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SA business expands as geography shrinks

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South Africa’s traditional disadvantage of geographical isolation and big time-lags between domestic and overseas markets have largely been eradicated by technology. This techno wake-up call to local business was sounded at the South African Point 9 User Forum to alert business to new developments in videoconferencing and unified communications.

Some local executives missed it, but South Africa’s traditional disadvantage of geographical isolation and big time-lags between domestic and overseas markets have largely been eradicated.

This techno wake-up call to local business was sounded at the South African Point 9 User Forum to alert business to new developments in videoconferencing and UCC (unified communications and collaboration) using multiple platforms to link various teams across town or across continents.

Point 9 forums convened by US-based Wainhouse Research drive global best practice in videoconferencing (VC) and related technologies. Africa’s first forum, staged simultaneously in Johannesburg and Cape Town during November, was made possible by collaboration between VC leaders Imago Communications, its South African subsidiary and Wainhouse Research.

Clint Cronj√©, MD of Imago Communications SA, noted: ‚Global trends are hugely positive for South African business. Until recently, VC was viewed as a tool for cutting travel costs by linking executives by video. Now VC is used to collapse geography, bringing multiple decision-makers together from multiple locations.

‚Companies that adopt VC as a strategic business tool now focus on better ‚teaming’ and communication to speed decision-making, shorten the time to market and optimise profit through close collaboration with global partners.

‚VC shrinks geography and puts smart contributors at the centre of the decision-making no matter how remote their location.‚

The trend has major implications for any remote incubator of marketable ideas.

‚South African innovators and business visionaries can take on a bigger role, widen their reach and grow their business,‚ said Cronj√©.

‚Rather than fly into some international centre as the outsider from South Africa, the VC-enabled business leader can collaborate with his peers from home base and move rapidly into world markets.

‚Geography can’t keep South Africa out the loop. We’re no longer remote. We’re as central and up to speed as New York, London or Tokyo.‚

New high-definition ‚multi-codec’ platforms create ‚telepresence’ for all participants ‚ an immersive experience that fosters the illusion that all parties hooked up by VC are in the same room.

In a post-conference briefing, Ian Vickerage, Imago Group managing director from the UK, said this technology had created a new customer.

He explained: ‚Previously, the VC customer had a technical or IT background. Today’s customer is a business strategist. This is starting to happen in South Africa and is hugely positive for those who maximise the opportunity.

‚Executive travel savings may amortise the VC investment within three months. This keeps Chief Financial Officers happy, but is no longer the primary driver. Strategic business benefits now drive our growth, and remote but idea-rich markets like South Africa could be big beneficiaries.‚

* In a joint-statement, Point 9 Forum organisers Wainhouse Research and Imago Group announced that the South Africa forum is to become an annual event. Next year’s forum will not only include suppliers and existing users, but consumers and potential users.

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