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Realities of unified messaging, convergence and mobility

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The way a business manages its information says a lot about its culture, the aptitude of its people and its overall ability, writes Robert Sussman, joint MD at Integr8 IT.

The reality of trading in South Africa’s technology-focused marketplace is that the storage, backup and archiving of data is not only enforced through legislation – it just makes good business sense.
Some people may be surprised to hear that the convergence of mobile devices and applications with digital communication channels (unified messaging) is positioned at the forefront of the outsourced managed services space.
The fact is that the technology that enables companies to run e-mail, voice mail and faxes from one centralized location simultaneously is both readily available and cost-effective.
Availability is taken care of through the increase in bandwidth, the higher levels of innovation, increase in service providers and a general improvement in access to technology. The cost factor is lowered because systems run off a common area – there is no need for additional expenditure for other systems to run concurrently.
So, the technology – from PABX systems right through to fax-to-email, 086 numbers & solutions – does exist. There is a concerted effort from many quarters in the market to drive this convergence to the level where the roll out allows for e-mail management from any device, anywhere.
If one was able to conduct a thoroughly accurate assessment of the extent to which companies adhere to legislation and the level at which they have rolled out unified messaging and mobile platforms, the results would make for interesting reading.
Not all companies have embraced the opportunity. More often than not decision makers have opted for a first layer, reactive approach – characterized by one or two separately managed solutions and intense focus on daily, operational issues.
The rationale behind this approach is fuelled by the perception that the unified messaging space remains the exclusive domain of top tier enterprises and businesses any smaller in size or scope cannot participate.
This misinterpretation is exacerbated by the idea that it simply costs too much.
However, in actuality, this investment in infrastructure is both practical and cost effective. It is easier to go this route if one considers the criteria contained in legislation governing data back-up, storage, archiving and retention. A centralized, consolidated management system will result in savings – from a decrease in paper wastage to higher levels of productivity and less wastage on resources.
Service providers currently addressing the need for unified messaging and mobile convergence are confident of the trend – it really has become a situation where you are either ahead of – or at least with – the times, or risk falling by the wayside.
As mentioned this exciting area of the ICT sector is one of the more pronounced in terms of outsourced managed service and delivery. Fortunately there are options for investors.
It is important to keep in mind the needs of the business in terms of core offering/ services. There is little point to throwing a ton of money at information technology if there is no-one with the expertise to implement it properly or assist with advice to help clients extract maximum value. Technology alone cannot solve problems.
This is why, especially in the case of smaller-to-medium companies, it may be best to solicit hosting services from a credible service provider. Whilst it is true that there is a limited choice as far as the availability of tier-one outsourced hosted managed service providers is concerned, it is advisable to look for one partner and stick to them.
They should have the skills, market experience and product knowledge to add value. This is preferable to taking on these responsibilities alone and committing to a trial & error scenario – it’s the technological equivalent to going out on a limb – mostly risky, rarely successful.
What are the implications of a continued surge of unified messaging and mobility in the market?
It would be naïve to think that the growth process will be without challenges. But, as the market witnessed in the proliferation of thin client infrastructure to address bandwidth shortages a few years ago, there is a sense of empowerment and opportunity for innovation through necessity.
The main challenge lies in a lack of business acumen, which remains an issue in today’s market. The information is there to be managed and used, the technology is there to be integrated and leveraged off, the opportunity for real growth and development is naturally there as a result – the onus on working smarter lies with each one of us.