New name, new opportunities for Siemens Enterprise
Brian Riggs, Principal Analyst, Enterprise
Following a weeks-long marketing campaign, Siemens Enterprise Communications has changed its corporate name. The enterprise communications specialist, previously owned by Siemens AG and now a joint venture between Siemens AG and private equity firm the Gores Group, will now be called Unify. Although it is a risk, this move is also a necessity because, while the Siemens name has considerable brand equity in Germany, it is considerably less well known elsewhere.
In addition, because it has existed for more than century the Siemens brand is not necessarily associated with the leading-edge business communications technology for which Unify wants to be known. Taking Unify as a name identifies the company closely with the market for unified communications solutions, helping it to draw attention to the innovative UC technology it has introduced over the past several years. The most recent of these innovations is “Project Ansible,” a content and communications hub that will help Unify to strongly differentiate itself from its competitors.
While changing its name will help focus customer attention on the new and dynamic aspects of the company, Unify still faces a number of challenges. Much of the company’s business stems from the sale and support of legacy products. It continues to have low visibility in North America and other key regions, and Ansible is as yet unreleased and faces uncertain customer demand.
New name, new identity, same partner for operators
Changing a long-established, well-known corporate name is risky. Companies typically change their names following an acquisition (United Telephone to Sprint), following a divestiture (Lucent to Avaya), when a product brand eclipses the company brand (Matsushita Electronic to Panasonic), or when a name has regional but not international value (Lucky Goldstar to LG).
The impetus for Siemens Enterprise changing to Unify is a combination of a number of these. The Siemens Enterprise joint venture came about due to Siemens AG’s desire to exit the communications systems market. Despite coming five years after the partial divestiture, the rebranding will help Unify build a new identity for itself, one that is not related to its historical roots.
In changing its name Unify is seeking to build a brand that resonates in all the regions in which it operates, not just in its German stronghold. It will also be able to further distance itself from Siemens AG, which, after spinning off its carrier and enterprise communications divisions to the Nokia and Gores joint ventures, now focuses on energy, healthcare, automation, and other industries unrelated to communications. Siemens AG is no longer building a brand in the communications industry, nor does it have technical assets that its erstwhile enterprise subsidiary can leverage to develop new products and solutions.
Project Ansible, a new opportunity for operators
The change in corporate brand also parallels some exciting new introductions to Unify’s product portfolio. Earlier in 2013 the company introduced “Project Ansible,” a software platform that aggregates content and communications from multiple sources, maps them into business processes, and otherwise makes them more easily available to enterprise users. It is a thought-leading solution, showcasing Unify’s engineering expertise and ability to conceive of and develop leading-edge, wholly differentiated communications solutions. Ansible remains a work in progress, but Unify is already engaging with partners, including Deutsche Telekom, IBM, Telefonica, and Verizon, to bring it to market. Ansible will enter beta in early 2014 and is expected to be made available later in the year; it will first be offered as a service rather than as a premise-based product. So for operators, Unify Ansible represents a way of differentiating their enterprise communications offerings, either by reselling the software to businesses or by offering Ansible as a service.
Both the name change and the introduction of Project Ansible demonstrate Unify’s new interest in investing in corporate and product marketing. In the years leading up to and following the spin-off from Siemens AG, Unify made at best sporadic efforts to raise awareness of the company and its products. While these were not unsuccessful, they were also not the sustained marketing initiatives that the company is now engaged in. These aggressive – and generally effective –marketing campaigns have the potential to directly benefit operators and Unify’s other partners.
However, the corporate rebranding is also a risky move for Unify. The company still relies heavily on sales within Germany, and the loss of a known and trusted brand could negatively impact the company if sales and marketing initiatives are not properly executed. In addition, the new identity removes none of the hurdles that have long blocked Unify’s growth. These include a set of legacy business communications systems that have at best an awkward migration path to Unify’s more modern communications platforms.
Despite its new name, Unify seems to be experiencing an identity crisis. It spent a number of years turning Enterasys into “a Siemens Enterprise Company” so that it could offer its enterprise customers both voice and data solutions. However, earlier this year the Gores Group, which owned Enterasys, sold the company to Extreme Networks. Furthermore, a couple of years ago, Siemens Enterprise made the bold move of introducing a set of cloud-based services, positioning itself not only as a developer of premises-based solutions but of hosted communications services as well. However, after only a year on the market the cloud services were quietly withdrawn. And in early 2012, Siemens Enterprise SEN planned an IPO that would result in both Siemens AG and the Gores Group significantly reducing their stakes in Unify. This was expected to take place in late 2012, but never did.
Nevertheless, Unify has generated a considerable amount of energy around both its corporate rebranding and the upcoming release of Ansible. This has increased the visibility of the company in the industry and energized its employees. It is now Unify’s task to translate all this into increased sales so that it can become a more formidable presence in the UC market.