Dreaming of a cloud-based, self-driving back-office?

Posted by  Erik Tiden

Bridging the gap between front and back office apps has long been the dream of corporate executives. Unlike senior sales and marketing executives, enterprise CFOs have been more reluctant to replace on-premises back-office systems, given the effort and expense that has gone into building them, and fearing disruption to existing operations. We are now reaching a turning point where cloud maturation and a new generation of back office systems can better meet rapidly changing customer expectations, and growing organizational pressures.

Azure was selected in 2015 as Unit4’s preferred public cloud deployment platform globally for a number of reasons. Some of them being: 

1) Microsoft’s approach to Azure IaaS cloud deployments and Unit4’s Cloud at your Speed methodology align perfectly and are the foundation of this collaboration.   

2) Both organizations cater to a hybrid computing environment which is still the reality in the majority of the enterprise world.  

3) Azure enhances Unit4’s offering through flexible security, data privacy and residency.  

But the partnership extends beyond the cloud platform. Customers also benefit from the rapid innovation Azure gets us through the smart technology components of its Platform-as-a Service layer. These include predictive analytics, machine learning, event stream analysis and complex event processing, as well as Microsoft Office 365 integrations. Unit4 is seen by Microsoft as a leader in how we are working with Azure. 

Some areas where Azure has supported our innovation in just 12 months include: 

Building an enterprise solutions strategy for people

Unit4 has pioneered many people-centric aspects of business software, and this is still one major factor that separates us from others. In fact in a recent TechTarget article, Bob Anderson, research vice president for ERP and project management at Gartner, said: “…Unit4 was not born in the cloud but is acting like a cloud-first provider and the people-centric model delivers a great user experience that millennials find very attractive.”

We’re making the back office a place where people actually like to use the applications rather than one where they're forced to. Our alliance with Microsoft is supporting us to deliver the only self-driving ERP on the Microsoft Azure platform. Combined with Unit4’s People Platform, the collaboration boosts speed of innovation and we’re already starting to see customers benefiting from this new approach to enterprise computing.

Self-driving ERP dramatically simplifies data collection by utilizing key technologies such as predictive analytics to provide meaningful in-context information to users. Such information enables intuitive data entry based on pre-populated forms and in-context yes-no validation questions. It results in great user experience from desktop to mobile. Our self-driving software is designed to empower people, from the front-line employee through the back office and up through the CEO, to accomplish more than is humanly possible. And the impact is real and enormous: Sales reps will produce expense reports in moments, departments will run payroll in minutes, project managers will set up new projects in hours based on intelligence from successful projects that have gone before.

By leveraging intelligent software to do the bulk of the work, and human intelligence to supervise, guide and manage by exception, self-driving software frees people from menial and administrative tasks. But it is also about intelligent automation, discovering patterns hidden by the limitations of human comprehension, and detecting invisible problems buried deep within zetabytes of disparate data.

A productive cloud back-office makes for productive people

One of the main reasons the Azure platform was chosen was its strong capability to support a hybrid cloud environment. We offer a cloud and hybrid-cloud deployment strategy for customers as we don’t believe one size fits all and we understand the complexities involved in the transition to cloud. It’s this understanding our customers appreciate. With Azure, Unit4 business applications offer highly scalable ramp-up and ramp-down capabilities and provide customers with the flexibility and adaptability they need to run their business without disruption. Delivering solutions in the cloud in a way that allows clients to choose the cloud model that best fits their business processes.

We strongly believe that people shouldn’t be bogged down with menial and administrative tasks, but instead should be spending their time doing what they were hired to do: Teachers teaching, nurses nursing, and everybody serving the customer. The business opportunities are beyond comprehension. Professional services firms will be able to combine an analysis of historical data with predictive analytics to gain valuable insight on which projects to bid for (and which not). Public sector organizations will improve fraud detection on bill payments with advanced pattern recognition and machine learning. Non-Profits will have the ability to match campaigns to donation patterns and target donors more effectively. Universities will be able to spot ‘drop outs’ as early in the process as possible by applying pattern recognition to various processes etc...

Unit4 takes a unique approach to delivering enterprise systems, one focused on what people want from enterprise solutions to support the way they work. We continue to leverage the disruptive capabilities of Microsoft Azure to reimagine ERP and the back office. And we are now really starting to see the benefits those innovations are delivering to our customers and to the market.

Erik Tiden

Erik Tiden

Fascinated by computer technology since childhood, the first decade of my professional life was spent doing research in theoretical computer science, formal methods and software engineering. Then my interest evolved towards turning the theories into working software and a passion for teamwork and people. Making a team ‘click’, empowering every person in it to be part of a greater whole that delivers the amazing, is what I live for today. 

 A husband and father and enthusiastic European, I enjoy traveling and love art in all its forms. 

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