It's not often ERP vendors change the game on customization and extension, this press release from Unit4 deserves attention as it does exactly that.
Let's dissect the press release in our customary style – it can be found here:
Unit4, a world leader in enterprise software for service organizations, announces today the release of new cloud services designed for customers and partners to easily extend its enterprise solutions with custom industry specific apps.
MyPOV – Ok – good summary of the press release.
The People Platform Extension Kit is designed to meet the specific challenges of service-based business models. As organizations modernize their business models to engage people in new ways, Unit4 is providing customers and partners with the freedom to develop differentiating front-end applications, that benefit from the critical data held in their back-office systems.
MyPOV – The innovation here is not the extension kit, ERP vendors have done this since decades in various forms, but the focus / choice of capabilities for service heavy industries.
The People Platform is the foundation for creating intelligent enterprise applications, providing services enabling Unit4 applications to become self-driving by offering access to machine learning capabilities, based on data collection and mining. The Extension Kit gives partners and customers access to the full breadth of Unit4 technology. They can construct custom tailored extensions or complete applications, benefiting from the powerful capabilities of the People Platform and intelligence in Unit4 Business World, becoming first-class citizens of the Unit4 application eco-system. Due to the loosely coupled, micro-service based architecture, partners and customers can develop using their preferred tooling and offer their solutions through any industry-standard marketplace.
MyPOV – Investment in platforms always pays off, once they work and SaaS offerings run on them – this is another proof point, with the extension kit being based and running on the Unit4 People Platform. Making the extension seamless to the users is a key feature, as user experience should not be aware of what is vendor vs extension capability. For the business user the result of an extension has to be seamless UX integration.
"We're in an age of business process uncertainty where for the first time technology can do more than what traditional business best practice demands," said Holger Mueller, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research. "We're seeing enterprise acceleration at unprecedented rates with organizations moving faster than ever before. They can be a disruptor or be disrupted and it's their people that can make the difference. By empowering them to purpose build services and small apps in the areas that matter, connected to their enterprise applications, they can break away from the monolithic nature of ERP. Through low-code technology like this, people in business become smarter and empowered to work more effectively, producing better value in their work."
MyPOV – Solid quote... ok. Might be a little biased here. The key aspect is the low code and small apps ability. It expands the number of people available to build extension, a key aspect as often SaaS / ERP software does not work well for areas of the business that will never receive Its attention or justify the cost of a consultant or even developer to make things run smoothly. The other key aspect and innovation is that this makes ERP less monolithic, meaning there is only one way to do things. Being able to create lots of small applications with the extension kit – they may have similar / duplicate capability – but work for different users, is a major break through in ERP architecture.
"The everything as a service economy is driving business model changes around the world," said Stephan Sieber, CEO of Unit4. "As customer demand for simple online subscription services and rapid value grows, organizations are modernizing business models to create greater efficiencies and to engage customers, employees, and business partners in new ways. Core enterprise systems are vital, but do not deliver competitive differentiation on their own. Our customers have unique strategic processes, and by opening our solution platform for simple application development irrespective of programming language or industry marketplace, they can build very specific apps that deliver rapid value and seamless user experience. Essentially this is the next generation of customization technology enabling organizations to have exactly what they want and need to be successful."
MyPOV – Good quote from Sieber, focusing on what matters – smooth running software, now enabled by technically savvy – but non-developer – resources in the enterprise.
Pricing and AvailabilityMyPOV – Always good to see immediate availability – at least for early adopters already in June.
The People Platform Extension Kit and pricing details will be available in Fall '18. Customers and partners can sign up to the Early Adopter Program from June.
Overall MyPOVEnterprise software will never be a 100% fit for enterprise automation needs. The move to the cloud has made the category even more resistant / unable to move to the perfect fit. It's good to see that in the more modern version of SaaS / cloud-based ERP software, vendors are starting to overcome these limitations. That requires to build on a modern platform and to expose these services, not only to technically savvy developers, but also to reasonably technology aware business users. The ability for business users to create smaller, department level or division wide applications, which can overlap, be redundant is a key step to move of the monolithic heritage of ERP. Good progress by Unit4.
On the concern side, there can be the situation of the what Disney showed well starring Micky Mouse in the Sorcerer's apprentice movie. In this case too many custom apps being created, performance, reliability, compliance and more issues can arise from the approach. But it's better to try a learn than not do the move, so it will be interesting to see what Unit4 customers will be building and what overall experience will be.
But for now, congrats to Unit4 on a major milestone of making ERP fit better to the needs of service businesses.