With Gartner Group listing unified communications as one of the top 10 technologies for 2009, word is that convenience and improved efficiency is officially a hot topic for many companies.
And, according to Louis Yssel, CEO of YSL Group, the technology is moving beyond 'early adopter' status and is maturing for the mainstream.
"Convergence may have been slow, but it has been steady," says Yssel. "Putting all modes of information exchange on one internet protocol network has become a reality and now putting all modes of communication into a central location is following."
Yssel points to a Gartner research report which indicates that during the next five years, the number of communications vendors with which a typical organisation works with will be reduced by at least half. With this, formerly distinct markets such as data transfer, voice carriage and PBX signal distribution, each with distinct vendors are converging. The result is a likely massive consolidation in the communications industry.
"As the vendors converge, so do the services which were previously separate. Arguably the final link in the chain of convergence is the combination of these communication modes for the end-user. This is the link which unified communications represents," Yssel says.
What he believes is a critical element for increased user demand is an understanding of the concepts involved. "Look at the simple fax. When first introduced, the fax was mysterious, complex and even a little frightening. Today, it's considered simple and even obsolete. As more people get to grips with the notion of a single window into their communications – and the many benefits – so demand will ramp up from the consumer," he explains.
While big business is introducing unified communications solutions already, with its understanding of the benefits which include the elimination of missed communications, increased efficiency and improved personal convenience, it is Yssel's contention that the small office or home office can benefit even more. "Large companies have the luxury of technology specialists, from a CIO right down to a technician at the deskside – and a full host of other business support services, from HR to accounts.
"Those in the small or home office are likely to do all of that themselves. They need the convenience of better communication which leaves more time to attend to other business," he says.
Unified communications also supports the changing approaches which people have towards their employment and leisure times. "The boundaries between work and life are blurring. The concept of a '9 to 5' job is giving way as people seek to use their time more effectively by working from home or while on the go," says Yssel.
The availability of a true virtual office which supports the ability to work anywhere, efficiently and with an assurance of getting the message, be it by fax, cell phone, SMS, email, video or a good old phone call, fits in with this changing lifestyle.
As a result, YSL Group offers such organisations the advantage of fully hosted, pay-per-user, unified communications which is affordable to the individual home office, yet can scale up to meet the needs of an office of almost any number of users.
"We believe this, coupled with increased awareness and understanding of unified communications and its benefits for the consumer, will lead to a steadily growing demand as anticipated by Gartner through 2009," Yssel concludes.