As it ushers in its unified communications solutions centred around Exchange 2007 and Office Communication Server, Microsoft is steadily building capacity within its partner base to deliver on what is, for the vendor, a new dimension – voice. Among the first South African solution providers to complete the company’s Voice Ready Partner Technology Adoption Programme, multiple Microsoft Gold Partner nVisionIT has invested in what it believes is a new wave for improved business performance.
“Better communication means improved personal and organisational performance,” says Werner van der Merwe, head of nVisionIT’s infrastructure services team. “By combining all modes of communication into a single interface, unified communications delivers unmatched convenience and the assurance that the message is delivered, whether it is a voice call, an e-mail, a fax, or a video exchange,” he says.
The Voice Ready Partner Programme, says van der Merwe, is an competence assessment and training programme which was conducted recently with Microsoft. “Adding voice to the communications mix is something relatively new in the Microsoft world, so getting the appropriate knowledge and experience to deliver solutions which encompass this mode of communication is obviously important,” he notes. “Voice is also a service which must be delivered with the highest levels of reliability and performance.”
With its unified communications solution encompassing several technology elements including Exchange 2007, Office Communications Server, Outlook 2007 and Office Communicator 2007, van der Merwe says the programme covered configuration and implementation of these elements to ensure optimal usage of all the features of the solution.
As one of only a few companies in South Africa with this certification to date, he believes the opportunity for unified communications solutions in the enterprise is growing. “The traditional PBX has reached the limits of its capability, while the cost for such devices remains very high. The drive today is towards integrated communications capabilities which not only deliver a lower cost of deployment and ownership, but also substantially improved convenience.”
Noting that nVisionIT itself is using Microsoft Unified Communications solution, he says the company has entirely dispensed with a PABX. “Using this solution in our own company has demonstrated the full experience of the benefits. We are federated with Microsoft South Africa and some key clients and make all communications with these organisations using Office Communicator – that includes phone calls, video calls, and instant messaging – using only a data connection,” he says.
Danie Gordon, Unified Communications & Collaboration product solution manager at Microsoft South Africa says Unified Communications is an exciting space with much to offer customers. “The fact that NVisionIT uses it themselves is not only a testimony to their commitment but also to the momentum and capability of the software.”
Perhaps the most important feature of Microsoft’s Unified Communication solution is the concept of presence. Calls can be seamlessly forwarded from the switchboard to the recipient, regardless of where in the world they may be; integration with calendars also means the ability to view the user’s presence information and determine the communication context and mode of choice.
But probably the biggest advantage of Microsoft Unified Communications, says van der Merwe, is that it provides nVisionIT with the ability to create tailored communications solutions for its clients. “With our experience in custom development and integration, it is possible to integrate communications into other enterprise applications such as CRM or ERP systems or even providing presence through company web sites. That means communicating with clients the way you want to, and not in the way service providers of old dictated,” he concludes.