The majority of the West Midland's 315,380 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are still not capitalising on the potential of projects being carried out to converge their voice and data onto a single network, according to new research from BT Business.

Convergence is clearly taking off, with over a third (37 per cent) of UK SMEs having already moved to a single communications network, and a further quarter (24 per cent) expecting to make the switch in the next two years.

But a lack of planning, along with confusion around the technology involved means that the majority of businesses who have migrated to a converged network are failing to realise the potential or articulate the true value of their investment.

BT's research showed that while the biggest driver of convergence was the potential for cost savings (79 per cent), an alarming 78 per cent of companies did not build a business case to measure return on investment (RoI) - unsurprisingly as a result, nearly two thirds (60 per cent) could not indicate results against their expectations.

In response to these findings, BT Business has launched 'Understanding Convergence', the first in a series of free guides specifically designed to de-mystify key technology issues, debunk the biggest myths, and help businesses understand how to get the most from their IT & communications systems.

Paul Evans, BT local business director, West Midlands said: "As many of our customers would testify, effective planning and deployment of converged technologies can really transform an organisation, making it measurably more productive, agile and competitive.

"The fact that convergence is so high on the SME agenda, but with many indicating a failure in planning and understanding RoI, clearly points to a requirement for education and support.

"Convergence is a huge opportunity for businesses in the West Midlands, but to maximise the potential, businesses of all sizes need practical guidance.

"The Understanding Convergence Guide is designed to help businesses make an informed decision about how convergence can help them and ensure they take the most appropriate path. It provides clear advice about how best to approach a project, whether a business decides to embrace a wholesale change or a more gradual step by step migration."

Further concern was raised by findings in the BT research which suggested many companies found the implementation experience difficult, with 65 per cent saying they found the process complicated.

Indeed, many companies that have embarked on convergence projects have procured a complex variety of hardware and software based technologies and worked with multiple suppliers which can be confusing.

Mr Evans added: "With the right supplier and an integrated approach to support, service and assurance, a business can free itself from juggling multiple management relationships, enabling it to focus on its core business and customers while reaping the rewards of a converged communications solution."

* To order a free copy of the guide visit: