This morning, Unit4 a European ERP vendor, announced the acquisition of Three Rivers Systems, a vendor specializing in efficiency in the Higher Education sector.
Let's dissect the press release in our custom style (it can be found here):
Unit4, a fast growing leader in enterprise applications for service organizations, today announced the acquisition of U.S.-based student management solution provider, Three Rivers Systems, Inc. The acquisition supports Unit4’s strategy to offer market leading industry-specific solutions to people-centric businesses. Education has always been a key pillar of the company’s strategy. Together with Three Rivers Systems, Unit4 serves more than 1,000 clients in Education globally.
MyPOV – A focus for Unit4 is to grow further in North America, and buying local vendors who have the local market knowhow, understand the market and requirements and also have customers is a proven expansion strategy for enterprise software vendors.

The Unit4 People Platform enables Three Rivers Systems’ student management system to seamlessly work together with Unit4 applications, creating the first next generation end-to-end ERP for Education. The system incorporates a powerful and flexible localization framework, which allows Unit4 to cater to local needs, such as Financial Aid in the U.S. or the Student Loan Council in the UK.
MyPOV – Acquisitions are always a good showcase for platform flexibility of the acquiring vendor. It is good to see that Unit4 sees the People Platform being able to handle the Three Rivers Systems application. And good point to raise the local market expertise of Three Rivers Systems.

“The Education market currently lacks a modern and complete business application platform ready to be deployed globally. This is exactly what Unit4 and Three Rivers Systems will jointly deliver,” says Jose Duarte, Unit4 CEO. “This acquisition has created a global market leader for Education ERP solutions, and significantly strengthens Unit4’s market position in North America. By combining technologies and resources, we are the first to deliver the full suite of next-generation ERP for the global Education community.”
MyPOV – The usual quote, but very true on the lack of a modern enterprise platform for higher education, which faces a piece meal IT infrastructure. With higher education institutions under pressure to reduce costs, IT needs to find ways to run more efficiently, while supporting 21st century best practices for both students, parents and employees.

With three decades’ experience developing enterprise solutions exclusively for colleges and universities, Three Rivers Systems is highly regarded in the U.S. for its best in class student management solutions. The acquisition of Three Rivers Systems’ Student Management technology and tight integration with Unit4’s broad and feature rich Finance, Human Relations and Research Management applications will result in the industry’s first and most advanced and complete global ERP for Education. New and updated features of the combined offering include: Human Resources & Payroll, Finance Management, Research Management, a complete Student Management system covering Student Acquisition, Course Management, Retention, Degree Auditing and much more.
MyPOV – Good description of the upcoming planned scope.

Whether adopting new process models or integrating with a newly introduced system, Unit4 is able to easily adapt to the ever changing business requirements and needs of Education institutions. The platform helps grow enrolments, improve student success, and improve overall institutional effectiveness through e.g. the incorporation of built-in data analysis. A truly innovative and clean interface lets users benefit from an easily responsive system with optional touch based capabilities when using a tablet.
MyPOV – Good description of the aspiration of the future system and some of the capabilities that the system has.

“Unit4 and Three Rivers Systems shared focus on product innovation plus people and student centric applications perfectly cover the front and back office of today’s Education institutions,” says Amir Tajkarimi, President & Founder of Three Rivers Systems. “Unit4 will help to expedite innovation cycles around Three Rivers Systems’ advanced student management technology, while also bringing it to the global market. The acquisition will result in strengthened global sales and support teams as well as increased bandwidth for ongoing research and development around our combined product suite.”
MyPOV – No need to comment on the usual quote.

Three Rivers Systems aligns tightly with Unit4’s Cloud Your Way deployment model, so that the new Campus suite will support higher education institutions’ preferred ERP architecture, whether in the cloud, on premise, or hybrid. Unit4 and Three Rivers Systems’ solutions will be integrated via the Unit4 People Platform with Social, Mobile and Analytics driven capabilities.[…]
MyPOV – Good to mention, guess it was to easy to offer a roadmap, but that is the next logical questneeion.

Unit4’s ERP is the only system designed from the ground up for people-centric industries. It empowers people to better engage and create impact, while automating low-value repetitive tasks.

Overall POV

A good move by Unit4, which needs to find ways to grow fast in North America. Though Higher Education is only the 3rd most important vertical for the vendor, it is currently a good opportunity in North America to capitalize on. Higher Education institutions are in an innovation cycle, after almost decade(s) in the doldrums. Credit goes to Workday with steering up the industry with its new Student offering. A good momentum to exploit, especially with a smaller scale customer target.

On the concern side it is one more thing for Unit4 to do. It not only needs to push Higher Education now, but the other verticals it is focusing on, too. On the product side Unit4 needs to integrate 3 Rivers Systems – and we are not concerned of the new People platform not being up to task – but it is work that needs to be done quickly.

Overall a good acquisition for Unit4, I am sure we will learn more about it at the vendor’s analyst day this week.