Infor

Why Is Infor So Quiet?

We live in a world of extreme hype, a world where technology vendors routinely boast of being the best, the brightest, the fastest, the most innovative. You can’t open your Inbox or your web browser without being inundated by what these technology companies think is the latest and greatest. If this new “thing” is not yet a “hot topic,” rest assured that with all the hype, it soon will be.

So after spending a couple of days with Infor and its partners recently at the Infor Americas Partner Summit, I started (alright, I confess, I continued) to wonder why Infor doesn’t seem to be jumping on the hype bandwagon. Sure there was lots of press when former co-president of Oracle, Charles Phillips took the helm. But that and his management changes are fairly old news now. And otherwise, apart from the occasional press release, Infor just isn’t all that vocal. Those not familiar with Infor (and there are still plenty that aren’t) might suspect it is because after years of acquisitions, Infor really doesn’t have anything new or newsworthy to boast about. But in reality, that assumption is far from the truth.  So in this world of extreme hype, is it possible that innovation can be under-hyped?

The Partner Summit wasn’t the first time this thought occurred to me. During one of the main stage keynotes at Inforum 2012 in Denver last April, Infor Workspace was demonstrated. Sitting down front to one side in the auditorium setting afforded me a great view of the audience. Workspace, which uses Infor’s ION (lightweight) middleware (developed by Infor’s technology Innovation Team), was definitely well received. But I got the distinct impression that this was the first time most had seen it or even heard of it.  I can understand why the customers newly acquired from Lawson might have missed the announcement of Workspace in April 2011, but if the majority of Infor customers did, that tells me Infor just isn’t making enough noise.

And one of Infor’s partners from Columbia echoed this thought during the Executive Q&A, asking if Infor was spending money to raise visibility in order to help the partners compete against the likes of Oracle and SAP. It is clear that Infor is investing. It added 600 new developers last year, which means it is clearly investing in the products. But what about marketing and PR? Stephan Scholl also responded by saying “size and scale matters “ and “we need more feet on the street.” Infor added 130 new sales reps in growth markets alone (including Brazil) in the past year. Management felt they needed to beef up sales (and presales) first because they “can’t market what we can’t sell.” That might indeed be true for countries like Columbia and Brazil, but in the United States?

So what has Infor done that merits a louder voice?  I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I should preface it by saying, while other vendors have been jumping on the “hot topic” bandwagon, Infor has taken a different approach. As Stephan Scholl told the Infor partners, “Big data and other buzzwords are important but we’re focused on reducing cost and time to implement, with solutions that minimize services and requires no modification.” It is combining industry specialization with enabling technology in order to be able to deliver a best-fit solution with no (or minimal) customization. Some might say it is not a “hot” approach but I think their customers will appreciate it.  No need to be shy.

Here are a few things I’ve picked up in my conversations with Infor and at the Partner Summit that just might be worth shouting about.

Built for consistency, durability and speed

If you talk to the Infor folks, this is a phrase you will hear a lot. What does it mean? In a nutshell, it means

  1. Infor developers and its partners can develop functionality once and allow it to be used across different Infor products and product lines. This is a big deal. Its Intelligent Open Network (ION), “lightweight middleware, providing common reporting and analysis, workflow, and business monitoring in one, consistent event-driven architecture (EDA)” is the secret sauce that enables this.  This is important for any enterprise application solution provider today, but even more so for Infor which has accumulated a very broad portfolio of potentially overlapping products.  While Infor has been talking about this concept since 2006, we’re now really seeing it being delivered.
  2. Adding functionality in a way that doesn’t “break” when you go from release to release. Localizations are a perfect example. In the past they have been developed not only for a specific product, but also even for a specific release or version of the product. They often hold customers back from consuming the latest innovations. Local.ly, Infor’s new platform to deliver localized statutory reporting, accounting and tax content by country via a loosely coupled architecture is the perfect example of a way to add durability. Local.ly extracts information from any one of a number of Infor’s core ERP engines, isolating the “special” code from the individual ERP products. As a result, upgrades are unlikely to break the localizations. This alone has a huge potential for changing the game when it comes to being able to support different legal, accounting and compliance requirements around the world. But there is no reason why the same concepts can’t be applied to any custom or standard development effort.
  3. Add new features, functions, modules or entire applications quickly. Infor set out to deliver two years worth of new features, functions, products in one year. Of course the 600 new developers helped, but some of the underlying technologies also contributed and they delivered 5000 new features in 2012 and 200 new integrations. They also released Infor10 Mongoose, a high productivity development framework that accelerates development, minimizes coding and programming and also facilitates the re-use of code.
  4. Consistent look and feel. Let’s face it, with so many acquired products, it was impossible in the past to have a consistent look and feel across all Infor products. This presents a bit of a problem in trying to boost deals involving multiple products (a stated goal). Layering Workspace on top certainly adds a layer of consistency, but even better: Build software on Mongoose and it automatically looks like an Infor product.

What about those “Hot Topics?”

While you don’t hear Infor talk much about “big data” per se, but they do talk about their ION Business Intelligence (BI) applications and they also talk about ION enterprise search: which is an important element in navigating the growing volume of both internal and external data used for decision making today. ION enterprise search can dramatically shorten the time to actionable data. Users don’t have to know where to find data and even poorly constructed queries are extremely fast. More importantly, search results include context of the data. And in accessing enterprise data, search results are secured. So while “big data’ may not appear in the Infor vocabulary too often, the means of handling big data does.

What about mobility? In case you missed it, here’s what I wrote about Infor10 Motion back in January.

And cloud? Infor isn’t any stranger to the cloud or Software as a Service (SaaS). While not every Infor product is available via the cloud, some very strategic offerings are, including Syteline, EAM and of course its Inforce Everywhere, which adds valuable ERP data to Salesforce.com to complete the 360o view of the customer.

Infor has also teamed up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  Infor uses AWS’s capabilities to help customers leverage the cloud for any number of purposes including deploying production environments as well as deploying and testing new versions of Infor solutions, or testing customizations before applying the customizations to a production environment. AWS is also available to new customers who may want to start an implementation immediately instead of having to wait until servers are ordered, shipped, and installed for on-premises deployments.

Also, Mongoose also operates in cloud. So Infor can also sing the cloud tune, even though sometimes they may only appear to be humming softly.

So, Infor, with all this  cool stuff going on, with all this new enabling technology, with all the new development…  why are you so quiet? When are you going to start making more noise?

