Infor hosted analysts for a stealth look at some of the new innovations in their labs in NYC.
Full Article Below -
Infor Strategy, in Short
Figure 1 - Infor's Progress
Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor, kicked off the event by providing the audience with a look back and fast forward to today (Figure 1) and the progress Infor has made in the last 3+ years1 since his new management team took over. Moving the company headquarters from Atlanta to NYC was practical and also symbolic of the new Infor.
Taking advantage of the creative workforce of the advertising and web design community in New York, Infor has been able to revitalize the company with a new approach to enterprise solutions.
Key strategies for Infor today are:
Micro-verticals: The vanilla-ERP-target-base (running dry in the quest to reach other verticals) is the current direction for ERP providers like Infor, Epicor, and NetSuite. Arguably, Infor is in the prime location for micro-verticals due to the many acquisitions. But they have gone further, purposefully pursuing the unique attributes of their customers. Says Charles Phillips, "We have open ears to these needs. However, we don’t encourage customization; we want it all in the product.”
Cloud: Late to announce, but clearly catching up—and probably surpassing—many other traditional enterprise solutions provider firms, Infor has moved much of their portfolio to the cloud, offering both multi- and single-tenant applications.
Migration: UpgradeX is the service offering to encourage customers on old platforms such as Baan, SSA, ASK, etc. to move onto Infor10X in the cloud. This looks like a good deal for the customer (and Infor). A fixed price service for conversion is offered. So for the service charge, of say $50k, plus the annual subscription fee, end-users find themselves with all the new technology, including ION and Ming.le, at an overall significantly lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
Stephen Scholl, President of Infor, told us that Infor is doing a lot more to encourage the old customers to move and also stay with Infor. As Phillips says, “We understand the ‘from’ (the old customer install) and the ‘to’ better than anyone.” This puts Infor in a prime position to manage their customers’ migration successfully. Plus Infor has provided highly competitive cloud pricing—priced below an SAP solution, for example. Infor’s contract period requires only 12-month agreements, also much more liberal than the 3- to 5-year terms.
Pam Murphy, the COO, stated that Infor had done benchmarking of cloud performance and scale against other brand offerings. Infor fared well here (although it was not the fastest). However, when benchmarked against other offerings, as well as their own on premise, an Infor10X customer has only 20% of the TCO of other on-premise applications. How can Infor do that? With tens of thousands of users on old platforms, if Infor can coax many of them off, they can move to the front of the line as an ERP cloud provider. Of course, they are likely to get additional sales as customers pursue a more transformative portfolio strategy to acquire more software (more revenue for Infor).
The question then brought up was what impact this will have on partners. Infor feels they have encouraged partners to learn the new technologies such as ION and Mongoose, as well as the new applications. Charles Phillips stated that they have not only been providing partner education, but also, quite frankly, told their partners that Infor did not want to sell old software any more. In fact, the partners would be better off selling the newer technology and would ultimately have an opportunity for more revenue.
Social: Ming.le is Infor’s social platform. Emily Williams, Infor’s Product Manager for Ming.le, told us that they already have 255 customers signed up with thousands of users. This is a truly unique offering in the market. Here’s why:
Ming.le is a platform. That is, Ming.le integrates with applications and ION features, so there are many ways in which users can mingle. Infor uses a phrase, “a canvas for applications to run.” Think of it this way: If you want to share processes and collaborate with trading partners, you can deal with exceptions to sales (change orders, questions, etc.); purchasing (questions, changes, etc.); forecasting (dialogue on feasibility and impacts of plans); as well as receive alerts for problems and resolutions. These capabilities are beyond the typical content sharing and ‘email substitute’ of mass social (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, for example). The Ming.le platform acts as a portal into the windows of these applications, enabling dialogue about data or transactions within a social context.2 (See Figure 2.)
Ming.le supports multi-social integration. If a user is a member of several social networks, they don’t have to log into each network (if these various companies are using Ming.le). A single sign-on gives the member access to all of their groups.
User-designed conversations. Infor calls these Streams. Streams can take advantage of a templating mechanism so the user can have a more standardized, structured approach and can call up these streams again and again for repetitive work.
One of Infor’s customers, Mingledorff’s, Inc. (a huge coincidence it appears), demonstrates some pragmatic—and revenue generating—use cases for Ming.le. Mingledorff’s is a wholesale distributor that sells heating and air conditioning equipment. Using the Ming.le platform, customers can see the catalogues, and ask questions about products and get technical advice before they buy.
Infor is going for the big ideas—not just another new screen or report! Their concept is to think about how people interact and behave. The Chief Creative Officer, Marc Scibelli, has a very different team than you will see in any other software firm. His team comes from the ad industry and as Mark said, that industry is all about “engaging people who don’t want to be engaged.” So they are applying what they learned to the B2B community.
Here’s the key—
Though Infor is clearly a company with history—many histories—it was refreshing to see a young management team who has creativity and energy. They don't hold back on creativity or on building a company and brand. Listening to them truly was inspiring. Phillips said they have gone from hammering on the customer base for new sales to having the customers come to them. If Infor maintains their momentum, there will be a new generation of technology again, which can take Infor into that edgy innovation zone that ultimately moves markets in new directions.
We’ll talk more about Infor’s retail presence in an upcoming article about the ERP players in Retail.