As the global health pandemic persists and as lockdowns continue to impact economies globally, Infor is urging companies to consider the art of the possible with agile enterprise cloud migrations and remote go-lives. Infor, wisely in my opinion, is recognising that business operations are unlikely to ‘go back to normal’ anytime soon and that remote, distributed workforces may well be here for the foreseeable.
As such, its argument is that companies need to think about how to retain agility and progress in an increasingly uncertain market. Whilst it is undoubtedly true that Infor is thinking about its own bottom line and how it can continue to garner enterprise wins as it gains a better understanding on the impact on its business; it’s also true that companies will likely need to invest to adapt and need to think about how to appropriately do this within the context of the ‘new abnormal’.
Whilst it’s too soon to know the medium term impact on technology buying habits, I think it’s going to become increasingly clear that the trends we have seen in the enterprise market over the past decade (cloud, data driven approaches, online collaboration, flexible workforce management, more resilient supply chains) are going to be accelerated in the coming months. And companies will be looking for guidance on how to manage what were already complex projects.
Infor CEO Kevin Samuelson kicked off the company’s European virtual event - Infor Inspire - this week with a keynote that pledged to support both employees and customers during this challenging time. On the customer point, he said:
Our objective is to make sure that our business is well run and that we support our customers during these challenging times. We recognise that this situation has put a lot of stress and strain on your business in your industry. We need to be there to support you. We continue to deliver on our professional services projects, including having done a number of go lives over the last couple of weeks.
Our services teams are running very well and projects remain on plan and on budget. We also continue to support our customers all over the world, even in challenging industries such as healthcare in the US, and we've not missed a beat.
With respect to support cloud services and uptime, these also continue to be exceptional and well ahead of industry averages. So no matter what happens, I want to make clear that we are here to support you and ensure that your business is well run through these unpredictable times.
Recognising the importance of agility
Samuelson spoke about the importance of agility in order to compete in markets that are increasingly dominated by either: 1) VC-backed companies that are encouraged to burn through money to disrupt the market, or 2) Companies with a near monopoly and have huge amounts of capital to invest.
He said that most companies sit between these two groups and in order to compete need to become increasingly agile as they respond to market changes. This is where Infor’s Head of International Markets, Cormac Watters, proposed Infor’s ‘agility approach’ to cloud ERP migrations and the ability to do remote go-lives.
Watters said that Coronavirus means that it is no longer good enough for Infor to deliver innovative products, it also needs to be innovative in how it delivers those products.
He talked listeners through Infor’s approach to ‘agile ERP’. Agile is clearly an approach to development that many companies are now used to, but Watters argued that this hasn’t traditionally been applied to ERP or large-scale enterprise cloud app deployments. Watters said:
What does that mean? We use the race track as a concept. There’s going to be multiple laps of the track in any deployment. So you will go live not just once, but maybe several times. The first substantial go live needs to be within six to 12 months of the start, otherwise the project is taking too long and actually the changes and requirements may have changed and moved on. It’s a prototype based approach. So how quickly can we get a working prototype, with your data, in front of your key users for them to look, touch, feel, evaluate. If we do this approach you will see there will be faster deployments, less risk, much more standard.
Infor is using a 60/30/10 approach, Watters said. What this means is that 60% of what Infor delivers should be out of the box, thanks to its industry specific approach. The first prototype, if you will.
The next 30% is not so much about creating, but selecting the various configurations a company may need.
The final 10% is about what makes a company different from other companies in its industry. This requires a more traditional approach in terms of development and how a company extends its application.
Watters explained that Infor focuses on three key phases to this - engage, deploy and achieve - within which there are several tools that customers are taking advantage of (e.g. Infor’s implementation accelerator workshop, industry prototypes, a data migration factory, testing-as-a-service, consumerized learning, and managed services).
In addition, Watters said that customers are now engaging with Infor on these terms, describing their needs within the context of the framework e.g. 62%, 34%, 4%. He finished by saying:
We believe this will give you faster time to value, it will lower the cost, but it will actually reduce the risk because you are seeing what you are going to deploy much sooner in the process. We are taking this very seriously - and it is being widely accepted by our customers.
We have put several customers live in the past few weeks, with completely remote-based consulting. Who would have thought that was possible? But it is becoming real. I suspect that remote working will become a bigger factor in our world going forward. So we need to be following the 60/30/10 concept and therefore making projects even more cost efficient and faster.
Unsurprisingly, Samuelson also addressed the recent news that Infor investor and customer - Koch Industries - has now fully acquired the company. For a rundown of our analysis of the acquisition, read diginomica’s stories here and here.
Samuelson took the opportunity to highlight that Koch allows Infor to continue with its long-term strategic investments as a privately-owned company, unlike many of the other SaaS focused vendors in the industry that perhaps have to pursue short-term gains. We have long argued that Infor has benefited from being privately-owned, particularly around its efforts to refine its vertical industry focus.
Now we're backed by a very large company that is truly long term in perspective. As you may know Koch is a private company. And one of the things they're known for is not making decisions over the short term, but rather making long term decisions that other companies that are public or are tied to tighter timelines are not able to make.
This gives us a huge advantage as a technology company. We're now making product and technology decisions that will help you, not just this month or this quarter, but candidly, over the next decade.
So when you take into consideration: our financial backing, which is second to none; the fact that we're now owned by a company that's also a customer that can help us innovate; and take into account our ability to make long term decisions, we are truly in a unique and powerful position.
Samuelson said that Infor now generates over $800 million in SaaS cloud revenue and is seeing growth of 30-40% year on year. He added that Infor now has 15,000 customers using its cloud products.
As noted above, part of this is Infor considering how it can continue to operate its own business. But I do think it’s useful for vendors to be putting out practical guidance on how customers could still pursue change projects, despite current restrictions in place. Given we don’t know how long the current situation is going to go on for, it’s this steady hand, helpful approach that customers will be seeking out in the market. Whether businesses have the confidence to pursue such large-scale projects remotely is another question and remains to be seen.