Unit4 shakes up product set & reaffirms strategy for services sector

Unit4 has announced a major marketing overhaul which will see some of its best known product brands such as Coda and Agresso being scrapped.

The move makes a lot of sense. Unit4’s offering was based on a disparate set of product brands resulting from its various acquisitions, which held back the company’s ability to build a clear identity within the market.

The portfolio was different from one country to the next, depending on where it had acquired local players or not. This also had an impact on the company’s UI and product development, and on its ability to build out a roadmap that would support its move towards a single, strategic applications platform.

This rebranding scheme irons out Unit4’s portfolio and creates a more linear product package, enabling it to position its products in a more coherent way, from both a marketing and a product development standpoint.

There’s an interesting split taking place in the ERP market right now. While mid-market vendors such as Unit4 and Infor are pushing ahead with major portfolio consolidation programs, the big enterprise vendors such as SAP and Salesforce.com which have been large disciplined with their product set are moving towards a more fragmented approach.

Unit4 has also reaffirmed its strategic commitment towards the services sector, as its core vertical market. The company is strongly positioned in the services industry, doing solid business in several sub-verticals, such as professional services, public sector (treated as services in their segmentation), education, not for profit and real estate.

CEO Jose Duarte believes Unit4’s vertical standing in the services sector bears a key strategic advantage for three reasons: a) the services sector tends to outgrow most other vertical sectors in most geographies, b) the services sector is big in size while relatively underserved in terms of IT and c) it is a highly fragmented sector with relatively limited competitive pressure from tier-one (ie SAP, Oracle) and tier-two (eg Infor, MS Dynamics, IFS, Epicor, etc) ERP competitors.

The services sector is clearly not a massive priority for any of the big guys, which gives Unit4 a bit more room to maneuver. One competitor to watch is NetSuite, coming from the SaaS world, which takes a similar strategic approach to the services market.

As part of its repositioning efforts with services organizations, Unit4 centers its product development strategy on what it calls its ‘people platform’. This will see it evolve its offering to create a more personalized service for business users, based on a greater understanding of their context (location, role etc), a more aggressive use of analytics and data models, and a slicker, more standardized user interface.