What is true Unified Communications?

by Rikus Jansen, head of EOH Voice and Unified Communications

The ‘U’ in unified communications says it all. UC nirvana is a world in which people use the mediums and devices they want to reach the people and information they need – without launching a new application for every different communication. We will be able to communicate with an ease and efficiency we’ve never known before.

And this world is not far off. We are already seeing the introduction of technology that will create a hyperconnected workplace, and a new generation with entirely new ways of working and communicating will soon dominate the workforce: the millennials.

At the centre of these exciting developments will be unified communications.

Richer, more intelligent communications

Communication in today’s business world is so much more than picking up the phone and making a voice call. It is about collaboration, cross platform communication and presence, and intelligently locating the best resource and getting in touch with them in a way that suits all parties.

True UC is not simply a combination of email, messenger and voice anymore. It is the ability to bring all of these media together, along with videoconferencing, presence management and more, into a single solution. One that allows for a seamless user experience between different communication technologies, across a variety of different platforms (such as laptops, tablets and even smartphones), and across a variety of UC landscapes and environments.

Today, many communications start with IM. In response to an IM the called party can hit the call button in his or her IM window so the communication shifts to a voice call. During that call the participants may also opt to IM in the background. This escalation can go all the way to a videoconference.

Mobility is also an important component of UC because very few people today sit at their desks and take calls.

Users want to have a seamless experience which works regardless of brand or technology. This is the power of true unified communications, with standards-based tools and communication that enable cross-platform, cross-technology seamless communication for users no matter where they are or what device they wish to connect with.

True UC in the business environment

Ultimately any modern UC solution should work with the technologies that the business people within the organisation want to work with, helping to boost productivity, simplify the way information is shared and improve efficiency, meeting the challenges of today’s tough economic climate.

By providing a single, central interface, true UC not only allows for more efficient communication, it also simplifies management, driving down operating costs.
Extending this platform outside of the enterprise to include customers, partners and suppliers, further improves collaboration and information sharing.

This wider UC network not only allows for cheaper IP-based calls to be made across the network, it also enables faster, more agile decision making, better levels of service and an improved ability to proactively respond to changes in the market.

Bringing together multiple communication technologies into a single platform for collaboration, regardless of a user’s location, network, carrier, protocol, application, or device, is what true unified communication is all about.

Given the number of different platforms, technologies and environments available, achieving true unified communication requires open and native interoperability to enable all the disparate parts involved to work together seamlessly.

From voice and email to instant messenger, presence, calendars and contact, to video collaboration, UC should be able to seamlessly integrate to provide the end user with an immersive and rich communication experience.


Rikus Jansen is a Unified Communications specialist. He entered the South African technology space in the late 1980s, pioneering 3D animation and video effects in the broadcasting industry. This led to a career in corporate ICT outsourcing. He co-founded Ensync Voice Solutions, a unified communications company. After merging the Ensync companies with the JSE-listed ICT provider, EOH, he now heads up the EOH Voice and Unified Communications business, which is one of the leading communication providers in South Africa.