NEW YORK—Infor is the big Enterprise Resource Planning application company you may not have heard of, and it likes it that way.
Like Avis, the No. 2 car renter to Hertz in the “We Try Harder” era, Infor is happy to tell everyone that despite trailing SAP and Oracle in business software revenue by a wide margin, it is growing faster, its products are better and its customers are more satisfied.
That spirit was on display here at the company’s Inforum 2016 user conference, where Infor highlighted new customer wins, product developments and strategies around the cloud and user experience.
Privately held Infor, whose specialty actually may be buying ERP software firms more than anything else, announced its newest purchase, Starmount, which delivers software and services for retailers to engage with customers. This follows two other acquisitions since May, the ERP consulting firm Merit and retail demand forecasting software maker Predictix.
Another recent acquisition has resulted in the new Infor Commerce Cloud, a platform built around Infor’s CloudSuite applications and the global commerce and logistics network of GT Nexus, a 2015 acquisition. CEO Charles Phillips—a former Oracle president who took over at Infor in 2010—touted the Commerce Cloud’s ability to link buyers, sellers, financial institutions and logistic providers all in one place. “It is the Waze of global logistics,” he said.
Phillips also discussed how much success the company is having with its bold all-in cloud strategy, which it introduced on Amazon Web Services two years ago. Sales in the cloud now make up 50 percent of Infor’s revenue, up from 10 percent three years ago. Infor says that during that period it added 7,000 cloud customers, and, in its most recent fourth quarter announced in June, its cloud revenues grew about 35 percent.
Its cloud business is built around CloudSuite, which was announced at Infor’s last user conference, in New Orleans in 2014. CloudSuite is a collection of ERP applications that can run in the cloud and are tailored for specific industries, from aerospace and automotive to manufacturing and distribution as well as everything in between.
A key new customer, Travis Perkins, a £6 billion home improvement company based in the U.K., chose CloudSuite to help improve engagement with customers. “Every builder will have his own idiosyncrasies and we sell more than a million SKUs across the trades,” said CEO John Carter. “Being able to personalize the experience is vital.”
Despite the number of Infor’s products, Infor is using that user experience component to separate itself from its competitors. Many software companies have user experience and design teams.
Infor Trying Hard to Overtake Oracle, SAP in Cloud ERP
Infor developed in 2012 its own “design think tank” inside the company, dubbed Hook & Loop. It started as a creative agency and then evolved into being part of the software development process.
At the Inforum conference, Infor officials discussed how in the course of one project Hook & Loop helped update CloudSuite by reducing the number of forms by about 75 percent and increased user productivity with a particular app by 50 percent.
Until now Hook & Loop had been an internal resource, but at the conference Infor announced it is building a new customer-facing service around it called H&L Digital. The service will create a way to link all of Infor’s core competencies around a “focus on the customer” approach, by combining “cloud-based industry applications, dynamic data-driven insights, cutting-edge user experience design and a connected supply chain network,” Phillips said.
The company that describes itself as “a leading provider of beautiful business applications” in its press releases may be onto something here. Because it serves so many industries with specific versions of its ERP products, it may be easier to focus on the needs of smaller sets of customers with similar business problems and tailor the software to them.
Oracle and SAP also are seeing success in terms of revenue in shifting business to the cloud. However, these competitors, particularly SAP, are still plagued by high levels of customer dissatisfaction and cynicism, if we are to believe a recent report by Nucleus Research.
Infor has a long way to catch up to them and also has its hands full with Microsoft, Workday, Sage and NetSuite. Nevertheless, it’s pushing forward into new markets as well. Infor announced a version of CloudSuite for use in the federal government and a new IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa) business unit. President Duncan Angove said at the conference that the company is moving aggressively in China as well.
All this adds up to a company that does try harder. It’s up to the customers to determine if they deserve to be number one.
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.