Conversation with Arribatec, Image credit PIxabay\TumisuArribatec is a company that often features in the news around Unit4 as a partner, and has recently become one of the first organisations to launch a product on the new Unit4 marketplace. Arribatec is also a Rambase partner. It, therefore, has practices covering the people-centric Unit4 ERP and the manufacturing-focused Rambase ERP. The firm has offices across Europe and bought Integra Associates in July 2021 to create the largest provider of Unit 4 ERP services and solutions. Enterprise Times spoke to Mark Bloomer, the UK Managing Director, Arribatec.

The elevator pitch

Mark Bloomer, the UK Managing Director. Arribatec
Mark Bloomer, the UK Managing Director. Arribatec

One of the first questions I ask interviewees is to give a thirty-second pitch for their company. Here is Bloomer’s answer.

“Arribatec, for me, having worked with a lot of competitors in this space, it is all about the people and the attitude. The people really make Arribatec different. We’ve got the genuine desire to go out and help customers build solutions. We like building solutions for customers that work. That’s what we’re driven by; although we do sell software, the software sales side of things does not drive us. We are not a vendor. We’ve got quite good international coverage now. We are able to work with quite big international groups and work on lots of international aspects. We’ve got very good technical skills and a good number of products in our tool set.”

On Arribatec

You used to run Integra before it was by Arribatec. What’s the status of Arribatec in the UK today as an entity?

“We work particularly with Unit4 ERP, and that’s a fairly mature market. Arribatec has been going through a period of consolidation internally. All the different divisions are becoming more integrated and learning more about each other. We’ve got to the point where we understand who we are as a group much better. In the different divisions, there’s a much better understanding of what we offer and how we can work together to offer an increased value proposition for customers. We are poised to take the next step, bringing those benefits as an integrated group out to our customers.”

Does that mean Arribatec is re-forging itself as a global SI and targeting multinationals?

“That’s probably true. Making use of that international capability rather than working alone in our regions. We’re starting to work across the group in terms of sharing resources and an understanding of the solutions and bringing each of the solutions to different regions where it’s appropriate.”

Does that include RamBase, a Nordic company which recently increased its focus on the UK market? Does that mean you can leverage the RamBase experts in the Nordics within the UK?

“Yeah, absolutely. That’s why it potentially works really well. Everybody in the Nordics has good language skills, so language isn’t a barrier, and time zones aren’t much of a barrier. We’re a bigger market in the UK. We’ve got fantastic products in one market, for RamBase, that’s obviously in Scandinavia. Where we can see the potential and that it’s a good fit for other markets, we can make that move more easily. We’re not skilling up and investing from zero. We know we’ve got something really good in Scandinavia and can bring it to the UK.”

On Rambase

What is the state of RamBase in the UK for Arribatec?

“It’s a startup at the moment. We’re just launching this year. We’ve started on some marketing campaigns, and we’re starting in earnest to take the message out to the right target organisations. RamBase is a fantastic modern, built ground-up for the cloud product in a market where there’s still quite a lot of legacy stuff out there. There’s a lot of room for improvement. We can bring many benefits to companies still sitting on old versions of Sage or various other legacy products.”

What is the target market you’re focusing on within the UK?

“We are looking at the markets they work well for. We’ve got upper and lower size limits in mind, mid-sized manufacturing, not small, and not super big. Things like automotive and aerospace subcomponent manufacturers, electronics, and component manufacturers.”

Why Rambase?

“Even before we joined Arribatec, we were looking for something that would work as a complementary ERP. Complementary, such that we’re not competing with Unit4 in the UK market. We’ve looked at manufacturing before and had started some engagements with a couple of other products in the manufacturing space.

“We did a bit with Dynamics, and we’ve also done a bit with Sage, and we’ve spent some time on their Sage X3 products and started looking at using that in the UK market. Sage then bought Intacct, and we decided the future wasn’t right for Sage X3.

