Infor CEO: 'Beautiful software' solves business problems

CEO Charles Phillips explains why his enterprise software company has cultivated design as a core strategic competency.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

The consumerization of IT is one of the most significant and far-reaching trends in modern enterprise technology. As part of this shift, most enterprise software vendors have embraced thinking that places users in the center of their software design process.

Companies like salesforce.com, Workday, Oracle, SAP (disclosure: a client), and Microsoft (disclosure: a client) have all made significant investments to "consumerize" their products.

Despite these investments across the industry, Infor has taken the link between design and enterprise software to another level. A quick visit to their New York headquarters places this assertion in context. Infor’s office is striking because the company’s senior executives sit immediately adjacent to the visitor waiting area, sharing a single office with a large table in the center; they don’t have private offices. Next to that shared executive office is a large open space where the company’s design team sits.

Infor's executive office, with CEO Charles Phillips (photo by Michael Krigsman)

Infor’s physical office space sends three messages:

  1. Design is a foundational competency
  2. Collaboration is the cultural style
  3. Executives are close to customers

These aspirational goals reflect a core strategy of Infor’s CEO, Charles Phillips. On Infor’s website, the design and collaboration theme takes top priority, immediately below the rotating news banner at the top:

Infor web

To explore Infor’s focus on design, we invited Charles Phillips to CxO-Talk, where you can hear our entire conversation.

We also created a short summary video, presented below, in which Phillips connects the value of good design to business software that solves user problems. The video is only a few minutes long, so check it out:

In this context, design is shorthand to describe innovative software that users will find beneficial and want to adopt. Accordingly, design leads to software that:

  • Feels friendly and attractive. Note the importance of emotion; delighting users requires more than process, features, and benefits. If the software doesn’t feel good, then enterprise adoption will suffer.

  • Does the job well. Although feel-good matters, enterprise users expect software that solves their problems quickly and without hassle.

  • Re-thinks processes without disrupting operations. Designing software that improves the process without causing pain requires a deep understanding how real users work.

Ultimately, Infor will need to establish strong metrics that link its design efforts to factors such as revenue growth, user adoption, customer satisfaction, and similar goals. For the present, the company is investing money, time, and serious executive attention on an area of enterprise software that historically has been lacking.

I have no doubt that others in the industry will eventually raise design to this level of strategic imperative. It’s already happened in the consumer world, so why not in business?

Also read:

Infor and ‘No Fugly Software’: Design as a competitive weapon

Brand promise, customer experience, and CMO lessons for the CIO

Bridging the gap between brand promise and customer experience

Saving the dry, lifeless soul of enterprise software

Enterprise software: ‘Do our customers love us?’

CxO-Talkbrings together prominent executives, authors, and analysts to discuss leadership, transformation, and innovation. Conducted live and unscripted on open video, CxOTalk offers a rich source of thought leadership from the top practitioners and thinkers in the world. Join co-host, Vala Afshar, and me every Friday for a new episode of CxO-Talk.

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