UNIT4 Gearing Up for Game Changers in 2013

The Winter 2012 analyst tour was no dull event, and TEC principal analyst P.J. Jakovljevic was there to capture it all. UNIT4, one of the top-10 mid-market ERP vendors worldwide, made a number of important announcements about the company’s latest offerings for businesses operating under constant change and its strategy to become cloud focused. Download the report and get all the details, and how they may benefit your company.
Getting together with UNIT4 every six months or so for an update is never a dull event, and the company’s recent Winter 2012 analyst tour did not disappoint either. For those that are still unfamiliar with the company, UNIT4 is a global business software and services company aimed at helping dynamic public sector and commercial services organizations to embrace change simply, quickly, and cost effectively in a market sector it calls “Businesses Living IN Change (BLINC).”

Founded in 1980, UNIT4 is headquartered in Sliedrecht, the Netherlands, and has more than 4,000 employees, more than 6,000 customers, more than 10,000 global deployments, and more than 2 million users. With operations in 26 countries across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and Africa, its revenue was over $585 million (USD) in 2011. This figure makes it one of the top 10 mid-market enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors worldwide and the third-largest European ERP vendor (after SAP and Sage). Even during these days of austerity measures in the public sector and of tepid economy in the private sector, UNIT4 continues to grow—with healthy double-digit license revenue growth and total revenue growth in 2012.

The UNIT4 Group incorporates the following four leading change-embracing enterprise software brands with these post-implementation agility traits:

  • Agresso Business World (ABW)—the flagship ERP suite for midsize services intensive organizations. 
  • Coda Financials—the best-of-breed financial management software for midsize and large enterprises in a variety of industries. 
  • FinancialForce.com—the cloud financial management and professional services automation (PSA) applications company formed with a joint investment with salesforce.com (for more info, see post). 
  • UNIT4 Business Analytic Apps—turnkey, rapidly deployed, business performance solutions—available on a pay-as-you-use basis from a dedicated solution store (for more info, see article).

Social Collaboration in the Works

The first announcement at this tour was for analysts to stay tuned to the upcoming new user interface (UI) for Agresso ERP. While the product’s VITA architecture addresses system-related changes, the UI will tackle challenging people-related changes. Indeed, an organization’s employees constantly have to learn new systems and adopt new processes. In addition, people constantly need answers to new questions, uncertainties, and risks.

To that end, UNIT4 is designing Agresso’s UI from scratch (with socially aware language) to set a new change response standard. The UI will reportedly promote user adoption, make users more productive, and enable fast issue resolution. The system will know what (e.g., object, activity, etc.) each user is related to, whom each user is related to, and which rules apply to each user. Figure 1 shows some mock-up screenshots of the upcoming “experience packs” for users, and analysts were told that they will be amazed at the traditional summer Grape Escape 2013 event.

Figure 1

UNIT4 has also been stealthily developing native device mobile solutions for the Apple iPad and iPhone, and Android phones and tablets. These mobile solutions are aimed at meeting specific market needs such as time management, reporting, approvals, etc. UNIT4 has deliberately chosen the native approach, versus a mobile web (HTML5) approach, as the former has to date proven to provide the best experience. All apps have been built from the ground up, following specific interaction design to achieve the ultimate mobile experience (thus, the vendor deliberately did not merely port browser screens to a mobile device).

As UNIT4 builds its portfolio of solutions, it will decide on whether each app will use HTML5 or go native. For the UNIT4 Expense Management app, for example, the vendor has still opted for native design, as this app requires access to the hardware (the phone camera). HTML5 is obviously a much more efficient choice from a development perspective (develop once, deploy many), but user experience is an important consideration in deciding which approach to take. UNIT4 plans to launch the entire mobile strategy at Grape Escape 2013.

Similarly, UNIT4 has been steadily building Big Data solutions for specific market needs; for example, in the UK there is one of a kind big data solution aimed at the public sector for managing and analyzing the “linked open data (LOD)” cloud project, which is a new compulsory government requirement. UNIT4’s success and leadership position here is vaulting the vendor into other areas of big data and in-memory analytics. And so it came as no surprise that analysts were told to watch for more announcements on this front in 2013.  

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