It’s been January 2015, when I joined Unify as CTO and today is my last day. After being an globally acting analyst at Forrester Research for 7 years, I thought it was a good idea to jump on the vendor side again. While I was writing about markets & trends and doing advisory on cloud business models and digitalization at Forrester, a CTO role was still a totally different challenge. Today – I am returning to the analyst community again.
Inside a vendor, you are really responsible for the the funding, implementation, and communication about what you believe in. You can only really change things if you are willing to take a personal risk in a corporate power play and on the technical front. Running a SaaS service at 99.9% availability is easier than most people think. The CTO role really pushed me out of my comfort zone of just gathering and sharing knowledge – and I have to say, I really liked it a lot. I enjoyed running technology strategy at Unify in the same way I enjoyed my previous vendor jobs for example at Software AG or SAP.
I wanted to share a few milestones of two years at Unify. But, before I list some of these major achievements, the most important fact was being part of an amazing team! After various staff reductions in 2013-2015, an very exclusive team of highly skilled, outstanding experts, industry veterans or eager young developers, scrum masters, architects, product managers, developers, devops, services, and designers makes the Unify product development team today. This was a lot of fun and most I’ve achieved in Unify, would not have been possible without these great colleagues and friends.
- Turnaround of Unify by financials, vision, and portfolio. The vendor space of traditional communication software, UC and telephony, is really a red ocean & commodity play. Price pressure is all around and hit direct competitors like Avaya even so hard that they turn bankrupt, while other vendors cross-fund their telephony business with other profitable branches of a larger business. Making Unify stable and profitable is an remarkable achievement of Siemens and the Gores Group and specifically Dean Douglas, Peter Kürpick, Jon Pritchard, and Luiz Domingos.
- Innovate across the portfolio. Be innovative with lots of resources and money is less difficult than renewing a whole portfolio and adding new products in a turnaround transformation. The Unify team managed not only to push out major releases of all traditional communication products in the last year, but also bring Circuit to a market maturity and half a million paying users in the enterprise space. Unify has today not only an outstanding portfolio of products, but also of patents. Thanks for the personal engagement of Jürgen Totzke.
- Embrace Cloud Business Models. Cloud business is not just subscription model to existing products. It is a total disruption to the technology and the sales approach, revenue streams, channel models and success metric. I’ve helped the company to change the mindset a lot. Professional product management by Uwe Hermanns and Philipp Bohn made this task possible at all.
- Evolve Circuit.com to a Web-Scale cloud architecture. Helping the architects to design a system that can scale technically to 10 million users and could cover a whole geography in one public cloud collaboration service it totally different from the enterprise scale of 50k-100k users where Unify is traditionally very strong. It was great to work with outstanding architects like Johannes Ruetschi and many in his team.
- Developer community and Technology Partnerships. Circuit is not only a collaboration SaaS application, it is also a very powerful collaborative platform as a service. After launching https://developers.circuit.com more than one year ago, Unify made a number of hackathons and can count today more than 1000 developers around Openscape and Circuit APIs from implementation partners, system integrators or independent developers. It was great working with experienced technology partner managers like Luzia Stephan in my team.
- Innovate in embedded devices. Although digital natives and millenniums hardly use a desk phone anymore, Unify sold far more than one million desk phones in the last 12 months. It was great working with Gunnar Boll and Thomas Lederer and their team to differentiate the devices not only by price, but really by innovation around IoT and integration into Circuit.com. Finally the recently launched Circuit Meeting Room is about to disrupt the in-room-conferencing market.
- Making the portfolio consistent and consolidated. A portfolio of multiple legacy products and emerging new products is a diverse collection of technologies and standards. It has been a huge task to bring consistency, interoperability and re-use to the unify portfolio. I had the chance to drive this with extremely senior architects like Karl Klaghofer and Andy Hutton driving standard activities for Unify in international standard bodies.
- ATOS merge process. I’ve helped Unify merging in to the ATOS structure and group portfolio. ATOS doesn’t have an post-merge playbook like IBM’s bluewash process that fits for product companies, so there were quite some challenges of integrating a product company into a services dominated corporation.
- ATOS Scientific community. The 130 most innovative, creative or simply clever people of the 100.000 ATOS employees are collected in the Scientific Community led by Hubert Tardieu. This group is also publishing the ATOS Journey though leadership reports. It was quite an honor to join this exclusive club about a year ago. A lot of great cooperation with Philipp Vannier, Paul Albada, Francisco Pinheiro, Thomas Bierhoff, and many others.
- Co-Innovation and great partnership with many Unify & ATOS customers. One of Unify’s and ATOS’ largest customers is obviously Siemens. The ATOS group and Siemens established a unique co-innovation approach and it was a pleasure to work with Norbert Gaus and Gerhard Fohringer from Siemens in the joint Innovation Committee.
I am sure I am missing some important initiatives or people. It’s been an incredibly busy 2 years.
Back To The Analyst Community
Why do I leave such an interesting and exciting job like CTO at Unify? Well, there are a few principals of my personal career plan:
- Always leave at the climax of joy. Or how you say in German “Hör auf, wenn es am schönsten ist”. Staying too long on the achieved status quo is not good. I need the challenge and love turning change into momentum.
- The job is basically done. On a strategic level, the change process at Unify is done. The company is stable, profitable, extremely innovative, sold & integrated into the larger ATOS group. The remaining challenges are not small, but less strategic.
Switch between vendor, analyst, maybe user and back.
Looking at my CV the previous responsibilities at major vendors gave me good credibility as an analyst and advisor. Also experience from the user side, for example from my time at Deutsche Post/DHL was quite an great asset that I can share with other users in the analyst role again.
The large incumbents of the analyst scene, Gartner and Forrester Research have a major impact on the buy- and sell-side of the industry – no question about this! Especially Forrester (including me, over my seven years at Forrester) helped many vendors and users reinventing their business models. However, both “gorillas” in the industry analyst business somehow missed to re-invent their own business model. From the perspective of a Gartner vendor-side customer such as Unify, I even have to say that they are really poor in balancing out the commercial relation and the independence of their magic, squared thing. Forrester has a much higher credibility there, but hasn’t really changed it’s business model a lot over two decades either.
Crisp Research is totally different! It’s more a fast growing boutique focused on German speaking area – until now! Similar to what Constellation Research with Ray or Holger achieved in the US, Crisp managed to build an appealing open content model and is really the place where vendors and users find research and advisory to CHANGE, INNOVATE and DISRUPT their industry.
And, Germany is specifically interesting. There’s still industrial manufacturing, engineering, research, strategy and ownership in the country. Seen as an outdated model by many US based firms in the last decade, you can turn this actually into a strength creating a faster innovation momentum around IoT, Industry 4.0 and digitalization. Not only firms like Siemens or the German cars which drive for example the HERE consortium, but also many former commodity manufacturers like Viessmann are surprising the competitors with their innovation approach. Crisp Research is the ideal environment for me to provide these European companies and their global technology suppliers with the best research and advice on re-inventing their core business.
I am looking forward keeping in touch with you or interacting with you again.