 

 

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Infor Rounds Out Hospitality Offering with Acquisition of EasyRMS

On June 13, 2012 Infor announced the acquisition of London-based EasyRMS, a leading provider of revenue management software for the hospitality industry. This is another step in executing its industry go-to-market strategy, more specifically in expanding its Infor10 HMS solution. Infor has been growing its presence and its solution in the hospitality industry over the past several years through a combination of acquisition and organic development. This acquisition buys them both added presence in Europe and Asia Pacific, as well as an important piece of the puzzle for a complete solution for this industry. Because this solution is delivered as multitenant Software as a Service (SaaS), Infor’s cloud offering also gets a boost.

A Bit of History

Infor is no stranger to the hospitality industry. Both its Infinium and SunSystems products were back office solutions that had been adopted by a fair number of hotels and casinos. Infinium products were added to the Infor product portfolio as part of the SSA Global acquisition in August 2006. SunSystems was acquired at the same time. But it was through the SoftBrands acquisition a couple of years later that Infor was able to address the operational needs of the hospitality industry in general and hotels in particular.

Later Infor combined the industry expertise acquired through the SoftBrands acquisition and the technology acquired from DataStream and its Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution to re-architect the solution from the ground up. Among the advantages of this approach is a very scalable, full multitenant SaaS architecture, which allowed Infor to bring a newly architected product to market twice as fast as it would have taken without this proven SaaS platform. A SaaS environment should also be particularly appealing to companies rolling the solution out to multiple properties within a chain or group of hotels.

Compatibility with an EAM solution doesn’t hurt either. Facility management across multiple properties is a key concern for many in the hospitality business.

That is what forms the basis for Infor10 HMS from an operational perspective. This operational solution is then paired with either Infinium or SunSystems to provide the best fit for the back-office, if that is also a requirement.

So hospitality business can come to Infor from any number of directions. For example, a hotel or hotel chain running SunSystems back office solutions or a casino running Infinium might come looking for an operational solution to assist in reservations, event planning or managing hotel staff and scheduling. Or a hotel using the original SoftBrands product might come looking to replace its back office applications. Or a brand new prospect may come looking for either or both. In all cases they will be purchasing Infor10 HMS, but it may be configured differently depending on their needs.

How Does EasyRMS Fit?

EasyRMS ‘ EzRMS product suite complements the operational component of Infor10 HMS with a fully automated Revenue Management Solution. The solution treats book-able hotel nights as a perishable commodity and looks to optimize revenue produced. While historically most such revenue optimization algorithms simply managed room price, EzRMS also considers ancillary spend in spas, restaurants, on the golf course, and other extra revenues. Profits and cost (per day, per room, per guest and per stay) are considered.

Potential revenue is analyzed based on past stays for returning guests and based on demographics and channel from which the inquiry comes (e.g. coming from Expedia.com, Priceline.com or a search based on a particular hotel brand) to predict total spend and thereby determine the lowest possible rate that should be offered.

Other components of the EzRMS product suite deal with quotes for group rates and contracts as well as reporting by region. The addition of this suite to the existing functionality of Infor10 HMS makes it a very complete solution from an operational perspective. When combined with the back office solutions available, companies would be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive solution for hotels. If you further consider EAM as an added option, it makes it even more comprehensive and complete.

Infor will be welcoming customers from more than 1,200 hotel properties using EasyRMS solutions. These customers could very well prove to be greenfield opportunity for back office Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions like Infinium and SunSystems. A large chain like Marriott, which already has an ERP installed, would never have been on the radar of the sales team without having a foot in the door.

With its base in London, it is also not surprising to learn that it has a strong presence in Europe, Middle East and Africa  (EMEA). And it also has a strong presence in Asia/Pacific (APAC). This also offers a nice complement to Infor’s current stronghold in North America.

The Infor hospitality business itself grew 35% last year. With the addition of EasyRMS, this growth could easily be dwarfed by the growth fueled by an extended product and expanded presence. Additional opportunities may also arise by applying some of the same revenue management optimization algorithms to other industries. Hotel nights aren’t the only perishable products supported by Infor solutions. Certain food and beverage industries might also benefit from the same kind of science. It will be interesting to watch where Infor takes it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Infor’s Innovation Team Helps the Company Go Faster

After a 4-year hiatus, Inforum2012 made a big splash in Denver this week. I attended the last live Inforum back in 2008. There was also a “virtual event” in 2009. But, in my opinion, a virtual event just doesn’t have nearly the same impact as a live one. The Lawson customers in attendance haven’t had to wait so long. The last Lawson CUE was held just about a year ago in Boston. But this week, with no less than 21 different press releases talking about everything from the reinvention of the company under its new leadership to numerous technology and product announcements, Infor did a lot of catching up.

So given all these different announcements, what was the most important message I heard? I think it all boils down to the theme of the conference – Go Faster. And at the center of that theme is a fairly new group within Infor, the innovation team led by James Willey. What is this team all about? I think one of James’ team members summed it up pretty well.  “We have cool ideas and we’re going to build cool stuff. Then we throw it out to the different teams for them to pick it up.”

The reference to “different teams” has resulted from a long history of growth by acquisition. So there are different product teams, but with a renewed industry focus last year, it also means different industry teams. And there is not a simple one-to-one relationship between the two. It’s more like many-to-many relationships. A single industry is likely to be broken down into micro-verticals. The example Charles Phillips used on stage was in food and beverage. Dairies, meat processors, brewers and bakers (all target markets for Infor) share the common category of food and beverage, but are also each unique. On the other side of the equation, Infor has at least a couple of products that target food and beverage, including both Lawson M3 and Adage. So mapping solutions and teams is a bit more complicated than it appears on the surface.

This “cool stuff” includes

  • Intelligent Open Network (ION): lightweight middleware, providing common reporting and analysis, workflow, and business monitoring in one, consistent event-driven architecture (EDA)
  • Infor10 ION Workspace: a “consumer grade” user interface
  • Infor10 Motion: both mobile apps as well as a platform to develop them on
  • Local.ly (newly announced): a platform to deliver localized statutory reporting, accounting and tax content by country in a loosely coupled architecture

Through this “cool stuff” the innovation team powers a lot of the possible innovation in the industry-specific suites introduced with Infor10 about mid-year 2011.  And ION is at the core of a lot of the innovation. ION is based on much the same premise as Infor’s prior Open SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) was in the 2006 to 2009 timeframe in that it is meant to provide an environment that enables new functionality to be developed once and shared by multiple products in the Infor portfolio. However, unlike Infor’s Open SOA, which became very heavy and took years to develop, the new team has kept it lightweight and simple. It comes on 3 CD’s and can install in less than ten minutes.

