UC Vendor Unify Appoints New CEO

Dean Douglas, currently CEO of the Weston Group, will oversee the continued transformation of the former Siemens Enterprise Communications.

Unify—the unified communications company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications—now has a new CEO.

Dean Douglas, currently president and CEO of technology distributor Westcon Group, will take over Jan. 16, 2014, replacing Hamid Akhavan, who became CEO in 2010. Akhavan oversaw the three-year transformation of Siemens Enterprise Communications into Unify and the development of the company's Project Ansible unified communications (UC) platform.

He will serve on Unify's executive board after stepping down as CEO.

Douglas, whose appointment was announced Dec. 4, comes to Unify with experience as a CEO—not only with Westcon, but also with wireless networks vendor LCC International. He also has held executive positions with IBM and Motorola.

Unify "has a long and distinguished heritage, and yet has an agenda to reinvent itself and the industry," Douglas said in a statement. "Cloud-based delivery opens up entirely new consumption, commercial and distribution models and I see Unify as perfectly positioned to innovate new ways for enterprise users to access the best collaboration tools."

Executive Board Chairman Mark Stone touted Douglas' experience in the industry.

"He brings deep understanding of the enterprise technology industry and intensive experience of successful sales channel and partnership development in a variety of international roles, which will be essential as we continue the transformation of Unify into the most capable supplier in the industry," Stone said in a statement.

Unify officials announced the name change and new details around Project Ansible in October during simultaneous events around the globe, including in New York City. The new name and rebranding effort was three years in the making, and lets the company—which is jointly owned by Siemens and investment group Gores Group—differentiate itself from the wide range of products that Siemens sells, such as air conditioning units and medical equipment.

At the center of Unify's efforts will be the Ansible platform, which aims to seamlessly aggregate all communications streams—from voice and video to social software, analytics, text, search and business applications—and to enable businesses to manage it all centrally via a single common user interface. Currently, the various management tools for conferencing, collaboration and content tend to be segmented, forcing users to do much of the integration themselves, company officials have said.

Eventually Ansible will incorporate systems not only from Unify—like OpenScape 4000—but also other vendors. The first version of the Ansible platform will be a cloud-based software-as-a-services (SaaS) offering that will support four communications channels simultaneously—voice, video, text and remote screen sharing, according to Unify executives.

Company officials expect Ansible to give it greater traction in an increasingly competitive UC space that has yet to see the kind of growth many vendors and analysts have been predicting, despite the promise of easier and less costly collaboration. Still, IDC analysts have the UC technologies and services market at more than $26.2 billion in 2013 and growing to almost $38 billion by 2016, a sizeable opportunity for all vendors.

Interest in UC continues to ramp with the growth of such trends as greater mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and the increasing numbers of younger people entering the work force who have grown up on consumer video communication technologies like Skype.