Anwen Robinson joined Infor in March of this year, taking up the role of Senior Vice President and General Manager for UK & Ireland (UK&I). Robinson brings with her a wealth of experience in the ERP and SaaS industry, having led the UK&I businesses for both TechnologyOne and Unit4 in her previous roles.
We at diginomica got the chance to speak with Robinson this week to better understand her strategy for the UK&I markets, where she hopes that she can build the region to be Infor's largest business outside of the Americas. For details on Infor's core strategy, including how it is approaching the market since being acquired by behemoth Koch Industries, take a look at our analysis here and here.
What's clear is that Robinson is working to apply her in-depth knowledge of the UK&I market to Infor's business, ensuring that customers' local needs are being catered to, whilst also keeping Infor's top level cloud ambitions and vertical focus at the core. Robinson says that her first few months have been spent talking to customers and employees, making sure that Infor's strategy is deeply understood, whilst also maintaining a laser focus on customer success.
Commenting only why she took the role at Infor UK&I, Robinson says:
Both at Unit4 and TechnologyOne I was helping move well established on-premise solutions rapidly to SaaS and cloud, whilst transforming the business along the way. So taking this opportunity at Infor was a no brainer as far as I was concerned, I could hit the ground running and drive the business forward.
When you're transforming a business around cloud and SaaS, a key fundamental part of that is putting the customer at the heart of everything you do. Not just paying lip service to that, but really doing it and making sure the company is aligned with that.
I want the UK and Ireland to be the leading region for Infor, from an international perspective.
And whilst Infor's cloud strategy has been moving at pace for a number of years, Robinson has been taking time to talk to employees and customers to make sure that it is really understood. She explains:
I've been getting my head around key operational processes, making sure I connect with key customers and all of the employees - listening, understanding, looking at areas we can rapidly improve on, but also making sure that everybody's within our organization is clear about what our strategy is.
When you come from a long history, with a lot of people who have been with us for a long time, and customers that have been with us for a long time, then sometimes you can assume that people understand a strategy, because it's been articulated once.
I've been actually sitting down, listening, talking - there's been a lot of quietly evaluating - making sure that everybody's aware of what our strategy is. We've been rapidly transforming to make sure that we are going to hit the growth ambitions that are being put in front of us. And they are quite some growth ambitions.
Ronbson says that these ambitions include growing Infor's vertical SaaS business to $5 billion within the next five years (globally).
‘The UK is the UK'
Part of how Robinson is aiming to achieve growth across Infor's UK&I business by showing customers that it clearly understands the unique requirements of the market. The UK&I economy has had a deeply disruptive couple of years, both because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, which have forced organizations to adopt new processes, rethink their investment priorities and deliver new operating models.
And whilst this disruption has been painful for many, as we have seen in the past, it can also create new opportunities. Much how the post-2008 financial crisis saw a drive towards cloud adoption, the pandemic has in particular forced organizations to rethink their digital operating models. COVID-19 shone a bright light on broken processes and how much manual interventions were still being relied upon.
Getting to the cloud was part one, if you like, whilst now there is a more thoughtful conversation around frictionless, digital models.
Robinson wants Infor to show these local requirements. She says:
The UK is not the US, it's not Germany - the UK is the UK, with its own set of unique challenges that have to be contended with. We're a service-based economy in a lot of cases and we need to be aware that we are no longer that really strong manufacturing base.
So it's making sure that the solutions that we've actually got are absolutely key for our target sectors, and I'm talking about sub-verticals there as well. Making sure that, in the current challenges that we face in the UK, from Brexit to the pandemic, that we have the solutions that can cater to that.
It's not a one-size fits all, it's taking the strength of the core and the world class solutions that we've got, and then making sure we double down from a UK&I point of view.
One of the core sectors that Robinson references include aerospace and defence, which is why Infor is investing in a UK-specific ‘secure cloud' for those customers. But other sectors of priority for Infor UK&I include food and beverage, fashion, retail, industrial manufacturing and automotive.
Robinson is also focused on ensuring that this market-specific knowledge is driven through its use of local partners, which understand the needs of UK&I customers. She says:
Key to our success is having a reinvigorated partner channel, both from a reseller perspective and alliance partners, focused on developing business with us here in the UK. To ensure that we have got the capacity to meet the resourcing constraints that come from accelerated growth in terms of sales, we need to make sure that we have that capacity, and this is where GSIs will come into play. But I'm very keen on developing strategic partners with local, UK-focused partners.
As noted above, the pandemic has brought into focus new priorities for technology change in organizations. We at diginomica have been documenting this for months and it's clearer than ever that now is a time where new strategies are being put in place and long-term investment decisions are being made.
Robinson says that Infor is working hard to ensure that it is focused on not only getting its customers to the cloud, but also continuing to work with customers for years afterward to ensure that those benefits are continuing to be realized. From our conversations with customers it's certainly clear that even those that have already migrated systems to the cloud, many are still refining what ‘good practice' in the cloud looks like - including redesigning processes and taking an enterprise-wide view of work. Robsinson says:
So it's working closely around key outcomes, and that will be different from sector to sector. We've been investing heavily in what we call our implementation accelerators, the key functional areas that we can actually implement out of the box - these are now mature.
We will further enhance them with technologies that include automation, machine learning, so they will continue to advance. It's making sure that they can continue to consume the benefits of our solutions and effectively take on, not just the software as a service, but the implementation as a service going forward as well.
I think the pandemic has radically changed so many organizations, either from a downsizing perspective, or the realisation that they haven't got the visibility across supply chains, they haven't got the visibility of core drivers, they needed to be more agile, but the underpinning systems couldn't accommodate it. So I think you've now got an acceleration where cloud and SaaS will become the norm going forward, but there will also be a requirement for agile solutions that sort of allow for the consolidation of business. What we're actually finding and where we're investing in is a standardization based upon best practice, based upon the industry, and that is what underpins our implementation accelerators.
It's this ‘organization moving as a whole' priority that we are seeing more and more of from buyers, which ties directly into the frictionless enterprise topic. Organizations need to break down silos, understand digital collaboration frameworks, and get insight into all aspects of their business, in the cloud. Manual intervention has its place, but reducing it to areas that are essential is key. Integrating processes, systems and ensuring data flows across an organization are top priorities. Anwen says:
We're seeing an increase in aspects, such as workflow, artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics - not just from the point of view of a dashboards, but having powerful tools that can actually sit across enterprise wide solutions to drive business insight. So I'm seeing increasing demands for that end-to-end view.
There's a move away from the traditional ERP view of the world, towards the use of technology that can knit these things together. From an Infor point of view, we've got such a depth of products that can provide that end to end solution, but it can also work equally well by surrounding core ERP solutions.
For a long time diginomica has praised the cogency of Infor's strategy, which has been aided by its foresight a number of years ago. The company also now has the benefit of Koch's deep pockets and industry vertical expertise, which a number of other cloud vendors are only now considering as a priority. Robinson's focus on local needs is the right approach when thinking about how to grow a specific market - a one size fits all approach doesn't necessarily work, when the requirements for customers in a specific region are different. Buyers in the UK&I will face a number of challenges over the coming years and what they're looking for are partners that can help them achieve specific outcomes, rather than just sell them technology. Now is the right time for regional leaders to understand this, as companies think about their digital strategy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.