But in keeping it lightweight, this forces some of the work back on the individual application development teams. And because Infor is in the applications business, not the middleware business, this means James’ innovation team doesn’t necessarily bring the innovation to directly to the market. The innovation team makes it available to the product and industry teams, who take it the final mile.

In order to take advantage of all that ION has to offer, the application has be what Infor calls ION enabled. I prefer to think of it as being IONized.

The individual application needs to provide a translation, sort of a mapping, to the Business Vault. Think of the Business Vault in ION as sort of a Rosetta Stone for applications. Infor still uses OAGIS (Open Application Group’s Integration Specification) as the standard template, along with its definitions of Business Object Documents (BODs). These BODs are really a combination of standard business objects (sales orders, purchase order, invoices, etc.) and processes (acknowledge a sales order, receive a purchase order, pay an invoice, etc.)

Infor’s strategic, go-forward products, which of course are based on newer technology, were the first to be IONized. But there are also a lot of customers on older legacy products. So the innovation team also built tools in ION to help IONize the older apps (e.g. MANMAN, older versions of BAAN, etc.). These tools essentially pre-process these business objects and then import them to ION, much the same way objects from non-Infor (3rd party) applications would be handled.

So there is work that must be done in order to take advantage of the innovation team’s efforts, but once that is done, the application teams get a lot of stuff for free. And that’s the real beauty of it – once the data in the application is exposed to ION, there’s lots that can be done with it, including complex event processing (CEP), making even older solutions exception driven. As data moves across, you can apply rules to it. If the cost changes by more than x%, notify certain roles or individuals. If the price change is too high, put an order on hold until it is approved. If the master data changes 5 times, you have 5 XML documents recording the changes and this can be tracked and reported.

If you recall, earlier I referred to the team as “fairly new.” In fact James (with his team) has been around and doing his “innovation” thing for a few years, ever since the decision was made to abandon the heavyweight Open SOA approach and stick to the Infor knitting, which was and is enterprise applications. But when Charles Phillips arrived at Infor James had a team of 8. Today it numbers around 110, a recognition of the power of a rapid application development mentality, coupled with a “develop once, re-use multiple times” approach and a willingness to invest in it.

The innovation team has a finger in all the hot topics today: cloud, mobility, social, the consumerization of IT, big data and embedded analytics. I say kudos to James and his team and encourage all the product and industry teams to bring the innovation that last mile, so Infor customers can finally keep pace with the fast-moving world of technology enablement.

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Infor Takes ERP Support to the Xtreme

On January 31, 2012 Infor announced a new customer support program called Infor Xtreme. The program, which offers a choice of three different plans, consists of services that are specialized, personalized, social and proactive. It also includes new supporting technology and perhaps most importantly, it includes real people. Here we explore the why, what, when and how Infor intends to deliver extreme support.

Why?

This new program has in large part been prompted by Infor’s new leadership. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Charles Phillips was hired in October 2010. In a recent interview with IDG News, Chris Kanaracus asked what he initially saw as needing to be fixed when he arrived at Infor. Mr. Phillips responded, “The priority for me was reorienting resources into products and away from other areas. We basically reduced our expense in the back office and shifted all of that into product development. I think that the company had a stable customer base, but hadn’t delivered enough innovation and change. Some customers tend to view that as a good thing, but I think you’re better off shipping a lot of innovation even if it means a little disruption.”

Well, if you are delivering innovation and change, and expecting some disruption as a result, you better be prepared to handle it. As a result, Infor is redefining its support, with the goal of serving its customers better and exceeding what has become known as traditional product support.

The new support plans themselves are not disruptive. Customers are not required to sign new agreements. Existing standard support will automatically be converted to the Infor Xtreme plan and those with standard plans plus 24X7 Critical Incident Support (CIS) will convert to Xtreme Premium.

These plans offer more support, not less.  Xtreme Elite plans will be offered as a third, additional option, adding even more features. Pricing doesn’t change unless the customer decides to upgrade from its current plan.

What do ERP customers want?

While Infor’s motivation appears to have the customers’ best interest in mind, how do ERP customers and prospects feel about support these days? The most recent Mint Jutras ERP Solution Study collected data from over 900 survey respondents to rank the priority of different selection criteria in evaluating and selecting Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions, which represents the lion’s share of Infor’s product portfolio. Participants were asked to rate on a scale of zero to four, each of several criteria, including the quality and availability of support services. Zero was “not a consideration and four was “must have/most important.”

Figure 1 shows the mean (average) priority of each of these criteria, as well as the percentage of respondents that checked “must have / most important” for each. It is clear, few criteria are more important than support services.

Figure 1: Importance of Selection Criteria

 

Selection Priority

% “Must Have”

Fit and Functionality

3.46

58%

Ease of use

3.46

55%

Flexibility to address changing business needs

3.38

51%

Quality and availability of vendor support services

3.26

49%

Total cost of ownership

3.21

42%

Integration technologies and capabilities

3.17

41%

Ease and speed of implementation

3.16

41%

Software cost

3.03

30%

Ability to tailor functionality without programming

3.03

37%

Must be an integrated suite rather than multiple point solutions

2.99

37%

Deployment model

2.27

15%

Ability to access ERP through a mobile device

2.27

18%

The Times They Are A-Changing

This is a signal that times are indeed changing. There was a time when customers were more likely to ask for a la carte support plans that allowed them to subscribe to less, rather than more support. Of course the prime motivation was to pay less. But when customers ask for less, this is also a signal that the customers and/or products are stagnant. If you are stuck on very old releases, or legacy solutions based on outdated technology, you don’t want a support plan; you want an insurance policy. And when you buy an insurance policy, the best possible scenario is that you never need it or use it.

Vibrant, active and growing companies need support plans. Evidence that more companies fit into this category lies in the data showing which release survey respondents are operating on. The percentage of companies operating on the latest release of their ERP solution (44%) has never been higher (23% are one release behind and 20% are two or more releases behind.)

Also a significant portion (13%) is in the process of implementing. Combine this with the average age of current ERP implementations, which is an all-time low of 5.5 years, and we conclude that many companies today are far from stagnant.

