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Unify Appoints New CEO

Today Unify (OK, we probably still have to say formerly Siemens Enteprise Communications) announced it has appointed a new CEO, Dean Douglas, who will take over on January 16, 2014. He replaces Hamid Akhavan, CEO for the past four years, who will be joining the Unify board of directors. Douglas comes to Unify from Westcon Group, a value-added distributor firm, where he was CEO.

Diane Myers of Infonetics put it succinctly in a tweet this morning, "@dianemyers: Siemens gets new name and new mgmt team." Just six weeks after its dramatic renaming event, Unify finds itself with a new CEO with a lot of direct-report jobs to fill. There is no CMO or head of North America (Chris Hummel departed in mid-November), no EVP of Product Management and Development (the search for Eve Aretakis's replacement is underway). Combine that with the fact that there is an interim CFO in place (the last one left after just a few months on the job) and a new management team it is.

The obvious question becomes, why? I had the opportunity to pose a variant of that question to Douglas during an interview today: "Why were you told that Unify was looking for a new CEO?"

Douglas deftly replied by telling the story of how he came to be hired, which highlighted the skills that Unify was looking for more than the actual reasons for the search. (Storytelling is an executive skill that Douglas utilized effectively here and elsewhere in the interview.) The fact that Douglas is well-familiar with the market Unify operates in, from both a product and a channel perspective, and can hit the ground running, made him not only, "very well-suited, maybe ideally suited" for the role, he said.

The follow-up question I posed, one he was well prepared for, was why the position at Unify was attractive to Douglas. He said there were three reasons:

* Douglas believes the market is finally shifting toward "true" unified communications. He acknowledged that when he worked at IBM Global Services almost 10 years ago, UC was being talked about. But he rightly points out that UC is becoming a more relevant conversation today as cloud and mobile communications become more important, and the need to integrate those elements with enterprise applications grows.

* Unify seems to be in a very good position to capitalize on the move to UC. Project Ansible is coming to market, with an ability to leverage not only the Unify installed base, but the installed bases of other companies, to co-exist with competitor infrastructure.

* While Douglas said he has done some product management during his career, his real focus has been marketing and go-to-market strategy. Getting Ansible into the hands of customers, through channel partners, will require both of these.

Douglas will not officially be taking over from Akhavan for a few weeks. I have a feeling that he'll be doing more than trimming his Christmas tree as he looks to fill out Unify executive team.

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