In the enterprise world, implementing a unified messaging (UM) presence isn't a matter of "if" but "when", according to one industry observer.
"This is not hype...it's really happening," says Forrester ana-lyst Brownlee Thomas.
He says for many large companies today, making the transition to UM is a matter of gaining, or retaining, competitive advantage.
Construction and engineering company Leighton Contractors can vouch for this.
The firm has merged network and telephony availability into a single online presence for 500 staff at its office in Sydney, Australia.
The immediate catalyst for this project was the move of the company's New South Wales branch office. "The projectbased nature of our work, together with short time frames often required to relocate or establish new operations made a flexible communications infrastructure very attractive," said Scott Ferguson, IT infrastructure and services manager, Leighton Contractors.
He said Leightons' users now have access to a featurerich, collaborative, and realtime communications environment. Staff have clicktocall, clicktoemail and clicktoinstant messaging options.
The collaborative infrastructure developed by Dimension Data plc, a South Africabased IT services provider harnessed technologies from multiple vendors: Cisco (CallManager) Microsoft (Office Communicator, and Genesys (enterprise telephony software).
Using an integrated solution that can scale at a low cost gives the company a tremendous competitive advantage.
One key benefit is increased staff productivity, according to Oscar Trimboli, Microsoft Australia's unified communications group director. He said productivity has improved as a result of reduced travel, and the ability to effectively conduct business remotely both internally, and with customers and partners.
Jon Farrell, a Dimension Data consultant, said mobility is a big consideration with a collaborative infrastructure. "We have to work with people who are no longer sitting at the next desk they may not even be in the same time zone," he said.
"Leightons has a highly mobile workforce and with these technologies we can extend presence and communication out to mobile devices such as a PDA, allowing rich collaboration and reliable contact methods for workers either out on site or travelling."
Closer to home, a Torontobased law firm has also experienced a surge in productivity as a result of implementing a unified messaging solution. Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) with offices in five Canadian cities and New York began building a new communications infrastructure began back in 2002.
The firm is using Cisco technology to support unified messaging along with virtual LAN, video conferencing, and softphones for mobile staff, according to Dave Komaromi, manager, technical services at FMC. This infrastructure, he said, is critical to the firm's productivity.