Infor Takes a Breather from Building Its Better Mousetrap

LAS VEGAS -- At the opening session of its Inforum 2007 worldwide user conference here yesterday, business software provider Infor announced a roadmap for the coming year for all nine of its lines of business, including Infor CRM and its best-known CRM offering, Infor CRM Epiphany. The company also confirmed the adoption of a companywide services-oriented architecture (SOA) platform upon which Infor CRM Epiphany and all Infor offerings will operate going forward.

While the most significant announcements coming out of the conference involved Infor's non-CRM lines of business -- primarily supply-chain management and manufacturing -- Infor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Schaper's keynote address underscored some significant milestones in the company's overall development, a success story he framed as an underdog's victory over the naysayers. "After 31 acquisitions -- and our own innovations -- we've simply built a better software company," he told the crowd. "Everybody told us it couldn't be done--and shouldn't be done." Today, he added, Infor has "grown from this tiny upstart to one of the market leaders; from a company with zero revenues to the tenth-largest software company in the world."

Some of the more dramatic statistics Schaper revealed, relating to the company's prior 12 months, included:

  • the privately held company's revenue split: licensing (24 percent); professional services (27 percent); and maintenance (49 percent);
  • 93 percent customer retention;
  • more than 1,700 "brand new" customers -- a category that refers to Infor users not inherited through acquisition; and
  • more than 11,000 additional licenses sold overall (to existing and new customers).

Overall, Schaper said, Infor has averaged 100% annual revenue growth over its five years in existence. The company, with a fiscal year that ends May 31, saw a massive year-over-year leap in revenue between its 2006 fiscal year ($772 million) and this year ($2.084 billion). Having grown so rapidly into a $2 billion-plus player, company estimates for fiscal year 2008 show a notable slowing in growth, with a projected $2.3 billion in revenue -- representing just slightly more than a 10 percent growth rate.

Part of that slowing of growth may be attributable to the company's decision to take a bit of a breather from the acquisition scene. Schaper noted during his keynote that "90 percent of [attendees] are here because we acquired the companies that sold [them] their products." He added that "each acquisition complements our strategic business plan," and that "it's been said that we're a five-year-old company with a 30-year-old history." After 31 acquisitions, however, Schaper told a gathering of media and analysts, "the last two acquisitions we made [are] probably the last two you're going to see from us for a while."

Speaking to the more than 6,000 users in attendance -- representing 45 countries -- Schaper noted that the gathering was "by far" the largest in the company's five-year history. (At the company's first user conference, he recalled, there were fewer than 250 customers on hand.) Building on the conference's theme of "Be Enterprising," Schaper also took time to draw a connection between Infor and the innovation exemplified by many of its customers--including Otis Elevator, SKF, and Zildjian, all of which, Schaper noted, were not merely innovators but the original inventors of their core products. Infor, however, is a company built on the original software products of acquired vendors--a patchwork history that Schaper took pains to redefine as a kind of creation in and of itself.

At the five-year mark, Schaper repeated to both the attendees and the analysts, the company's focus -- and its standing in the software community -- has radically changed. At the beginning, he said, Oracle and SAP "had no idea who Infor was -- and they couldn't care less." Today, he continued, "all of that has changed.... I can tell you from first-hand experience: Our competitors? They [now] know exactly who Infor is."

Schaper also pointed to Oracle's continued acquisition binge as having "added a certain amount of validity" to Infor's strategy, and proof of "the value of our model and our approach."

Among the other bits of news released during the conference:

  • The actual roadmap for Infor Open SOA. The framework -- the eventual rollout of which Infor had previously announced earlier this year -- will enable SOA-based interoperability between solutions, including SOA-compatible applications from other vendors. In a briefing, Schaper made a point of noting that, with Infor, SOA is the opposite of vaporware: "We're not talkingabout SOA capabilities -- we're delivering SOA capabilities."
    In a statement, the company pointed to the development of SOA-based components, highlighting what it calls "dynamic role-based home pages." An early version of these home pages is available now in Infor's ERP software, but the next generation will be available in mid-2008, the company said in a statement, and will "introduce unique Web 2.0 functionality to enterprise users, including personalization and 'enterprise-mashup' capabilities for visualizing data. Role-based home pages are planned for dozens of organizational roles, ranging from executive to managerial and operational levels, and are applicable to multiple product lines through Infor Open SOA."
    "Complexity is the bane of enterprise software because it leads to high costs and a loss of focus on the core business," said Bruce Gordon, Infor's chief technology officer, in a statement. "With Infor Open SOA, we are providing both power and simplicity. We are committed to delivering innovations that can coexist and add value in the most diverse IT environments."
  • Expanded relationship with IBM Global Business Services (GBS). The extension of the existing relationship between the two companies, which, as Schaper noted, dates back to Infor's early days, as well as to Epiphany and SSA Global's pre-acquisition days, is intended, in Schaper's words, "to add leverage to what IBM can deliver to Infor and what Infor can deliver to IBM." Calling IBM "a tremendous sponsor of what we've been trying to accomplish," Schaper told analysts that the systems integration and installation work that IBM GBS does with Infor CRM Epiphany, among other applications, "is key to us."
  • New enhancements to Infor's workforce management solution. The new release, Infor's first update to the Workbrain product that it acquired last year, is designed to improve installation time by up to 66 percent, according to the company. In a statement, the company quoted a recent report from industry research firm AMR Research stating that one of the potential upsides of workforce management is "improved customer service."
  • Reversal of SSA Global's end-of-support for Baan products. Contrary to death-knell plans announced by SSA Global prior to its acquisition by Infor, Baan's new parent company intends to continue support and deliver new functionality for Infor ERP customers running on Baan IV and Baan 5.

Infor's Inforum conference continues in Las Vegas through Wednesday. CRM magazine's coverage will continue throughout the week.
Coming tomorrow, a CRM exclusive: A one-on-one interview with Patric Timmermans, Infor's director of global CRM product marketing. On Friday, we'll examine Infor's plans for Master Data Management.

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