Infor a penny, Infor a pound


It’s unusual to hear the chief executive of an enterprise software business that’s been around since 2002 talk about being disruptive. Infor, like SAP and Oracle, has been part of the corporate furniture for years, but CEO Kevin Samuelson believes that is exactly what Infor will be this year – disruptive.

If, as Samuelson says, Infor is going to innovate its way to differentiation, it’s going to have its work cut out. As Oracle, SAP and Microsoft integrate generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) capabilities and push for increased cloud-based automation of enterprise resource planning (ERP), how can Infor compete?

The answer to that appears to lie as much in Infor’s traditional customer base as in its ability to develop new ideas. It has a strong track record in manufacturing, distribution and the public sector, but even there it is facing increased competition. The key for Infor is in its understanding of these markets and its ability to play to its strengths, regardless of who is trying to tread on its toes.

For Phil Lewis, senior vice-president of solution consulting at Infor, this means one thing: platform. The need to help customers untangle years of complexity – especially after the Covid rush to the cloud – is leading to an increased interest in vertical problem-solving, something that dovetails nicely into Infor’s historical strength.

“Whether its ERP or applications, businesses are exploring platform capabilities,” said Lewis. “As they look to AI and automation, platform is the way to package it all up.”

Lewis believes customers expect help with data strategies and front- and back-end automation, and all of this needs to be injected with intelligence. That means real-time data capabilities and AI-driven automation delivered via the cloud.

“Whether its ERP or applications, businesses are exploring platform capabilities. As they look to AI and automation, platform is the way to package it all up”
Phil Lewis, Infor

According to Lewis, when Infor receives proposal requests from customers, it is consistently asked three questions: How does the system support my business? What solutions drive digital transformation? What does the solution provide from a cloud perspective?

Cloud is the norm

His take on cloud-based ERP is interesting. As far as Lewis is concerned, cloud is now “the norm” and “companies need to stop seeing it as a differentiator”.

He has a point, although he does also accept that there are some organisations and regions where on-premise is still seen as the only way to go. That said, it’s a minority, and more customers want to look at how they can gain advantage from using cloud-based software.

Lewis cites one of Infor’s customers, AB Agri, a UK-based agricultural business, which “was concerned with the challenges caused by the variety of ageing, highly customised ERP systems in use across its 11 brands and entities”.

It’s a good example of how Infor wants to operate, providing specialist platforms – in AB Agri’s case, Infor’s CloudSuite Food & Beverage – to solve specific industry challenges.

“We’re looking forward to seeing increased efficiencies right across the business, from more effective forecasting and operational planning, through to improved pricing and enhanced visibility, timeliness and accuracy of inventory,” said Pascal Martel, CIO at AB Agri.

“The fact that the ERP is cloud-based means we can be confident our solutions will be continuously updated, and we’ll benefit from all the other advantages of SaaS [software as a service], too, including enhanced security and business resilience.”

Industry-specific offerings

However, according to Liz Herbert, vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, Infor’s strength could also be a weakness, given the company’s highly acquisitive nature over the years. Recognising Infor is built on “a collection of ERPs”, Herbert said the business tends to play best in the lower enterprise and upper mid-market sectors.

“The fact that the ERP is cloud-based means we can be confident our solutions will be continuously updated, and we’ll benefit from all the other advantages of SaaS, too, including enhanced security and business resilience”
Pascal Martel, AB Agri

“Because the modern product inherits from the various acquired products (for example, Lawson, SSA Global, Mapics) and has different versions by industry, we tend to hear different experiences in the different industries where they compete,” said Herbert.

“Companies that are on the larger side generally get attracted to Infor because they find it to be a good solution that is more affordable, and also a vendor that is easier to do business with than SAP or Oracle but still has credibility and proof points in large and global enterprises.”

That credibility extends within its core customer industries, of course, something that IDC MarketScape recognised in a report last year: “Infor’s cloud ERP solutions deliver industry-specific capabilities without extensive customisations or integrations by combining the Infor cloud platform built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Infor OS innovation services.”

The platform play

This goes back to Lewis’s point about platforms being increasingly key when it comes to making ERP purchasing decisions. Also, traditional ERP suppliers, especially SAP, have always had to contend with extensive customisations, making it more challenging when it comes to asking customers to upgrade and shift to the cloud, for example. And this can’t be a blanket approach either, as we have already seen. Industries vary, from legacy IT through to modern requirements, and this is where Infor wants to try to stay strong.

“The key is investing in building cloud-based technology platforms that are structured for specific industries,” said Infor’s Lewis. “That can facilitate document management, data strategy, machine learning, AI and process intelligence, and it deliver it all in one rather than in chunks.”

This also fits with the industry cloud idea, which is expected to drive cloud infrastructure growth this year. For  technology director at digital transformation and integration business ANS, this is Infor’s strength. 

“Infor doesn’t claim to be all things, suited to all customers,” said Cottrill. “It knows where it is positioned in the market, being cloud native and backed by AWS infrastructure. It focuses on the core industries it serves that are in need of industry-specific cloud solutions in the mid-market. One of the benefits of Infor is that it also offers a suite of edge solutions to augment its ERP capability, which is very much suited to the manufacturing space.”

As a core Infor market, manufacturing is certainly in need of effective transformation. Deloitte points out manufacturers this year are still facing strong headwinds from global economies and regulatory pressures – and scalable, composable, targeted ERP will have its attractions.

At Infor, Samuelson said it’s also about innovation and disruption. Bringing strained customers along on that journey will be challenging, but for Infor’s Lewis, this is a bit like cloud migration – everyone will get there eventually; it’s just that everyone wants to do it at their own pace.

This post is exclusively published on OnlineCoursesUpdate.com

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