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Ovum recently attended Unit4's annual end-user conference, Unit4 Connect, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite being a cross-industry event with more than 500 attendees from a range of industries, higher education was the best represented, and the company dedicated a significant amount of the discussion to the industry. This is unsurprising, given the company's acquisition of Three Rivers Systems in 2015 and the release of its Student Management solution in May 2016, but is evidence of Unit4's increasing commitment to and growth in the higher education industry. If the company continues to build momentum, it will be the first to bring a complete cloud-native student information system (SIS) to market and will be the "one to watch" in the competitive landscape, at least until its competitors bring their cloud solutions to market.

Unit4 has gained partnership status with several institutions

Surpassing players such as Ellucian, Oracle, and Workday, Unit4 is the first of the major SIS providers to bring a complete "built from scratch" cloud-native SIS to the higher education market. According to Ovum's 2015/16 ICT Enterprise Insights survey, SIS solutions will be replaced, transformed, or enhanced by just over 60% of institutions during the next 18 months. In addition, innovation and quality are the most important factors for more than 50% of institutions when selecting an SIS vendor. Unit4's SIS offering, the Student Management solution, is the first system released in over a decade that addresses a pressing need for innovation in administrative systems.

By expanding its sales force, higher education-specific consultants, and services partnerships, Unit4 is converting this early mover advantage into notable market share gain. The company has more than 1,000 higher education customers, and North America – a region dominated by its competitors – has been the fastest growing region for Unit4. More significantly, institutions with an eye toward innovation and quality are looking to work with a strategic partner rather than a vendor. A number of Unit4 customers have stated that the company has gone above and beyond, moving away from being a software vendor and toward becoming a true partner that understands the needs of higher education institutions. Recent customer wins include Vernon College, Relay Graduate School of Education, and, outside of the US, the Swiss Education Group and Reykjavik University in Iceland. Furthermore, formed as part of Unit4's strategic focus on delivering next-generation solutions to institutions globally, the company recently created an Education Advisory Council that includes senior customer representatives from institutions such as the University of Oxford in the UK, Monash University in Australia, Harvard Law School and Grayson College in the US, and several others.

Institutions are increasingly looking for a partner, not just a vendor, to navigate the changes facing the industry. In Ovum's view, Unit4 deserves full credit for architecting a product that is accelerating the SIS modernization trend.


Further reading

"Unit4 Student Management heats up the SIS competitive landscape," IT0008-000253 (October 2015)


Navneet Johal, Research Analyst, Education Technology

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