ERP vendor Unit4 has unveiled a new cloud-based platform, which will be available for its midmarket customers starting March 2021.
The company’s CEO Mike Ettling said that the ERP world had been slow to embrace the technological advancements of the last five years, but hoped that the new ERPx product would be “the last ERP a customer has to buy,” providing them with a platform flexible enough to take them ten or 20 years into the future.
The new proposition can be summed up as cloudier, more flexible and more user-centric than Unit4’s exist-ing product lines. ERPx is a multi-tenant SaaS ERP solution built on a Microsoft Azure platform. It is based on a microservice architecture, designed to enable non-technical users to make changes to the platform or build new services.
Unit4 focuses on four people-centric industry sectors, including public sector, professional services, non-profit and higher education. It is therefore vital that it creates an ERP experience that moves on from the tricky-to-navigate, faceless systems that have often held professionals back from getting access to the data they need at their fingertips. As a web-based product, ERPx users will not have to jump between desktop and hosted apps, and will be provided with automated links to web-based data or external apps. The platform will also enable users to use Unit’s digital assistant Wanda to interact via Slack, Teams or Skype to complete tasks such as purchase or travel requests.
ERPx has been in development for some time, but the launch comes at a moment when many mid-market organizations are re-thinking their core applications strategy. Budgets remain tight, but the disruption of the last six months is forcing many to push ahead with a more radical re-think of their future business model – and they need a more flexible technology core to take them forwards.
One of the big challenges for Unit4 will be ensuring that it clearly links the benefits of ERPx to the almost existential challenges faced by many in its core markets, such as higher education. The partner ecosystem will play a vital role in this area, and Unit4 is several months into an overhaul of its relationships with IT services suppliers to drive closer ties with industry domain experts and consulting-led firms.
Reassuringly, Ettling promises a “no customer left behind” approach, with no “artificial cliffs in the road” forcing its installed base to migrate when they are not ready, while enabling some of its new tools to work on existing products. The company also promised to create robust migration paths, and Unit4 itself will be patient zero in adopting ERPx, with the aim of going live in June next year. It has already removed 350 customizations from its legacy environment, with another 100 or so integrations into third party products left to tackle.
On paper at least, ERPx ticks a lot of boxes in terms of what a modern platform should look like: a user-centric design, a cloud native and microservices-based architecture, and potential to extend through low/no code development. We heard from several Unit4 customers this week, who were positive about the cloud-native approach of the new product, with several reflecting on how cloud had proven itself in supporting their businesses in recent times of need. It will be interesting to follow the uptake of ERPx when it hits the road next year.