I had the opportunity to attend Infor’s yearly user conference in New Orleans. The event was very attended with over 6000 participants and was filled with pretty strategic announcements for Infor, customers, partners and competitors. I previously blogged about my Day 1 Keynote takeaways – you can find them here.

Tough to make a call for the Top3 event highlights – but here you go:

1. Vertical vs Horizontal

For a long time Infor has positioned itself as the vendor that goes the extra mile to build vertical functionality. Sometimes the vendor even calls it micro-verticals, and Infor is starting to make a name for themselves in this area. CEO Charles Philips shared a conversation with a potential customer in real estate, who stated that the whole industry does not see much support from the other enterprise software vendors. And there can be no question that Infor has some very deep functional assets across the many vendors the company had acquired.

So far so good for Day 1- but then the Day 2 keynote add significant horizontal functionality plans to the agenda. Not only did Infor announce a new Financials product – Philips said they are the first vendor to do so in the last 10 years (well SAP may want to argue), but also a new HCM product, the two being bundled into the new CloudSuite Corporate product. Head of Product Soma Somasundaram went over the design principles for the new Financials product (press release here), and they are all good ingredients for a promising future. And to be fair, Infor executives during the keynote tirelessly described additional vertical features that are planned to be part of the product. So a key focus of upcoming R&D is going to be on horizontal functionality, but coupled with deep functional depth. Unfortunately Infor did not share a roadmap, so the audience was left with an unclear timeline of what will be delivered when. Certainly early days, but a roadmap will be key for Infor to flesh out.
Soma Somasundaram introduces new Infor Financials (thanks to @RalphRio for picture)

2, Cloud if you want

Infor keeps building on Amazon’s AWS as its public cloud partner, we covered the original announcement at the AWS Cloud Summit in San Francisco here. In the meantime Infor has complemented AWS with additional capabilities that the vendor needed to make its application portfolio run on AWS. During an executive Q&A COO Pam Murphy shared that all products can be up and running in 30 minutes. That is a far cry from the 2-3 minutes a traditional AWS AMI image sees, but very fast if you consider that Infor has to spin up quite complex product architectures to enable their products to ruin on AWS. And its superfast if you consider the times involving installing the same onsite. It’s likely the software download (or the unwrapping of the DVDs) will take longer than 30 minutes.

But despite all the marketing attention for CloudSuite Infor allows their customers do deploy all their products on premise as well. And while some may argue that this makes Infor not an ‘all –in cloud vendor’ – it’s the choice customers want. From the conversations with customers it certainly it is encouraging for them to see other customers starting to run CloudSuite on AWS, and their experiences will be key for the next wave of adoption. That said we didn’t see (yet) a live CloudSuite customer on stage (or missed it as I watched the Day 2 keynote between hotel, taxi and airport).

Scibelli introduces glide (thanks to @alanlepo for picture)

3. Ion is the (not so) secret (anymore) weapon

The key enabler in Infor’s application architecture is and remains its Ion product. We spend some time (never enough) with Massimo Capoccia, who leads the effort at Infor. And Ion has morphed from a file handler doing export, import and transfer of data across the Infor products into a veritable application server, which enables calling of APIs, direct data to multiple sources and allows for workflows to be executed on the data while it is in flight or to orchestrate the data flow. All that while being deployed both in the cloud (on AWS) and on premises (as customer choose). Infor did not confirm that Ion will move into a full PaaS when I asked, but the writing is certainly on the wall. If Infor gets programming language support and code management right, it will be a key area where its customers should pay close attention to, not only to integrate and run products from the Infor portfolio, but potentially build next generation applications on.


  • Hook & Loop keeps delivering – The creative team keeps delivering great looking user interfaces, I was particularly impressed by the new Glide touch UI. It’s now time to issue dates for the uptake of this new user interfaces for the existing and newly announced products. 
  • HCM also brand new - During the Day 2 keynote Infor’s Tarik Taman showed the new look and feel and a number of interesting features for HCM. Very much Performance Management focused, complemented by the new analytical capabilities Infor has acquired with PeopleAnswers. With the latter and Workbrain, Infor has two veritable assets to build an interesting and competitive 21st century HCM product. 
  • Data Science good, but...  – Analytics played a big role at Inforum, with two data scientists getting ample room in the keynotes, on each day. It is good to see Infor investing in this key area – as analytics make the difference in the future of enterprise automation. My main concerns here are on positioning and delivery – read on in MyPOV below.
  • Infor Ming.le may change gestalt – Infor is one of the vendors that have opted to make social capabilities a standalone and separate product. Social is not part of the platform right now – as the Infor products have been built on different technology platforms. But it runs in the cloud (on AWS) and creates value for the existing Infor applications. If it will become a more native platform capability with the new products the vendor announced today, will be interesting to see. 


A very good event for Infor and its customers. It is clear that the R&D effort goes to high return areas, where multiple / all Infor products can benefit from it investment wise. The new UIs, Ion, Infor Ming.le are shared investment. The same for the newly announced horizontal functionalities. With that Infor is changing its R&D investment strategy from leveraging great vertical functionality from acquired assets to (my speculation) building its next generation of product organically. Executives openly stated that intention for the new Financials product. This means massive investment into product and even though Infor has added well over a 1000 developers in the last quarters it needs to balance new product development with functional extension and demand in the existing product portfolio. And Infor needs to provide a roadmap when which functionality will be available. Maybe too early at Inforum, but better sooner than later.

On the analytics side it was great to see so much attention being given to Analytics. Infor calls it Data Science, but in my view the science term is misleading. Yes the quants are also called data scientists, but science has uncertain outcomes and uncertain outcomes are not something an executives making enterprise software decisions have an appetite for. We know smart people can move the needle in any analytical process – but through a time consuming professional services engagement. And that in my book is not the future of analytics in the 21st century, which is much more the multiple analytical model enabled business user running these analytics personally and without involvement of data scientists. Infor would not be the first vendor caught in the services trap – but likely also not the last one, too. And Infor certainly spend more time on Analytics than fellow competitors (e.g. SAP) did at their user conference, so overall good to have the focus on Analytics.
My colleague Alan Lepofsky has written a great event report on his findings here - don't miss it. 

More about Infor
  • First Take - Infor's Inforum - Top 3 Takeaways from Day 1 Keynote - read here
  • Market Move - Infor runs CloudSuite on AWS - Inflection Point or hot air balloon - read here
  • Progress Report - Infor moves to the cloud and (micro) vertical flavor - read here
  • Inforum 2013 – Takeaways from the Keynote – Day 2 – read here.
  • Infor’s bet on microverticals – the good, the bad the ugly – read here
Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here.