Now that the costs of bandwidth have tumbled and fibre-based broadband has become commonplace in office parks and suburbs in South Africa metros, many companies are looking to invest in unified communications solutions to improve collaboration and reduce costs.
That’s according to Stefan Mayer, MD at Corporate AV Integration, who says that his company is seeing rising demand for corporate audiovisual (AV) solutions to support unified communications deployments at companies of all sizes.

This reflects a global trend – IDG’s 2015 Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) Study, for example, finds that 56% of large and 66% of SME organisations plan to implement or upgrade UC&C solutions within the next year.
Mayer says that South African companies are becoming particularly interested in videoconferencing and telepresence elements of unified communications. In the past, Internet connectivity was too patchy and too slow to support these bandwidth-hungry applications, particularly among smaller companies that used to depend on ADSL lines.

“We are getting many queries from companies who want to use high-definition video for virtual meetings, training, workshops, and more,” he adds. “For these purposes, a notebook and Skype are not good enough. Companies also need robust video displays and audio systems that deliver crisp video and clean sound so that users can work together constructively.”

Mayer notes many companies are becoming aware of the business benefits that the videoconferencing and telepresence elements of unified communications can bring as they try keep business costs under control while enhancing productivity. Room-based videoconferencing and telepresence allow people to stay focused, work together constructively, and avoid the misunderstandings that are common in electronic communication.

The technology creates the illusion that meeting participants are in the same room. Telepresence offers virtual high-definition communication that is the next best thing to meeting face to face. Its directional audio and crystal-clear, life-size video makes it feel like meeting participants are in the same room. This promotes natural interaction and collaboration.

On a softer level, when people see each other, they can also more quickly build a rapport that promotes teamwork.

People can share files and data on-screen, allowing for better collaboration and more productive discussions.
With the basic AV and network infrastructure in place, it becomes a simple and affordable matter to put videoconferencing or telepresence solutions in place. That means that companies can include employees and other stakeholders in meetings without them needing to travel, according to Mayer.

He adds: “We’re seeing a few big drivers for adoption of such solutions: the rising costs of international travel because of the battering the Rand has taken; the need to reduce corporate carbon footprints; and growing traffic in the major cities. Companies realise that reducing air and land travel is a good way to help the environment. It also improves workplace satisfaction because most people don’t want to spend their lives in traffic or in airports.”

Says Mayer: “To determine the best AV solution to support their unified comms needs, companies should partner with knowledgeable and reputable integrators. The good news is there are many opportunities to optimise management of AV solutions and reduce operational costs because of the convergence between IT and AV. Companies should select platforms that are energy-efficient, automated and easy to integrate with their IT architectures.”