Last week I was the guest of Unit 4, the rebranded Agresso/CODA/Dream/FinancialForce megalith. I was primarily interested in discovering more about their SaaS play given the company has 30 years under its belt as an on-premise software provider. Most discussions on this topic have a binary quality: you’re either an on-premise vendor or you’re SaaS. Struggles by other vendors, notably SAP and Sage on this topic add fuel to that argument, leading many to speculate that attempts to move towards SaaS will almost certainly mean a collapse in share price. That is, assuming the company understands SaaS in the first place.
Unit 4 has managed to dodge those bullets, but how? When Agresso bought CODA, one of the reasons was that it had a fledgling SaaS solution, n0w called FinancialForce. That meant Unit 4 was acquiring something that already had any downside SaaS risk baked into its acquisition cost. Unit 4 had been used to subscription based pricing and remains one of only a few vendors that is aggressively transitioning towards this business model for all its activities. This form of consumption model provides Unit 4 and its customers with a degree of flexibility in the way Unit 4 prices and how customers consume. In public sector, where it is particularly strong, this also means Unit 4 can offer a solution that lends itself to shared services. That in itself helps move the subscription based model along.
FinancialForce sits alongside the main Unit 4 products but is a joint venture with Salesforce.com. That spreads any risk although it means being tied to Salesforce fortunes. Finally, Unit 4 has already put integrations in place between FinancialForce and Agresso solutions. This is a distinct advantage because it means customers with smaller operations that sit around a large core business don’t have to consider alternative solutions. There was a time when large solution vendors could not help this type of customer. That left open the opportunity for others like Sun Systems and Microsoft to walk in at lower cost. That has happened in many SAP situations. In offering both FinancialForce and integration to Agresso, Unit 4 has created a way to achieve incremental sales while providing integration benefits. In Unit 4 terms therefore, SaaS does not need to be a binary discussion but one that is complementary to what it already offers.
Check out the two short videos that feature Anwen Robinson, CEO Unit 4 UK. She provides commentary and context for what this means for the company and customers.
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