Keywords: Infor, ION, Hook & Loop.
During the past few years, Infor restructured for improved cash flow, made deep engineering investments, and brought in a new executive team. The recent Infor Summit for industry analysts that ARC Advisory Group attended provided insights into the results of these changes. Key takeaways include:
Infor's strategy to serve targeted micro-industries should lower cost-of-sales and yield higher win rates
Infor's internal design organization provides innovative approaches to user interface design that are consistent with current paradigms for mobility, social, search, and analytics
ION, Infor's integration middleware, provides a "borderless information bus" for integration among its own applications as well as between Infor and third-party applications
Infor Summit Explains Strategy and Successes
Back in April 2012, Infor announced a major equity investment from Golden Gate Capital and Summit Partners that the company used to refinance its debt and improve the capital structure (SalesForce invested more recently). During the prior year, Infor added more than 600 new developers dedicated to delivering deep, industry-specific processes. Preceding this, a new executive team was put in place. So with improved cash flow, engineering investments, and energized executives in place, what happened? The Infor Summit at the company's headquarters in New York City for about a dozen key industry analysts provided a glimpse into the answer.
"Micro-industries" Provide Differentiation and Growth
Charles Phillips, Infor's CEO, started with a slide that stated $2.8 billion in revenue and $1 billion invested capital over the past 12 months and five straight quarters of double-digit license growth. Several slides provided long lists of new functions in existing products, new products, and acquisitions, substantiating the invested capital and positive cash flow. The license growth indicates healthy new installations and client acquisitions. Infor has $100 million revenues in cloud now. It also supports hybrid environments with a mix of cloud and on-site instances. Infor has built common components across applications for user interface, workspace, analytics, reporting, workflow, event management, master data management, localizations, mobility, and packaged integration.
Infor made what could have been a disadvantage into a benefit. The various Infor applications have been rationalized and focused by "micro-industry." For example, rather than just targeting the broad "food & beverage" industry, the company is targeting specific applications in dairy plants, breweries, bakeries, meat processing plants, and others. Infor targets 21 general industry sectors with 2,151 of these micro industries. ARC sees a benefit in which Infor's micro-industry strategy should lower the cost of sales, with micro-industry lead qualification resulting in a higher win rate.
Stephan Scholl, President, followed and described many key client wins during the past year, the competition, and why they won. He emphasized the company's Siemens Healthcare win, since Infor displaced SAP in this instance. He also emphasized the company's win with the City of San Francisco against competitor, Oracle. Other wins include BAE Systems, Georgia Pacific, Otter Box, and Pfizer. Infor has partnered with several global services partners for implementation support, including Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, and Accenture.
Infor's Not Alone - ION for Integration
Massimo Capoccia, Senior Director, Product Management, Technology provided a thorough review of Infor's integration strategy. ION is Infor's middleware for application integration. Infor acquired 42 companies since 2002, with a multitude of applications requiring integration. Also, Infor recognizes that its customers have other applications. For example, ION has adapters to SAP and Oracle applications. Infor built its approach upon XML and OAGIS; with designs based on the Internet and event management, which are simpler to manage and integrate.
ION development started in 2010. It already has 750 customers, 200 certified channel partners (which requires training and passing an exam), 400 Infor ION-certified technical consultants, more than 30 certified applications on ION, and 100 standard business object documents.
The company positions ION as a "borderless information bus" supporting on-premise, Infor Cloud, third-party cloud (SalesForce), and hybrid configurations. It has a flexible execution model that runs centrally (business vault), loosely coupled, or peer-to-peer (distributed execution).
"Hook & Loop" Internal Design Center
Infor strongly believes it needs to apply more attention to the software's user interface and graphics design. One of the reasons for locating in New York City was to obtain access to talented design people. To obtain deeper synergies, Infor chose to create its own internal design center, named "Hook & Loop."
Marc Scibelli, VP, Hook & Loop, reviewed its capabilities and accomplishments. It has 40 people, organized into three groups: marketing and communications, creative services for branding, and user interface design. For software design, Hook & Loop focuses on graduated sets of user needs: functional (useful), reliable, usable, convenient, pleasurable, and meaningful. It views "pleasurable" and "meaningful" as its differentiators. Infor positions Hook & Loop as a competitive differentiator.
Mr. Scibelli showed many screen shots. An Infor EAM screen shot in particular caught ARC's eye. Typically, processing a maintenance work order can involve several screens and look-ups. Hook & Loop analyzed this process to design a screen with improved work flow. It includes the necessary fields, context, communications (using social networking paradigms), and navigation.
Infor EAM User Interface Design by Hook & Loop for Work Order Processing
The past few years have been dynamic for Infor with a new executive management team, investors, and product engineering. The company has experienced major changes in product strategy, marketing messages, and sales tactics. Positive results are starting to occur with improved products and new customer wins.
A few of Infor's competitors have also started to adapt to the current paradigms for mobility, social, search, and analytics in enterprise software. Infor is among the leaders. ARC will be watching how this race progresses.
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