Businessman Automation Image by Gerd Altmann from PixabayUnit4 has announced the launch of Smart Automation Services. The services are aimed at delivering increased efficiency and productivity for customers. Enterprise Times spoke to Claus Jepsen, CPTO, Unit4, about the launch.

He stated in the press release, “Our goal is to dramatically reduce the amount of time that users need to spend interacting with ERP systems by automating processes and making tasks more intuitive and intelligent.

“Using detailed research of user experiences and smart automation, we know how to automate mundane tasks and provide UIs which will dramatically change the way ERP is viewed. If we can empower users to focus on more rewarding tasks, we will extend the value of our technology to businesses.”

What is Smart Automation Services?

Claus Jepsen, CPTO, Unit4
Claus Jepsen, CPTO, Unit4

When talking about services, people might think this is a professional service delivered by people. It isn’t, though. I asked Jepson what Smart Automation Services is.

He replied, “What we’re trying to do is trying to change the language. Instead of talking about products and applications, we want to move to talking more about delivering software services. Those services can be different in nature. One of those is smart automation services. There are two things in smart automation services.

“First of all, we use it internally to drive some of our use cases. We use this set of functionality to drive different machine-learning algorithms to make decisions on your behalf, customers can do the same. The thing about smart automation services is that there is a customer-facing interface so they can actually upload and control their own models. They can design their models. They can teach their models. Then, they can deploy their model into smart automation services. And then they can interact with that model to get decisions from the app studio and the extension kit.”

Effectively, these smart automation services are hyperautomation components that Unit4 has built. Subsequently, partners and customers can take, use, or even build their own.

Importantly, this is not a customisation for Unit4 ERPx. Jepsen stressed that ERPx is the core clean code and that smart automation services take advantage of the microservices architecture that the ERP solutions are built on. As the new tool is part of the Unit4 Extension kit, there is also no additional charge, with the extension kit using consumption-based pricing. The Smart Automation Services are built using a combination of three Unit4 capabilities:

  • AppStudio, a tool that streamlines developments and automation of new application functionality in ERPx.
  • Extension Kit, Flows and Apps, a low-code platform for building, customizing and connecting business apps to ERPx.
  • Industry Mesh, which enables agile integration of Cloud applications with ERPx and Unit4’s next-generation virtual assistant.

What difference will they make?

Smart Automation Services create hyperautomations that reduce the amount of time users need to spend with their ERP. It is part of the Extension Kit, so there is also no additional charge. Extension Kit has consumption-based pricing.

This automation will be available from the Unit4 Marketplace. However, currently, there is no automated deployment, so the customer will need to contact whoever created them.

I asked Jepson whether customers would be charged for the new automations. He replied, “It depends. Some of these may be part of securing a better user experience through automation, then it becomes part of the subscription for that service. Take Employee Self Service, and there is automation enabling timesheets. You get that as part of it.”

Unit4 did consider charging additional fees for these automations but decided the customers should get the automations included. It may mean, however, that where partners, or even Unit4, create new functionality through smart automation services, these could be chargeable.

Because the smart automation services are built within the wider Unit4 architecture, it means usage conforms to the existing guardrails such as the access controls in place for each organisation. Unit4 initially created a self-service employee hyperautomation that helped reduce the time that each employee spent on performing tasks.

Other smart automation services already available include Payroll Navigator, Procurement Invoice Approval, Contextual Help, and Integration Widgets. Over the next year, it will develop more, with the roadmap including payroll, expenses, procurement, finance, and its virtual assistant.

Over the next year or so, Unit4 aims to roll out further services that will reduce the time to process bank statements, decrease payroll mistakes, increase the accuracy in recognizing receipts and reduce manual processing time for invoices.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

While many organisations are leading with AI this and AI that, Jepsen and Unit4 have taken a different approach. They are talking more about what AI is achieving for its customers, focusing on the automation and intelligence that these new services can bring to customers. Yes, AI is a part of these automations, but it is not the only component.

Jepen added “Automation is what the key topic is. AI is an envelope of different technologies that can facilitate automation. The reality is that a lot of automation can be done without using those technologies.”

Mickey North Rizza, Group Vice President, Enterprise Software, IDC, commented, “In the digital world, organizations are relying on automation to improve productivity. With the right toolset and with more information at their fingertips, organizations can also enhance employee effectiveness and efficiency, creating better and informed decisions while improving the velocity of decision making. With this enhanced decision making, the organization becomes much more competitive in the digital world.”

There is still some dust to settle around the Smart Automation Services and to see what emerges from Unit4, partners and customers. However, these new smart automation services could significantly improve productivity and efficiency and increase the attractiveness of the Unit4 platform.


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