Unit4 plots growth plans with cloud ERP and mobile apps

Unit4 is betting investments in cloud computing and mobility can raise its profile in the crowded ERP software market, following its recent move to go private.

The company will also focus on becoming a top ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor for services industries and plans to continue investing in FinancialForce.com, its joint venture with Salesforce.com, according to a statement Thursday.

The company also announced a number of executive appointments. Former SAP executive Stephan Sieber has been named executive vice president of strategy and operations. The company appointed Ivo Totev to the position of chief marketing officer and Paul Vogel to executive vice president of global sales.

Few specific details of Unit4’s future product development plans were released Thursday. However, customers can expect a significant road map announcement in early 2015, Sieber said in an interview.

Unit4 is planning to reallocate research and development spending to focus on its Agresso ERP application, which is available on Unit4’s own cloud infrastructure as well as Amazon Web Services. “Agresso is the future of the company,” he said.

The Dutch company is not ready to phase out any of its other products just yet, but there will be migration paths to Agresso, he added. “We want to make sure customers are treated well.”

Unit4 recently went private when Advent International bought it out in a US$1.6 billion deal.

The bulk of Unit4’s revenue is from Europe. While it intends to grow sales there, Unit4 is also intent on increasing business in the U.S.

One way to get a bigger global footprint quickly would be a major ERP acquisition, such as of Epicor, which went private in 2011.

Epicor’s owner, Apax Partners, recently put it up for sale and is reportedly hoping to get as much as $3.5 billion.

Sieber declined to comment on specific acquisition scenarios but said Unit4 will consider ones that make sense. “We believe that we should not acquire anything that changes our strategy,” he said.

Unit4’s plans to focus on services industries isn’t surprising, according to independent enterprise software analyst China Martens. “It has already focused on this market and it remains a market where many companies have grown fast from startups to SMBs and beyond and are looking to take on either their first formal ERP or a more flexible ERP software,” she said via email.

But the challenge for Unit4 is the fact that many other ERP vendors are also trying to target services companies, she added.

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