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Infor Reinvented: Enterprise Software's 'Biggest Startup'

Charles Phillips reintroduces Infor after a 16-month transformation that has yielded a newly aggressive apps vendor some now call 'Inforacle.'

12 Enterprise IT Resolutions For 2012
12 Enterprise IT Resolutions For 2012
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Charles Phillips, Oracle's former co-president and now CEO of Infor, reintroduced his company at this week's Inforum customer event in Denver as "the world's largest software startup."

At about $2.8 billion in revenue, Infor is the third largest enterprise applications vendor. In reality it's an old company that started accumulating enterprise applications through dozens of acquisitions starting in 2002, and some of its ERP systems date back to the green-screen era. But Infor is like a startup in that Phillips and his lieutenants, many of whom are former Oracle executives, have started from scratch and dramatically transformed the company during the last 16 months.

In many ways, Infor is being remade in the image of Oracle. It's newly aggressive, product-oriented, and talking up possible acquisitions. Indeed, Duncan Angove, one of two former Oracle executives now serving as co-presidents at the company (sound familiar?), quipped that there was no truth to the rumor that they would rename the company "Inforacle."

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Infor's transformation kicked into high gear when it acquired Lawson Software last July. That $2 billion deal made Infor the biggest name in ERP after SAP and Oracle. Infor's primary venture capital backer is Golden Gate Capital, but more money was infused last month by Summit Partners, and together they have injected more than a $1 billion into the company within the last six months.

Golden Gate and Summit executives were on hand at this week's event, and they reassured analysts and the more than 4,000 customers on hand that they are investing for the long-haul--a message many were anxious to hear--though they did note that an IPO would be the most likely exit strategy.

The new money has fueled hiring and aggressive growth plans. Phillips told the more than 4,000 customers here this week that about 1,700 of the company's 13,000 employees have been hired within the past year. That count includes 600 new developers tasked to significantly ramp up product development. The move has already borne fruit, with 102 upgrades and new products introduced within the last six months--more than in the four previous years combined, Phillips said.

The diversity of Infor's core ERP applications was touted by company executives as a "specialized by industry" strength. Infor rivals like Epicor, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP also talk up industry-specific functionality, but Phillips claimed Infor's multiple ERP engines (it has at least a dozen, but is focusing on a handful) better cover what he called "micro verticals." As an example, Infor doesn't just serve the food and beverage industry; it has industry-specific functionality for big brewery, dairy, bakery, and meat processing operations. Infor is not alone in offering this sort of deep industry expertise, but Phillips vows it will go even deeper.

Infor also has depth in aerospace and automotive, and with the addition of Lawson it has gained a big footprint in healthcare and services. Lawson software such as S3 ERP, human capital management (HCM), and financial management apps are used by 70% of U.S. hospitals with more than 100 beds, Phillips said. He also noted that there was virtually no competitive overlap between the two companies, making it a highly complementary acquisition.

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