Infor Tries to Unite Old and New
LAS VEGAS — Still trying to dispel the perception that Infor has become little more than a holding company surrounding an acquisition spree, Infor executives took the stage here yesterday morning to discuss future plans -- a big part of which included the availability of several product enhancements. Having spent roughly $4.4 billion on 31 acquisitions, the company loudly proclaimed at this user conference a year ago that it was applying the brakes; this year, Infor made clear the new plan was to shift gears: "Acquirers don't invest," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Schaper told attendees here yesterday. "Innovators do."
True to form, Schaper said that the company will be investing 12 percent of this year's revenue in development and enrichment of solutions. Moreover, he promised to spend $325 million over the next four years on new and upcoming solutions.
Schaper opened his keynote address by comparing the discipline of running a business with that of performing music. Both require unique skills and resources, effective planning, timing, and foresight, he said. Both require these traits not only to compete, but to win. The primary difference between music and business, he said, is that only one of them offers standing ovations and curtain calls. For businesses, the show must go on.
The world is moving faster and reaching farther, Schaper said, no longer bounded by borders determined by time or land. Those who fail to adapt, he warned the audience, will not be able to handle the pressure. "It's business Darwinism," he said. "Pure and simple." Companies need to structure themselves into highly responsive business networks -- comprising employees, partners, customers, and even competitors -- to properly apply resources in an unpredictable environment. Technology, Schaper said, plays a significant role in achieving this business objective.
Bruce Gordon, the company's chief technology officer, complemented Schaper's opening remarks with his own, noting that, in meeting any business's needs, technology must:
- be based on a services-oriented architecture (SOA) that uses open standards, can be built on top of existing software, and does not cost customers more than their existing maintenance fees;
- have agile and adaptive components that provide the ability to "model centrally, execute remotely" and promote peer-to-peer communication and adoption of the technology;
- be directive and prescriptive, giving companies seamless visibility across all networks to connect and simplify the processes -- while at the same time making those processes traceable; and
- have flexible buying and deployment options that make the software on-boarding process "as easy as email."
"Jim [Schaper]'s been talking about this since the beginning -- about how they're not just going to buy companies, strip those companies, and just take the maintenance revenues for granted," says Ray Wang, a vice president at Forrester Research. "We've seen them invest, and customers are seeing a difference." Wang notes that Infor's corporate strategy, given its diverse range of products, is unusual: "The investments aren't drastic...[rather], it's in an incremental fashion their customers can consume."
Customers can continue with their old, existing solutions and essentially on-board new features as they evolve, according to Infor executives. Built on an open SOA, Infor is creating a platform that supports both the old and new. Instead of requiring customers to embark on an entire product overhaul, Infor focuses instead on specific point solutions that companies can piece together. "They're not forcing anyone off [any product], which is quite unique in the industry," Wang adds.
The company also announced the following new releases:
Infor MyDay: A Web 2.0 user interface that provides central access to real-time information. The value proposition is in its ability to help the business user quickly find the relevant data and create relevant reports that speak directly to a specific goal, thereby reducing wasteful effort. Infor MyDay will be available for select Infor solutions in early 2009, at no additional charge to active maintenance customers, with additional solution support to be announced throughout 2009.
Workforce Management for Mid-Sized Businesses: Given the rising restrictions imposed by laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and Sarbanes-Oxley, Infor human capital management (HCM) Workforce Management Business Edition aims to help midsize businesses adhere to these regulations and compete with larger competitors.
Enterprise asset management (EAM) software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution targeted at small and midsize businesses (SMBs): Offering the same robust functionality as its enterprise on-premises edition, the solution is hosted and supported completely by Infor. It aims to help businesses tackle work management, materials and inventory management, and preventative maintenance as well as mobile capabilities. The solution also integrates with Infor's EAM Asset Sustainability Edition, which incorporates energy measurement and efficiency features to reduce costs and negative environmental impact, the company says.
SaaS Option for enterprise resource planning (ERP) product SyteLine: Acquired in 2005, Syteline's ERP solution for manufacturers is now available as an on-demand product. The solution handles tasks specific to the manufacturing vertical, including an advanced planning engine, automated materials and inventory management, and complex product configuration, while also supporting business intelligence functionalities.
SaaS Offering of Expense Management: Infor's existing solution for handling enterprise travel-and-entertainment expenses is now available for SMBs via SaaS. The product aims to embed corporate policies while automating (and providing analytics around) expense management and employee reimbursement.
New ERP LX Features for IBM System iUsers: Product enhancements focus on regulatory compliance processes, improved usability, a more streamlined Electronic Commerce Manager (ECM) process; new features include expanded language support and an inquiry function that provides a digestible customer snapshot.
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