But the very nature of support is also changing. If you are like most technology users today, you expect some level of self-service to be available. You want to search to see if a problem has already been reported and resolved. If it has, you want to be able to download the fix immediately. If you want instruction on how to do something, a video you can play (and re-play) on demand is extremely useful. But if you don’t know what’s wrong, if you don’t know where to look, or you need help in deciding how to proceed, there is nothing more frustrating than being caught in the seemingly endless loop of “press 1 for sales, press 2 for support, if you need to speak to a representative, please stay on the line [forever.]”

It is interesting that as business becomes more “social” we actually have less human contact, not more. “Social” is good for socializing a thought or even asking for some general advice. “Social” is not good if it prevents you from speaking to an experienced support engineer. Therefore, it is not surprising to find 30% of respondents do not feel their service needs are being met today. Almost half (48%) feel their needs are generally being met, but service could be improved. Only about one in five respondents (21%) indicated their service needs were being fully met.

As much as self-service options are a must, those can’t be the only options. This is why Infor’s message, “We’re there when you need us,” combined with skilled support resources co-located with the development organization is so very critical.

What And How?

So let’s dig a little deeper into what is actually behind the Infor Xtreme support plans. As noted earlier, these plans are a combination of services, technology and people.

Services

Infor uses five different adjectives to describe its support services: specialized, personalized, social, proactive and accountable.

Specialized: Infor has never had a “one size fits all mentality.” And indeed its launch of Infor10 last year accentuates this focus. Infor10 Workspace delivered a new user interface, which unifies information from multiple applications and sources on one screen.  Yet Infor didn’t stop there. It used Infor10 as the basis for designing, developing, testing, and delivering full industry suites. Infor assembled suites of software tailored to the specific requirements of a range of important industries, including:

Because its software is not designed, developed or delivered as general or generic solutions, even through multiple acquisitions, the company never moved to a single support center. Instead it stayed where the people were, the people involved in the development and support of individual products. Support is all about solving issues quickly, so intimate knowledge of the industry, the product and the customer helps the team get on point about an issue quickly.

Personalized: Not only does the choice of support plans allow customers a choice, but this choice is made per product installed. While it is not unusual for an Infor customer to have multiple Infor products, the industry norm would be to require all products to be covered under the same support plan. However, Infor customers might choose a higher level of support for one product as they are embarking on a new implementation, major company reorganization or expansion, or other kinds of special events.

A brand new customer portal, which includes newly delivered support apps, also brings personalization to a new level.  These support apps can be completely personalized.  Customers determine what they want to see and how they want to see it.  They can customize the support apps through the use of drag and drop features, change their user interface (UI) theme and use quick filters to easily get what they need.  Logging of issues is quick, easy and wizard-based. Preferences can be saved. Infor was striving to make it “beautiful” and consumer grade. So far customer feedback has been positive and at least one early adopter has called it “pretty.”  

Social: Infor has been tweeting important product news to customers. But perhaps the most important aspect of social is that of community building. Customers are able to join online communities with their peers with the same product, environment, configuration or industry challenges. While early in the development stage, Infor would like to get to the point where customers add an increasing volume of content that is shared. Customers can join any number of communities, or start their own.

“Social” should be about people helping people. The risk here is that unstructured conversations can turn negative and unproductive. But the value to be gained is certainly well worth the risk.

Proactive:  The goal here is to eliminate problems wherever possible even before customers experience them. As problems that could impact all companies or individual customers are identified, Infor will issue Xtreme Alerts.

Accountable: Support staff being “accountable” to the customer should be a given. However, it is often all too easy to shelter the members of the development organization from this accountability, purportedly so as to avoid distracting them from innovation. But Infor has chosen to co-locate the support and development organizations, making it much harder for the developers to hide from the reality of the real world.

Technology

The adjectives above describing service, along with the goals they imply, would be far more difficult to achieve without some supporting technology. At the heart of this new technology is ION Support Assistant (ISA). This is an automated tool that gathers information about the customer’s unique environment and provides it back to the Xtreme Support engineers.

This is not “spy software” meant to police the installation; it collects data that the support engineer would otherwise have to gather verbally on each support call. Have you ever been on the phone with a support technician, and thought, “Shouldn’t they know all this already?”  Infor may already know what products the customer has licensed, and may know which versions, releases and patches have been shipped. But without confirmation, that engineer would not know what had actually been installed and implemented.  And this data is far from static. Automating the collection of this data saves time and provides more information than might ordinarily be collected, which could indeed help resolve the issue more quickly. And just think, if the first support engineer needs to pass you off to another, you won’t have to go through it again!

The portal mentioned in the Personalization section previously is another piece of technology that adds value to the process. Having a portal is not something entirely new to Infor customers. Having this portal is new. However, the old version is still available to existing customers to help as they transition to the new terminology and the new features of Xtreme Support.

A nice feature that has been added to the portal is a set of analytics that will summarize previous incidents and the results, including response times and resolutions.

People

It is refreshing to find that in spite of automation, online portals and social media, Infor views its team of experts as an equally important element of Xtreme Support. These are long-tenured employees, with deep product knowledge, often enhanced by deep industry knowledge. They are co-located with the development team, so that they, with the help of their customers, keep the developers focused on both innovation and quality.

While all Xtreme Support customers have access to recorded briefings and how-to assistance in the form of training videos, the Premium and Elite Support customers also have additional access to other key Infor  staff through interactive briefings and Elite customers have further access to senior level support and development resources. Elite Support also includes an invitation to participate in Infor’s customer executive advisory boards, which provide a direct channel to provide input and feedback to Infor product experts and executives.

In addition to the regular Xtreme Support team, Infor has also created a new team of Xtreme Elite Account Managers. This was a position that Lawson (acquired by Infor last year) had created and Infor saw the value it added to the support equation. These Elite Account Managers are not commission-based and in fact are not allowed to sell the customer anything. Each manages an average of 10 accounts. They not only help resolve issues, but are also instrumental in helping Xtreme Elite customers in their planning processes.

When?

The answer is, “Now.”  Plans have been available since October 2011.

Key Takeaways

Support is hardly the sexy side of any software business. While new development is all about the latest technology and the most exciting new innovation, support is all about getting the job at hand done and doing it well. It’s about making the most of what you have. It can produce that awful sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when something goes wrong. It is hard work and sometimes it can be a thankless task.