“We did perceive there’s a whole host of old legacy systems out there in the manufacturing world. It’s an area ripe for a technically good, modern cloud-based system to work it. When we joined Arribatec and started to learn about RamBase, that was an obvious solution.”

On Unit4

You have a long history working with Unit4. Where do you target Unit4 today? Where do you see the most success?

“We’ve always been successful with professional services organisations. It works well for those organisations. We work with some quite big international groups. For us, higher education is a big market as well. Those are our two biggest markets. We work across the spectrum of Unit4 users, including a certain amount of government, local government, blue light, and health.”

Does that mean you sell the Unit4 PSA as well, which sits on Dynamics?

“No, we don’t. We never got involved with Unit4 PSA.”

So purely the financial side?

“The project costing and billing module is part of that. Professional services organisations tend to use the project’s side of Unit4, which we’ve got good experience in.”

What kind of professional services organisations do you target?

“It does vary quite a bit. We have a massive advertising PR group and civil engineers. Buro Happold is a big customer of ours. We’ve done a fair bit with some property companies.”

What was the impact of Thesis splitting out in terms of higher education?

“We don’t work with Thesis. I have been wondering about talking with Thesis and looking at their products since they split out, but we never really got too closely involved in that. They never really took off in the UK market. We’ve done a lot of integration with student systems in Higher Education, and that’s part of the specialist work we do. We’ve never got involved in implementing the student side of things.”

On Differentiation

How do you differentiate your go-to-market for Unit4?

“Unit4 hasn’t got a huge number of big partners out there. Arribatec is definitely the biggest operating in the UK. There are big partners in Scandinavia. In the UK, we’ve got a much bigger resource pool to draw on. We’ve got a much greater technical capability. We’re developing quite a few of our own bolt-on complementary partner products. So we’ve got a much bigger toolbox to work with than anybody else in the UK.”

On challenges

What are the challenges faced by vendor partners at the moment?

“It’s a good question. I’m not sure where to start. Working with vendors, there are always issues with managing channels and relationships. There’s always potential for conflicts. It’s trying to manage the whole partner ecosystem so that you’re not coming into conflict. Cooperating, working in genuine partnership, bringing together the best of what you’ve got to offer and the best of what they’ve got to offer and trying and take that out to the customer.

“Inevitably, sometimes there are conflicts and competition. It’s about managing those and ensuring that the true ethos of the partnership is coming together with somebody who’s got some complementary products or skills and delivering that software together for the benefit of the customers. Keep your eye on that prize rather than ending up in competition. We find things like a vendor may have a particular strategy, which then changes and brings you into competition. That’s just part of life in the ecosystem.”

In terms of the business model, it’s changed massively from the pre-cloud days. Arribatec is now producing products complementary to the ERP vendor. Is this the direction for partners to go? Can you rely on just services revenue?

“You can make just the services piece work. More and more, to be successful and offer customers something that’s really going to work for them, you need to work on products that complement each other. Unit4 themselves have pushed the idea of an industry mesh. That makes a lot of sense in the market at the moment.

“Customers have lots of applications, and they need to make them work together. As a partner, particularly if you get expertise in a niche sector where you’ve got a number of software products that need to work together, you have to have the expertise of integrating products and each of the products individually to offer the customer a better solution.”

On the future

What does 2023 hold for Arribatec?

“We spent quite a lot of time integrating the group and systems last year. We’ve created a platform to much more smoothly and successfully offer our services and products across the group. So in 2023, we’ll see a lot more cross-regional selling of products and services.”

You’ve got two offices in the US. Are you looking to expand there?

“We’re definitely looking to expand. We’re looking to expand in all regions.”

The Book Question

What’s the latest book you read? And what’s your take out from it?

“My latest book was Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus (Amazon Aus, UK, US), which is just absolutely fascinating, particularly people for people involved in the technology space. It’s about topics like how AI will affect us all in the future, the moral and ethical implications, and the technical side of things. It’s a fascinating book. I would recommend it to anybody.”


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