This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

After long last, we finally get to see what Unify has been
working on for these past couple of years. Circuit is certainly
different and is an enabler of shifting the way people work.

Today Unify, the company formerly known as Siemens Enterprise, finally took the covers off the product it has been developing under the code name of Project Ansible. The application, now known as Circuit, is the culmination of two years of intense research and development, and it promises to change the way people work. We in the analyst community had the opportunity try out Circuit at Unify’s annual Global Analyst Summit last week in Phoenix.

I first downloaded Circuit to my iPhone rather than my Macbook, as I believe the value of a UC client is measured by its usability on a mobile device. No disrespect meant to all the vendors that have put work into developing rich desktop clients but it’s been my belief that mobile UC provides much greater bang for the buck. Having non-unified communications tools is awkward on a desktop but isn’t the end of the world. However, on a mobile device it’s extremely time consuming to continually be switching between applications, so a robust mobile UC client can provide tremendous value.

On the surface, Circuit looks like many of the other mobile UC clients. Unify touts the application as a “single pane of glass,” which is one of the most over-used terms in our industry today. However, Circuit does live up to the promise of a single pane of glass as it brings together not only communications applications such as voice and video but also text messaging, screen sharing and even content sharing.

While the unified client is nice, I don’t believe that’s the true differentiator for Circuit. After using the application, I thought the contextual search capability was the most interesting feature of the product.

When I first logged into Circuit, I immediately noticed there was no contact list in the interface. This is something that we’ve all become accustomed to whether we’re using Lync, Jabber, Skype, Google Chat or any number of other UC clients. No matter which client you’re using, it seems there’s always that list of contacts that shows everyone’s presence status. At first it was odd to not have it, but then I spent a bit of time with the application and I realized Unify is truly trying to promote a new way of working.

The application is driven by contextual search of all of the existing “conversations.” In Circuit, a conversation is defined as a unique thread that has every comment, document or other information relevant to the conversation. For example, if I wanted to start a thread with the No Jitter audience on how UC should be defined, I could start it, include other analysts and maybe a document or two I wrote that includes my definition of UC. Then, other users can comment, include their own files that are related to the topic. Any user at a later date that then searches on any term in the thread or any user that contributed will see this conversation.

Without using it, this might be a bit hard to envision. A good analogy is the difference in how Google Mail works versus a more traditional client like Outlook. Outlook and other mail clients are “message centric,” where every email is its own unique item. I can sort by date, user or subject. Google Mail, however, is conversation based. You can’t sort on a user or a date like you can in Outlook. Instead you “search” on a contextual term that can help only display the conversations related to that term.

When I first started using Google Mail, I thought it was awkward to use, but now that I’ve become more accustomed to it, I find the contextual search based mail platform to be much more powerful than the traditional client. Why? Well, because it addresses the new way I work. I need to find information faster and more accurately than before, and the context-based search of conversations meets that goal better than legacy platforms. Twitter works this way, too. There’s really too many people in Twitter to even try to be user centric. Rather, a search is done and all relevant threads are displayed. Circuit works exactly that way.

The challenge I see for Unify is getting users to think differently about how they work. We’ve all grown accustomed to our UC systems being user-based so a conversation-based one might seem foreign to workers. Like I said, I had this reaction to Google Mail, but once I got used to it, I found it much more powerful. For Unify to be successful with Circuit, the company will need to find specific processes than can be improved through the conversation-based approach. I’d also like to see Circuit become a set of capabilities and “snap-ins” that can be dropped into other applications to augment the current client. Lastly, I think the company should take a “mobile first” strategy. When mobile, workers need to be able to find information faster and the single pane of glass combined with the contextual search can do that.

After long last, we finally get to see what Unify has been working on for these past couple of years. Circuit is certainly different and is an enabler of shifting the way people work. To be fully leveraged, workers must stop thinking about how they worked in the past, but more about how they use social platforms and the importance of context. Only that will unleash the full potential of the application.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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