Being prepared for disruption and having the right tools, technology and people may not be glamorous, but in the end, it is what delivers real value to the customer. It is refreshing to see Infor striving for more innovation and change and comforting to see they understand that innovation comes with a price they seem willing and able to pay.

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Infor customer Filtronic Broadband chooses to standardize on Infor10 ERP Business in M&A

Today Infor announced that telecommunications component manufacturer Filtronic Broadband will extend its implementation of Infor10 ERP Business (SyteLine) to support recently acquired Isotek Holdings. Like the vast majority of the “World Class” ERP implementations participating in our Mint Jutras 2011 Solution Study, Filtronic Broadband has defined corporate standards for ERP. Mint Jutras defines World Class to be the top 15% in terms of results, progress achieved in reaching company-specific goals and current performance. Our study found that 97% of the top-performing ERP implementations have defined corporate standards for ERP, although this does not always mean a single ERP solution is implemented at all operating locations as we see planned for Filtronics Broadband. In fact World Class implementations with such standards are equally split on having a single standard (51%) or a two or multi-tier strategy (49%).

Filtronic Broadband’s requirement was for an ERP solution that could be used in sites spanning two continents: the UK and the United States. It was also driven by the necessity to move fast – it had to be implemented quickly before the end of the fiscal year. It decided to use Infor10 ERP Business to standardize inventory processes between the two operating locations, with the added benefit of accelerating those processes and reducing the cost of materials.

It’s not clear from the announcement whether the combined companies will use a single instance of Infor10 Business or whether each operating location will have its own. One thing is clear; operating in two different countries requires them to maintain two different legal entities. Passing data between two instances of the same ERP can be far easier than between different ERP platforms, but only if master data and processes are standardized. And that’s a big “if.” A certain openness and support for interoperability is a big factor. Yet success will depend as much on the design of workflows, processes and master data.

The approach Filtronic Broadband decided to take was to have a master database of all parts, with consistent item numbers across both sites. In addition to speeding up processes, it will help them eliminate excess inventory where the same part might have existed with different item numbers. This of course isn’t the only way to manage this type of distributed environment. Instead of using a single standardized set of master data codes (e.g. part numbers), master data using different codes could be mapped to one another.  But for every one World Class implementation mapping different codes, there are slightly more than two using universal codes.  So Filtronic Broadband was hardly unique in this decision.

According to Dave Barry, IT manager for Filtronic Broadband, the company is still in early stages. We’ll be watching to see what kind of real benefits are gained, whether related to time and money saved, as well as consistency in reporting.


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Infor10 in Motion: Making a Run at the Market

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
  • Dashboards

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.

Enterprise-Class Mobility

 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.

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Lawson/Infor Address GRC Gap With Approva Acquisition

On September 1, 2011 Lawson Software Americas, Inc., an Infor affiliate, completed the acquisition of Approva® Corporation. In doing so, the combined companies add a component previously missing from their product portfolio to address a growing need for Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). At the time of the Lawson acquisition in July 2011 Infor promised a fast pace of development and delivery of deeper industry-specific features for key industries. This move signals that Infor is serious about investment in establishing itself as a leader in the enterprise software industry. Integrating yet  another company before the dust has even settled from the prior one is an aggressive move that is not without risk. Yet managing risk is what this merger is all about.

Approva Key Facts

  • Founded in 2002
  • 200+ Customers – including Fortune 500 leaders in key verticals
  • 190 Employees
  • Headquarters in Herndon, VA
  • 120+ employees in Pune, India
  • Previously owned by four VCs – Sierra Ventures, Novak Biddle, NEA, and Columbia Capital

 

Identifying the Need

High profile scandals of the past decade, increased regulatory requirements and security and privacy issues that come with the age of connectivity have heightened the need for all three elements of the broad category of Governance, Risk and Compliance. And yet most companies today still rely on manual processes and have done little to automate controls. This condition itself adds a level of risk in being able to detect fraud, comply with reporting requirements efficiently and perform internal audits in order to prepare for the external ones.

The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions offered by both Lawson and Infor are a focal point for gathering data and recording transactions that need to be monitored but do not provide the level of monitoring and control required for GRC purposes. However, to be fair, most ERP solution providers today, with the exception of SAP and Oracle, suffer from the same deficiency.

The Mint Jutras 2011 ERP Solution study looked beyond the realm of core ERP modules and investigated current and planned adoption of 20 different extensions to ERP. These are additional applications which might (or might not) be integrated with ERP. One of the categories included was GRC applications.

Figure 1 compares the current and planned adoption of World Class ERP implementations to all others, not achieving this status. To define “World Class” we use a broad spectrum of metrics. While the study also measures additional key performance indicators (KPIs) that are specific to different industries, we limit the World Class definition to those which can be universally applied to all companies. The definition of World Class performance is based on a composite of three different categories of metrics: results, progress in achieving goals and current performance.

While adoption rates are relatively low (39% for World Class and 16% for all others), World Class ERP implementations are almost 143% more likely to include one or more elements of GRC and 86% less likely to have no plans for adoption.

GRC is a broad category and can mean different things to different constituents in any organization. For the office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) “risk” generally refers to both financial risk and the financial impact of operational risks that can be caused by both internal and external factors. Those operational risks can include Information Technology (IT), which largely centers around IT security.

Approva positions its application as Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM), which is all about monitoring what users “can do” and then analyzing what they “did do” in financial and business systems. Sitting outside of the ERP solution, between the corporate governance layers and the underlying IT infrastructure allows them to provide cross-platform monitoring across any number of different applications.

It has been the experience of Mint Jutras that most companies embarking on implementation of any GRC solution are most likely to start by implementing access control, whether driven by the need for segregation of duties (SOD), security or just good management practices, or for all three purposes.  While most modern enterprise applications today are able to secure access to individual functions in the application, and more and more of them are able to secure access to particular data (e.g. a sales representative can only access order status for his or her own customers, or warehouse personnel can only enter inventory transactions for that warehouse, etc.) the controls are confined to a particular application. What happens when an individual is allowed to add vendors in one particular application but payments are processed by a different application? Without cross-application visibility, there is risk of the same individual creating a vendor in one application and paying the same vendor from another.

The folks from Lawson tell me that while their customers have not articulated the need using references and terms like “access control”, indeed they have identified the need to better support internal audits. A CCM solution directly addresses this concern.

Why Lawson?

