Infor Challenges ERP Duopoly

Some of my readers know that I worked in my career before Forrester in product management and business development at MSA, SSA, and Mapics, all now part of Infor. When people ask if I “follow Infor,” I’m inclined to reply that Infor follows me. I attended an “Infor on the road” event last week to listen to the briefing from CEO Charles Phillips and President Duncan Angove. I learned that Infor’s strategy for disrupting the SAP Oracle duopoly depends on choices that Infor has made about:

1) Architecture: Infor’s clients have a wide choice of application portfolio elements and choices about when to upgrade each element thanks to its loose coupling strategy and its maturing of the ION platform that I described here:

http://www.forrester.com/The+Digital+Drop+IT+Opportunities+In+The+Oil+And+Gas+Industry/quickscan/-/E-RES56698#/Its+Time+To+Tame+The+ERP+Integration+Beast/fulltext/-/E-RES56797

This is attractive to firms that can no longer force all their functions and divisions to upgrade simultaneously to a lowest common denominator set of functionality.

Message-based interoperability also enables Infor’s apps to Tweet to interested users about changes in status of accounts, documents, people, or objects as previously described by my colleague China Martens here:

http://www.forrester.com/home#/Emerging+Trends+Social+Collaboration+Is+Poised+To+Accelerate+ERP+Business+Processes/quickscan/-/E-RES60626

This delivers on the promise of event awareness in ERP and offers a glimpse of the potential of real-time business.

2) Differentiated focus on industry-specific capabilities. While SAP and Oracle duke it out in the stack wars, Infor plans to coexist with either, for example, running apps on Oracle Exadata. Infor's focus is on vertical-specific functionality such as “catch weight” in the meat industry or "campaign management" and potency in process manufacturing. This focus on critical industry functionality is welcome relief from a diet of nondifferentiated horizontal applications. As I’ve mentioned before in blog postings, every industry has its own peculiarities even in apparently standardized functionality such as general Ledger – just think about the average daily balances maintained in financial services or the provisions for trade promotions in consumer packaged goods.

3) Beauty as a competence. Infor made a strong case for “in sourcing” the capability to develop apps with a seductive interface. Infor’s in-house creative agency has delivered business apps with the compelling look and feel of games websites.

My take on the "Infor on the road" day is that Infor offers an attractive option for firms that prioritize functionality over technology and choice over uniformity.