My First Blog on Unify

On Sunday, Shelia McGee-Smith posted her last blog on Siemens Enterprise Communications. Today, of course, the company held its big media event in New York and unveiled thenew name--Unify. The name Siemens will live on and sell all the "other" stuff, like medical equipment, light rail, HVAC systems and other stuff we in the nojitter.com audience really don't care about--but Siemens as a communications brand has run its course.

Frankly, it's about time. Sheila went into a bit of history, so I will as well. I actually deployed some old Rolm stuff when I was consultant years ago. As an analyst, though, I started covering Siemens way back when George Nolan was running the North American business and Bernd Kuhlin was running the business unit then known as Siemens ICN. This was a period of hit and miss for Siemens--they had some hits but more misses.

There were a couple of things I remember about that version of Siemens. First, back in the early part of the 2000s decade, it really wasn't a bad thing to be the big conglomerate that Siemens was. The market had taken a major fall and financial stability meant something, and the big Siemens was a sign of stability. Stodginess? Sure but also stability. I thought the "Siemens One" campaign made sense when facilities individuals were buying telephony infrastructure. So one could buy their elevator systems, HVAC, phone systems and other facilities-related things from the same company. In fact, the marquee win for Siemens One was Reliant Stadium, current home of Matt Schaub and the rest of the underperforming Houston Texans.

Ultimately this strategy failed, as the buying centers for voice changed when the market changed from voice to VoIP. Network managers really didn't care where the facilities stuff came from, and Siemens evolved their go-to-market too slowly to take advantage of the shift.

Let's quickly look at the "hits". One could argue that OpenScape was the industry's first real UC solution. Siemens was the first vendor to see the power of software and launched the HiPath 8000. The company was also the first to partner with Microsoft and the then-named OCS product. Chantry, a WiFi vendor, was rolled into Siemens and the company started looking at trying to make mobile UC a trend.

All good things but now let's take a look at the "misses". Siemens never really put the marketing oomph behind OpenScape. While HiPath 8000 was the first software solution, it remained carrier focused for too long. Microsoft should have been a good partner but as Mitel also found out, those Redmond-based people talked the talk a lot more than walking the walk and left many partners hanging. Also, I always felt that Siemens never took the ergonomic demands of the North American market seriously enough. Those white IP phones with super light handsets may have been cool in Berlin, Germany but not so in Berlin, MA. A lot of good swings at the bat, but most of the hits were just long fly balls to the warning track.

So here we sit today and the company has shed the Enterasys asset, has changed its brand and its colors and is 100% focused on changing the enterprise workplace through its Ansible product. But is that really enough?

Unify, Ansible and all the jazz that goes along with it is a great start, but in my opinion, Unify needs to focus on the following to be successful:

* Bring to life the vision of visual conversations. The rich, flexible "canvas" that is the foundation of Ansible can deliver on the vision of a "visual conversation". If you want more detail on what exactly this is, check out the report on zkresearch.com or look at Phil Edholm's blog. What UC really needs is an easy-to-use, customizable workspace in which workers can bring in different applications, data and conversations--and Ansible can deliver that.

* Make application integration easy. Unify will release a set of APIs and SDKs to allow developers and ISVs to build applications with Ansible functionality integrated into them. The key here is to build a set of interfaces where the developers need zero knowledge of CTI and telephony. Lots of UC vendors have this vision but you still need OPGs (Old Phone Guys as Rick Moran used to say) to build the apps. Getting rid of this requirement will go a long way to making Unify appeal to a different audience.

* Focus on mobile and cloud. This is another one of these things that's easier said than done. Is there a UC vendor that will tell you they don't focus on mobile and cloud? Of course not. However, is there a UC vendor that leads with mobile and cloud? I really don't think so. Almost everyone builds for the legacy PC first, but the world is moving to mobile and cloud and this needs to lead the strategy, not be the afterthought.

The final thing I would like to see from Unify is to see the company step on the gas and keep the pedal down. I pointed out earlier in the blog how the old Siemens actually did see some of the market shifts coming but let others define the market. OpenScape is a great example of this, where the company launched the product and within a year was lost in the noise of a bunch of other UC products.

The launch is done, the product is released, new colors and new attitude. But for Chris, Hamid and the other execs, this is where the work is just beginning. I'm hoping that next year at this time I'm sick of hearing about Ansible and Unify because that means the company got the product, vision, customer wins and whatever else out in front of this audience enough to make it top of mind. Bye bye Siemens Enterprise Communications and hello Unify.

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