Unit4 Adds Financial Performance Management with Prevero Acquisition

Unit4, a Netherlands-based vendor of financial management software focused mainly on midsize companies, recently acquired prevero, a German vendor of performance management and business intelligence software. The acquisition reflects a convergence of transactional and analytic business applications, which I have written about. ERP and financial management software vendors increasingly are adding analytic capabilities – especially in financial performance management (FPM) – to the core functions of transaction processing and accounting to broaden the scope of their offerings.

For users of finance software the addition of analytic capabilities makes it easier to obtain useful information directly from their ERP system. Our Office of Finance benchmark research finds that companies are split on information availability: Half (50%) of participants said that it’s easy or very easy to get information from their ERP system, but nearly as many (48%) said it isn’t easy. Onevr_NG_Finance_Analytics_12_timely_data_supports_agility benefit of having analytics built into a transaction system such as ERP or financial management is that it automates and therefore often speeds up the transformation of data that’s collected into useful, digestible information. Our next-generation finance analytics research finds a tangible business benefit in doing this. Nearly all (86%) companies that said they have up-to-date data also said they are able to respond to changes in business conditions in a coordinated fashion, compared to 38 percent in companies that said that most (but not all) data is current and just 19 percent of those whose data is less than up-to-date. From the vendors’ perspective, the integration of the two categories helps them increase revenue from customers, differentiate their offerings in a highly commoditized market and enhance the “stickiness” of the software by increasing the number of process and user touch points in customer organizations.

Midsize companies have essentially the same capability requirements as larger enterprises, but they typically have less money and fewer IT resources to acquire and maintain business software. Vendors that focus on this market segment have sought to respond to this situation by enabling specific types of businesses to cut implementation times and simplify maintenance. In Unit4’s case these categories include business and professional services, higher education, nonprofit and government. Cloud-based applications sold as a service address the cost and IT resource challenges better than on-premises systems by cutting the initial investment and eliminating the need for internal staff to manage the software. Integrating FPM software adds substantial value because it greatly simplifies the process of getting useful information out of the ERP system (in the forms of reports, up-to-the-minute dashboards and scorecards) as well as planning, budgeting and statutory consolidations that interact with the transactions systems. This is important for business and professional services companies, which need to minimize administrative staff, and to higher education, non-profits and government agencies, which have limited operating budgets and historically have had a hard time attracting IT talent.

The Prevero acquisition is a strategic step for Unit4 since it is likely the most cost-effective approach to adding analytics (including purpose-built predictive analytics) and FPM to its financial management offerings. This purchase has the potential of increasing the company’s annual recurring revenue for new and existing customers, and in any case, it will increasingly become necessary for any vendor to be competitive in the ERP and financial management categories. Prevero’s project management capabilities also are a good fit for Unit4’s professional services vertical and a useful feature for bridging annual budgeting and long-term planning, in which projects and major initiatives can span multiple fiscal years.

Practically speaking, however, Unit4 faces several challenges in challenges in absorbing prevero, beginning with integration of the software. Initially it can be easier to achieve a workable integration of cloud-based products than on-premises ones, but shortcuts may not eliminate the need for more comprehensive changes over the longer term. This is especially important for creating offerings tailored to the specific needs of targeted industries. For example, Prevero’s user interface is adequate today but will require significant updating to remain competitive. Although the two product lines are a great fit, financial management and FPM have different audiences in the buying process (even if the CFO and the controller are important in making the ultimate decision for both). Additionally, Unit4 will need to devise and implement sales training and marketing programs for effective cross-selling. Furthermore, part of Unit4’s growth strategy is to expand its presence in the North American market, but Prevero’s customers are mainly in Europe, and there are subtle but important cultural differences between the two (for instance, in attitudes toward the budgeting process) that will have to be addressed in localization of the software.

Nevertheless, bringing integrated FPM and analytics capabilities to Unit4’s financial management software can benefit both current and potential customers. I recommend that they monitor the product roadmap closely to understand when specific capabilities will become available. Prevero’s customers are likely to benefit from the investments that Unit4 will make in the software generally and the user experience in particular. At the same time, there are always uncertainties when any software company is acquired. Interested parties should watch how Unit4 addresses them over the coming year by clearly communicating its intentions and progress to these objectives.


Robert Kugel

Senior Vice President Research

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Upstream Works Delivers Omnichannel Experience for Customers

Since I last wrote about Upstream Works it has expanded its focus on contact center agent efficiency and effectiveness to include omnichannel customer experience. Each of its core products has undergone a number of developments. Its main product now is Upstream Works for Finesse, which it classifies as a smart agent desktop. This is a desktop application that enables users of contact center systems to access the information and systems they need to resolve interactions, as well as prompting the user with next best steps to complete the interaction efficiently and effectively. Upstream Works has a close working agreement with Cisco so the product is only available for users of the Cisco Finesse product.

Upstream Works for Finesse achieves these objectives through a number of capabilities. It provides an intuitive user interface that is the same no matter the type of interaction or the channel of engagement. The user’s workspace can be tailored to the type of interaction and be set up to navigate from one system to another depending on the interaction flow. The product provides various ways to connect with any type of system, whether it’s a business application or a technology system managing a specific communication channel. It can extract data from one system and deliver it to any other system integrated into the desktop, making it possible to access all customer information and connect multiple communication systems.

Combining systems enables users to connect different customer identifiers with a single customer, which in turns supports the production of customer journey maps. Some of this mapping is automated by connecting data across systems, while some requires manual input. The ability to extract data from multiple systems enables interactions to be personalized and placed in the context of previous interactions; for example, suppose that a customer began by searching the home page, engaged in a chat session and made a phone call, and then the customer and agent shared some Web pages. Upstream Works for Finesse thus improves the agent experience; providing information to personalize the interaction and provide consistent responses and information improves the customer experience. Overall interaction handling becomes more efficient and effective, thus helping to meet operational targets and produce desired business outcomes.

These capabilities are underpinned by a single set of management and reporting tools. The management tools include capabilities for all aspects of a contact center, from managing agents, teams, tasks and skills to setting up routing rules for all types of interactions. Its integration capabilities and internal data mart support reporting and analysis of all aspects of interactions handling, and its predictive analytics supports prompting of agents with information or the next best action.

A smart desktop is one of the six technologies I identified that organizations need in order to provide customers with easy-to-use, personalized, in-context and consistent experiences. This is especially true for companiesvr_NGCE_15_supporting_multiple_channels that support multiple channels of engagement. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that the three issues organizations most often struggle with in this regard are integration of systems (49%), channels managed as silos (47%) and inconsistency of responses (33%). To overcome each of these a smart agent desktop is a pragmatic option. It doesn’t integrate systems per se but enables access to all systems and can pull and push data to as many systems as required. It also supports a common set of rules to route interactions and a common user interface to handle any type of interaction, and it has built-in rules and capabilities to present the same information regardless of the channel or the user.

I therefore recommend to all Cisco users who want to improve agent performance and customer experience that they evaluate how Upstream Works for Finesse can help those efforts.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director, Customer

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