Keywords: Enterprise Business Solutions, EAM, Cloud, Social, Mobility, Analytics.
It's been a little over two years since Charles Phillips took over the top job at Infor. Clearly, his intent was to re-invent an enterprise business software company that needed a new direction and a new look. Since his "coming out" party in New York City when Phillips laid out plans for this new direction, Infor has been relatively quiet, but apparently very busy. Infor has built a classy new headquarters in NYC, re-tooled the management team, hired 600 new developers, created its own internal design house, and spent a half-billion dollars on 300-plus new products. Not a bad start in only two years.
With this impressive start, there appears to be much more to come. Inforum 2013 showcased the significant progress Infor has made and the many new products it now offers for its existing customers and new clients. Infor has incorporated the current set of disruptive technologies that include the Cloud, Big Data, mobility, social business, and analytics, with new applications that focus on these technologies. Moreover, Infor continues to make a much-needed refresh to the look, navigation, and function of enterprise business software - an industry it portrays as "stale, generic, and stuck in past successes."
While ARC Advisory Group finds Infor's plan to bring big changes to enterprise software admirable and much needed, readers should note that Infor also has its share of applications and systems just as old as those of its competitors. The company plans to focus on updating its own legacy base as well. Infor has served notice to Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft that it is intent upon bringing enterprise business software into the 21st century.
Infor Applications Focus on Disruptive Technologies
Infor has invested $500+ million in revitalizing its portfolio, focusing on technologies that define information-driven industries. The company believes that its slick new "SoHo" user interfaces offer both style and substance, as do the company's offering of applications that span financials, enterprise asset management (EAM), product lifecycle management (PLM), supply chain management (SCM), human capital management, and core ERP systems (including LN, M3, and SyteLine).
Modern Visual Appeal and Workflow
Infor's SoHo application interfaces include business intelligence dashboards, KPIs, and new report screens with fresh-looking layouts, generous white space, and rich data visualizations. Infor's new internal design team, known as "Hook and Loop" (literally a company within a company), conceived and developed these new user-oriented interfaces. This design team is dedicated to making Infor apps great looking as well as functional and efficient. Hook & Loop VP, Marc Scibelli, assembled a team of artistic designers, graphic artists, web designers and developers, and film/video makers. Team members regularly talk to users about how they interact with the apps and then create user interfaces consistent with the workflow. GUI developers sit down with designers to understand and program the real graphic effect to make the apps both visually appealing and functionally efficient.
The company's new Infor Ming.le social platform builds on Infor's XML and web services-based ION middleware. A collaboration platform, Infor Ming.le connects people, applications, events, data, documents, and workflows. It combines Twitter/Facebook-like social content with knowledge discovery, enterprise apps, and data. This provides a real-time communication platform that can access multiple applications and platforms for information while maintaining a constant social dialog.
ARC proposed this social concept, which we called "Crowdsourced-Driven-Reliability," to the EAM community back in Oct. 2011. It appears that Infor picked-up on and developed this concept for Infor Ming.le.
For cloud services, Infor relies on IBM and Amazon for Cloud infrastructure. However, Infor handles all application management with both partners. Infor's public cloud application deployments use Amazon Web Services. The new Infor Sky Vault option announced at Inforum runs ION Business Vault data warehouses on Amazon's RedShift massively parallel processing database service. Mr. Phillips pointed to Amazon's ability to scale rapidly, and the low cost (85 cents for a single node with two terabytes of storage) that enable customers to leverage the public cloud at low cost.
Infor's focus incorporates vertical solutions that target very specific industry requirements and business processes. It calls these "micro-vertical" solutions. This involves a shift away from selling individual product lines (like the old Lawson). Some industries in which Infor already has a strong presence include automotive supply chain providers and after-market, specialty automotive, prepared foods, and dairy. Customers should appreciate that these deeper vertical capabilities will now be part of the core applications, rather than an added cost by a channel partner.
Integration with ION
ION, which receives data and fulfills requests using XML in its communications with other applications, provides the integration mechanism. An Infor product has an ION adapter that converts its transaction to XML. ION understands this XML transaction and transfers it to the other interested applications via XML and their own ION adapters. The company's Sky Vault uses ION XML messaging and moves this architecture to the cloud with Amazon.
EAM and FSM
Infor's products place the company among the leaders in the enterprise asset management (EAM) market. Consistent with the micro-industry strategy, the Infor EAM product has editions developed specifically for particular applications and/or industries. During a briefing with Kevin Price, Senior Product Manager, Infor EAM; and Javier Buzzalino, SVP of R&D, ARC was told that five are available now, and many others in the planning stages. Some of these editions will have value-added functions provided by a partner, and sold with them. The currently available Infor EAM editions include:
Infor EAM Enterprise Edition
Infor EAM Healthcare Edition
Infor EAM Hospitality Edition (new)
Infor EAM Airport Edition
Infor Energy Performance Management Edition
John Bermudez, Vice President Product Management and his team members provided an update for Field Service Management (FSM). Infor has four capabilities:
Infor Service Management is an enterprise service solution built on the Infor Mongoose framework aimed at small to mid-sized service and repair companies (typically equipment, HVAC, medical device, material handling, and electrical)
Infor LN Service Management came from Baan, fits aftermarket service with depots and field service technicians (typically more complex equipment like elevators, turbines, ships, and rail)
M3 Equipment Service Maintenance & Rental (ESMR) came with Lawson, fits dealerships for large heavy equipment like Caterpillar
Infor EAM serves companies with large facilities and networks of company-owned assets such as large manufacturers, power generation and distribution, hospitals, etc.
These applications help equipment-related service and maintenance organizations balance customer satisfaction, resources, and profitability.
ARC attended several interesting customer presentations. For example, the City of Des Moines (Iowa) operates the region's wastewater reclamation authority (WRA). This includes a treatment facility processing wastewater from several counties, municipalities, and sewer districts. With Infor EAM, the City identified annual savings of $200,000 in energy efficiency alone. In addition, productivity nearly quadrupled. According to the presenter, this also helped the WRA achieve ISO 50001 certification.
CERN has the world's largest research organization for particle physics, located on the border between France and Switzerland. CERN won a 2013 Infor Excellence in Action Award, which was presented at this Inforum event. David Widegren from CERN discussed nuclear physics, particle accelerators, the "God Particle," and how Infor EAM helps the research facility run smoothly. David stated that Infor EAM is a proven product with the tools for managing CERN's wide range of assets types.
Infor appears to be successfully re-inventing itself with a new executive management, investors, strategy, products, and customers. The company has experienced major changes in product strategy, marketing messages, and sales tactics. As the updated products roll out to the market, the company is starting to see positive results with customer upgrades and new wins.
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