UNIT4 - Can ERP Have a Contribution to Collaboration?
on Jul 19, 2011
UNIT4 has a great growth story to tell for their customers.
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Often software firms compete, or at least we hope they do, on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), rather than just on ROI or other business metrics such as inventory or productivity.
However, end-user gains often can be elusive. Why? Change. In spite of the best of intentions, ERP ‘go-lives’ are usually incomplete. There are always more users to get on board, more functions to incorporate. But more importantly, vital businesses go through constant change—whether evolutionary or revolutionary. Changing processes, products, partners, data, and ownership structures are part of the atmosphere.
Change presents extraordinary challenges for business. And often, systems become obstructions, instead of enablers of change. However, UNIT4 set out to create architecture in their solution that embraces change.
Our research over the years has shown that IT change is still high on the list of CEOs’ concerns (Figure 1). And in businesses where CEOs contemplate change, yet lack flexible structures, they may be stymied. Even so, there has been little quantification and acknowledgement of this fact when contemplating the purchase of IT solutions. The cost of change needs to be included in TCO calculations.
Also, research conducted by CFO Research showed that after implementing an ERP system, the amount of business change was fairly profound (Figure 2). Change is a constant, but most businesses fail to build this into their culture or systems.
Halcrow is a fairly typical case of the UNIT4 customer. Halcrow is a £400M turnover infrastructure planning, design, and management company based in the U.K., with 6,000 employees in 30 countries.
Chris Farmer, their CIO, told us, “For the last few years, we have been operating within a fiscal structure of 50 legal entities and a management structure of five global business groups, including transportation, water, property, maritime, and consulting . . . We live Change! In the last few years, we’ve doubled the size of the business, and then shrunk it by 25%; we’ve downsized in the western economies and upsized in emerging regions, and we’ve made acquisitions and closed operations.”
Certainly a lot to contend with on any given day!
But then, Farmer continued, “We initiated the change program last September. Our Chairman took me to one side and said he and the board felt the biggest risk to the fast track reorganization was systems, and wanted my personal reassurance it was achievable.”
This is typical of the pressure on CIOs, as are sleepless nights, cost overruns, and late conversions and upgrades. But not for Chris Farmer, who got the job done due to the flexible architecture inherent in the UNIT4 technology. Chris is a seasoned IT exec who has used other ERPs (such as Oracle and other Oracle competitors) back in the 2006 time frame, so he has the deep knowledge and the experience to compare. He seems quite content with what he uses now.
In another interesting case study, Magnox, Ltd, in the UK, dropped its SAP installation in favor of UNIT4 due to their change management needs. Abandonment is a big deal. We see this more often than the press talks about, with many switches in the industry due to many types of dissatisfaction or strategic needs left unfulfilled by the incumbents.
Collaboration in a Whole New Way
For some time now in the software market, we have heard about multi-tenant, single-instance, or on-demand, in-the-cloud solutions. Customers might share servers or software instances, but each tenant does its own configuration and does not share processes.
Now UNIT4 has a twist on the multi-tenant approach with their “Shared Journey,” the new UNIT4 cloud-based offering which allows groups of companies, government, education, for-profit or not-for-profit organizations to share costs for a single license.
Deployment options still protect each entity’s security but allow organizations to leverage each other’s investments and learning with shared processes, if they so choose. Shared Journey’s foundation has public cloud or ‘shared private cloud’ options.
We think about all the redundant work, especially, that government or non-profits do, and their need to economize. Government, unlike the corporate world, doesn’t have competitive issues, so they could do a lot more to interoperate and leverage each other’s services.
NGOs often partner together in the work they do. In addition, they try to keep their funds available for their work instead of their administrative costs, so shared platforms make sense here. Collaboration opportunities now can emerge for cross-learning and joint activities. We will look with interest at this implementation roll-out to see if people and organizations embrace those opportunities.