I just returned from New Orleans last evening after attending Infor's user conference Inforum (disclosure: Infor paid my travel expenses to the event, and is an IDC client). On the flight back I was thinking about what I saw, and what I've learned about Infor from my last several interactions with them, and wanted to share some of my impressions about what they're doing. I you looked at Infor's product portfolio 4 or so years ago, you would have seen a messy assortment of acquired legacy enterprise software products. Not bad products, by the way, but outdated and anything but modern. You would also see a company that had a large legacy customer base and a reputation that was anything but innovative. Fast forward 4 years and with a completely different executive team, strategy and aggressive move to modernize and you see something quite different. Don't get me wrong, the journey isn't complete by far, but what I did find shows significant progress and innovation.
The overall company strategy as articulated last year: 1. Software built / packaged / sold by micro-industry vertical, 2. Built to open Internet standards and 3. Provided with an intuitive, elegant and responsive user experience. Strictly from a product perspective, Infor under Charles Phillips, has a fairly straight forward plan to move from the old enterprise SW world to a modern cloud portfolio. The plan could be oversimplified this way:
1. Provide unified user experience, integration and connectivity through a single middleware layer - product ION
2. Provide an embedded social collaborative layer across all products inside ION - Product Ming.le
3. Transition all products to a cloud / subscription offering using Amazon Web Services (AWS) or other cloud infrastructure provider
4. Rebuild products in a modern cloud architecture
5. Build out (including acquire new functionality when needed) deep micro-vertical industry expertise and product depth though industry suites.
From what I've seen, I'd say that #1 and #2 are a reality today, #3 is substantially available, #4 is a long process that is underway and yielding it's first fruits now, and #5 is getting fairly mature as well, although it will benefit from the ongoing rollout of #4.
One of the unique outcomes of this strategy was the addition of a in house design agency or lab called Hook and Loop last year. Something quite unique for enterprise software, Hook and Loop is a large and growing group of creatives that do everything from user experience design to offering services integrated into new products like the eCommerce Suite Rhythm. It was obvious that Hook and Loop has its hands in everything from presentation design on the main stage at Inforum to the plentiful new products on display in the exhibition hall. In addition to this creative lab, Infor announced a second lab this year, a data science lab called the Dynamic Sciences Lab and headed by Dr. Ziad Nejmeldeen, an MIT PhD, and made up of data scientists, mathematicians, economists and engineers. The mission of the lab is to support Infor in providing solutions that will enable predictive and prescriptive decision making processes. This is particularly interesting to me as a part of the overall need for businesses to deploy tools that work in conjunction with social collaborative tools to make better business decisions, combining data and people in the work context and in real time. It will be interesting to see the output of this group over the next year, and if it's a productive as Hook and Loop, it could be a significant advantage for Infor.
A few of the other announcements from the conference deserve a mention, although I won't go through everything here. There are some good write ups available from the usual suspects I'm sure, as well as some replays of the keynotes on the Infor web site. Here are a few other things of note:
- Infor launched a mid-market focused ERP cloud solution to compete with Netsuite and other offerings called Infor CloudSuite Business that includes the requisite "Swap" program, stepping up the competition on the Netsuite front
- The next generation of ION cloud platform Infor Xi builds on last years Infor 10X and meets a list of some 15 or so clooud criteria including multi-tenancy and of course has rich mobile / multi-device capabilities.
- The first of the new cloud suites are rolling out and included Infor CloudSuite Financials and Infor CloudSuite HCM. The Financials product is a complete and integrated modern financial solution with collaboration and analytics embedded into the workflow. The HCM product suite leverages the employee science from the acquisition PeopleAnswers across the HCM suite.
Infor clearly making a lot of progress since last year's Inforum and even since the analyst summit I attended earlier in the year. It's never easy to move from one business model to another or to change the DNA of a traditional enterprise software vendor to one of a new, modern, cloud services company but Infor seems well on its way to reinvention. It is definitely a journey in progress of course, but the fresh thinking and energy are pretty obvious, now let's watch and see what the results will be moving forward. In particular it will be interesting to see if the somewhat conservative tradition Infor customer is ready to leverage the amount of innovative thinking and resulting products that are becoming the norm for Infor, time will tell.