On January 23, 2012 Infor released Infor10 Motion, a cloud-based mobile platform built with a loosely coupled architecture on its Infor10 ION framework.The platform approach is based on the premise that people are on the move today and that their work needs to also stay in motion. With this release Infor strives to differentiate itself from other more complex mobile platforms, to not only provide easy development and deployment of mobile apps but also a level of consistency that has previously been hard to deliver with its broad and diverse portfolio of enterprise applications. Infor10 Motion provides an opportunity for Infor to adopt a consistent user experience, aimed at accelerating productivity, across all back office applications.
What is Infor10 Motion?
Infor10 Motion is a platform which consists of three components:
- Infor10 Motion Builder: the means to build new mobile applications
- Infor10 Motion Manager: a cloud-based way to manage the devices and the applications running on them
- Infor10 Motion Server: where “server” is used in the context of software (also cloud-based), not hardware, to process requests from mobile devices
However, this platform would be useless without the applications it is meant to manage and serve. Infor will be releasing a variety of applications, starting with newly released:
- Infor10 Road Warrior – think of it as mobile customer relationship management (CRM)
- Infor ION ActivityDeck, useful in reminding users of important tasks, providing alerts and facilitating approvals of pending requests.
Others on the horizon include:
- Shop Floor: bringing mobility to where manufacturing is done
- The Mobile Manager: (not to be confused with Motion Manager) supports management decisions on the move
- Hotel Administration
A Common User Experience
All these applications will have a common user experience. While Infor has a very broad portfolio of products, none have a well-defined mobile user interface and therefore this is an opportunity to define a standard and use it to unite disparate enterprise applications in its portfolio. A real life road warrior won’t know (or care) where (which Infor product) data is coming from. In developing a new standard, the user experience will not be constrained by traditional user interfaces and will take advantage of native features of the most commonly used devices. The first release supports the iPad and the iPhone, but support for Android and for Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry are planned for the summer of 2012. Infor is also expecting to support HTML5.
Infor10 Motion apps are enhanced by being “app aware,” including consumer apps that could potentially add value to the enterprise. For example, think of incorporating Skype and Apple’s Face Time within a customer’s contact information, making these collaboration tools instantly available to field personnel.
Infor also expects the Motion products to standardize reporting and analytics across potentially multiple applications. It will use Infor ION, its lightweight middleware, to construct the Infor Business Vault, a data warehouse that should prove to be instrumental in integrating multiple data sources. Its recent joint announcement with Salesforce.com is one such projected integration point.
Expanding the Reach of Applications
This approach has the potential of bringing a different kind of enterprise applications user into the fold. While many decision-makers are today not directly connected to applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), relying instead on surrogates or subordinates to access and provide needed data, consumer-grade applications from mobile devices could complete that circuit and put decision-makers in direct contact with enterprise data.
But to better connect, these consumers of data may require a new and wide-ranging set of applications, perhaps more purpose-built than a broad multi-functional application like ERP. Infor intends to take advantage of the ease of development associated with these types of focused applications and need not be constrained by the limitations of existing applications. And the fact that these apps may be accessing data from a variety of different back end applications will be transparent to the traveling business person.
Infor, as other major enterprise applications vendors, is not counting only on apps coming from their own development teams, but from a broader community of partners and customers. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to this will be in getting that community to feel like an “Infor community.” Today partners and customers alike are much more aligned to individual products in the Infor portfolio than to the Infor community at large. But a single “stack” for reporting and analysis, coupled with a common mobile user experience and cloud-based tools can all contribute to moving towards an Infor-centric community.
But also a challenge may be getting its customers to clamor for these applications. Yes “mobility” has proliferated to the point where most people – business people as well as pure consumers – carry one, if not multiple devices. And yet many still do not see the enormous business potential. Mint Jutras research shows that the number one priority for mobility-related functionality is performing approvals and authorizations, followed closely by receiving alerts and notifications. Taking photos and attaching them to records rated higher than mobile order and account management. Other research specifically related to ERP shows that less than half (47%) of companies rate the ability to access ERP data from a mobile device as “important” or “must have,” 26% said it was “somewhat important”, 22% called it a “nice to have” and 6% said it wasn’t a consideration at all. A lot of companies still miss the connection between this proactive management and the underlying enterprise data that runs their business.
Perhaps with the advent of these “smart” applications, the general business population will begin to see the light. What Infor hopes to convey is a worthy message:
- Don’t wait to act
- Work in context
- Get back on the road
Let work move as fast as you do.