Unit4 has announced the release of PSA Suite Business Performance Edition. This SaaS Professional Service Automation solution is effectively the Unit 4 branded version of the Assistance software PSA. Unit4 has wasted little time in releasing the new software under its own brand. It wants to leverage the acquisition with its own sales force.
The importance of platform
This was a predictable step. Jeremy Roche, Chief Product Officer, Unit4 is repeating some of the actions he undertook at FinancialForce. While there he acquired a PSA Appirio in 2010. That became one of the key drivers for growth at the Salesforce platform company. That he has repeated this move with a different platform, Dynamics, makes sense. NetSuite did something similar when they bought market leader OpenAir.
For Unit 4 this gives them a solution that they clearly hope they can expand the footprint of Business World faster and in new markets. In buying a company built on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform there is a potentially large customer base that prefer that platform over either Oracle’s NetSuite or Salesforce. This will also put Unit4 in direct competition with FinancialForce. That is something his previous colleagues will not thank him too much for.
It will also compete with OpenAir at the top end of the market, especially if Unit4 continues to invest in new functionality.
Is there a risk of another OpenAir issue
At NetSuite the problem with OpenAir was that the product was just too good. The original intention was probably to sunset the platform and use the development team to create NetSuite SRP (Service Resource Planning). That decision was reversed and OpenAir now has its own roadmap. It is also planned to integrate it with other ERP platforms. It will be interesting to see whether that changes again since the Oracle acquisition.
Unit4 is buying an application that sits on Dynamics 365 CRM. However, it could also integrate Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (their large enterprise solution) and Dynamics 365 for Business (SME). It also integrates with the Unit4 ERP solution Business World. The big question is whether customers will want a full Dynamics 365 stack of use the Business World ERP solution. Only time will tell. That is not to say it won’t be a successful acquisition and Unit4 should be more effective in selling it. However, it might not end up with as many ERP sales as it would have wished.
It supports sales teams by generating and managing leads and opportunities. It can also model and forecast performance leveraging the Sales Automation functionality with Microsoft CRM. Combined with PSA Suite, customers benefit from real-time insight into projects, budget and revenue so they can take immediate action to ensure projects stay on track.
There is however still some overlap between the two solutions in terms of functionality. Unit4 will need to make a decision on what it does for existing customers. Do they continue to enhance the existing functionality within Unit4 Business World? This may mean a duplication of effort and there is no easy solution, as NetSuite found before them.
So what does the future hold?
What Unit4 has done is enhance Business World to penetrate the market aligned with Dynamics 365 CRM. This is a smart move. They will also be able to win some customers to Business World as well. How many only time will tell. What they should do is develop Assistance to ensure that it is the best professional services automation application on the Dynamics platform.
Roche commented: “We have ambitious plans to rapidly develop, integrate and market our PSA Suite worldwide as we seek to build a greater lead in the sector. PSA Suite has been very successful as a standalone solution, but combined with Unit4 and its domain experience, it will be even more compelling to a wider range of customers. PSA Suite together with Unit4 Business World ERP gives services organisations a single end-to-end and intelligent enterprise solution so they can become more strategic and ensure efficiency and excellence in execution.”
Unit4 has also created an advisory council to help move the product forward. This will feature customers and “leading industry experts”. Whether they are from the ranks of Unit4 and Assistance isn’t known. It will hope that they can help improve the software.
The integration with Microsoft should mean that they do well with this approach. There will be a battle of the platforms in the future. For the mid-market this means that there are at least three significant cloud ERP platforms with mid-market ERP solutions. NetSuite with OpenAir and SRP, Salesforce with FinancialForce and Kimble and now Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Unit 4 PSA suite.
It is going to be harder but not impossible for some of the other players to gain significant market share. Some will find niche markets to operate in, but the battle lines are now clearer in the cloud PSA war.