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The new Unit4 – Five reasons to get excited about the future

Posted by  Hilary Pike

At its UK customer conference in Edinburgh earlier this month Unit4’s CEO José Duarte made no secret of the business’s ambition to lead the way in making technology more aligned with the seamless, convenient and easy to use digital lives we all enjoy in our home and leisure time. This move supports the fact many of us face the daily frustrations and challenges of ineffective, non-integrated and collaboration resistant business systems and solutions that seem to inhibit our ability to work optimally in any location, at any time, with disparate teams, or on any device.

Unit4 has been aware of this reality for some time having developed a portfolio of mobile enabled functionality such as time sheets, expense management, reports and task management, which have enabled far greater freedom to an increasingly remote workforce. But users are demanding a new generation of enterprise software delivering even greater social collaboration, mobile capabilities, role based intelligence and ‘cloud their way’.

Indeed, a live poll asked the 400 plus delegates at the Conference to outline which technology they believe will have the biggest impact over the next two years. Interestingly, 45% of respondents said mobile, closely followed by analytics with 30% of the vote.

This view is echoed by leading analyst house IDC. Philip Carnelley, Research Director, Software, IDC Europe, commented: “The mobility push is unabated as companies seek to improve the user experience for internal and external users. Using software vendors who are not pursuing a mobile-first agenda will make it more difficult to satisfy users' needs and wishes.”

In order to deliver against this changing demand Unit4 has embarked on a global and overarching strategy, which we can break down into 5 key areas:

 

Leadership team

In order to drive its ambitions, Duarte has appointed an all new executive leadership team. IDC commented that this team has ‘strong credentials in international business and experience of working with large customers and large partners’ and their ability to execute the Group’s growth plans will be supported by the existing management who have had ‘considerable success in many domains’.

Led by these teams all staff are focussed clearly on creating a compelling global brand for Unit4; a brand that delivers end-to end business and finance information in a single view supported by new layers of social content, which allows users to access and interrogate that core data more readily and to interact and collaborate with each other more easily and in a more seamless, convenient and user friendly way.

 

R&D

In response Unit4 is doubling its investment in R&D in its core Agresso solution as well as further leveraging the Agresso platform by bringing together its best in class solutions including Coda Financials, Teta and ProSoft onto a common platform, accessible via web services and a new user interface. This move is supported by Philip Carnelley at IDC: “Converging on a common platform is a laudable aim, which promises future reward for both customers and the company, as it should be able to move forward faster if it can establish that common platform.”

Customers also welcomed Unit4’s commitment to making enterprise software more consumer grade. Indeed, the live poll show that this is a significant area of focus with 77% responding positively, either having a strategy in place or currently considering their options. In offering a more people centric solution comprising mobile enablement, role based dashboards and a more intuitive user interface Unit4 believes it will connect and empower teams more readily and enable wider and more informed collaboration. Such measures go a long way to improving user adoption and satisfaction when it comes to ERP solutions like Agresso.

 

Verticalisation

Unit4 has a strong footprint in key vertical markets around the world including retail, local and national government, not for profit, financial services and education and Duarte is keen to further this positioning within similar services orientated organisations. He believes customers are looking increasingly to access out of the box functionality that caters for the nuances that exist within their specific industry or sector. As the business looks to extend its penetration into new markets and regions Duarte and his global team have identified and will continue to identify additional verticals including wholesale and distribution and real estate that it will focus on in the coming months.

 

Partnering In line with its vertical market strategy, Unit4 recognises that it needs to develop a more effective and broader partner network around the globe if it is to increase its market penetration and grow its market share and brand recognition. In widening the scope to partner with specialists, Duarte believes that Unit4 will be able to reach new markets and meet the demands for specialist solutions and services that it is unable to provide itself. IDC notes Unit4’s current successes with partners such as BT Global Services, Serco and arvarto and believes that it is critical that Unit4 works with more partners around the world to ensure it builds on this success and gets onto the radar of the bigger systems integrators. In doing so Unit4 (and IDC) believes it will build its position and competitiveness on the global stage.

 

Cloud your way

Unlike many of its peers Unit4 has been a cloud player for many years so cloud is very much a business reality for its customers. Indeed when polled at Conference, Unit4 customers were clear when asked about cloud adoption that hybrid is the model for the foreseeable future. In addition, they demand the choice to be able to deploy and consume each application as needed, either in the public or private cloud or on-premises. And they ask for the ability to move their applications and data between the different models. When asked what proportion of their applications and systems would be cloud-based in five years’ time, 88% expect part of their systems to be cloud-based. 7% expect their full application portfolio to be cloud based while 5% expect no systems to be cloud based at all. This customer centric approach – listening to and delivering what customers actually want – is at the heart of Duarte’s strategy and it is paying dividends already. In fact Philip Carnelley commented further: “Unlike most of its peers, Unit4 has crossed the watershed: in 2013, it garnered more revenues from cloud subscriptions (private or public cloud) than it did from traditional on-premises licenses (although those too grew). In H1 of 2014, its cloud and subscription revenues were 40% higher than its on-premises license sales.”

 

Summary

Unit4’s strategy and plans are starting to pay off, with the company boasting impressive competitive wins on the global stage against the more traditional players such as SAP and Oracle. In addition Unit4 has stated that in H1, its worldwide SaaS revenue was significantly higher than its license revenue. Unit4 is going places and is pushing its credentials for supporting fast-changing organisations, and a lighter footprint than the two ERP behemoths, for services and government organisations around the world.  

 

1 Source: IDC

Unit4 Users Looking to the 3rd Platform- IDC’s European ICT Advisory Alerts: Creating The Future of ICT, Philip Carnelley, Research Director, Software, IDC Europe - 10th October 2014

 

2 Source: IDC

Unit4 Agresso User Conference Gives Opportunity for a Strategic Reassessment – IDC Link Philip Carnelley, Research Director, Software, IDC Europe - 13th October 2014

 

3 Source: IDC

Unit4 Agresso User Conference Gives Opportunity for a Strategic Reassessment – IDC Link Philip Carnelley, Research Director, Software, IDC Europe - 13th October 2014

Hilary Pike

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