Siemens’ Project Ansible – From Sci-Fi to the Enterprise
Today, Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEC) announced
Project Ansible, code name for a completely integrated communication and,
arguably, work experience for users in the enterprise. Here’s a viewpoint on
SEC’s major push to expand the solution spaces they seek to address.
The name comes straight out of the Sci-Fi world. According
to Wikipedia, an ansible is
“a fictitious machine capable of instantaneous or superluminal
it is depicted as a lunch-box sized object with some combination of
microphone, speaker, keyboard and display. It can send and receive messages to
and from a corresponding device over any distance whatsoever with no delay.
Ansibles occur as plot devices in science fiction literature.”
Of course, SEC’s
ansible is much smaller than a lunch box, since it is all software delivered,
as they say, on a single pane of glass which is, of course, a touch-screen
tablet or smartphone or a laptop or desktop computer screen. It will qualify as
having a microphone, speaker, keyboard and display and even a camera, of course,
since those are all components of the devices SEC plans to support.
Ansible is a major push to expand the solution space they are serving for their
customers. The announcement highlights “aggregation across voice,
video, email, text, social; … and business process integration.” Their video demo shows integration into business processes in multiple ways:
- User experiences will be tuned (or
customized?) to specific worker roles. SEC mentioned market research on these
roles, but details were sparse in yesterday’s briefing.
- Search functionality will be provided
across multiple channels (including e-mail and IM) and across multiple document
sources (data based, document management systems, etc.).
- Workspaces will be ‘automatically’ created
for any session so that the communication and documents can persist for the
term of that thread, which they call "thought trails."
- Connectors will be provided for
integration with the most popular business software tools; examples were offered
only for Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint, Google Docs, and Salesforce.com, so
many more will be needed.
- Developer SDK (software development kit)
so that VARs, SIs, and customers can build their own connectors.
All of this is
delivered on a UCC-type platform that provides voice, video, IM, and
conferencing in a purportedly seamless manner across the range of Apple and
Android-based devices. It was not stated, but the inference was that Project
Ansible will be based on the SEC OpenScape system.
This is a bold
move on SEC’s part, based on extensive market research and incorporating some
great design ideas for which they engaged the world-famous, San Francisco-based
Sci-Fi shows us, any adventure into new space has both known and unknown
challenges. Here are a few which seem visible at this time:
- This is not new. SEC’s Project Ansible may
be a leap beyond their traditional IP Telephony competitors (though Avaya Flair, Cisco WebEx Social, NEC 3C, and others have elements of the Project
Ansible vision), but IBM Connections already does what Project Ansible is
described to do and is backed by one of the world’s largest professional
services organizations. Meanwhile, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, Oracle
and others are also offering an integrated user experience, blending
communication with business process integration on a single pane.
- It will take years. Early customer beta
programs come later this year with general availability “later in 2014.” So,
this does not reach the market for 18 months and then has to build acceptance
and adoption. Project Ansible should be assessed in context of the next releases
from the competition, i.e. the products that will be competing for share in
2015 and beyond.
- It takes on new competition. SEC sees the
importance of going beyond just communication (they say "beyond UC") to best
serve the customer and the user. But this means that they will enter a new
category with customers in which they are touching and storing documents and
are offering up information which is subject to regulatory, privacy and
security scrutiny. The established vendors in those spaces are already
incorporating communications functions into their user experiences. We will
watch to see which path enterprises choose.
- It currently requires an SEC platform. This
is just an implication, since the technical specifics have not been shown, but
likely Project Ansible needs the SEC OpenScape platform. This is one of the
best UCC platforms out there, but will be an addition to most enterprises’
communications infrastructures. SEC may offer a cloud-based version of Project
Ansible; that would ease the adoption but complicate the business process
integration. Perhaps this is why their announcement includes a number of
service providers as Project Ansible partners.
- It requires channel transformation. Given
all of the functionality, SEC will either need to ramp up their current
channels or recruit significant numbers of new resellers to have needed
My hope is that
SEC can be wildly successful with Project Ansible. It is exactly what we have
been advocating at UCStrategies for some time: design the user experiences to
match the specific “Use Cases” or “User Profiles” in the various business
processes of the enterprise. This is what we meant since the beginning with our
definition of UC as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.”
Success by SEC has the potential to transform both the communications industry
and the enterprise work environment. Bon Voyage, Ansible, as you “boldly go
where none have gone before.”