Software // Enterprise Applications
News
11/21/2013
08:06 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Infor CEO Charles Phillips Talks Enterprise Apps

Oracle veteran Charles Phillips says business users expect enterprise app agility, mobility, and consumer-grade interfaces. But is IT on board?

IW: Are enterprise application buyers different than they were years ago?

Phillips: For sure. We're routinely talking to CEOs and CFOs now. We could always usually get to a CIO, but we needed to get to end users and decision makers as well. We do very well when users can see a demo because our latest products look consumer-like and they get excited about it. That becomes a change agent. It's a lot easier to get adoption and change management if they're excited about the product. So that's where we like to start.

IW: So how is IT's role changing? What role do they play in innovation?

Phillips: Well, IT obviously wants to innovate, but they have a lot going on. By going directly to end users and business decision makers, we can create a level of excitement, and a lot of our deals start that way… The second part of the job is to get IT comfortable so they can move fast. So we show them the architecture and offer to help them.

IW: That kind of paints IT as an obstacle, doesn't it?

Phillips: I wouldn't paint all of IT with that brush. But I can speak from the perspective that we're stronger with end users and business decision makers because we talk about applications, the end-user experience, the interfaces and the business processes. We go in with the industry problem first and work back to the architecture.

[Other vendors] do the opposite and start off talking about engineered systems and integration. IT loves to talk about all that and it's fun, but it's not as important as it used to be. The younger CEOs know enough about those issues and they're not as impressed by them. They turn to the CIO and say, "That's your job. I assume you can get everything integrated, but why should I care about X technology? What's the benefit to my business?" We can solve the architecture and integration challenges, but we'd rather focus on solving a real business problem.

IW: Cloud vendors like Salesforce.com and Workday have had a lot to say about removing technology barriers and fostering agile deployment. Can Infor really bedazzle CEOs and CFOs with a better cloud and agility story than the one they're telling?

Phillips: It may sound heretical, but walking in and telling the CIO or CEO "I'm cloud" is not going to be a differentiator pretty soon because everybody is going to do that. Amazon is going to commoditize that, which is why we're using its cloud, and it's going to get cheaper every year. Some cloud vendors still have a first-mover advantage, but that's not going to last beyond the transition period we're in today. You better have story beyond that. In our case it's deep industry features and our understanding of those industries.

IW: Sorry, but I've heard pretty much the same talk from Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP. He talks about running the business from an iPad. And they're introducing new UIs as well.

Phillips: But I think we're light years ahead of everybody in terms of design because we've hired people whose entire career has been in design. The best engineers building ERP apps might be brilliant people, but they don't have the same skill set of doing design. It's a different mindset and a different brain. The two reasons big ERP products usually fail are customization and integration required. When you hear about projects dragging on for five years, it's usually those two things.

Where customization is concerned, we put the features into the product. It's not something that Accenture has to customize. On the second front, we've figured out something on Integration that's different. In all these years and years of middleware initiatives, we've tried to solve these problems in very complex ways, and I'm convinced they're all the wrong approach. I tried it myself without great results. I learned that it's impossible to have a single piece of middleware that understands every single application, every version of those applications and every protocol that's ever used in that application. It's impossible to stay current on everything, and what's more, the app interfaces are changing all the time. It just never works. That's why people can't upgrade and why things break. People just give up and do point-to-point integrations. We said, there has to be a better way, and the way we have done it is both elegant and simple. I'm talking about ION, and we have a lot of customers now who are using it who don't even have Infor applications.

It's a way of getting two applications to work together very quickly by just inverting the transformation. You put that right in the app so the middleware doesn't have to handle all the transformations. It's based on the standard language of XML. It works very well. It's a much smaller middleware platform, so we don't get to charge as much for it, but it solved the problem.

IW: Who are Infor's competitors today and how do you stand out?

Phillips: If you look at the list of deals in any quarter it's mostly SAP and Oracle. Sometimes we'll see Microsoft or Epicor, but most times it's those two in deals for new customers. We've added 3,000 new customers in the last 12 months, so we're gaining share. We're getting invited to compete on deals where we didn't show up for. The brand recognition is not as high as it needs to be, but it's a lot higher than it was two years ago. Sometimes they're curious and sometimes they just want to have competition with the other guys and get the price down. The number-one reason companies choose us is we have the industry features they need already built in and it's going to go in faster because they don't have to build the features that the other vendor lacks. The second reason they're choosing us is they love the way it looks and they're excited about it.

Previous
2 of 3
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
tbjbuzzient
50%
50%
tbjbuzzient,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 2:42:27 PM
Re: Infor's Plot in the ERP Graveyard
Ha! Love the Graveyard graphic. Interesting to see how so many of SAP's acqusitions are just one time around; I wonder if that is a good or bad thing in terms of shaking out all the integration points?
PaulT371
50%
50%
PaulT371,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 1:20:15 PM
Re: Infor's Plot in the ERP Graveyard
Just a nit on "ERP Graveyard", it is not an independent analysis of ERP's, but yet another sales tool (or really sales slander".  It lists many ERPs that have never been dead, and other's (like Infor VISUAL ERP) that has had more development resources and great releases of it since Infor purchased it then in the 5-8 years prior.   ERP graveyard, was started by a Open Source ERP software company, just b/c it's open source doesn't mean they don't want to make $, and compete, and this is just another tool to do just that.  

 
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2013 | 11:17:41 AM
Infor's Plot in the ERP Graveyard
If you haven't seen the ERP Graveyard, take a look. Infor makes Oracle look lazy where ERP acquisitions are concerned. The "Graveyard" moniker isn't quite fair, as many of these ERP systems are alive and well. Many others are Walking Dead that haven't been updated in years. Still others are truly dead - long since abandoned by customers. The Graveyard also includes things that really aren't ERP systems, like Hyperion and Siebel, for example.

Infor has a tough task deciding which ERP systems to keep moving forward and which to let go of without pushing customers away. Phillip's regime has been nothing but good for Infor and Infor customers so far as I've seen. Any Infor customers care to share their views?
Shepy
50%
50%
Shepy,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2013 | 9:11:58 AM
nice addition
"Virtually all web applications require a load-balancing mechanism for scale-out and high availability. To address this requirement, Windows Azure provides a built-in load balancing layer in its architecture. In fact, the only way to access virtual machines created in Azure from a client machine on the Internet is to send the data via the built-in load balancer."

A great addition, I've seen sytems that use loadbal.* as the initial gateway, only for then users to bookmark server1.* after they get logged in. 
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Elite 100 - 2014
Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.