In late June 2013, Infor senior leadership hosted an informative management briefing in their New York offices. The briefing was targeted to top IT consultants and influencers in the ERP marketplace.
Infor is the third-largest provider of enterprise applications and services, serving 70,000 customers in 194 countries.
We were pleased to be part of the gathering, as many of Ultra’s manufacturing clients consider Infor systems during the ERP selection process, and it’s valuable to keep current with the company’s strategic and product direction.
Hosted by Infor’s CEO Charles Phillips, President Duncan Angove, joined later in the day by Stephan Scholl, President of Sales and Consulting, the intent of the briefing was to share Infor’s latest strategic direction. Gathered around the table at Infor’s New York headquarters were ERP experts representing over 100 active ERP selection projects within the manufacturing sector.
Vertical Product Strategy
The leadership team began by sharing Infor’s commitment to serving vertical markets with best-of-breed systems. Infor marks this a key differentiator in the ERP space. Specifically, their solutions serve a number of key vertical industries including:
- Food and Beverage
- Aerospace and Defense
- High Tech and Electronics
- Public Sector and Nonprofit
In many cases, Infor offers systems that go beyond these categories into niche markets. As an example, within the process industries of food and beverage, Infor offers specific functionality to bakeries, meat processors and other sub-verticals, positioning their product as the right solution for each specific niche.
In another example of this vertical product strategy, in early 2013 Infor announced a vertical ERP suite for printers and packagers that manages the printing and packaging lifecycle.
Implications for Manufacturers
As we work with our manufacturing clients in a range of sectors, we see cases where leveraging this vertical approach can drive benefits.
For users in a vertical-specific industry, it’s a smart practice to seek out and evaluate business systems that offer vertical-specific features and functions, as compared to more generic ERP systems that need extensive customizations.
Innovation, or “Beauty as a Competence”
Next, the Infor senior leadership team turned their attention to what I term “beauty as a competence” or in other words, offering manufacturers an ERP system user interface (UI) and user experience noteworthy for its ease of use, elegance and simplicity.
We’ve noticed this trend before in a previous blog post summarizing an Oracle ERP product briefing. As we note, many times our clients focus on “look and feel” during ERP selection. The search is on for simplified screens and data displays that are easy to use, whether by shop floor workers or the front office. An easy interface lets the end-user get up and running faster.
Infor is an example of another ERP vendor that sees the user experience as the new battleground for ERP evaluation.
Going beyond features and functions, Infor has rightly noted that ERP evaluation is beyond a comparison of functionality and instead has transformed to a search for an easy, usable, convenient and “pleasurable” experience.
Driving Infor Innovation
To best deliver a pleasurable and intuitive UI, Infor created a new internal division called “Hook and Loop” made up of over 80 creatives—writers, designers, developers—driving innovation around product design and user experience across Infor’s entire suite of business applications.
This New York-based “think tank” is a key differentiator among today’s ERP vendors. Taking the time to run user tests and design for the most intuitive and easy experience will set Infor apart from other vendors who don’t take the time and effort for this important task.
An example of the care Infor takes in UI is evident when the Hook and Loop team designed an application targeted to the hospitality vertical market. When designing a guest check-in screen used by reservation desk staff, the UI designers added in a “smiley face” icon so the check in staff can remember to look up, smile and engage with the guest. This part of the check-in process was deemed as extremely important to end-users. It’s noteworthy that the UI designers took the time to research, explore and build-in this meaningful and convenient reminder that impacts productivity, purpose and ultimately, customer satisfaction.
Key Takeaways for Manufacturers
What is evident in both Infor’s “virtualization” strategy, and the approach to innovation, is that Infor is dedicated to “creating experiences people love” – as noted during the briefing by CEO Charles Phillips.
Putting the emphasis on the end user, by tailoring vertical-specific systems that are easy and pleasurable to use, is becoming a real game-changer for this vendor.
Our advice to ERP selection teams is to fully understand how the UI directly improves productivity, ease of use and efficiency. While it’s important to have a modern “look and feel”, ultimately the goal is to select and implement an ERP system that offers all the required functions and features, drives productivity, while delivering a pleasurable and meaningful experience to end users. Infor is well positioned to be a leading contender during this type of evaluation.
This post provides a part one recap of the recent Infor briefing.
Watch for the part two summary of the Infor management briefing, which turns the spotlight on recent product announcements.