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Unify to Cut Worldwide Headcount by 50%

In an analyst briefing this morning, Unify CEO Dean Douglas announced the company would be reducing its workforce by 50% over the next six quarters as part of its strategy to transform the company from hardware to one focused on software and services. The move would represent 3,800 positions, roughly half of them in central Europe.

Douglas, who was joined on the call by CMO Bill Hurley, joined Unify from Westcon last December, and has brought aboard a number of executives from his former company, including Hurley and EVP Global Sales, Dan Papes.

Unify has had its share of troubles in the UC market. While its products are routinely positioned in the Leaders Quadrant in Gartner's Magic Quadrants for both UC and Corporate Telephony, its North American market share is stuck in the single digits. Prior to Douglas taking the helm, Unify had been led by Hamid Akhavan and Chris Hummel was CMO and President for North America. The two managed the rebranding effort that changed the company's name from Siemens Enterprise Communications to Unify.

In today's briefing, Douglas drove home a number of points regarding his plans for transforming the company, and emphasized the company's commitment to UC + Collaboration + Social with dynamic contextual capabilities. He promised that the SaaS-based Ansible product will be delivered in October of this year and integrated with the existing product lines in early 2015. Repeating its "New Way 2 Work" (NW2W) theme, he emphasized the intention to capitalize on technology transitions and lead customers and partners in this new direction.

Much of the presentation focused on product and channels. From the product standpoint, Douglas pointed to their feature-rich product offerings and the progression from "Ease of Use" to "Joy of Use." Clearly he was talking about Ansible, which the company demonstrated at Enterprise Connect in March; Unify says the product is so intuitive that it will not have a manual.

Douglas readily admitted that the company's channel strategy has been weak, and that the overall approach had simply been wrong. Going forward, he noted that in some countries the company would continue a hybrid approach with both direct sales and channel, while in others it would be 100% channel; he was not specific regarding the strategy for North America. They also plan to leverage distribution in countries where their market share is small.

The Gores Group has controlled Unify since July 2008, when it took a 51% interest in the company for €175 million ($225 million at that time). The Gores web site claims the company has since instituted €650 million ($884 million) in cost savings, but clearly they are looking to Douglas and his team to turn things around. From the looks of things, Mr. Douglas is committed to taking bold steps to get that done.

Editor's note: This post has been edited since posting, to add former CEO Hamid Akhavan to the paragraph on Unify's former leadership, and to correct the projected Ansible delivery date to October of this year.

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