Unify looks ahead to cloud UC service after announcing layoffs

Next month Unify Inc. – formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications – will release its new cloud-based unified communications and collaboration platform as it tries to put a new face on veteran German-based brand.

The new cloud suite, known so far as Project Ansible, is part of a restructuring that started when conglomerate Siemens AG spun off its communications division in 2008 into a joint venture with the U.S.-based IT investment firm Gores Group. Last October SEC was re-branded Unify and said the company would focus on software solutions, increase sales and distribution through resellers and integrators and streamline the organization.

That streamlining will be accomplished partly by shedding products. But in June it also announced it would let go 3,800 people of its 7,700 global workforce. About half of those being released are in Germany, CEO Dean Douglas said in an interview Monday.

He denied that the layoffs, coming eight months after the rebranding, signals that the new thrust has been a failure. “The new brand is working very well … We’re becoming a company that’s a leaner and more focused, but its more in keeping where the industry is.”

The privately-held company was “a bit overweight,” he said. “The fact is some of our competitors, including Cisco have reduced their staff significantly over the past few years, and we hadn’t made a significant cutback.”

“As we transition from a company that’s significantly focused on a direct sales force to one where in countries where we don’t have a significant presence and are going to use the channel, there’s obviously some (internal) sales and support people where we will be cutting back.”

At the moment about 80 per cent of Unify sales globally come from its direct sales staff. Most sales in Canada and the U.S., however, go through integrators and service providers. In Canada one of its partners is Black Box Corp., which offers a wide range of communications solutions.

The company recently hired three new sales executives for North America.

Although this year Unify has introduced new or updated products – in July it released the OpenScape Business XI Appliance, a UC solution for small and medium businesses with up to 30 users, and in August it announced OpenScape Enterprise with interface, security and reliability improvements – a lot of attention will be on Ansible.

“It’s more than a unified communications and collaboration platform,” Douglas said. Multiple sources of information – such as telephony, video, text, and presentations can be seen on one screen by teams.

As a cloud solution it also caters to the increasing demand for outsourced unified communications solutions, particularly from lines of business. But it’s also got younger staff members in mind who prefer to work on mobile devices. Integration with customers’ on-premise OpenScape installations will be announced in the coming months. No pricing has been announced.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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