So, given that Lawson is the “newbie” in the Infor family, why did Approva land here? The answer has much more to do with the original Lawson S3 legacy than its acquired M3 (Intentia Movex) product line. Selling to and servicing the office of the CFO has always been Lawson’s strong suit. The addition of Infor’s Corporate Performance Management (CPM) suite only added to that strength and there is significant potential with the ION suite. Infor ION at the Center of Providing Immediate Value to Lawson and Infor speaks to this potential.

Lawson is also the home for products that specifically address two of the industry sectors most sensitive to GRC issues today – healthcare (and associated HIPAA requirements) and the highly visible public sector. Approva fills a notable gap in addressing these issues.

Two Distinct Markets

This begs the question of whom and what will be the target market for the acquired CCM product. It would seem there would be two separate and distinct targets.

First of all, there is the cross-sell and up-sell opportunity in the existing Lawson and Infor installed bases. Since there is no product in the current portfolio that competes in any way, there seems to be ample opportunity here. The Lawson S3 base would appear to have the most low-hanging fruit. Lawson already has a relationship with those most likely to perceive the need for this solution, and also those that control the budget which would fund the investment – namely the office of the CFO. And, according Lawson’s Darci Snyder, Director FS and Public Sector Product Management, its customer base has been asking them to fulfill that need.

Whether the remaining customers using Lawson M3 and other Infor products see that same need remains to be seen. To date, large enterprises have been most likely to invest in GRC solutions. Smaller companies don’t have deep pockets when it comes to investments in GRC or CCM and while Infor’s customer base does include very large corporations, it also includes small and midsize companies as well.

Lawson has always taken a very industry focused approach in its product development and its marketing. Expect to see this industry focus spread through all the Infor product lines over the coming months. This focus had already begun before the Lawson acquisition across 10 specific industries and the acquisition simply added three more industries. Lawson and Infor are already working to integrate Approva’s applications into existing financial suites (yes, there are still multiple) and to address industry-specific requirements. So adding CCM as a feature/function to those solutions will be a priority and will simply give representatives selling these solutions more to offer.

Yet the cross-platform, cross-application capabilities of Approva have always been its strength and therefore it would be not be in Lawson/Infor’s best interest to walk away from that business. And while there is some overlap in customers, there are a lot of Approva customers running applications that are in neither the Lawson nor Infor portfolio. It has an obligation to those companies as well. Yet expecting the existing sales teams that are focused on selling a complete ERP solution to be successful selling stand-alone CCM is unrealistic…which brings us to questions that are normally associated with any acquisition.

Integrating the Companies

How will Approva be integrated into the Lawson/Infor corporate structure and strategy? It is still too early in that process to answer all the burning questions about branding and about sales, and even development teams. It would certainly make sense to have a dedicated team that specializes in marketing and selling this type of solution, since Lawson/Infor does not have experience in this realm. Yet this may be entirely separate or managed more as an overlay team.

Infor has already broken rank, so to speak, in absorbing Lawson. Infor combined Lawson with SoftBrands, Inc., an affiliate company which was acquired back in 2009. This represented a bit of a divergence from past acquisition strategies. Until it acquired Softbrands, Infor had generally executed mergers where the staff was fully integrated and the acquired company’s brand was subsumed by the Infor brand. The combination of Softbrands and Lawson seemed to simply be an internal organizational decision and has nothing to do with branding, selling or supporting and Lawson staff does appear to be working closely with their counterparts on the Infor side. Now Approva is being included in the Softbrands/Lawson affiliate company. It remains to be seen whether the Approva brand will survive and what level of integration we’ll see in the coming months.

Summary and Key Takeaways

In summary, CCM is a logical extension to the Lawson and Infor applications. The product itself is complementary to financial applications, and indeed fills a gap that at least some of the company’s customers have noted. This provides opportunity to Lawson/Infor in allowing sales teams to add functionality and intelligence into existing accounts.

Infor is committed to developing and deploying industry-specific functionality, allowing for tighter fit with existing customer base and sales teams while creating a complete solution that is both broad and deep, while still being industry-focused and yet can compete in the office of the CFO.

Yet preserving a level of independence will be necessary if Infor wants to continue to be able to sell stand-alone CCM and also maintain the loyalty of the Approva customer base.

This move was quick and aggressive, given the very recent acquisition of Lawson by Infor. All eyes will be on managing the risks associated with this type of bold move.

 

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How are you paying for ERP? Here’s how others are.

Back in May I posted some commentary and a warning not to confuse how you buy ERP with how you deploy it. There is much written today about deployment options in general and cloud computing in particular. Although how you pay for ERP is different from the way it is deployed, the two are definitely intertwined because you will either be paying for software or you will be paying for a service or both. This service is not to be confused with the consulting and implementation services you may contract for. This is either software as a service (SaaS) or hosting services, which may also be combined with Application Managed Services (AMS), where the company hosting the software also manages the applications and perhaps even the business processes the software is used to model (e.g. Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable). But how are companies generally paying for ERP these days?

Just to recap:

Enterprise application software is typically not bought and sold; it is instead licensed for use. It may be licensed to be used by a company, on a particular computer or by other criteria such as number of users. This is similar to consumer software. Buying it once doesn’t mean you can duplicate it and share it with all your friends, or even sometimes use it on all your own computers. For enterprise application software how you pay for that license and the term of the license can vary tremendously.

A software license can be perpetual. Early findings from our Mint Jutras 2011 ERP survey indicate that 76% of responding companies have perpetual licenses. That means you pay for it once and can use the enterprise application forever. Maybe. This used to be the case, but more and more often today a perpetual license agreement might have a stipulation that you have the right to use that software only for as long as you continue to pay maintenance to the software vendor that provides the product. In fact, if you are buying ERP today, expect this requirement to pay a recurring maintenance fee in order to continue to use the software. In our survey 62% of those with perpetual licenses have this requirement.

A maintenance agreement, which is a recurring cost, typically provides both technical support and certain innovations. Some of those innovations will be included in your maintenance fee and others may still need to be purchased. Maintenance is typically priced as a percentage of the software license and the going rate at list price today is around 22% for ERP. While anecdotal evidence tells us that most companies actually pay less than this (closer to 16%-18%) this is largely due to specially negotiated rates and older rates that have not necessarily escalated at the same pace of increased list prices. But if you are purchasing a new ERP solution, expect this to be the starting point for negotiation.

