Thursday, 06 August 2015 11:51

Infor strategy: one size - and product - doesn't fit all


Infor is bringing a new look to the enterprise software market by delivering specialised systems and focussing on the user experience.

Infor hired former Oracle president Charles Philips as its CEO in 2010, and shortly after he was joined by three other former Oracle executives.

Duncan Angove became president of products, marketing and support; Pam Murphy (pictured) became corporate senior vice president of operations; and Stephan Scholl became executive vice president of global field operations.

According to Murphy, who was subsequently promoted to the role of chief operating officer and is currently visiting Australia, the company's new strategy was to disrupt the enterprise software space that "had stagnated for the previous 20 years."

How? Effectively by not being Oracle or SAP.

Infor's approach was to build out complete suites for particular industries and 'microverticals' (butchers and brewers might both be in the food and beverage industry, but they have different requirements) with the understanding that one codebase could not suit everyone, and that customers generally want to avoid customisation.

That took a significant investment in R&D, she told iTWire, adding that if Infor has a dollar to spend, it is more likely to go on R&D than any other activity.

It has paid off, and the company is strong in various markets including manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, hospitality and all levels of the public sector. To achieve the required focus, Infor is prepared to give up on certain industries, she said.

Another aspect is the idea of 'co-development' - working with customers to deliver the capabilities they require. For example, medical device manufacturers need to be able to handle product recalls. Co-development "is core to the way we build our roadmap," according to Murphy, and it also lets the company deliver systems that help its customers deliver customised products and services to their customers.

Since Infor has a range of business engines targeting different industries it is able to keep to a schedule of two releases a year while delivering new functionality requested by customers.

This approach "is a perfect match for the cloud," Murphy pointed out, as it provides an excellent out-of-the-box experience without customisation.

"We call ourselves 'the world's first and largest industry cloud company'," she said.

In many cases, organisations have been reluctant to move core business systems to the cloud, Murphy suggested. Using cloud HR systems has been fairly easy, but core ERP systems are quite another, largely because one size doesn't fit all.

But Infor's customers are making the move, and the company saw more than 320% growth in its SaaS business over the last 12 months, she said. Infor has around 2,800 cloud customers, who store some 8PB of data on its systems (which run on AWS).

"We have scale in the cloud," said Murphy, and the company is seeing traction in the public sector, healthcare and manufacturing, all of which have been conservative when it came to adopting cloud systems.

"Customers are getting very comfortable" with Infor, she added, noting that according to Gartner the company is outpacing the market for cloud enterprise systems aimed at the manufacturing industry.

The 'new' Infor also believed that the user experience had been neglected by the enterprise software industry, and so invested in Hook and Loop, a design subsidiary located in New York and staffed by people from the advertising, fashion, movie and games industries.

The focus is on "creating experiences that people love," Murphy said. "The user experience is what you'd expect" if you were used to using contemporary products such as Facebook, and Infor's goal is to produce business systems that a new hire can immediately use without specific IT training.

"It really has been an exciting time," Murphy told iTWire. Infor kept a low profile for the first three years or so following Phillips' appointment, but for the last 12 to 18 months has been working on building brand awareness.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.





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