Erik Damgaard Launches New ERP Ecosystem Platform
It is an unusually warm day in the month of May 2016 on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark. Around 100 people are gathered in a refurbished factory cafeteria to hear Erik Damgaard present his new cloud based ERP platform Uniconta. I have taken time off to witness the event and report my observations.
When Erik Damgaard makes a comeback in the ERP software business then it is worth sitting up and taking notice. Erik Damgaard is the architect behind Danmax (1984), Concorde Economy (1986), Concorde XAL (1991), Concorde C5 (1994) and Concorde AXAPTA (1998).
What does he have up his sleeve this time?
The hole in the market
Damgaard Data and Navision Software, that virtually owned the Danish ERP market in the previous century, was acquired by Microsoft in 2002 and according to Erik they have neglected to renew the technology and make a modern version of their business management system for customers with under 10 IT-users. Microsoft Dynamics C5 that Erik developed in the 1990’s has been discontinued and now leaves a vacuum in the market.
“Microsoft have left the market that we served with C5 to other players, but these solutions are far too simple, far too slow and far too rigid,” says Erik Damgaard as he walks us through his technology. “With Uniconta we will do for the SMB market what Tesla has done for the electric car market. The traditional cloud-based ERP solutions suffer from the limitations of the standard web browsers and they suffer from closed architectures. We will bring back the focus on productivity and the opportunity for customers and resellers to enhance the functionality to better serve their individual needs and requirements. Like Tesla we will give users a better experience based on applying new technology to serve existing needs.”
Erik Damgaard walks us through his new platform and shows how easy it is to manipulate the user interface, how easy it is to access the data model for adding fields and features and how easy it is to make the functionality available on the various devices (Win/PC, Mac, Android and iOS). I am not a technical expert and cannot assert if it really is that easy (see below), but he sounds convincing and no one can claim that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.
Builds on Microsoft technology and other open industry standards
“Today there is so much excellent technology available on the market and we no longer need to invent it all ourselves as we had to previously,” says Erik Damgaard. “We use Microsoft technology and can give the customers and our partners full access to the data model and all the tables in Uniconta using Visual Studio. Displaying and printing data is done by using the components library and utilities from DevExpress. Serving non-windows clients, we use Xamarin, that, by the way, has been acquired by Microsoft. The technology may not be so interesting for the individual user over and above the productivity benefits that they get, but it will enable our partners to develop vertical and horizontal solutions that will make Uniconta more attractive for customers with special requirements.”
Serving the market exclusively through the value added partner channel
“Uniconta is developed exactly with the value added reseller in mind,” says Per Pedersen, responsible for distribution at Uniconta. “Customers may sign up directly with us, but they will all be passed on to our partners for further value-add and support. Uniconta is designed to serve the SMB market through a channel of Value Added Resellers, but as the price expectation of the market has changed considerably over the last 15 years we need to keep our partner programs and our partner management setup extremely simple and lean. Our partners are welcome to add their own GUI and offer Uniconta in an OEM and White Label format. They don’t even need a separate agreement for doing so.”
The Uniconta partner program is indeed very simple and there are currently only two roles:
* Sales partner
* Sales and support partner
A sales partner is focused on his own customers while a sales and support partner is prepared to be allocated customers that sign up directly with Uniconta.
“Uniconta doesn’t have a direct sales department,” says Per Pedersen, “so all customers will be assigned to a reseller. Customers can also choose a reseller from the list of all resellers and they can change reseller at any time.”
Partners get a flat 20% discount on the standard Uniconta functionality and are free to set their own prices for services, customizations and add-ons.
Application and development training is provided free of charge on a first come first serve basis and there are no reseller certification formats planned for Uniconta. With tools such as Trustpilot Per Pedersen expects that the market itself will police the quality of resellers and that customers will prefer to work with resellers showing positive recommendations from other customers.
What others have to say
I have talked to some of the companies that have decided to team up with Uniconta and here is what they have to say.
Uniconta is different
“Uniconta is exactly what we need and it comes at the right time following Microsoft’s decision to stop the support of C5” says Kris Klintebæk, owner of Concept Data and one of the resellers that have decided to join the Uniconta eco-system. “Even though Uniconta is positioned and priced for the SMB market it still allows us to make customizations for our individual customers, which is the core of our business model. Customization can be done with standard tools such as Visual Studio, which again means that we don’t need to learn a proprietary development tool and can hire programmers that are ready to fly. Uniconta is very easy to integrate with other inexpensive web-based solutions and we have already made integrations to other platforms such as Shopify. The market for ERP systems to the SMB market has changed dramatically over the last 15 years and while the expectations in terms of functionality and ease of use have increased, the customers are expecting much lower prices. Uniconta provides us with the technology and the price points allowing us to meet the expectations of our customers while still allowing us to run a profitable business,” concludes Kris Klintebæk.
Uniconta is the roadmap for the C5 community
“We have worked with Uniconta since January this year and must say that Erik Damgaard once more has demonstrated that he understands what the market and the channel partners need,” says Anders Lidegaard, CEO with Pentacon A/S. “We have been a Microsoft Dynamics C5 channel partner for many years and after Microsoft’s “end of life” announcement we were looking for a replacement. Microsoft suggest that customers migrate to Dynamics NAV, but that is not a good fit for most of our customers. The app technology and open architecture provided by Uniconta allows us to make customizations with little effort and thus at a price level that is attractive to the small and medium sized business that is our key customer. With the Uniconta tools for migrating C5 transactions to the platform we now have a clear roadmap for all our customers. The first tests have demonstrated that it works and that Erik Damgaard is very responsive when we report ideas for improvements.”
The perfect match
“Conceptually Uniconta is a modern version of Microsoft C5 taking advantage of all the technology improvements that have been made since the product was introduced in 1994,” says Søren Rasmussen, partner at ChannelCRM. “By discontinuing C5, Microsoft leaves a big gap in the market and as many of the C5 customers are already using ChannelCRM it is a logical step for us to provide an integration to Uniconta. We address the same market (small and medium sized businesses) and with the open architecture of our products we can even offer the customer a more productive solution than is the case with C5. Data will flow seamlessly between Uniconta and ChannelCRM giving the user instant access to the right information avoiding redundancy and the need to enter the same information more than once. If you add Microsoft Office 365 to the equation, then you have the perfect solution for the small and medium sized company. The combination of Uniconta, ChannelCRM and Microsoft Office 365 is an affordable and productive solution to most of their IT needs – it is the perfect match.”
Availability, migration and pricing
Uniconta is currently available in Denmark, Norway and Iceland and comes with migration tools for e-conomic, Microsoft Dynamics C5 and Microsoft Dynamics NAV enabling customers to migrate their historical transactions.
The application is free to use until 1st August 2016 where payments via credit cards will be introduced. The price for the standard package will be DKK 99 (USD15/EUR13) per user per month.
The discontinuation of Microsoft Dynamics C5
According to Microsoft the possibility to buy new on-premises licenses (SPA) will stop as of 5 January 2017, while the sales of new SaaS (SPLA) versions of Dynamics C5 will stop on 31 January 2017.
Customers with Microsoft Dynamics C5 can continue to buy database extensions, while customers with a maintenance subscription can continue to buy additional users and modules. Microsoft has announced a program where C5 customers with maintenance subscription can migrate to Dynamics NAV.
Technical support for Microsoft Dynamics C5 will stop as of 8 January 2019.
I have no financial or other vested interests in Uniconta. I know Erik Damgaard from my time with his previous company Damgaard Data and later Navision. I have decided to follow Uniconta from it’s incubation and report on the progress of the venture.