By: Larry Dignan
04/01/2015 Between the Lines
NEW YORK—A parade of Infor executives outlined the company’s master plan to bring its current customers to its industry focused clouds, bolster the brand to better compete with Oracle and SAP and continue honing the user experience.
The executives held court with analysts at Infor’s New York City offices, which features conference rooms named after musicians such as Gillespie, Fitzgerald, Armstrong and Ellington.
The analyst powwow comes as Infor is having a coming out party for its cloud strategy that revolves around building apps that appeal to various industries. By owning industry specific cloud categories, Infor can build a moat around its business and better compete with the likes of Oracle and SAP.
Duncan Angove and Stephan Scholl, presidents of Infor, outlined the company’s strategy, which so far has 2,750 cloud customers and 35 million users.
Infor’s strategy is relatively simple: Run in the cloud (Amazon Web Services infrastructure), focus on user experience and have specialized micro-vertical suites. On that latter point, Infor is looking to tailor its wares to specific industry use cases in the cloud that can be used to replace older custom suites.
Infor’s CloudSuite runs across verticals such as automotive, fashion, hospitality and other industries. The plan for Infor is to use UpgradeX, an effort to upgrade existing customers to the cloud, and woo new enterprises.
Infor execs repeatedly touted customer wins with the likes of Ferrari, which is billed as lab for the company’s software, Williams Sonoma, Flextronics and Wyndham Hotels. These large customers form a cloud council for Infor and provide product input from the perspective of a CIO, CTO and CEO.
Infor has seen a surge in customers with SaaS growth rates north of 600 percent in the last quarter. Over the last nine months, SaaS growth was 400 percent. “When we get a chance to compete we can win,” said Angove.
Lisa Pope, senior vice president of sales for Infor’s cloud business, also noted net new wins. Net new customers are a critical metric for Infor because it shows it can compete with cloud incumbents such as Workday.
But the real path forward for Infor is to move its existing customer base forward. Enter UpgradeX. UpgradeX is a program to convert maintenance revenue to SaaS, create returns for customers and fixed bid implementations. The benefit is for customers and Infor, which was built by acquisitions and could be sapped by supporting a bevy of on-premise applications.
Christina Van Houten, SVP global marketing strategy and product management, said UpgradeX is aimed at moving customers from something like BaanLN to the cloud or CloudSuites. “We wanted to provide the option for all customers to move to cloud,” said Van Houten, who added that Infor will support its existing on premise apps. Infor’s on-premise apps range from Lawson, Infinium, SyteLine, VISUAL, SunSystems, Baan/LN, Trans4M to name a few.
The bottom line is that UpgradeX is critical for Infor, which aims to have more than 33 cloud apps and 15 cloud suites by the end of 2015.
Infor execs spent Tuesday, the first day of a two-day analyst meeting walking through its applications at a high level, including next-gen looks at business intelligence tools in the research phase. There was also a look at how Infor is thinking about the customer experience in the years ahead.
Stressing open source
Pam Murphy, chief operating officer at Infor, highlighted the company’s research and labs unit. Infor Labs spearheaded the effort to rearchitect the company’s applications for the cloud and certified them to be multitenant—although customers can ask for other options.
Infor’s decision to bet on AWS for its infrastructure is a well known tale. What’s less known is how Infor is making sure that its stack is validated for open source.
For instance, Infor is validated to run on Docker, Apache Mesos, PostgreSQL, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS to name a few.
Murphy said Infor isn’t publishing its total cost of ownership benchmarks for its open source usage, but noted that the savings are significant compared to proprietary infrastructure.
“We’re always looking to the latest open source technologies and looking at how to bring them to our solution,” said Murphy.
Grass roots, New York City style
What’s notable about Infor’s branding and awareness push is that it doesn’t have the marketing budgets of SAP or Oracle. However, Infor has moved to be visible in airports, phone kiosks and other outdoor areas. But Infor is basically betting that doubling down on its New York headquarters will also garner attention.
Infor has built a bevy of local college partnerships in New York, won deals to power New York City government and using Gotham as a show piece to woo customers. Angove said that “New York is a core part of our DNA.” Infor is claiming to billed as the largest enterprise tech company in New York.
Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet’s sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CNET News.com. Larry has covered the technology and financial services industry since 1995, publishing articles in WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, The New York Times, and Financial Planning magazine. He’s a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and the University of Delaware.