But perpetual licenses are not the only type offered. Instead your license might be for a specific period of time.  This is generally referred to as a “term” license. At the end of the term, you must either renew the license or discontinue use of the software. In fact the application might have the equivalent of a kill switch in it that will disable it and prevent you from continuing to use it at the end of the term.  This type of license is less common and in fact only 7% of our survey respondents indicated this was how they paid for their ERP. Effectively managing this type of license requires some license management code to be embedded in the solution and this was not always done, particularly in older legacy software. If it was not, and you don’t renew, you are in breach of contract and you might find some software auditors on your doorstep.

Subscription-based pricing is another alternative, particularly for those who are looking to expense their investment as an operating expense rather than a capital expense. About 15% of survey respondents pay by subscription. You might pay a nominal startup fee, but you avoid the big front-loaded expense of a software license. Unless this is coupled with a SaaS deployment, this does not necessarily address the up-front cost or the on-going expense of the hardware. Only 28% of the subscriptions paid by our survey respondents were SaaS-based.  Running in a hosted environment where the supporting hardware costs are embedded in the subscription fees may indeed address these capital costs and allow you to account for payment completely as an operating expense.

The findings noted come from the 2011 Mint Jutras ERP Solution study. Look for more data to be shared in the upcoming weeks. If you are in any way involved in the selection, management, maintenance or use of ERP in your company, please participate in our survey. By doing so, you will receive the full executive summary and also have access for inquiry to Mint Jutras for a 6 month period. Your contact info is entirely optional but we will need your email address to deliver your report and an access code for inquiry. Mint Jutras makes it a policy to never share contact info under any circumstances.

To participate click here: 2011 Mint Jutras ERP Solution Study Survey.

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ERP: Join me in a stroll down memory lane

I’ve been “watching” ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) for more than three decades now. You might even say I’ve been watching it before it even existed, before it emerged on the market, when it was still a twinkle in the eye of software companies. You see, back in the 1970’s most of the software industry looked with disdain on “packaged” software. Everything was pretty much home-grown or custom developed back then. After all, how in the world could you possibly write software that would really meet the needs of a wide range of companies? Back then of course, all companies were “different” and therefore software had to be developed to meet those unique needs. Right?

The answer even back then was really, “No, of course not.” Each and every company was not really that different. Every for-profit company took orders, delivered goods or services and paid their bills. Manufacturers bought components or ingredients and made things.  Distributors moved goods. Retailers procured, stocked and sold product. Even non-profits needed to balance their books and produce financial statements.  All but the very smallest companies had payroll to meet and taxes to pay. Yet business processes were/are not identical from company to company and each had/has their own nuances. Back in the 1970’s god forbid, if a software company dared to question how things were done, or worse, attempt to change policy or procedure. If something had to change, it was definitely the software. And back then, that meant mucking around deep down in the source code. And it was even worse if the file or database structures had to change.

When you look at it from this perspective you realize just how far we have come. Back 30 years ago, data entry clerks (dare I say even key punch operators?) and data processing (the predecessors to IT) departments were the only people who actually “touched” software. The only thing management touched was the mountain of paper produced as output and that paper was green bar, continuous forms that might or might not be “burst” into individual pages. Thirty years might seem like a life-time to those in Generation X, Y or the new iY. But to Baby Boomers who entered the job market during the 1960’s and 1970’s it seems like just yesterday.

ERP has of course evolved from MRP which originally stood for Material Requirements Planning, then expanded to include more than materials and became Manufacturing Resource Planning. Somewhere along the way there was an MRP II, but at this point in history the difference “II” added doesn’t much matter anymore. Then as the footprint of the software grew to encompass other aspects of the business, MRP merged with accounting applications and morphed into ERP. It broke free of the boundaries implied by Material and Manufacturing, to be an enterprise application for all types of industries. Some struggle to define ERP today. I don’t. I define it as an integrated suite of modules that forms the transactional and operational system of record of the business. But the boundaries of ERP have steadily grown to include a broader and deeper footprint, to the point where ERP is not really confined by any boundaries.

Back in the 1970’s, nobody would have conceived how far we could go in the next 30+ years, just as we couldn’t conceive of having the same (or more) processing power clipped to our waistbands  as that which used to require raised floor, climate-controlled rooms.  So where are we going now? All the rage of course is:

  • Mobility: accessing enterprise data from those ubiquitous mobile devices
  • Cloud computing: operating ERP in a hosted environment, public or private clouds, buying Software as a Service (SaaS) and connecting traditional on-premise solutions to those in the cloud
  • Two-tier ERP strategies: does it make sense for a multi-divisional company  to standardize on one ERP, or to have one (or more) operational ERP’s coexisting with a corporate, administrative ERP?
  • Mashing up data from ERP with other applications and even external applications like Google Maps, Outlook and anything you can reach through a url.
  • Processing huge volumes of data in seconds or even nanoseconds

But the real bottom line in implementing ERP is just that… the bottom line. How does it impact cost and efficiency? What business benefits does it bring? And is anyone measuring? This is the subject of my recently launched survey.

If you have ERP, you have a chance to weigh in on how important these trends are to you and then see a summary of the results and engage in the discussion. Even if you haven’t invested in ERP yet, jump in. We want to hear about what you are doing now, what’s holding you back and what are your plans?

You might be asking yourself, “What’s in it for me?” I will share a copy of the Executive Summary of the findings with all participants and I am also offering access to Mint Jutras for questions and inquiry regarding ERP for 6 months after you take the survey. While contact info is optional, I will need your name and email address to deliver this to you. Don’t worry, this exercise is not a marketing ploy asking for your permission to share your contact info. It’s really just about the research, so don’t be afraid to have your voice heard.

Please click on our Survey link to participate.

A note to solution providers: Feel free to take the survey but ONLY IF you answer questions honestly as a user (not a provider) of ERP solutions. Or, if you prefer, pass this along to your customers. For more information on how you might participate (see and benefit from the results) please contact me at cindy@mintjutras.com.

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Infor ION at the Center of Providing Immediate Value to Lawson and Infor Customers

On July 5, 2011 the acquisition of Lawson Software by GGC Software Holdings, Inc. (an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital) and Infor was completed. The next day Infor wasted no time in announcing integration plans for the company and some of the combined company’s products. Neither Infor nor its new CEO, Charles Phillips, is a stranger to acquisitions. Infor itself has executed over 31 acquisitions in its relatively short history. Mr Phillips’ prior stint at Oracle, known in the industry for fast and efficient integration of acquired businesses, has prepared him well for his first acquisition since taking the helm at Infor. These veterans of the world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) know that it is important to immediately send a strong message to all customers that the future of the products they use is secure and that the merger actually brings them value.

