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Trip Report: Infor: A Six Year Journey to AI and Beyond #Inforum2017

Five years ago, theCUBE had on its first guest from Infor, COO Pam Murphy. The interview took place at AWS re:Invent and at the time we asked: “who is Infor?” Since then we’ve documented the evolution of Infor, from a private equity rollup of Lawson Software and other companies to an innovative software company that has become a viable cloud-based SaaS alternative to Oracle and SAP. What’s significant is Infor’s strategy – directed by CEO Charles Philips and three other former Oracle execs – has allowed it to acquire key software assets and emerge as a $3B player in the highly competitive enterprise software space.

At the recent Inforum 2017 event, President Duncan Angove, one of the architects of Infor’s strategy, took Jim Kobelius and me through the six year journey of Infor (video clip) up through its current day moves to become an enterprise software leader.

Infor communicates in what I call the Infor Strategy Stack (see figure).

Infor’s Six Year Evolution

Starting at the bottom of the stack, Infor’s initial differentiation strategy was to do the dirty work and complete the “last mile” of deep industry functionality to effectively eliminate custom modifications. At Inforum this year, the company touted the participation of several large SIs within its ecosystem. I asked Angove why the big SI’s – who live off the last mile of integration – would be interested in Infor. Here’s his response (video clip), which admittedly was a bit self-serving. I suspect not only (as Angove suggested) are the likes of Accenture and CAP Gemini joining the party because of Infor’s success, but also that Koch Industries, who recently invested $2B+ in the company is using its considerable influence to pressure these SIs to work with Infor.

The next layer up the stack is Infor’s cloud strategy. We heard at Inforum that 55% of new software revenue came from the cloud. As Angove explained to us on theCUBE (video clip), Infor made the decision years ago to run its suite of cloud SaaS applications on AWS and that has allowed Infor to focus on its core strategy of deepening functionality within verticals. While on balance we see this as a positive, two concerns we’re watching in this regard are:

1) the complexity of the Infor/AWS data pipeline. In listening to the company’s pitches I saw many examples where Infor leverages AWS data products such as DynamoDB, S3, Kinesis, Redshift, EC2 and presumably more to come. These data services are largely independent islands that do one thing really well (that’s good). But the end-to-end Infor data pipeline increasingly relies on several discrete services that Infor must integrate into its cloud suite…which leads me to the second concern;

2) end-to-end system performance. Discussions with customers have led me to believe this could be an issue for Infor but I’m still digging for more hard data to confirm if performance at scale can be problematic.

The next layer up the stack is what Infor calls its Network Commerce Platform. As Angove explained, this strategy was enabled by Infor’s GT Nexus acquisition from 2015 and gives Infor end-to-end visibility on supply chain and logistics (video clip) trends and to me, is a major data play for Infor.

This led us to the top of the stack which includes Infor’s Birst analytics acquisition and its recently announced Coleman AI platform. Birst is a company that claims to deliver modern BI at scale and Coleman AI, named after Katherine Coleman Johnson, is Infor’s new AI platform that it is integrating into it’s application suite. I was happy to have Wikibon analyst Jim Kobielus with me in NYC to opine (video clip) on these emerging areas of Infor’s business.

We asked Angove about Infor’s AI Differentiation (video clip) and then specifically challenged him to address the question: Is Coleman just Alexa on Steroids (video clip). Coleman uses some of Alexa’s machine learning technology that Infor leverages to make its Cloud Suite more conversational, but according to Angove, that’s only a small piece of Infor’s AI offering.

 

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