2020: a year of challenges, innovation, and change | Unit4
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2020: a year of challenges, innovation, and change

from  February 3, 2021 | 5 min read

Originally published on LinkedIn

While no-one could have envisaged what would happen in 2020, it was a year of challenges, innovation, and adaptation for all of us. Even though we could not be together physically for much of the year, communities have flourished and provided a lifeline for many.  Human spirit and the resilience of people have seen us through unprecedented social and economic disruption around the world, and we are connected through the solidarity we all feel towards each other.

During the largest health crisis in a century which triggered the largest economic crisis of the century, our teams rallied to find new ways to help our customers and partners adapted to this changing business environment and new customer experiences. 2020 saw Unit4 achieve significant milestones in its business strategy to transform both the business and its technology proposition, at a time when customers need our support more than ever.

Changing times and changing with the times

In many ways as a result of the events of 2020, we know that customer wants and needs have changed. The ERP market will continue to grow over the next few years. It’s ready to evolve – only 26% is currently on public cloud. 2020 has been a tipping point in making companies realize the value and benefits of cloud systems for remote working and continuity of operations. It’s a much savvier market as well, with a more mature decision-making process – focused on making decisions that solve business problems in the long term.

We have continued to pursue our objective; to lead the way with a new generation of enterprise technology that can deliver the modern, modular multitenant cloud solutions that organizations need to address these issues – issues that 2020 has brought to the fore rather than caused – in order to become more nimble and resilient in the face of an increasingly uncertain operational environment.

ERPx: Innovating the way we deliver ERP

In October, we announced ERPx at our Experience4U event, the result of significant investment to meet growing demand from organizations for more agile ERP solutions that enable them to accelerate digital transformation. And while we’d been developing ERPx behind the scenes for a while, the timing of its release couldn’t have been better for companies looking to make wholesale changes to their operations in response to the events of 2020. ERPx combines unrivalled functionality and tools to give organizations the flexibility to plan their long-term digital futures.

ERPx is a game changer for people-centric organizations. A public cloud-native ERP system that fits any organization out of the box that can be delivered at any scale. As Dmitri Krakovsky, our ERPx evangelist and newly appointed Chief Product Officer, put it at our recent XKO kickoff event, we hope that ERPx will put an end to both the “one size fits badly” model of out-of-the-box ERP solutions, and to the need for cumbersome, convoluted on-premise customizations created by armies of third party and in-house programmers. It allows customers to take advantage of our prodigious experience across the professional services, public sector, non-profit, and higher education industries with a solution that’s the right size for their organization, while also harnessing the powers of advanced AI driven automation and a truly modern, integrated user experience. All on a modern public cloud platform that’s built for extensibility and innovation.

Innovating the way we work with our customers and technology partners

In 2020 we expanded our partner ecosystem to support customer growth and success and extend our platform via our technology partners to improve our ability to deliver innovative services. It’s our belief that this new ecosystem-centric approach will allow independent software vendors and OEM partners to play a key role in extending the capabilities and features of ERPx in the long term, allowing the companies we work with that are the world leaders in designing, building, and implementing cloud and hybrid solutions to leverage our new microservices-driven architecture to innovate endlessly.

We’ve also invested in a brand-new customer care ecosystem to help our customers and their users get the most out of our solutions, help guide the development of our roadmaps, and ensure a new level of support and engagement. Beyond this, our newly launched Communty4U user hub provides a place for everyone using our products to ask questions, share learning, and discuss and resolve issues. We take our responsibility as a mid-market company serving the mid-market service sector extremely seriously. And I truly believe that together, we can help to rebuild a strong economy.

Innovating the way we look after people

Perhaps most importantly, we’ve focused on building and maintaining a strong culture at Unit4 based on our values. We’ve taken 2020 as an opportunity to completely reshape the way we think about work, workspaces, and work-life balance. We’ve also introduced a new Corporate Social Responsibility program that focuses on helping to build a more sustainable society for our people, our customers, our partners, and the communities in which we live by equipping youth and workers with the skills for financial success and in the digital economy, encouraging engagement in wellness, and by encouraging sustainable consumption.

I’m proud to say that it’s been working. We’ve seen our Glassdoor rating increase considerably during a very tough year. I think the following comments do a great job of underlining a focus on people and their wellbeing that’s become more vital than ever in recent months in keeping morale up and ensuring we come through for our customers and each other:

  • "In business for people" is so much more than a strapline at Unit4.
  • Great solution. Great people. Great work/life balance.
  • As a returning employee for my 2nd stint here, I'm very impressed.
  • Senior Management values your opinions and actively encourages you to add value.
  • The company genuinely cares about employees’ wellbeing/work life balance, even more so in lockdown.

As a leader personally, last year underlined the importance of authentic leadership through every communication and interaction. That people appreciate that we care about their work/life balance, their wellbeing and mental health. Our incredible People Success team (yes … we have renamed HR!) really stepped up at a time of change and confusion for everyone. We’ve all had to get accustomed to new lifestyles that fundamentally go against basic cultural, psycho-social and human foundations. I applaud you all.

I think everyone will join me in extending our thanks to those on the front lines like healthcare workers, non-profit organizations, and volunteers that are helping everyone we work with – from our people and our customers to everyone in our communities – to stay safe and healthy.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank my team at Unit4. What we achieved in 2020 is remarkable and down to everyone’s acceptance, hard work, commitment and tenacity. I am proud to work with all of you. Our 2020 results announced this week, are testament to that. We remain ambitious for the year ahead, with the determination to return to some normality (albeit a never normal world) and look forward to accelerating our customer and partner business goals in 2021.

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Mike Ettling - Chief Executive Office at Unit4

Mike Ettling

I’m a CEO, Investor, builder of world class teams, champion of diversity and continuous learner, and I’m passionate about people. From my first leadership role in the Boy Scouts, to exec positions in the tech industry, my career has revolved around elevating, engaging and enabling people. I joined Unit4 to get the market as excited in our unique approach to enterprise tech as I am. We’re building systems that change how people experience work, and the impact will be huge.

Outside of work I’m a family man, a Liverpool supporter, and a proud South African.