It’s been a big few weeks for Unit4 following the announcement at the end of March that it had been acquired by TA Associates in a deal that valued the business at more than $2bn. That news brought an end to the search for a new VC partner that could provide Unit4 with the financial headroom to make acquisitions and ramp up its marketing and new logo activities.
Hot on the heels of that announcement is the news that Unit4’s new ERP solution is now generally available following the soft-launch it announced back in October. ERPx is a next-generation ERP suite coupled with a unified cloud platform that is designed specifically with mid-market people and service-based business in mind.
Unit4 has been on a long journey to remodel itself and repackage its solutions since Mike Ettling took over as CEO a little over two years ago. It has disposed of several non-core operating units and is now laser-focussed on a small number of verticals – specifically, professional services, non-profits, higher education and public sector. ERPx represents the culmination of the work that actually started several years earlier when Claus Jepsen, CTO, (and team) went all in on Azure and began replatforming the Unit4 proposition into a microservices-based solution that allowed for easy integrations and the development of smart tools to improve experience and productivity.
At that time, Unit4 was one of the very few ERP vendors (if not the only one) that made a genuine commitment to this new type of architecture. While other vendors were hard at work retooling their on-prem apps for the cloud – and largely ignoring the platforms they operated on – Unit4’s approach was somewhat different. They got the platform fixed first and then moved to the application layer and that strategy is already paying dividends.
First mover advantage used to yield rich rewards in the enterprise tech space but not necessarily for those ERP vendors that rushed to get their own next-gen apps to market. As recently as five years ago application functionality was the ‘be all and end all’ for vendors as they concentrated on features and functions to win new business. Today, ERP buyers expect applications to work irrespective of the flavour and rarely make investment decisions based on how an individual application or module performs. Applications are table stakes – it’s platforms, extensibility, low and no-code tools and, above all else, experience that sets one vendor apart from another.
With ERPx, Unit4 has taken their class-leading platform architecture and coupled it with a genuinely modern and intuitive ERP solution, embedded with ML and AI, covering HCM, core financials, procurement, FP&A and project management. Services are delivered through a powerful people platform integrated with smart automations and collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack – all of which can be operated and managed with voice commands and chatbot technologies via Wanda – Unit4’s digital assistant.
Dmitri Krakovsky, Unit4’s new chief product officer, said: “With ERPx we are delivering something that customers have been asking for from ERP solutions for decades – the right platform and tools, designed around their specific needs, supporting them to be fast, resilient, adaptable, and light-touch enough to drive employee productivity. We’re also giving them the freedom to connect and extend industry-specific online data services and solutions quickly and easily. Together, we will build the digital foundation that ensures that people and organisations achieve their potential. We are very excited that ERPx is now generally available.”
Unit4 is ‘going-live’ with 24 customers already in the bag and signed up to ERPx. That may not sound like a lot given their global aspirations but considering those customers have been acquired in the last three months during the most turbulent time in recent memory – it’s a real testament to the strength of the product that any new customers have taken the leap.
It’s also a strong endorsement that the customers are not grouped in one geography or vertical; Americares, Municipality of Alkmaar, Global Banking School, Places for People, Social Work England, North West Leicestershire District Council, The Charity Commission, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, and Werkorganisatie Langedijk en Heerhugowaard, are just a few of the customers announced so far – they are based in the US, UK and Europe and cover healthcare, non-profit, public sector and higher education.
Alex Ashworth, head of IT operations at Places for People said: “Our technology strategy at Places for People is to consolidate our key services onto enterprise cloud platforms, with a SaaS-first approach. With the adoption of ERPx and the use of Unit4’s extension capabilities we expect to be able to expand our technical agility and streamline our financial processes. This will enable our people to focus on our mission, to build and regenerate sustainable communities that work for everyone.”
Unit4’s efforts are largely applauded by analysts too with Mickey North Rizza, program vice president at IDC, saying: “IDC expects this product to set a new trajectory for Unit4 as it moves into the digitally transformative future with its people centric, modern and modular ERP system.”
Holger Mueller, contributing editor at ERP Today and principal analyst at Constellation Research, concluded: “Good platforms last 10-15 years, great platforms 20-30… but when it’s time to build something new it is essential to dig down deep into the innovation available and secure a modern platform that has longevity. This is what Unit4 has done with a deep commitment to microservices, digital assistants, micro-apps and more running on Azure. All this makes the ERPx platform one of the most advanced if not the most advanced ERP platform in the market.”