Modern day corporations are slowed down considerably due to legacy, capital-starved and often complicated enterprise IT architecture and application environments. In fact, line of business employees (and even end-customers) suffer everyday due to numerous complexities surrounding usage, functionality, productivity and overall application experience draining precious time, resources and process quality.
To address these and other unmet enterprise software needs, it was three years ago at the headquarters in NYC that Infor executives laid out a bold vision of sprucing up and modernizing enterprise IT applications and tools that in large part still remain legacy and outdated across manufacturing, health care, retail and other industries. I had called out this vision as being noteworthy in a blog that I published in 2015.
At the time when Infor made the announcement in 2015, there were plenty of skeptics in the room as industry analysts always are and so they should be as there are several software companies that lay out a big vision but fail to follow through. To an extent, I was a skeptic too as I was curious to see what becomes of the new Infor roadmap which on surface seemed fresh and customer-friendly but needed quite a bit of work.
Three years hence, I attended Infor’s 2018 Innovation Summit last week and conversations with a few Infor customers ensued. It is my humble observation as an industry analyst that while there are many paths to greatness in software, in three years Infor has achieved quite a bit and is on the right path. Evidently, Infor’s team has a sense of stewardship and belief in the overall approach and from an outsider’s perspective there is an apparent culture of transparency. This exudes clear signs that in its refined journey this company has finally passed a stringent ‘start-up stress test’ in terms of reforming and enabling enterprise software from the lens of a bottoms-up start-up-like approach.
Infor has re-worked several of their core products (ION, Xi, Mongoose, others), added new ones (Birst, Dynamic Science Labs, Accentia, GT Nexus, Predictix, Starmount, others) and revised several big pieces of their go-to market approach. The acquired products came with their set of installed base, roadmap, integration and development challenges that had to be addressed in quick time. Infor also claims to have over 700 global ecosystem partners who support varied implementations worldwide which is required for industry innovation.
It is not surprise that the market noticed these developments. In February 2017, Koch Equity Development LLC invested $2.68 billion in Infor, for a 66.67% equity ownership stake in the company. Infor is valued at $10 billion, and has $6 billion of debt, most of which is publicly-traded.
During the course of the last three years, Infor embarked upon an ambitious and almost start-up like journey of re-configuring and re-building its talent pool, products, delivery model and services using a two-pronged strategic approach.
First, Infor decided to take a risky stand to change the status quo of standard on-premise software experience and functionality across retail and other industries. The company made strong investments in its in house design agency Hook & Loop and redefined user interface and user experience in line with modern-day user-centric design needs. Its investments in cloud delivery and developing data lakes is also a testament that on-premise license based strangleholds are a thing of the past.
Second, the company has injected data science elements into standard workflow and process-led software capabilities across industry solutions including manufacturing, healthcare and other industries. What is also evident for companies like Infor and its customers is that they need collectively invest in new ways of harnessing and using data. Moreover, companies that possess holistic and flexible data, data science, benchmarking and intelligence models can provide both predictive and prescriptive insights to end-users when they need it. Make no mistake that both these strategic approaches requires large R&D investments and Infor has made these moves.
An example is the launch of Infor Coleman AI in 2017 and continued investments to build industry use cases. Infor product teams now supports several industry and cross-industry use cases that provide autonomous, assisted and non-assisted artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities that can help solve Big Data, self-service and labor productivity problems. Elements of Coleman are available today, such as predictive inventory management for healthcare, price optimization management for hospitality, and forecasting, assortment planning, and promotion management for retail. In 2018, Infor is expected to introduce Coleman to Infor CloudSuite industry suites.
Besides attaining growth in manufacturing and healthcare over the last few years, retail is a fast growth industry for Infor. Besides, HCM, financials, a few supply chain management and PLM installs, Infor had little to show in terms of robust end-end retail enterprise grade platform capabilities prior to 2014-2015. However, during the last three years strategic acquisitions of Predictix (assortment planning and merchandise management suite), Starmount Systems (POS, mobile POS and Omni-commerce tools) and GT Nexus (supply chain network visibility and collaboration) has given Infor buckets of enterprise-level capabilities beyond HCM, workforce, financials, and supply chain management.
Just within the last month or so, Infor has made an ambitious move by acquiring and then re-building parts of the IP (Arvato) and logic to launch a new distributed order management solution called- Infor Networked Order Management (INOM). The industry needs new DOM options as legacy DOM solutions have left several unmet needs in Omni-commerce retail around connected partners, inventory processes and systems. As a result of these efforts, Infor now offers a more comprehensive retail offering complete with demand management & merchandising, converged commerce, commerce network (supply chain related) and retail intelligence.
While we recognize Infor’s new advancements and reformed journey thus far, the next 24-36 months will be critical in terms of Infor ability to turbo charge its installed base, industry-centric platform capabilities, cloud delivery and innovation around AI as well as design thinking.
To discuss this or other retail or consumer goods industries issues or trends you can reach Sahir Anand on Twitter: @sahiranand or [email protected]. Anand has been working in retail and consumer industries for several years as an industry analyst and has worked with leading retail/CPG companies and retail/CPG software companies.