At the start of Inforum 2016, Infor Chief Operating Officer Pam Murphy stood on stage and announced: "Our customers kick ass." The comment reflects announcements that Infor is extending its core strategy by adding solutions tied closely to its customers' digital business transformation.
Infor itself is undergoing a transformation designed to maintain relevance as the market changes. During a private conversation with Infor President Duncan Angove, he explained Infor is thinking of potential sources of disruption to its own business: "We want to disrupt ourselves before someone else does."
Angove recognizes that customers using and developing technology in sophisticated new ways could eventually become competitors to technology providers like Infor. This perspective acknowledges the growing role of technology as a strategic enabler and source of competitive advantage in many industries.
Angove's comments provide a backdrop through which we can understand new elements of Infor's strategy:
- Adding networks to Infor's core strategic pillars.
- Announcing H&L Digital as a new division.
- Reinventing services from technology implementation to modern digital transformation.
Adding networks to Infor's core strategic pillars. As you can see from the illustration below, Infor has embraced networks as a core goal for enabling digital business among its customers. The building blocks of Infor's business now include:
- Increasing focus on industry specialization to meet the needs of customers more closely in a variety of vertical markets.
- Design and user experience as a core competence, based on the efforts of Hook and Loop, the company's in-house design agency.
- Science -- in the form of data, analytics, and machine learning -- wherever it makes sense.
- Internet-based, cloud-native applications that can also run on-premise.
- Collaborative networking as part of the Infor platform.
These five pillars reflect a digital-centric view of modern business, and they reflect Infor's strategy to carve a path of customer relevance in the competitive software business.
Announcing H&L Digital as a new division. Infor created Hook and Loop in 2012 as an in-house design agency, based on a strategy to bring modern user experience sensibilities to the company's range of products. Today, Infor has taken the next evolution in this journey, giving H&L Digital the mandate to help customers build differentiated business solutions, using data, industry specialization, and design.
I spoke at length with the head of H&L Digital and Infor's chief creative officer, Marc Scibelli, who explained the importance of solutions tailored to the specific needs of customers in various vertical segments. My interpretation is that H&L Digital wants to bridge the gap between packaged software and the need for enterprise buyers to preserve their unique points of differentiation, whether related to processes, innovation, products, talent management, and so on.
Although the question of custom versus packaged software is not new, current thought today recommends buying packaged while retaining clarity around precisely which processes differentiate a company. However, many organizations have trouble isolating which of their processes provide true differentiation. Presumably, H&L Digital will help its customers identify crucial, high-value points of differentiation and then build "micro-solutions" on the Infor platform.
The following diagram shows H&L Digital's perspective, which is based on building innovative solutions rather than just implementing packaged technology.
In effect, H&L Digital is part of the broader services reinvention that Infor has undertaken.
Reinventing services from technology implementation to modern digital transformation. In conjunction with H&L Digital, Infor services now offer customers a complete set of capabilities to help guide their overall digital transformation. Infor is going beyond traditional software technology implementation, to support customers through all aspects of their digital journey.
Infor Global VP of Digital and Business Transformation Denise Hazaga explained the approach to me, using the example of a sports retailer. Rather than looking just at technology, Infor examines the company through the lenses of customer, employee, and operational efficiency.
Next, the consulting team helps define key points of value and investment. Clearly, part of this involves identifying core competitive differentiators, as I mentioned earlier.
For these engagements, Infor establishes a "digital transformation office", analogous to the project management office (PMO) often used for traditional ERP projects. In a sense, the digital transformation office is a superset of a PMO; it includes managing the software implementation and architecture but adds core components around innovation and strategic business direction.
The digital transformation idea makes sense but puts pressure on Infor to maintain high performance. Because the approach is much broader than technology and processes alone, Infor must hire people with a broader range of business skills than would otherwise be necessary.
In summary, Infor is trying to become a next-generation enterprise software provider. Although that phrase is overused, in this case, I believe it is accurate.
While the history of enterprise software is all about technology (presented as packaged software) and making processes more efficient, the future means innovation, business models, culture change, and helping the enterprise buyer's workforce evolve toward a more customer-centric world. Infor's investment strategy is building toward this future.