As more Australian companies opt to use social networking, it is proving not to be the death knell of unified communications (UC), according to IBM.
IBM portal sales specialist, Mike Handes, said uptake of UC equipment stalled as projects were delayed or cancelled during the economic downturn, but the trend was slowly reversing. However, now that purse strings have been loosened, he said more customers were internally combining UC and social networking, or ‘social software’ as the company defined it.
"One of the neat things about social software is that if you’re going to support a distributed workforce and you’ve got people working across different geographical boundaries, it [UC] combined with social networking brings that force together through collaboration,” he told Computerworld Australia.
The ability to bookmark information, tag items and find the right person quickly to ask questions provided additional productivity benefits to workers, Handes said.
“The reason I say social networking is a natural complement is that no matter how often we ask people to share their knowledge, a lot of it is in their heads,” he said.
He expressed surprise that some sectors in Australia, such as the finance industry, were reluctant to embrace a flexible working environment.
“If more companies would offer remote working via UC, it would mean greater flexibility and happier employees,” Handes said. “If the worker can demonstrate they are productive and meeting targets than I don’t think employers should mind what location they work from.”
Unified communications did not pose an issue to internal or network security, Handes said, pointing to IBM's own implementation of the equipment through virtual private networks as a security mechanism.
On a global level, IBM has an install base of 26.5 million unified communications users. The organisation does not break out the number of users by region.
IBM is not the only company with a more positive outlook for the technology.
According to a Frost and Sullivan report, UC is growing in the Australian market, particularly in the contact centre area.
The report, which was published last month, indicated UC would ultimately become more integrated with contact centre applications.
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