MERGING THE COMPANIES

In a nutshell, Infor has combined Lawson with SoftBrands, Inc., an affiliate company which was acquired back in 2009. This affiliation enables Lawson/SoftBrands and Infor to share and integrate technology and partner on product offerings. Look for joint cross-selling, marketing and distribution arrangements in the near future. This represents a bit of a divergence from past acquisition strategies. Until it acquired Softbrands, Infor had generally executed mergers where the staff was fully integrated and the acquired company’s brand was subsumed by the Infor brand. The last acquisition approaching this size was the acquisition of SSA Global in 2006 and you would be hard pressed to find any reference today to the SSA brand and only insiders might know that certain Infor employees used to be SSA employees. The value in combining Lawson with Softbrands is not entirely clear to me; Infor tells me it was simply a structural move to consolidate affiliates. But preserving the Lawson brand does make sense, at least for now. It sounds much like the approach SAP took (quite successfully) with both Business Objects and Sybase. While Lawson does not have quite the brand equity of either Business Objects or Sybase, it has particular significance to the Lawson installed base. And the Lawson installed base should be a prime sales target for Infor. When (and if) Lawson and Infor deliver on the promise of a fast pace of development and delivery of deeper industry-specific features for key industries (manufacturing, healthcare, distribution, public sector and hospitality), the importance of the distinction between the two brands will fade. While Infor and Lawson’s product portfolio both compete with and complement each other, come to find out, the two companies share a significant base of common customers. Infor maintains that 9% of Lawson’s active customers also use Infor products, and 48% of Lawson’s top revenue customers use at least one Infor application. Although Infor does not specify the threshold for “top revenue,” one would think this is a large enough segment of customers to present cross-sell opportunities.

 PRODUCT INTEGRATION PLANS ANNOUNCED

But for many of the Lawson (and possibly some Infor) customers, this is just background noise. What they really want to hear is what the new affiliation will mean to them in terms of the products they run. That means both continued support and development plans. Anticipating this question, the Infor and Lawson product development teams have already begun integrating applications using Infor ION. ION is a suite of interoperability and management services designed to facilitate and manage data regardless of whether the data is stored on premise or in the cloud and regardless of which application (or software vendor) “owns” it. This has always included both Infor and non-Infor applications, which certainly makes bringing Lawson software into the mix. Current plans targeted for release later this year follow.

LAWSON S3 AND INFOR FMS SUNSYSTEMS ENTERPRISE

This first integration project targets organizations that have now or plan to implement a two-tier financial management strategy. Lawson S3 would sit at corporate headquarters and larger divisions, while Infor FMS SunSystems Enterprise could be used at smaller operations, potentially distributed globally. This configuration would support multiple countries, languages and currencies. A hidden benefit is that it would also allow each distributed operation to upgrade separately, often a forgotten consideration.

LAWSON S3 AND INFOR EAM

This is an interesting approach since Lawson also offers an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution. Yet the Lawson EAM solution is much more firmly anchored in the manufacturing and distribution sectors, which is where M3 and not S3 plays. The City of Greensboro, N.C. is an example of a public sector customer that Infor and Lawson have in common. Indeed, prior anticipatory announcements called out Lawson’s expertise in the healthcare industry, a sector in which Infor has not really penetrated. The thought appears to be to enhance Lawson S3 with Infor’s EAM and bring the integrated solution to large hospitals, in addition to government and other public sectors.

LAWSON HUMAN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT AND INFOR WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT

While Lawson has made a bigger name for itself (than Infor) in terms of Human Capital Management (HCM), Infor’s strength is more along the lines of direct work force management. This integration could add Time & Attendance as a complement, for example to Lawson’s Nurse Scheduling application.

UNDERLYING TECHNOLOGY

So all this makes sense from a feature/functionality standpoint. But what about the underlying architecture? It is quite clear that the integration projects and future technology development will be based on Infor ION. But while Infor has been developing Infor ION and some follow-on products like Infor Workspace (which Infor calls a new “consumer grade user interface designed to revolutionize the experience of doing business using enterprise applications”) Lawson has not been standing still. In fact Lawson just released Lawson Mashup Designer, which shares a lot of similar features and functions with Infor Workspace. First available for M3, Mashup Designer was recently released for S3 (MAy 2011). So the question will be, will the (integrated) S3 product line be enhanced with Mashup Designer or Infor Workspace? Lawson Mashup Designer is based on Lawson Smart Office (LSO), which was released back in March 2008. LSO was meant to be an intuitive, personalized user interface that allows users to directly access Lawson and Microsoft applications and update data pervasively and instantly across the applications. Mashup Designer builds upon LSO and extends beyond the realm of Microsoft. LSO is the foundation for Mashup Designer. And finally, underlying both M3 and S3 is Lawson System Foundation, a middleware layer insulating the Lawson applications from the underlying operating systems and databases. Because ION can be used to connect both Infor and non-Infor solutions, it would appear than LSF does not need to be replaced immediately, but it also doesn’t make a lot of sense for the combined company to maintain two different teams and parallel development efforts to continue to develop both ION and LSF or Lawson Mashup Designer and Infor Workspace. So there are some open questions for Lawson customers that have invested in LSF, LSO and Mashup Designer.

 KEY TAKEAWAYS

From all appearances it would appear that Infor and Lawson combined are on track to deliver value rapidly to customers, albeit some will see direct benefits sooner than others. What’s in it for Infor and Lawson? • Scale. The larger the company the more resources for innovation and development • Happy customers. And happy customers mean cross-sell and upsell opportunities What’s in it for their customers? • Scale. The customers benefit as well from more development resources and more innovation. • Security. While Infor has been a private company and not subject to the scrutiny of Wall Street per se, Lawson has always kept a close eye on profits. Even during the worst of the recession, when revenues dipped, Lawson CEO Harry Debes kept operating margins on the rise. So Infor is not inheriting a financial mess – far from it. • More solution. The immediate integration efforts will extend options from expanded solutions, although it appears that the S3 installed base will benefit more quickly and will be more differentiated from other Infor products. M3 will become one of several ERP solutions for manufacturers, but heavily targets some industries where Infor touches only lightly. M3 could benefit from the cross-fertilization of manufacturing talent throughout Infor.

Time will tell just what this means for the brands, but by the time that is decided, it probably won’t matter that much.

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