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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt
I’ve just had another briefing with Aad van Schetsen (President & General Manager) and Adrian Gosbell (Vice President Product Management & Marketing), at the newly independent Uniface. This was a chance to find out how things were going now, after the Marlin Equity Partners‘ acquisition has had time to bed in a bit (my initial impressions are here).
They both seem very excited about the possibilities for Uniface, now it is out of its Compuware silo and has its smart new branding; van Schetsen says: “there’s a fire going through the company”; and, according to Gosbell, “I’ve just been to South America—Brazil—the user groups there are very independent but they were very positive, didn’t give me a bad time at all…”. Uniface apparently kept all of its key employees through the acquisition, which is a very good sign.
First off, for the new Uniface there’s a big recruitment drive—with Uniface growing from about 110 people to about 140 people. Marlin Equity Partners, who bought Professional Services and ChangePoint from Compuware, along with Uniface, was very carefully chosen as a purchaser, and is actively encouraging recruitment and investment. In return, Marlin itself did a lot of due diligence on Uniface, over a long period before acquisition, confirming that it’s in it for the long haul. Uniface’s new CEO, Jim Byrnes, represents the interests of Marlin Equity Partners, co-ordinating its investments, being run as separate companies—van Schetsen expects Marlin to be a lot more receptive to possible synergies between its products than perhaps Compuware was. “I can see possibilities for companies owning both ChangePoint and Uniface, for example”, he says.
Customers are responding very well to the acquisition and van Schetsen is seeing old customers coming back to the independent Uniface. It has good customer retention and 60% of Uniface’s revenue is EMEA-based (its cloud story should therefore reflect its understanding of EU data directive issues; somewhere where American companies often seem a little weak). Uniface grew (slowly) even through the recession; Marlin gives it the resources to make growth take off as we come out of recession. Q4, encompassing the acquisition, was Uniface’s best quarter in 7 years, which bodes well for its future.
Partners are a great source of new business and Uniface has a great VAR community; but its own distributor network, which was once very strong, was all but dismantled under Compuware. Uniface is now making a major revamp of its distribution network, training distributors and so on. Van Schetsen sees resurrecting the channel as important for global sales, with distributors that really understand the local market; this is exemplified in the PartnersUnited program, a leading platform for VARs, and the new PartnersUniverse (members only) website. Van Schetsen also sees opportunities from developing vertical markets – all Universities in UK, and most in Sweden, for example, run Uniface applications.
In terms of technology, Mobile and “build once, deploy everywhere” is the big focus for now, with its own team and new Product Manager. Then Cloud, and the story is is all about being cloud agnostic; as usual with Uniface, there’ll be no need to rewrite apps as technology changes. Cloud and Mobile will appear in point releases of Version 9, bringing its capabilities up to date for existing Uniface customers; Version 10 will expand these capabilities and bring in an entirely new and up-to-date developer experience (it will initially be targeted on new customers and projects; a later release of Version 10 will be the landing place for Version 9 up-graders). Version 10 will be being demonstrated to user groups etc. by the end of this year. There’s a real focus on moving customers to supported releases – there are still customers happily using Version 7, often on obsolete hardware, which shows that Uniface doesn’t abandon its customers, but also doesn’t make moving forward any easier.
Uniface is one of few high-productivity tools to announce plans for the support of SAP HANA (an in-memory real-time business platform, with database and application platform capabilities for transactions, analytics, text analysis, predictive and spatial processing) – van Schetsen sees HANA as a great opportunity for Uniface growth
The overall Uniface message remains the same, however – protect the investment of existing customers in Uniface and build and deliver applications very fast, taking advantage of up-to-date technology wherever it is appropriate. Uniface is an excellent high-productivity development platform; some things really haven’t changed, post-acquisition…