Infor hosted its annual Innovation Summit at its headquarters in NYC last week. Aesthetically it was very pleasing as I wrote here, Infor was also generous in the long list of analyst and media guests invited (and I encourage you to read posts about the event from Brian Sommer, Larry Dignan and others.)
In some ways, though, I felt like they could have invited a few more “guests”.
a) They should have invited many of their current competitors. There is plenty Infor has pioneered in the last three years that others could emulate
- A deep focus on verticals. Fashion, hospitality, healthcare, public sector – the day was strewn with examples from a wide range of industries. The Infor Cloud Council which they convened a couple of weeks ago reflects that diversity. Most of the newer SaaS vendors in the market are still focused on horizontal financials and hr. In announcing S4HANA, SAP has promised little when it comes to its own industry solutions
- Infor spent plenty of time talking about its growing Amzaon Web Services footprint, and leverage of Docker containers, Apache Mesos monitoring and other open source technology. It is fair question to ask SaaS vendors how their customers will similarly benefit from the massive scale and economics of a dedicated cloud infrastructure like Amazon’s or Microsoft’s . And for Oracle and SAP to answer how much capex is going into their own cloud infrastructure compared to the billions in capex Amazon and Microsoft have invested in their data centers.
- Infor has invested in a captive design agency Hook + Loop which has over a hundred “creative” staff with credentials such as Pulitzer Prize winner for Infographics, Digital Effects Editor of the movie The Avenger and fashion designer for Kenneth Cole. The UX they present every few months shows the rapid pace at which that art is evolving with changing mobile, wearable, home device and auto interfaces.
- Infor is building a group near MIT called the Dynamics Science Lab – data analytics and pattern recognition whiz kids. It is building a diverse team which can make data as a service a reality for many industries.
- Investment in ION middleware to integrate within their products, other cloud applications and legacy applications and in a migration path, UpgradeX, a portfolio of automated tools, training, services. Most other vendors pretend integration and data conversion/training/testing is a systems integrator’s problem
- Building a next gen partner ecosystem which emphasizes micro-vertical and geographic capabilities. It is a painstaking process as the slide below shows
- A Value Engineering group which does not just create glib ROI charts for sales proposals. As Riaz Raihan, Chief Solutions Officer said “we hire folks who want to see the end of the movie” i.e. focused on customer value realization and also a feedback loop to its R&D group on where to emphasize investment. The group also helps customers create crisp TCO analysis to contrast capex and opex flows across cloud and on-premise options.
b) Time to raise the bar. In the next wave, Infor should dramatically escalate the customer migration, the partner ecosystem build and other efforts they have started. CEO Charles Phillips commented “If we can move our 70,000-plus legacy customers at 5% a year, we have a multi-billion-dollar opportunity,". He is being realistic – realistic given most of his staff come from the enterprise software world where change is usually at snail’s pace. Which is why I wished he had a second set of guests last week. Some from consumer tech like Samsung which have moved to warp speed in their product rollout cycles and marketing. Maybe even some contractors from China who can build skyscrapers in 15 days. I want Charles and his team to be impatient and not just accept the 5% move pace. Or, in reverse to reduce the vertical and horizontal markets they focus on.
c) In another wave, I would like to see Infor, dare I say it, evolve beyond a software company. Assets like Hook+Loop, the Value Engineering Group and the Dynamic Science Labs are designed for higher functioning activities than defining GL code blocks. Honestly, the underwhelming part of the summit was in the horizontal product sessions. Most were bland feature-function discussions on work orders and sales force automation. Worse, they kept comparing to incumbent customer needs and current market competitors as if that is the ultimate benchmark.
Infor should have had executives from GE in those sessions to talk about the huge value they are getting from smart industrial assets – their aircraft engines, their locomotives, their MRI scanners. They are seeing massive operational efficiencies and predictive maintenance payback. That is the new EAM. And some from Coca-Cola which is blending traditional analog and newer social and other digital marketing. That is the new CRM.
Even better they could have invited Ford CEO Mark Fields who was in town for the New York International Auto Show. Fields has launched 25 experiments across the world as part of the Ford Smart Mobility initiative. Each experiment is designed to anticipate changes in tomorrow’s transportation needs – autonomous cars, car pools, next-gen Ubers, new business models etc.
Software will be developed and consumed very differently in the near future. I hope Infor can take its initial pioneering steps and think way beyond current cloud delivery and subscription models, and certainly beyond current competitors.
Photo Credit : Infor