Infor hosted industry analysts in Soho New York City for a two-day summit with their executives, providing a view into the company’s strategy and the progress in its transformation.
As we all know, Infor shares their competitors’ challenges of modernizing the many assets they own, ensuring their existing customers are well cared for, and also demonstrating what technology companies are supposed to do — advance technological innovation and capture new customers. Not an easy challenge in a crowded ERP market.
As analysts, we spend about one third of our professional time seeing demonstrations and talking to executives and developers in very many tech companies. Today, when approaching one of these meetings, I feel like Lady Loxley in the PBS series when she struts through Selfridge’s stating, “Dazzle me.” So the question is: Did Infor meet the challenge?
Innovation Is Not Just Technology
In a crowded mature market, winning business is not easy. So how does Infor win the minds — and hearts — of customers? Infor has invested significant dollars in modernizing the company — a headquarters for customer visits in trendy Soho, the hotbed of New York City innovation. Here they host customers and introduce them to some significant key organizational approaches and their innovative staff who attempt to dazzle the “Loxley” in their customers. Let’s look at a few of these.
Today companies are on a ‘smart momentum’: smart companies, smart things, smart cities and so on. At the core are new analytics that allow for deeper understanding of your company and its world — customer behaviors, product performance, and new way to optimize business. Led by Dr. Ziad Nejmeldeen,1 the Lab is one of the most important Infor investments for customers to understand. Everybody has an ERP today. And no doubt software companies have smart developers. But the questions are: Do you have access to them? Can you collaborate on advanced thinking and co-develop solutions rather than going it alone in custom code or waiting online for releases which might take years? Today, analytics are the most critical source of unique competitive insights, some of which exist in advanced COTS solutions,2 but many of which do not. ERP is fundamentally a transaction system, processing orders and such. It does not, for example, analyze which of those orders might really be profitable and which are not. Nor do ERP systems discern how one can make those and other orders more profitable. The Lab has taken on white space areas for things such as Healthcare, Sales, Human Capital Management practices, and Hospitality Industry scenarios, which are underserved in the analytics market. They are trying to move beyond financial, customer/merchandising, and supply chain, which they feel are already somewhat served in the market today.
Experience is a key investment area for Infor. Everybody is doing a makeover on their UI. But Infor has created an immersive physical space for customers to visit and participate in with new concepts of technology interaction.
Honestly, often people are bogged down at work with the mundane. So Infor’s design vision is to “make it feel natural, meaningful, and enjoyable,” (underline is mine), a refreshing objective.
This visit to Infor in Soho is key to their strategy. They don’t just talk about experience, they create one for the customer on how to work with — not just how to use — the software. There may be further genius in this idea that could be developed over the next few years as technology becomes more physically immersive with gesture,3 voice, sensors, wearables and visual; and location-based, and wireless everywhere and so on. What impact will this have on workers? How will they prepare for the new work environment they will participate in as management invests in ever-more advanced (smarter) technology?
We have been advocating ‘experience’ methods for some time and have even blended these into our work, with great impact. People just don’t sit and listen (with low retention as the outcome).4 Rather, they have a mind and body experience that has an emotional and intellectual impact (right and left brain) which awakens more creativity and energy.
Mingling Amongst Your Colleagues: Social
Another area in which Infor is innovating is social. Last year Infor announced Ming.le™ , their social tool. However, their goal was not to have this external to their working applications. So much of technology seems to pit the technology against the people. But why should that be? It is people who are still doing most of the work, last I checked. Thus, social and business applications need to be blended into a single solution — not treated as separate, multiple ones.
Supply chain is a perfect environment for social tools since so much activity is dynamic and collaborative — people making decisions together. Hence, I was delighted to see Ming.le™ now blended into the Sales and Operations Planning tool (see Figure 1). A perfect fit. After all, what is S&OP but a dialogue?
Cost of Technology
The ever-increasing IT budget requirements can be a real burden on companies. Many companies want to upgrade, but the cost of getting all those new goodies is just out of reach. Of course, cloud presents them with a new option. But how do you get there? Last year Infor announced their fixed-price migration offering, UpgradeX, which now is available for most of their ERP packages. This provides migration to the new solution at a fixed price. The new solutions have more modules as well as Ming.le™ , analytics, and ION (Intelligent Open Network), which is their middleware+ technology. They are working to ensure that upgrades can be done in manageable and shorter time frames than traditional ERP, reducing the disruptive burden of change. Of course, once you are in the new environment, disruption issues are mitigated a great deal with the multi-tenant phasing of upgrades in the cloud.
Major releases for PLM, Supply Chain and Micro-vertical solutions were also presented. There is more to report on Infor and its strategy, which we will continue in a subsequent ERP series of articles.
The message here is that to win the hearts — and wallets — of a new generation of business executives, companies will have to do a lot more than write good code. That is table stakes. Companies who lead in their sector do things differently — and better — than their competitors. Technology should be one of those catalyzing enablers which companies use to attain that differentiation. That said, if users can’t use the solutions at their maximum, they don’t reap those rewards — the value for their technology investments.Infor appears to be tackling that issue, creating a truly useable and pleasing experience so that their users gain value beyond rapid transaction management: the ability to creatively and optimally solve problems and make accurate decisions.
1 Infor Science Lab is actually located in the hotbed of math geniosity — Cambridge, MA — close to MIT, Harvard and other major universities. — Return to article text above
2 Like forecastingand models applications — Return to article text above
3 Read about some disruptive technology in application development. — Return to article text above
4 More on Experience with Strategy — the Experience Economy — Return to article text above
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