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Assessing Infor's new Coleman AI applications and platform

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Analyst Jon Reed says Infor AI push compares favorably to SAP and Oracle moves, especially in making enterprise apps more conversational, but on-premises ERP data presents challenges.

NEW YORK -- Artificial intelligence has reached the once-stodgy world of ERP, with SAP and Oracle announcing AI applications just in the past year. When Infor joined the fray this month with Coleman, a new platform for AI applications, observers wondered how the vendor, which has a huge portfolio of legacy on-premises ERP brands, can make such a radical leap forward.

The short answer: Require users to upgrade to the CloudSuite SaaS ERP package.

"I thought Infor offered a coherent explanation as to how AI fits into the other layers of their software," said Jon Reed, an industry analyst and co-founder of Diginomica.com. "Duncan Angove, the president, did a nice job of talking about how we need enterprise apps to be more conversational."

Reed was interviewed for a podcast at Inforum 2017, the Infor user conference.

"It's clear these apps aren't very far along yet," he said. "You've got to upgrade to the latest and greatest CloudSuite to get that, and a lot of Infor customers are not on the CloudSuite release."

That's not to say Infor lacks a coherent cloud strategy. "Infor's got a pretty nice track record now in talking about cloud," Reed said. "Just keep in mind that their partnership with [Amazon Web Services] means that those companies are in the cloud, but they might not be running Infor's multi-tenant SaaS product [CloudSuite]," which Reed said is in its early stages.

"In terms of cloud sophistication, they have quite a bit, so it really depends on the product you're running. Like anything else, we have to understand these terms that are thrown around kind of loosely."

You need the right data if your AI's going to be intelligent at all.
Jon Reedco-founder, Diginomica.com

Reed reacted to comments from other analysts who questioned whether Coleman AI applications would be hindered by the unavailability of data locked in on-premises ERP. He said it could be a reason to upgrade to the cloud and modernize applications in general.

"You need the right data if your AI's going to be intelligent at all and give you relevant information and answers and help you make actionable decisions," Reed said.

"You can have effective data management on premise as well. It's just that there's a lot that has to be done to liberate these siloed applications to make that actually work." Infor has a "pretty good" answer in its ION middleware, he said, but the process still requires significant work with ION and APIs.   

Reed compared Infor's Coleman platform and AI applications to similar efforts by competitors SAP and Oracle, calling all three "aspirational announcements" not yet backed by customer testimonials. Infor's strategy of embedding Coleman AI applications and technology in its product "stack" appears to be similar to the approach taken by Oracle, according to Reed. In contrast, SAP is delivering a combination of embedded AI and separate, narrowly focused applications that will run on the SAP Leonardo platform, which blends AI with other next-generation technologies such as blockchain and the internet of things.

He goes on to discuss the risks of ceding too much "algorithmic control" to AI applications and offers advice to Infor users who might be considering Coleman AI.

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