Extreme Makeover: Siemens Enterprise Communications Changes Name To Unify

Siemens Enterprise Communications has changed its name to "Unify" as part of a broader restructuring effort aimed at refreshing its unified communications and collaboration portfolio, strengthening its brand in North America, and selling more of its products through the channel.

The rebranding, according to Chris Hummel, chief commercial officer and president, North America, at Unify, was long in the cards for Siemens Enterprise Communications, the joint venture of German conglomerate Siemens AG and investment firm The Gores Group, which owns 51 percent of the company.

"When the joint venture was created we operated under a trademark licensing agreement with Siemens AG, our shareholder," Hummel told CRN. "But at the formation of this joint venture, it was announced that we would build the business up and eventually we would get to the point where we would take on our own independent name and our own independent identity, and kind of go off in the world with our own brand and logo."

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That new brand is Unify, a communications software and services company that will house the legacy product portfolio of the former Siemens, along with some new Software-as-a-Service offerings targeted at trends such as BYOD and the consumerization of IT.

Unify -- which will continue to be owned The Gores Group and Siemens AG and is undergoing no changes to its leadership team -- will pick up where Siemens Enterprise Communications left off in terms of building up a North American channel.

"Our historical go-to-market has been centered around a direct sales force," Hummel said. "But over the last couple of years, we have been raising the percentage of our business that is completely indirect."

Unify sells roughly 31 percent through the channel today, up from about 25 percent a year ago, Hummel said. Moving forward, he would like to see that number hit at least 50 percent, particularly in North America, where he said Unify's market share has yet to cross the 10 percent mark.

Unify today has roughly 3,000 partners worldwide and approximately 190 in the U.S, according to Hummel.

Unify -- under its former Siemens brand -- has been staging a product and channel blitz, particularly in North America, over the past several years. The company recently completed an 18-month revamp of its channel program, aimed at opening up previously direct-only opportunities to partners, along with expanding its distribution relationships.

Apart from its channel, they key to strengthening Unify's brand in North America, Hummel said, lies in its new flagship collaboration platform, Project Ansible.

NEXT: Unify's Secret Sauce: Project Ansible

The platform, which will become available in July 2014, is designed to allow users to access all of their UC and collaboration tools from a single pane of glass and use those tools more seamlessly across different business processes.

"It allows you to be far more productive and not have to pop in and out of different applications," Hummel said. "You can swivel, basically, and be using the same interface and the same environment."

The first version of Project Ansible can support four communication channels -- voice, video, text and remote screen sharing -- simultaneously, and will let users move these multichannel conversations from device to device using a "call swipe" feature.

The platform will be available as a cloud-based SaaS offering and can work on telephony equipment from a range of vendors, including Cisco Systems and Avaya, Hummel said.

Project Ansible already is "energizing" Unify's existing partner base, and piquing the interest of potential new partners, in terms of both the channel and other vendors, he said.

"We have always been a top-tier player, but we haven't had quite the name recognition in North America that we want," Hummel said. "But with Project Ansible, and with the vibrancy of a new brand, we are seeing a lot of major software vendors, major application players, major infrastructure players, major cloud and collaboration players, all coming and trying to understand exactly what we are doing and how to partner with us."