Acquiring cloud BI vendor Birst isn't the only new thing going on at Infor. Following its recent partnership with Marketo, Infor CEO Charles Phillips made a guest appearance on stage at the marketing automation vendor's customer conference in San Francisco this week, where he gave delegates a sneak preview of a new product concept designed to help salespeople get more done.
Known internally as Project Max, this uses intelligent automation across Infor's Sales Suite products to provide timely information, reminders and action prompts to sales reps as they're working out in the field. The aim is to "automate work away" and maximize efficiency, says Phillips, which is where the 'Max' name comes from:
We want to move from salesforce automation to sales rep maximization.
Information where it's needed
Whereas today a user has to open up individual applications to find information or progress an action, the idea behind Project Max is to bring the information to the salesperson where and when they need it, in a single app on their smartphone.
Phillips gave the example of a salesperson heading out for a customer meeting. As well as mapping the route, Project Max can provide reminders of pending calls the salesperson can make while stuck in traffic. Prior to going into the meeting, the automation surfaces relevant background information. During the meeting, the software can take a transcription of what's being said and tag keywords in the content for follow-up actions.
Although this is currently just a visual design concept, it's been validated against what's currently possible using digital assistants and AI, while elements of the concept are already being developed for delivery in production. Phillips presented it as an illustration of what Infor has in mind for the sales function and how it works with marketing:
This is how we're thinking about taking sales data and marketing data, to blend it to make sales more efficient.
Fulfillment meets engagement
Phillips also spoke about Infor's reach into the supply chain with its GT Nexus commerce network, which connects with manufacturers and logistics providers across the globe to track the progress of goods as they're made and shipped. This is information that will be increasingly important to marketers as customers demand better information about the origins and progress of goods they've bought, he says.
We have a lot of information about where your product is, whether it's been made yet.
Why is this important? We believe over time you'll be going to market based on what you can deliver. The more information you can give customers about the status of your product, the more they will wait for it.
So you need to bring together how you make a product, how you move it and how you market it.
For anyone in the audience unfamiliar with Infor as an enterprise software vendor, it was an opportunity for Phillips to give a taste of what the company does and to explain the rationale behind the partnership with Marketo. Picking up on the keynote theme introduced by Marketo CEO Steve Lucas, Phillips summed up the partnership as:
The fulfillment economy is going to work with the engagement economy.
An important part of the rationale for Infor to team up with Marketo was that a large number of its customers are mid-sized manufacturers, who are now beginning to look at investing in marketing, added Phillips:
A lot of these companies in manufacturing are just getting started in B2B marketing. So we think this partnership is strategic for us.
Cross-functional collaboration was a big theme of this keynote session, beginning with Steve Lucas's insistence that marketing and sales must work closely with each other to nurture customer engagement. Phillips then extended the theme to add collaboration with logistics and supply chain management.
Meanwhile, the Project Max concept breaks down artificial barriers between different functional applications. It's an interesting proof-of-concept of automation that adapts to the way people work rather than forcing them to work in a way that suits the structure of the application itself.
There's a common theme here of using digital automation to break apart old structures and remake processes to deliver faster, better outcomes. Or as we like to call it here at diginomica, frictionless enterprise.