I had a chance to catch up with Ivo Totev, Chief Product Officer and get a Unit4 update. Some highlights:
a) Heightened vertical focus
Unit4 has narrowed focus to 4 major verticals – professional services, public services, higher education and non-profits/NGOs. Real Estate and Wholesale are seeing a bit less emphasis than in previous briefings. The focus is showing in industry specific Centers of Excellence which are crafting value analysis in pre-sales situations and coordinating closely with vertical Customer Advisory Councils.
Higher Education has the most momentum especially with last year’s acquisition of Three Rivers Systems, and leverage of the Microsoft Azure cloud to bring a modern Student Information System to that market. Given Unit4’s European footprint, the addressable market is much larger than that for Workday and other vendors who are also developing products for that vertical. With PSA functionality aimed at professional services, Unit4 expects its upcoming mobile capabilities to be a differentiator, but the competition is much broader in that sector.
b) AI is the new UI
Unit4 announced last year “self-driving” ERP, their vision of machine learning and artificial intelligence driving the user interface. Ivo shared details of the Travel and Expenses “self-drive” app – features include machine calculation of distances using Google Maps data, and categorizing of expense receipts based on a recognition feature. Unit4 also offers a Chatbot called Wanda. The digital assistant helps fill timesheets, make purchases, and interact with calendar and emails. The video below shows Wanda in a student setting. The self-driving and bots are part of the move to natural interfaces, another result of close collaboration with Microsoft.
c) Messaging aligned with that of customers
You don’t hear much about “values” in enterprise software so it was pleasant to hear Ivo channel the mission statements of his customers like “improve quality of life” (that of Whistler, the ski resort) to “enhancing society by creating new experiences” (that of Royal Haskoning, the design firm)
Especially around the last point, it was good to see Ivo now has a broadened role where he can blend R&D and Marketing detail – the combination he says of “product and service experience”. He crisply covered a lot of ground during our call.
I like Unit4’s vertical focus, and the continued leverage of Microsoft cloud, AI, its channel and other assets. I would like to see accelerated R&D output like many more self-driving apps and more industry specific feature sets. The lag between announcement and availability should be shorter. Look forward to seeing more in the coming months.