Unify to Cut Workforce in Half in Restructuring Effort

The job cuts are part of a larger effort to evolve the company to deal with the move in the UC market toward software- and cloud-based solutions.

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Unify will slash half of its workforce as it looks to deal with the trend toward software- and cloud-based solutions in the unified communications and video conferencing markets.

Officials with the company—formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications—said Unify will reduce its headcount worldwide from about 7,700 to 3,800 as part of a larger restructuring effort to shift the vendor's focus to software development, integration and managed services. Half the job cuts will be in central Europe, the company said.

The company already has begun the shift, from rebranding from Siemens to Unify in October 2013 to bringing the bulk of its solutions under the OpenScape umbrella to the continued development of its Project Ansible next-generation unified communications (UC) platform. However, the continued shift toward software- and cloud-based solutions in the UC space means Unify has to evolve to meet the growing market demand and to deal with the rise of other vendors that offer software-oriented products.

Such competitors have gained market share and put pricing pressure on Unify and its peers, forcing the company to accelerate its movement away from traditional hardware to software and services, according to CEO Dean Douglas. It also includes growing its partner ecosystem to expand its selling channels.

"Today's marketplace is changing rapidly, and the demands that the next generation of users are placing on our customers are changing quickly as well," Douglas said in a statement. "Unify must transform in order to remain competitive, so we are taking these necessary and very difficult steps in order to position Unify to fully respond to the needs of our customers and the marketplace. This includes greater focus on technology deployment options with access to our OpenScape products and services from a broader choice of partners."

At a keynote address during the CeBit show in March, the CEO talked about the changing work environment that is being influenced by the cloud, mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices and social media, and said that Unify would evolve to address what he called the "new way to work." As part of the talk, Douglas discussed enhancements to OpenScape and a new portal businesses can use to access information and best practices for the evolving workplace.

He also noted that by 2015, 1.3 billion people working in virtual teams will join the workforce, illustrating the need for new communications initiatives.

UC promises a simplified management of collaboration technologies—from voice and video to email and instant messaging—and a better user experience for employees, partners and customers. The market has not grown as quickly as some analysts had expected, due in part to the complexity around the technologies. However, such trends as a more mobile workforce, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), the growing use of video, and cloud computing will help fuel interest and spending, they said.

Analysts at Transparency Market Research said in a report in January that the UC market will grow from $22.8 billion in 2011 to $61.9 billion by 2018. IDC analysts last year forecast the UC market will grow from $26.2 billion in 2013 to almost $38 billion by 2016.

UC vendors—not only Unify, but others, from Cisco Systems to Avaya—are looking to grow their software and cloud capabilities to meet the changing demands and enable workers to collaborate when they want from anywhere and on any device. Unify officials said that will include simplifying the OpenScape portfolio and offer high-value packaged services, and do so directly and via partners. They did not detail what the streamlining will mean.

In addition, company officials said they will continue to build out their Ansible technology. Ansible, unveiled June 2013, is designed to seamlessly aggregate communications streams—from voice and video to social software, analytics, text, search and business applications—and to enable businesses to centrally manage it all through a single common user interface. Ansible will address problems in the UC space, which include management tools for conferencing, collaboration and content that are segmented, which forces users to do a lot of integration work themselves.

Ansible currently is undergoing pre-beta trials, including within the company, where it is being used by about 400 employees. General availability is scheduled for October, with the first version being delivered via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, officials said.