver a far greater range of solutions and beneficial productivity enhancements than each technology could do independently.

“True convergence, which is reflected in the confluences of technologies like cloud, mobile and social media, delivers far more. It is all about the integration of people, devices and the Internet. In the business arena, it is eliminating the divide between geographies, economies, industries, products and even private and business lives,” she explains.

According to Pretorius, the main drivers of true convergence include the ubiquitous adoption of smart devices – portable tools like smart phones and tablets that connect to the internet; and the rapid mainstreaming of social networks.

“Social networks combined with the smart devices that have become part of our daily lives, are clearly starting to shape the way businesses communicate and collaborate with employees, partners and customers,” she says.

Pretorius believes the 2010 Gartner forecast – that by 2014, social networks would become the main form of business communications for 20% of employees worldwide – could already have been achieved.

“There is also no question that more people are using their personal smart devices to connect to the internet than any other tool. Smart devices are also rapidly becoming business tools and it is anticipated that within the next couple of years, most people will do most of their business from a smart device.”

As a result, businesses will have to ensure that once disparate functions such as mobile commerce and mobile payment systems are fully integrated into their overall business model.

“IT systems will have to be designed around mobility to ensure that applications, data integration, services, security, device and application management can be delivered through the same mobile channel,” she concludes.