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UNIT4 chief to Oracle and SAP: “Bring it on”

The second tier ERP player was recently selected to underpin a government shared services centre

UNIT4's Anwen Robinson's message to tier 1 ERP players, such as Oracle and SAP, is 'bring it on', after it was recently revealed that the company's Agresso platform was selected to underpin the government's first independently run shared services centre.

Working with its partner Arvato, Agresso will replace the SAP's ERP platform in the government's ISSC1 shared service centre, which will provide back office services to the Department for Transport and its executive agencies.

UNIT4 has typically been branded as a tier 2 player in the ERP market and Robinson said that the contract win is a "milestone moment" for the company.

"I am thrilled. There's been a lot of work that's gone into this and I think it is a culmination of our efforts over the years. We were in the right place, at the right time, with the right solutions," she told Computerworld UK at the UNIT4's customer conference this week in Birmingham.

"The flexibility that we have shown over the years is playing big time to what the market wants right now - especially from a public sector perspective."

She added: "Budgets are being slashed and the government has been looking for an alternative solution."

When asked if Robinson thought they had won the contract because of a lower price point, she said that this came into play, but also was down to being able to prove with a back catalogue of customer references that Agresso could work for a major central government project.

"I think our systems are proven. If you look at where our Agresso system originated from, in Scandinavia, it underpins about 95 percent of government over there. That's the pedigree," she said.

"If you look at our customer base in the UK, we are the leading provider of finance solutions in local government and the leading provider to post-16 education. So we have got a very strong reference base and track record of delivery, despite having been below the radar."

She added: "Our solutions also give choice. If you want it wholly in the cloud, that's fine, it's the same Agresso solution that can be delivered on premise. Or a hybrid of the two. We are ticking the boxes in terms of direction of travel that government wanted to go in. For far too long the only option has been tier 1 vendors, when actually there are others."

UNIT4 was also recently selected, along with its partner BT, to provide a shared services platform to the tri-boroughs area in London. This was another significant contract win for the company. Robinson said that these successes are down to the fact that UNIT4 recognised a change in the public sector where it was no longer looking for software companies to overhaul ERP estates, but for strategic partners that could guarantee efficiencies and savings.

"Three years ago we typically gained our success by doing it all ourselves. But when I took over I recognised that the key focus at the start of the recession in the public sector was to deliver shared services with a strategic partner. Because of this we had to raise the profile of UNIT4 and of Agresso, because traditionally those partners (such as Arvato and BT) would have worked with SAP and Oracle," said Robinson.

"This is a step change for us, it reinforces our partner policy in terms of working with key strategic plays that recognise what our key differentiators are, and that it's not more of the same. What's underpinning these two deals is that they have both been with partners."

She added: "We are moving away from doing it ourselves and are very much focused on supporting the partner."


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