CRM

Infor’s Inforce Everywhere Completes Salesforce’s 360 Degree View of the Customer

 

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

Fast facts:

Infor will provide support to customers that license Salesforce via Infor

Products that Infor will resell include:

  • Sales Cloud, Enterprise Edition
  • Service Cloud, Enterprise Edition
  • Salesforce Sales/Service Cloud related products such as Mobile, Portal, Sandbox, API calls, etc.

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.

Key Takeaways

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.

 

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The Sage Brand – Will it become a household name in NA?

Sage North America is taking its brand very seriously these days. In Europe, Sage is a household name, but when Pascal Houillon arrived in the United States from Paris, he found himself in a very different situation. Mr Houillon recently took over as President and CEO of Sage North America when Sue Swenson retired. Sage Software is a $2.24 billion global company. Sage North America boasted revenues in 2010 of $857.8 million, supporting more than 3.2 million customers in the U.S. and Canada with ERP and CRM and other business applications that support accounting, payment processing, human resources, and the specialized needs of the healthcare, nonprofit, manufacturing, and construction and real estate industries, among others.  Other numbers behind the scenes are equally impressive:

  • Revenues for the first half of 2011 were $1.18 billion globally and $430.7 million in North America
  • More than 40,000 customer calls are managed daily
  • More than 27,000 Value Added Reseller (VAR) business partners worldwide; 5,000 VARs in North America
  • 20,000 members of Sage Accountants’ Network in North America
  • 13,600 employees worldwide; 4,000 employees in North America
  • Over 4,000 attendees at its Sage Summit 2011 customer and partner conference (underway in Washington D.C.  as we speak)

In spite of this, and partly because many of these customers are very small businesses, Sage continues to fly under the radar of many. Based on the premise that a weak brand limits growth for both Sage North America and its partners, Mr Houillon and his management team are on a mission to change that.

In addition to serving a very small end of the market with products such as Simply Accounting and ACT! this lack of awareness  stems in part from Sage having grown largely through acquisition and having preserved many of the brands along the way: ACCPAC, MAS, Adonix and X3, SalesLogix, Simply Accounting, Peachtree, ACT!, ABAS, etc., etc.  Some of these have (and still do) have better name recognition than the Sage brand.  While keeping those brands alive was likely a smart decision at the time, now in order to strengthen the Sage name, the Sage management team has decided to eliminate them. Yes, all of them. While currently products are grouped and managed internally by software category (e.g. ERP and CRM), each with multiple brands and product lines, the thought moving forward is to simply group them by target of company size.

While nothing is yet cast in stone, there will likely be a Sage 50 targeting the very smallest companies, Sage 100 coming up market, Sage 200 even further up… You get the idea. Under Sage 50, there might be accounting solutions, as well as contact management and other categories of solutions. Similarly, there will be products in the Sage 100 line that will satisfy different market needs (ERP, CRM, Human Resources, etc.)  While the concept is simple enough, execution will be far from simple, since there are multiple products in the same category targeting similar size companies. Most specifically on the ERP side of the house, company size is not the only qualifier that determines which solution is offered.

For example, Sage Accpac targets small to lower midmarket multinational businesses in several specific but quite diverse verticals: Finance, Service, Mining and Hospitality. Without the underlying base of MRP it is not really a fit for manufacturers, but Sage has other products that target manufacturing (Sage X3 and Sage MAS). Sage also distinguishes between “global” and “multi-national”. While Sage Accpac can deal with multi-currency and multi-language environments, it is assumed each legal entity in each country will run its own instance of the software, rather than running a global centralized, single instance. X3 is a better fit for the latter. Therefore, because the decision is not always based on company size, there will be some overlap and perhaps some hard decisions as to where to “put” some of the products or how many different Sage NNN product lines are created.

And once these product lines have been created, what will Sage call the different sets of code that fall under each umbrella product? Will they be products, options, flavors, categories? Or will another name (i.e. brand) creep back in? To some these might seem like small, inconsequential issues. But when branding is the goal, they are far from insignificant. For customers that bought Accpac or ACT! 15 years ago, it will be quite hard to get those customers to call those products anything but what they have always called them. One might ask if that really matters. After all, they already bought the product. But the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Brand equity also translates to brand loyalty and brand awareness. And if the existing customers are loyal to the product, with no loyalty to the company that now owns it, the brand is diminished.

