Today (March 12, 2012) Infor announced general availability of Inforce Everywhere. Built natively on Force.com and ‘ION-ized’ with Infor’s lightweight middleware platform, Inforce Everywhere brings the back office data from selected Infor Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions safely and securely onto the screens of Salesforce.
While Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution providers have been touting a 360o view of the customer for over a decade, this complete view is actually impossible just using CRM. Shipments, invoices, accounts receivable and returns are the domain of ERP, not CRM. Many companies today would like to turn sales reps into true account managers, but allowing a sales representative full access to ERP is enough to cause any Chief Financial Officer (CF)O) heartburn. By making this type of data accessible directly, selectively and securely through CRM, Infor helps sales reps really manage accounts without purchasing additional ERP seats and without opening the floodgate to ERP.
Infor’s Reseller Agreement
Infor will provide support to customers that license Salesforce via Infor
Products that Infor will resell include:
The INFOR:SALESFORCE Partnership
The partnership between Infor and Salesforce was originally announced at Dreamforce on September 1, 2011. The intent to build and deliver Inforce Everywhere was part of a three-way announcement including:
- Three new Inforce applications including Inforce Everywhere, Inforce Ordering and Inforce Marketing
- A reseller agreement which also extends to Infor’s partners
- Salesforce investment in Infor
In a way, this partnership is just one of many Salesforce.com is striking these days in expanding beyond the boundaries of CRM and evangelizing its vision of the Social Enterprise. But the deal with Infor stands out in a couple of ways.
First of all the reseller agreement is very unique. Infor has the ability to resell Salesforce Sales and Service cloud licenses as well as the native applications they develop on Force.com. Salesforce.com has a very robust ISV ecosystem of partners developing and selling solutions that include Force.com, but only a select few have the right to position and sell Sales and Service cloud as well. This means Infor takes the order, delivers the product (as a service) and provides front line support. This reseller agreement also extends to the Infor channel, which is being actively developed and expanded. Partners can resell the portfolio but will only be allowed to provide implementation services if certified to do so.
Salesforce.com’s investment in Infor is not unique and signals the company’s interest in expanding Force.com solutions and its influence beyond the realm of the front office. FinancialForce.com (accounting applications) and Box.net (content management and storage) are two other examples, but this is the first and only major ERP company that Salesforce has invested in.
But the products being developed are perhaps most important to both Salesforce’s and Infor’s existing customers. In the world of enterprise applications, partnerships can be very easy to form but often never move far beyond the original fanfare of the announcement. Very often these partnerships are just referral-based. They are easy to form, but just as easy to walk away from. A reseller agreement further cements the relationship, but the bond truly forms when solutions are developed and integrated. The two most important factors are moving quickly and adding real value.
Inforce Everywhere has been developed and is being delivered in just over six months from formalization of the agreement and new releases are already planned for Q3 2012 and Q2 2013. It effectively marries the front and back office, exposing data from ERP to the Sales and Service Cloud. The other two Inforce products are planned for release in Q4 2012 (Inforce Ordering) and Q1 2013 (Inforce Marketing).
Infor is also introducing Salesforce.com’s vision of the social enterprise to the ERP world with Chatter in a way that makes sense to its ERP customers. By exposing data in ERP to users of Salesforce, Inforce Everywhere is encouraging a dialogue between the front office and the back office and Chatter will enable it.
How Does this Add Value for Customers?
Many companies today talk about the need for a 360o view of their customers. But getting that complete view is hard and allowing a sales rep access to this level of visibility is even harder. Yet in those businesses that thrive on developing close relationships with their customers, the role of the sales rep must be transformed into that of an account manager. By managing an account, you provide better service, generating customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn generates more sales and revenue.
To truly manage an account you need visibility to customer history, outstanding orders, shipments, open accounts receivable, payment history, and service performance. While account management and customer service are engagement-based, this history is transaction-based. Transactions don’t exist in a system of engagement (CRM); they exist in a system of record (ERP). Yet how many companies do you know that are willing to purchase an ERP seat for every sales rep? How many CFO’s do you know that are willing to allow sales reps open access to areas like accounts receivable?
Access to accounts receivable in ERP usually means access to all accounts receivable. While this is not always the case and role and context-based security is more common in ERP solutions today, the implementation of this level of security is not yet pervasive. At the same time, access to customers, orders and quotes through a CRM system generally is restricted to those customers “owned by” the sales reps. So doesn’t it make sense to offer this level of visibility through the existing structure of a CRM?
That’s what Inforce Everywhere does. It exposes that detail that already exists in ERP about customers, shipments, returns, invoices and open balances and makes it visible through secure inquiries within CRM. But the sales rep/account manager is confined to his or her own customers/accounts and doesn’t need to consume an ERP user license. There is no need to purchase seats in ERP to gain access to this data. Infor customers need only subscribe to Inforce Everywhere, which is priced at $30 per user per month.
Some of the data shared between ERP and CRM is shared bi-directionally, while some is single direction. For example, data about sales territories, accounts and contacts is shared bi-directionally. Products, system codes, quotes, orders, shipments, invoices, accounts receivables, return material authorizations are single direction – data in ERP is shared with CRM.
Added value is also derived from Inforce Everywhere in a multi-company scenario. While business units or divisions that cross international boundaries must be established as different legal entities in ERP for financial reporting and compliance purposes, often CRM must have a view across these entities from a corporate, global perspective. Global accounts may be managed across legal entities and international boundaries, so it is important to have visibility worldwide. While this seems simple enough on the surface, delivering this is not so simple. Inforce Everywhere can serve as the link, establishing an optional one-to-many relationship between CRM and ERP. This multi-company scenario will be supported in Q3 2012.
Which ERP Solutions and How?
Inforce Everywhere is currently available for Infor10 ERP Enterprise (LN), Infor10 Distribution iBusiness (A+) and Infor10 Distribution Business (SX.e). XA, Syteline and Visual are planned for release next quarter, followed by S21, Sun Systems, LX, (Lawson) M3 and Adage before the end of the year. Additional Infor ERP applications are planned to be rolled out later.
How is Infor able to produce this steady cadence of releases? Infor10 ION, Infor’s lightweight, middleware platform, is the key to connectivity between ERP, CRM and any other ION-enabled application, eliminating the need for individual point-to-point integration. Think of it as a layer of meta data that can connect Salesforce to potentially any or all of the Infor ERP back office solutions. Each solution need only to expose data to the meta data layer to make the connection, so any ION-ized Infor solution is easily connected.
Salesforce has slowly been infiltrating the customer bases of many of the ERP solution providers, especially those that have targeted the mid-market. While ERP solutions have continued to broaden, touching more and more functional areas within an enterprise, they have largely been viewed as back-office solutions. Satisfying the needs of the sales department has often been an afterthought or largely ignored in ERP implementations. As a result, sales departments have sought out their own solutions, sometimes with the blessing of the Information Technology (IT) department and sometimes doing an end run around IT. A cloud-based solution like Salesforce has provided a very viable alternative.
While it is not clear exactly how much overlap there is today between the Infor and Salesforce customers, one would have to assume it would be substantial. That overlap will be target number one for Inforce Everywhere and should be an easy sell.
Where there is no overlap, putting Salesforce Sales and Service cloud portfolio in the hands of the direct and indirect sales force provides them with more to offer the customer. Sure they could buy CRM directly from Salesforce, but the introduction of Inforce Everywhere keeps the sales department happy, but implicitly keeps them in the fold in terms of sharing data and added visibility.