I had the opportunity to attend Unit4’s North America analyst summit in Boston this week.

We learned many things – here are my Top 3 takeaways:

A compelling Strategy – In the general overview on the company, CEO Duarte admitted that Unit4 has gone quiet for the most of the last two years and used the time to reposition the company for growth on both the product side and the go to market side. Duarte ran us through the 4 pillars of the Unit4 strategy – vertical solutions for services enterprises, applications for people, an agile architecture and native, authentic cloud solutions. All good strategy pillars and it was good to see that Unit4 could show the first deliverable son the product side at the end of the day. On the go to market side Unit4 wants to grow its salesforce by 20%, and has a focus on North America, the UK and France / Germany. Unit4 intends to grow the partner channel, with unusual openness the vendor shared that right now the service relationship between Unit4 doing implementation in-house vs a partners implementing is close to 1:1 – the intention is to freeze Unit4’s internal portion of services and grow the partner side. Duarte shared the ambition to create a 1B partner ecosystem in the next years. Certainly a good strategy to get the attention of service partners. 
A great overview slide on Unit4
A new Architecture – Unit4 shared its new product architecture, articulated across 4 layers. No surprise, the vendor wants to provide an attractive, consumer grade UI on top of competitive vertical capabilities. So far pretty common objectives across enterprise software players. What sets Unit4 apart are the next two layers, where the vendor stresses a smart context layer and asks for an elastic foundation. With dynamic context Unit4 can create richer and more powerful user interactions, enriched by ‘true’ analytics. The elastic foundation basically asks for a cloud deployment, basically an elastic cloud infrastructure that can run the application but also provide the compute power to create the context and analytics. Unit4 has some concrete plans here, stay tuned as the vendor will unveil them soon. Overall an attractive architecture, Unit4 showed some early demos in the area of Professional Services Automation (PSA), Sentiment Analysis and likeliness for invoices to be paid. All three encouraging first examples, but the vendor will have to cover significantly more ground to get more of them built and achieve release grade for later in the year.
The Unit4 People Platform
Vertical Focus backed up – Earlier this week Unit4 announced the acquisition of Three Rivers Systems, a vendor specialized on the Higher Education market with its CAMS product (I covered the acquisition in a News Analysis blog post that can be found here.). So a good proof point that Unit4 is serious both about vertical focus and growth in North America. The CEO of Three Rivers Systems, Tajkarimi was at hand to give us an update on the vendor and the products. Three Rivers has over 50 employees, over 200 customers in Higher Ed, based all over the world and of all sizes of student body. Its CAMS product is being rebuilt for cloud, in a very encouraging, declarative and open for self-service setup way. A graphical editors allow to design system behavior. No detailed deliver time lines were shared (yet), but the demo showed an attractive system. With the acquisition Unit4 leadership thinks they are well ahead of Workday for Higher Education, and the vendor is probably for now (but let’s see what Workday unveils later this year). Overall a strong vertical commitment is certainly welcomed and as long as executed right, will help Unit4 to differentiate in the markets where it operates. 
The Unit4 view on the Higher Ed Market


The vendor shows some interesting approaches for the product, with a dynamic context layer, the inclusion of ‘true’ analytics and cloud deployments. Equally the plans on the go to market side are plausible and realistic, something never to oversee and underestimate.

On the concern side Unit4 has the luxury that it ‘only’ needs to execute. Cloud bookings are growing 70+, and the vendor needs to maintain that momentum. Equally it needs to deliver on the product side – a compelling roadmap was offered, now the vendor will need to deliver and execute. Getting all that done, carefully orchestrated internally, with partners and customers is no easy task. But Unit4 has an experienced management team that should be able to pull this off.

Overall Unit4 was able to put down a differentiated and innovative vision for a next generation ERP application with a strong vertical focus on services industries. The markets are vast an enterprises looking for new and modern enterprise software. So a promising future for Unit4, its customers, prospects and partners, but the vendor needs to deliver. We will be watching.