But the existing customers will make the transition if they perceive that they are actually getting something “different”, and “different” usually means “more.” So far there has been no talk from Sage North America that any of these products are going away, no talk of rationalization or consolidation. So if the products continue, just with a new name, Sage will need to find a different way of adding enough value to justify the shift in thinking to a new brand.

Some of Sage’s “Connected Services” may be just the ticket for this.   Connected Services are online, web- or mobile-based services, integrated with a Sage product and designed to solve specific business issues for Sage customers. In some instances, they are provided at no charge, in others, they can be purchased on a subscription basis or included with a Sage Business Care Plan. Sage groups these into various categories as follows:

  • Employer Services: learning management service, performance management service, recruiting service
  • Financial Services: payments service, credit checking service, billing service
  • Operations Services: payroll service, direct deposit service, tax service, compliance service
  • Sales and Marketing Services: E-marketing service, business information, business intelligence services
  • Vertical Services: Healthcare patient and physician services, construction project management services, fundraising and grant management services

There is a distinct advantage to offering these as separate services. By creating these as add-on, external components, Sage can develop them once and make them available to all product lines, rather than having to develop employer or financial (or other) services for each of its separate products. Combining the original product offering with a host of services such as these, Sage  may just be able to get its existing customers to make the paradigm shift from being Accpac, Adonix, ACT!, SalesLogix (etc., etc.) customers to being Sage customers.  And then they will be well on their way to being a real “name” in North America.

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IFS and Mint Jutras Study on ERP and Mobility: Access to Enterprise Data

“Mobility” seems to be all the rage these days.  While mobile devices free us from wired connections, they actually seem to tether us more firmly to our businesses. Professionals are “always on” and “always connected” even when traveling for business, attending a child’s soccer game or on vacation. But do we really have better access to the enterprise data we use to make decisions and run our businesses? Is that connection a tether or a lifeline to the business?

 Earlier this year I helped IFS North America with a study conducted to explore interest in and demand for mobile device access to enterprise applications.  The study involved a survey of 281  executives of medium to large manufacturers with revenues over $100 million. We were looking to find out:

  • how enterprise software is currently accessed via mobile devices
  • what types of mobile applications and interfaces respondents are most interested in
  • how mobile interfaces may change the way we work

The enterprise applications we were explicitly interested in were

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)
  • Business Intelligence (BI)

Only small percentages (27%) are currently performing functions in an enterprise application from their mobile device. This is likely influenced by the limited mobile connectivity of the enterprise applications themselves. Connectivity requires a modern underlying technology not available on legacy applications and older versions of software. While a negligible few rate their level of accessibility as excellent, a third to almost one half (varying by application) have little or no access at all. Interestingly, respondents accessing CRM via a mobile device are more likely to have access, but no more likely to rate it as excellent.

In general, we found manufacturing professionals view the mobile interface as an important consideration in enterprise software selection. The importance of the mobile interface increases proportionally as the amount of personal time invested in the job increases. Not surprising. Efficient use of time is even more important when it is your own.

Today the lines between work and private life are blurred, even in a traditional brick and mortar industry. Mobile access to enterprise software can facilitate this blended lifestyle, but what impact will it have on the way people work, how often they work and where they work? Will this drive new productivity for people who spend time in transit or in other locations where a hand-held, mobile device is the only viable tool? Will it cause work to increasingly encroach on personal time? 

While 63% said that remote access would cause them to work more outside normal business hours, only 15% indicate remote access to enterprise data would be MORE disruptive. Easy access through a mobile device, anytime, anywhere, allows a decision maker to connect and act immediately without the disruption of finding an Internet connection and “firing up”  – hence the importance of easy and intuitive access.

Mobile access to enterprise software appears to be a tremendous opportunity to increase productivity given that additional work can be completed while in transit, both inside and outside of work hours. While mobility is far from universally available today in enterprise applications, as software users recognize the value, software providers must necessarily respond with features and functions. The ability to connect and respond immediately improves productivity and far outweighs the cost of the intrusion of a mobile device.

Interested in all the full  results of  the “IFS ERP Mobility Survey; Overview and Projections on Remote Access to Enterprise Data?” Download at http://download.ifsworld.com/ERP_Mobility. (registration required)

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