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SMEs ‘the future of collaboration in SA’

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Despite bandwidth restrictions and limited knowledge of the various tools available, collaboration is enjoying strong growth in South Africa thanks mainly to the uptake of the technology by the country's SMEs.

And, says Frost & Sullivan, the growth in the country’s SME sector will create significant opportunities for vendors of collaborative tools.
“The future of collaborative tools in South Africa is in the SME sector,” says Frost & Sullivan analyst Spiwe Chireka. “While collaboration was traditionally for large enterprises with an extensive geographical presence, there are now a growing number of solutions tailored to SMEs. In addition, the advent of vendor-developed (as opposed to community-developed) open source solutions and the increasing uptake of Web-based solutions are becoming more prevalent.”
The resource savings brought about by Web-based collaboration are most welcome in a bandwidth-starved market such as South Africa, Chireka adds, and most companies will soon be opting for solutions hosted on the vendors’ server in order to limit the bandwidth and processing resources required on their client server.
Vendor-developed open source collaborative tools are definitely gaining ground in the corporate market. This is due to the increased reliability and strong support being provided for such solutions as vendors create large, dedicated teams to offer services for their solutions. Desktop solutions are projected to decline and open source solutions will become formidable substitutes to proprietary software.
The shortage and poor speeds of bandwidth still, however, limit the uptake of collaborative tools as most offerings can be resource intense. In addition, there is a general lack of awareness of both the benefits of collaborative tools and the various tools available in the market. This has created a challenge for vendors to communicate the costs as a justification of the perceived value of collaboration.
“With the accelerated growth happening in the SME sector in South Africa, vendors should continue to aggressively market their services to this sector,” Chireka says. “Vendors that are effectively able to communicate their technology and its benefits to this sector will reap the rewards. Unfortunately, it seems some vendors are simply rolling out their solutions and expecting them to sell themselves.”
Management collaborative tools will experience the highest growth levels in South Africa and vendors need to start marketing these in terms of a good balance between relevance and operations, as well as cost and ease of use.