New Unit4 platform promises 'self-driving' ERP

Product taps predictive analytics and machine learning to help minimize administrative burden

Following a quiet year spent retooling its enterprise technology, Unit4 on Thursday unveiled revamped and rebranded versions of its flagship ERP and financial software products built on a brand-new platform that includes predictive-analytics and machine-learning capabilities.

Unit4 Business World and Unit4 Financials -- the latest versions of the products formerly known as Agresso and Coda, respectively -- were both built to leverage the company's new People Platform, a set of foundation technologies designed to offer a consumer-grade user experience along with enterprise scalability in a variety of business applications.

Included in the new platform are not just a modern user interface and flexible business functionality designed specifically for companies in service-focused industries such as professional services, education, public services and real estate, said Unit4 CEO Jose Duarte. Rather, the platform was also built to offer what the company calls Smart Context, leveraging technologies such as social, mobile, predictive analytics and machine learning to enable business applications that can in some ways "drive" themselves.

Smart Context can minimize time spent on administrative tasks, for example, by pre-populating timesheets and expense reports based on location data and behavior analysis.

"Say I'm a consultant, and I spend three days visiting a client in London," Duarte explained. Tapping technologies including the user's smartphone and calendar functionality, the system will already "know" about the trip, he said. From historical data, meanwhile, it will know users' average expenditures on hotels, meals and taxis, for example, on similar types of trips.

So, when the trip is over and it's time to create an expense report, the system will be able to prepopulate the report accordingly. All that's required then is for the user to confirm the figures or make any corrections.

Also new in Unit4's Business World ERP software are several domain-oriented Experience Packs, including Smart Budgeting, Communities, self-driving Payroll, Appraisals and Requisitions.

The Unit4 Financials product, meanwhile, adds new technology enabling finance professionals to combine business data with any contextual information from inside or outside the system, such as pipeline or customer-retention data.

Both new products are available immediately for cloud or on-premises deployment.

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