In the world of ERP software, SAP and Oracle have long battled for supremacy, but this is far from a two-player game. Infor, which claims to be the third largest ERP vendor, has been nipping at the heels of the giants for years -- and now, thanks to a series of major acquisitions
How has Infor's ERP roadmap evolved in recent years?
Mark Humphlett: Once [CEO] Charles Phillips and [President] Duncan Angove came on a few years ago, it really redirected our product roadmap strategy. They spent several months researching all the various solutions that we have and hired additional developers, focusing on our product development. [Product growth] has been exponential in recent years.
One of the biggest solutions that have been released has been ION [middleware] solution. It's all about integrating a wide-range of software to be able to manage business processes, workflows and alerts, and provide the unified data view to help the IT department bring things together. We've also been focused on our LN and SyteLine [for manufacturing-specific ERP] products. These solutions give you information down to an industry and even to a verticals level. We want to be able to see the specific differences and requirements between, say, an automotive OEM versus a specialty automotive company versus an aftermarket service parts company. That's really the future of the individual solutions -- being able to get it down to that micro-vertical requirements level and bring that to market.
How is Infor addressing the push for more cloud computing options?
Humphlett: Today, we have about 3 million subscribers within our Infor Cloud platform. Cloud is a huge component of our go-to-market strategy, all the way from ERP to asset management to expense management. As more organizations are starting to adopt cloud-based solutions, cloud will continue to be a fundamental piece of our strategy.
If you take a look at the market today, everyone typically thinks of Web conference and CRM as the biggest users of cloud-type solutions, but we're starting to see more growth around supply chain management, ERP and other software. We plan to continue developing our cloud offerings in these other areas, such as our Sky Vault solution for business intelligence.
What is Infor doing in the realm of mobile business applications?
Humphlett: We have a platform called Infor Motion. With this, we've developed a set of applications that are role-based around the user and their particular requirements. For example, we have an application called Road Warrior, which is for the person who will be operating from a sales standpoint, is on the road full-time, and needs to have access to all of their sales information and customer location details.
Another one of our mobile applications is Shop Floor, which is for the guy that's on the floor every day and can't be tied to his computer, but wants to understand the material requirements, what jobs are on which pieces of equipment and any delays involved. You can make applications all the way across [the business] -- for the warehouse director, for business intelligence, for query analysis. Whether you're an executive, a salesperson or on the shop floor, [mobile apps] give you access to dashboards and all the information you need to do your job day in and day out.
Does Infor have any functionality related to social networking and collaboration?
Humphlett: Infor Ming.le is a centralized platform for social collaboration, which allows you to have contextual analytics and tie different applications together. This type of interface is easy for the Generation Y user, as it's similar to Facebook or Twitter. It allows you to bring together all the different components within your organization, bringing production and manufacturing together, as well as bring in your assets, data, equipment and people all within one environment, so everybody is looking at the same type of information.
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An example of [social collaboration] is a customer placing an order for a particular product, and that product is out of stock. The customer service person can see that detail very quickly, and they can send a notification to production and find out when that particular product will be available. The guy in production can't typically find that information quickly, but within a social interface, all of the key elements -- customer number, sales order number, product number -- comes over automatically, so they don't have to go search for it.
Where do business intelligence and data analytics fit into the Infor ERP roadmap?
Humphlett: Business analytics is one of the top areas of interest that we're focusing on. BI [business intelligence] and dashboards are a piece of all our products. Our analytics strategy is about building real-time intelligence that has the needed content at the micro-vertical level, as well as has the ability to store that information in the cloud and access that intelligence wherever you are to make faster and better business decisions.
How do you think the ERP landscape in general will change in the next five years?
Humphlett: Big data, analytics, cloud, mobile, social collaboration -- these are the big trends to watch in the area of ERP. Another thing that you're starting to see more of is companies trying to move away from one single, monolithic ERP system to organizations adopting multi-tiered ERP strategies. A company might have offices in 10, 20 different countries, and sometimes trying to use a single ERP system just isn't functional. I think you'll see more vendors moving from having just one ERP product to multiple ERP systems tailored to specific verticals and company sizes.
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