EXCLUSIVE Unify reveals ‘Circuit’ collaboration tool: CEO interview

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Unify has debuted what it claims is a “completely new category of technology” to help today’s increasingly mobile employees work collaboratively.

The UC specialist has released enterprise collaboration tool, Circuit (previously codenamed ‘Project Ansible’), a new web application that stores and manages information through associations and conversations.

Circuit is essentially a dashboard in an app, bringing together voice, video, screen sharing, messaging, file sharing, and contextual search in a blend of WebRTC standards and efficient bandwidth usage. Using the new tool, people can participate in private one-to-one, group, or company-wide conversations, where content and communications are shared in what Unify described as an “ongoing, free-flowing and continuous conversation stream”.

CEO Douglas sets out his vision

“The rationale is that there is a significant market gap,” CEO Dean Douglas told UCInsight in an exclusive interview.

“If you look at the marketplace you’ll notice that the competitive products out there – WebEx, GoToMeeting, and so on – are really clumsy and you have to use a number of disparate capabilities to have a real conversation. You’re constrained if you want to pull up some additional data, you have to go to other products. And when you’re finished, no one remembers [the conversation].

“So we’ve created a platform, services and software to put all of these technologies together in a single pane of glass. All of the different content types – video, texting voice, data – are stored and you can retrieve that data and look back and understand how decisions were made, and why things were positioned in a different way in the conversation. Folks can refresh their memories and new people that are added to the team can take advantage of that too.”

This positions Unify in the hottest emergent IT space: collaborative tools and workflows, where a broad variety of players, including Box, Huddle, MindJet and Dropbox are competing with the platform offerings of cloud pureplays, such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite, and their traditional enterprise technology rivals, such as Oracle and SAP.

An advantage for Unify customers is that Circuit will be integrated with Unify’s existing product lines, and Douglas revealed that the lessons from its two-year development will be applied across Unify’s entire portfolio. “We’re going to retrofit our other products with the user interface , and so the extensive training and ‘quirky’ interfaces that we’ve had in the past will be just that, in the past, and all of our interfaces will be much more intuitive.”

Circuit is also available as a standalone product, allowing users of, for example, Cisco or Avaya products, to “leverage Circuit from a collaboration standpoint”, said Douglas.

Millennial workers

Unify aims to use Circuit to extend “beyond the promises of unified communications” to support industry megatrends, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), while addressing the needs of ‘millennials’ and flexible ‘anywhere workers’.

Millennials, or ‘digital natives’, are people born since the internet explosion in the 1990s. By 2020, they will make up half of the workforce, and their natural tendencies to network and adopt mobile and social tools present strategic, technology and cultural challenges to both IT professionals and C-level decision-makers.

“Millennial workers are a huge challenge,” agreed Douglas. “They have a very different perspective on the role of business and how they mix work with their lives, and how they separate those things – and a lot of them don’t want to separate them. There’s a sense of freedom that millennials want to take advantage of. They don’t want to sit in a cubicle eight hours a day.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for enterprises to embrace that power and capability. And the generation behind the millennials is going to be even more demanding in terms of freedom of action and freedom of use. They use technology in a completely collaborative way, and they expect you to be on those same platforms. They don’t want to use email. They’re very socially aware.

“With our focus on making work more enjoyable we know it leads to more productivity, which makes people happier and then enables them to create greater value for our customer, the enterprise.”

Unify has conducted beta trials over the last five months, with responses from C-Level, line-of-business end user, and IT customers. The company claims that more than 80 per cent of the responses said that “the unique value proposition that Circuit presents” is valuable to their business.

• Circuit is available from today in the US, UK and Germany. The application is compatible with Google’s Chrome browser, and with iOS devices (iPad and iPhone). Android support will be brought on stream in January 2015.

About Author

Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton is a widely respected business and technology journalist, author, and magazine editor. In recent years he has been Editor of Computing (where he remains Consulting Editor); co-founder and Managing Editor of Professional Outsourcing – a magazine he developed from scratch and grew to be the leading magazine in its field; Editor of CBR in its most successful year; and co-founder and launch Editor of Sourcingfocus.com. Today, he is co-Director of EastwoodMiddleton Publishing, and founder, designer, and Editor in Chief of Strategist magazine (UK), the boardroom magazine that provides strategic insight for business leaders, and of its mobile-first digital edition at www.iamtheStrategist.com. He is also co-founding Editor of Child Internet Safety magazine, and a contributing Editor of Diginomica.com. Over the years Chris has also written for, among many others, The Guardian, The Times, the BBC, and Computer Weekly. He is the author of several successful books on digital media, and a commissioning editor of more than 50 books.