Multi-tenant, hosting, on premise, plus the ability to share work processes among tenants make UNIT4 a unique player in the ERP market.
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The software market can be quite faddish, as demonstrated by the mention of clouds in every headline these days. But ERP is serious stuff: it runs your enterprise. There are diverse requirements and interests that have to be satisfied to win and retain customers. So UNIT4 fuels their growth with a ‘customers-have-it-their-way’ approach.
Every Platform, Every Way
The delivery architecture or multiple-platform delivery model from UNIT4—on premise, hosted, multi-tenant/single instance, and multi-tenant/shared processes—provides flexible options for their customers. (It doesn’t just allow UNIT4 to sell more software.) In keeping with their BLINC™ message—business living in change, both their database methods and multiple platform offerings allow continued change options for customers.
Certainly, the economic volatility in the EU, home-base for UNIT4, drives enterprises to make major changes in how they do business. Also, globally, enterprises are dynamic, some more by design than happenstance. Because of this dynamic environment they may:
Do acquisitions, spin offs and restructures, M&As
Participate in highly influenced value chains where dominant players dictate the game and often change the ‘rules’ that pertain to: compliance, methods of integration, process, product packaging, and physical locations
Contend with new legislation and regulations regarding globalization
Initiate business changes such as new product families and new modes of operation
Be dynamic businesses, often project-based, such as mining, construction or aerospace where much of the company can be engaged a year or more in a massive commitment that has a dramatic impact on the business. You will note in Figure 2 that these types of organizations have taken advantage of UNIT4 capability.
Undertake major lean efforts that simplify the business’s process and data requirements
Many companies can recognize themselves somewhere on that list. In fact, no ERP project—or software project of substance—is completed in the first round. There are too many considerations. Change is common—for process and data, as well as choosing the best platform, the latter mostly changing from hosting to on premise, for example. Some companies are adamant about their choice of platform. We have seen that smaller to mid-size companies seem to be happy to rid themselves of the burden of hardware, but larger firms are more experimental. We have also seen that the government and firms that work closely with the government are often most concerned about security. We have seen firms that might have been sharing platforms move to their own proprietary environments. UNIT4 provides not only these delivery options, but the ability to shift from one to the others.
One item of note about UNIT4 is their ability to share process/workflow. (This is not just multi-tenancy, which allows users to share software platforms.) Why would organizations want to do this? The best examples are enterprises that do government work and, by regulation, have the same processes or share the same agencies to execute on their work. Or suppliers to larger companies that may have very similar compliance activities. Why not leverage the work already done by others? Visualize a large construction project. The major contractor is managing schedules, procurement and paying out to all the subs; the subs are managing the inbound resource chain. They all have to sync up, and shared workflow is a way to achieve this. With UNIT4 you have options to change later on (unlike most on-premise ERPs).
So What about All Those Business Changes?
We frequently hear from companies that features they were adamant about during the evaluation process, are often never used post purchase. And once users grasp what is really required of them to take full advantage of the ERP functionality, they tend to back away from some of the process and data intensity of the big ERP.1 Firms just don’t use all that code.
Besides that, change is a constant. Extreme examples of the need for adaptability are seen in firms involved in mining, construction, and as we mentioned—the public sector, that are subject to strong influence by governments, international trade issues, compliance, and just the whims of the market.
UNIT4 Industry Positioning
Having lived through the dynamics where one or more business units had to change but required cross-functional data agreements and integration, I bear witness to the pain of change. We could only achieve change in a highly synchronized way, on rigid time schedules, and only through barter and negotiation.
Cross-functional teams would talk about changes they needed to make to programs and data to match the business change, and then discuss the impact they would have across the company. If other groups could not or would not change, you were stuck waiting or writing lots of customized code that did work arounds and process subroutines to get the job done. Or the good news was, everyone agreed to change, but you had to wait till the next quarter, or more likely, year-end so that everyone could change together. Smart IT managers budgeted funds and time into their annual plans for these quarterly or year-end changes. Still, the impact on the business was huge—in terms of cost (and putting a damper on competitiveness).
So UNIT4’s goal is to tackle this challenge of change. Their growth over the last few years is surely attributable to this change messaging. That is smart marketing and smart technology targeted at one of the biggest issues associated with ERP purchases. Expect to see further growth for this innovative player.
1 Over the years we have spent about 25% of the time turning off things that were put in during implementation due to overzealous implementers or unrealistic expectations of what the organization could accomplish. Lean programs also simplify processes and reduce the need for complex processing. -- Return to article text above
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