by Stuart Hardy, Business Unit Manager of EOH’s Carrier and Network Solutions Division

The way companies operate has fundamentally been altered in light of new digital forms of communication, particularly mobile. The barriers between work and home are increasingly hazy thanks to smartphones and tablets, and people have a wider choice on how and where to communicate. Where in the past communication was limited to landlines and snail mail, then to email and cellphones, modern communication occurs through a wider variety of endpoints than ever before.

Unified communications breaks down the barriers between these, allowing for seamless contact, regardless of location, via a choice of different mediums. With unified communications, one number allows a person to be reached on any device.

Not only does unified communications make contacting people easier through the single number concept, but it allows for presence profiles that provide an easy way to see whether a person is ‘away’, ‘busy’, or ‘available’. In addition, it allows you to access information from other sources such as a calendar, allowing for status updates according to whether the person is in a meeting, on holiday and so on.

Unified communications systems are generally managed through a single interface, also making the IT department’s lives easier since there is only one system to manage rather than a number. And because unified communications runs through an Internet connection, there is no need to diagnose and distinguish between problems with a data or phone network.

Unified communications needs first-class networks

However, this makes having access to a first-class network essential, particularly one that offers effective integration of the wired and wireless worlds. And companies looking to achieve the benefits offered by unified communications must have BYOD policies in place.

Unified communications platforms are accessible through various devices, so security must be taken into consideration. Since many companies allow staff to use their own personal devices as work tools, management of the devices is essential. In these cases, a BYOD policy must form the foundation of a unified communications system, allowing for the effective configuration, control and protection of mobile devices.

Unified communications is effectively a conglomeration of communications initiatives, and therefore need not be implemented in one fell swoop. There are a number of starting points, including softphones, computer applications on the telephone, unified messaging, and video conferencing.

Strong growth for unified communications

Industry analysts at Frost & Sullivan expect 2015 to be an ‘inflection point year’, forecasting that unified communications will continue to grow strongly in 2015 as organisations look to refresh both legacy TDM and IP-based infrastructure. Unified communications will become central to the operations of businesses in the future, as companies increasingly require flexibility and functionality.

Communication is essential to getting business done and, since unified communications facilitates other services such as CRM, content management and file sharing, it enables the collaboration and responsiveness essential in today’s business environment.

Unified communications is more than just an assortment of tools or features. It’s a way to enable collaboration through dynamic communication. However, businesses will require a strategy to fully exploit the capacity to connect various systems, tools and devices in order to meet the needs of the digital workplace.


Stuart Hardy has been in the ICT industry since 1997, has been in the Telecommunications industry since 1997, intimately involved in product development, operations and product marketing roles. He has held Executive level positions in some of the largest Operators in South Africa and has founded and driven two successful start-up companies in the Mobile data and Wireless networking spaces. Today, Stuart is a Divisional Director for EOH in their Telecommunications sector.