An effective communications infrastructure can, in today's competitive economy, supercharge organisations' process chains – from developing a product, to procurement, manufacturing, sales and customer management.

This is according to Dean Young, head of telecommunication pre-sales at T-Systems in South Africa.
However, in the real world the above is often theoretical "pie in the sky", as workflow can quite easily be disrupted when decision-makers aren't contactable and messages are sitting in inboxes, waiting to be dealt with.
In the meantime, valuable employee productivity is compromised as the workflow has effectively come to a standstill due to the breakdown in communications.
This is where an effective unified communications and collaboration (UCC) strategy becomes very relevant, as it is essentially designed to optimise communications processes, enabling a business to run smoothly.
UCC offers the opportunity for any business to optimise its communication-intensive processes.
For one, it greatly improves the accessibility and "contactability" of decision-makers, employees and partners, ensuring that processes are fast-tracked as opposed to grinding to a halt.
The foundation of UCC, which effectively establishes an integrated presence, means users can quickly and efficiently locate one another and communicate business critical ideas and final decisions, through e-mail, instant messaging (IM) or VoIP options, such as Skype.
No more time-wasting attempts to contact one another using different terminals, phones numbers and mail boxes.
A mouse click is in essence all that users need to call the available contact, and if necessary, broaden the call into a phone or video conference to include other parties.
The entire process becomes flexible, and importantly, time and cost saving.
Joint working in secure, virtual project rooms on the Internet enhances and simplifies collaboration. Users can literally edit a document together, mitigating delays due to "human latency".
UCC can also enable expert and collaborative advice on the fly, particularly when there are no specialists available on site. The applications are endless – from video consultancy in branches to sales meetings in a customer's sitting room.
With an effective UCC infrastructure in place, communications is connected directly, with no media discontinuity – enhancing employees' process related work environments and aligning it with their scheduled tasks.
Gone are the days where communication is limited to human interaction.
Indeed, if an organisation's communications are optimised to enhance business processes, it effectively gives way to a more general "process optimisation" strategy.
Each and every individual and their function within the organisation benefits from this process optimisation strategy, whether they are at their office PC, notebook or smart phone.
For example, UCC-enabled automated systems and incident response processes can help business teams communicate quickly with one another, or with the required specialists, whenever needed by simply clicking a button or entering a command.
Incidents will be managed and resolved through the best available means of communications.
Hosted VoIP effectively takes the benefits of calling over IP to the next level as the integration and migration of operation of VoIP systems are in the hands of experienced service providers.
When voice communications are set-up with a central service from the organisation's network it effectively simplifies the management of the solution.
Furthermore, the integration of various locations is much easier as the service provider can quickly implement relocations and new users anywhere in the world.
However, hosted VoIP's real value proposition becomes evident when it forms part of a UCC strategy as it is then integrated into various channels, such as video conferencing and IM.
As with all network-centric services, the costs are aligned with the actual need, as the price is always flexibly adjusted according to the number of users and ports. Users can simply be added or removed as and when the need arises.
An effective UCC design and strategy will eliminate the barriers that have traditionally separated voice calls, email, instant messaging and conferencing in all forms.
The justification of the business case for UCC rests upon increased competitiveness, acceleration of business decision making and enhanced operational efficiency and productivity. It effectively gives companies a whole new set of capabilities and tools.