Infor’s new strategy appears to be working
Exactly a year ago Ovum observed that enterprise applications vendor Infor needed a period of stability after a new product line announcement (Infor10) and a series of changes at the organization. Today we believe that this stability has been achieved. Inforâ€™s strategy has been consistent throughout this period, and more importantly, it is now inarguable that Infor is a single, integrated ERP vendor and not a group of vendors tied together by a single holding company. Furthermore, the core elements of the â€śnew Inforâ€ť appear to be working.
The â€śnew Inforâ€ť strategy involves multiple elements, most of which are delivering well
The â€śnew Inforâ€ť strategy comprises several key elements, and in Ovumâ€™s opinion the vendor is scoring well against most of these.
One of these is elements involves facilitating cross-sales with lightweight integration technology (ION) and a consistent user experience (Workspace). Inforâ€™s ION is a lightweight middleware solution aimed at enabling integration across multiple Infor applications at the deployment site, and connecting Infor installations with third-party applications. The typical Infor site is not likely to have one of the major middleware solutions, and ION is appropriate for the target environment. The platform can also coexist with other middleware solutions. Infor says more than 500 enterprises are now on ION, and the figure is increasing. This represents a significant increase over the October 2011 figure of 60.
The UX layer, Workspace, also warrants special mention. In Ovumâ€™s opinion, Workspace offers a user experience very few have matched. Much of the recent progress in enterprise software usability has been driven by rising standards in consumer software. One construct that consumer social software has made universally accepted and understood is the activity feed, which Workspace makes very good use of, where the feed is not only the primary notification mechanism and the seat of collaboration, but also a major entry point into applications.
Workspaceâ€™s look and feel is very contemporary, and in our opinion, aesthetically pleasing. While providing a consistent UX across applications of diverse provenances might have been the primary goal, Ovum believes the UX layer is now a key differentiator for Infor.
Charles Philips, Inforâ€™s CEO since late 2010, mentioned in May 2012 that deals involving more than one solution from the companyâ€™s massive portfolio accounted for 30% of all deals. The corresponding figure at the end of 2010 was only 2%. Recent conversations with Infor indicate that the figure is still in the double digits, and cross-sales momentum is high.
Infor expects the Infor Business Cloud to have customers in the order of thousands of enterprises by next year. Most cloud adoption cases involve what are often called edge applications, such as enterprise asset management and expense management. For core applications, the cloud typically augments on-premise applications, serving as a testing environment, for example.
Inforâ€™s partnership with Salesforce.com is the other crucial element of its cloud strategy. The partnership involves Infor being a distributor for Salesforce.com, as well as providing integration between the front-end sales and services clouds and Inforâ€™s ERP applications, Force.com apps by Infor (marketing and order management), and a Salesforce investment in Infor. The level of progress on the Salesforce partnership front, while promising, represents an initiative that is still new. Some of the integrations are recent, and it will take time to assess the partnershipâ€™s success. However, the value for enterprises is obvious and there is no reason why these integrations will not be commonplace in the medium term.
Overall, Infor is in the middle of a remarkable transition. Anybody looking at Infor in 2008 would have marveled at the portfolioâ€™s potential and the lack of effort to harness that potential. Inforâ€™s strategy now, however, has all the right components for a vendor in its position, and the results have started to show. The key task will be to sustain the momentum, and keep the organization aligned to a single vision, something that will not be easy considering the many different cultures the current team doubtlessly represents.
Recommendations for enterprises
In Ovumâ€™s opinion, Infor should now be seen as offering the same level of stability (and posing as low a risk) as the largest enterprise software providers. Many of Inforâ€™s solutions also have the rare advantage of tracing lineage back to vendors with very specific industry-sector focus. The combination of industry specificity, contemporary technology and usability, and scale is rare. Infor10 applications should therefore be in the consideration set for companies in the target sectors and functions, including large enterprises. For applications that are not Infor10 the decision is more complicated. However, in all cases in can be assumed that all the applications are from a vendor with a strong focus on new license revenues, a strong technology roadmap, and a clear strategy.
Somak Roy, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Solutions
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