Infor Flex: innovation or fail?

Infor Flex OverviewView more OpenOffice presentations from First Last.Infor today announced Infor Flex, a program designed to keep customers happy and keep those all important maintenance dollars flowing Infor's way.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Infor today announced Infor Flex, a program designed to keep customers happy and keep those all important maintenance dollars flowing Infor's way. At first viewing, the Infor prgram looks exciting:

Infor Flex makes it easier for customers to take advantage of Infor's innovative service-oriented architecture (SOA) capabilities through the Infor Open SOA framework, such as Infor MyDay and new component applications to be released throughout 2009 and beyond. In many cases, customers are entitled to these capabilities at no additional charge as part of their maintenance agreements. Infor Flex provides a rapid, low-cost way for customers to take advantage of these product innovations by making it easier for them to adopt SOA-enabled product releases.  By combining reduced fees and rapid implementation services, Infor Flex enables customers to leapfrog to new levels of business agility and functionality at a lower cost and less risk than the rip-and-replace approaches of competing vendors.

Vinnie Mirchandani was less than impressed:

If customers only want a low-touch plan – some bug fixes, minimal number of support calls, regulatory updates – you have to keep paying at full rates. As I have written before, customer needs and vendor delivery speeds (and their support costs) vary considerably making it very hard to justify a single maintenance rate across the product lifecycle – so my suggestion about letting maintenance rates float

To a question I asked, Jim responded “Unlike what we are reading about our competitors, we are not seeing as much defection in our customer base to SaaS or third party maintenance. Besides we will offer SaaS in several components of our offering”.

I'm going to give Infor credit for at least coming up with something, even if it does have a whiff of SAP's reworked maintenance plans. However, regardless of how cool anyone thinks Infor is being, there is a relentless downward pressure on end user organization costs. It therefore makes no sense to continue offering same pricing when less help is required.

It doesn't for example go un-noticed that in its press release:

"Our business has been running on the Infor ERP BPCS solution for over 20 years, and we recently renewed our maintenance contract with Infor after being inactive for several years," said Wayne Gale, CEO, Stokes Seeds. "With this program, as well as the long-term product strategy, Infor has shown us that they are committed to their customers and helping us move forward, on our terms and on our timetable."

Strip out the PR speak and what I read is this: 'We have an old system that got to a point where the maintenance price wasn't worth paying. Now it looks like it is, especially given we've had a maintenance cost holiday.'

Reports continue to drip in that customers are resisting maintenance demands from vendors, often on cost pressure grounds but equally because they are not getting the value they thought they were. Right now, the default position must be: don't pay, and then negotiate up for what you really need. It's the only way to get some of these knuckleheads to see business sense by forcing them to stand in the customer's shoes. It's a rotten way to do business but then the enterprise software game has never been as clean and tidy as the sharp suits would imply. More like mud wrestling with Hulk Hogan.


Frank Scavo gives Infor a cautious thumbs up

Forrester's Ray Wang is enthusiastic - but then it fits with Forrester's messaging around SMBS ;)

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