This week enterprise software vendor Infor held their annual customer conference in New Orleans. While Infor may not be a household name the way Microsoft, Google, SAP or Oracle are, they are a massive multibillion dollar company that focuses on solving specific business needs of over 73,000 customers. Rather than simply making CRM or ERP software, Infor focuses on tailoring solutions for specific industries. For example, 95% of the largest aerospace companies use Infor. As do 80% of the major teaching hospitals in the US. Some of the other key verticals for Infor include Automotive, Hospitality, Fashion and Food and Beverage.

So why would I attend a conference for enterprise software business processes if that’s not what I cover in my research?  Simple. Because over the last few years Infor has focused heavily on improving the way people use their software to get their jobs done. To accomplish this developed Infor Ming.le, an enterprise social networking tool that adds collaboration features seamlessly into their product portfolio. Infor Ming.le enables people to communicate and collaborate within the specific content of their jobs while using Infor products like SX.E for product distribution. With Infor Ming.le integrated into Info Sales reps can discuss a customer’s account, mechanics can communicate around fixing a part, or doctors can coordinate all aspects of a patient’s treatment. These specific use-case driven collaboration workflows are what I call Purposeful Collaboration

Some thoughts:
- Infor Infor Ming.le is a relatively new offering, which up until now has only been available to Infor’s on-premises customers. However coming very soon, Infor Ming.le will be available as a cloud hosted offering on the Infor Xi platform. 

Infor Ming.le offers similar integration of collaboration and business processes software as competitive products like SAP JAM and Oracle Social Network, while platforms like Epicor and Netsuite are currently lacking these features. 

- One area Infor Ming.le needs to improve upon is partner ecosystem and 3rd party add-on products. For example, I’d like to see integration with unified communications (chat, web-conferecing), file sharing and task management products. Infor Ming.le does have an API that allows for extensibility, and this week I spoke with one of Infor Ming.le'€™s largest customers and they told me about integrations they have done Twitter and MailChimp. I will be covering this in more detail soon in an upcoming Case Study.

- One of my favourite meetings of the week was with Infor Ming.le customer Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority. The are using Infor Ming.le to improve communication by posting questions and presentations in the social network instead of emailing them, as well as modernising the repair process used by their technicians. In the past a mechanic would remove a part, take it to the supply room and wait until they were given a replacement. Now they take a picture of the part, upload it to Infor Ming.le and by the time they get to the supply room the part is waiting for them. Why did I like this meeting so much? Because they the average age of their employees is between 45 and 60. This was a perfect proof point for the message Constellation Research has been pushing around social networking NOT being just for millennials. Companies need to focus on the Digital Proficiency (the combination of skill and comfort with technology) of their people, not what year they were born.

Create Experiences People Love

In addition to integrating collaboration into business processes, Infor has also invested heavily on improving the user interface and user experience of their products. In none geek-speak, that means they want to make them pretty and easy to use.  To do this, they created their own internal design studio in New York named Hook and Loop. This group has grown from 15 people last year to over 100, making them one of the largest design teams in NYC. Note: creating a dedicated design team in not unique to Infor as IBM, Citrix and many other enterprise software vendors have done the same thing.

Hook and Loop has in interesting design philosophy. They explained that the way people use software has evolved from command lines to graphical user interfaces and they now want to take that to the next stage with what they call natural user interfaces. A natural user interface allows people to conduct a business process in an experience that is so familiar to them that no training is required.

For example, instead of a standard screen of rows and columns of data, Hook and Loop envisions medical software that borrows from the look of the Periodic Table of Elements. In the image below staff, rooms and patients are linked together visually allowing easy access to all the data and actions that doctors and nurses need to get their jobs done.

Image:Infor is Hooked On Collaboration, Design and Data

Infor has similar ideas on how to improve the user experience across several industries. I look forward to seeing them push the boundaries of what people are accustomed to with enterprise software.  

Image:Infor is Hooked On Collaboration, Design and Data

As their slogan says, “Infor: Beautiful business software designed for your industry.”

Image:Infor is Hooked On Collaboration, Design and Data

Finally, Infor announced a new division in the company, Dynamic Science Labs. Similar to how they established Hook and Loop in NYC to focus on design, Dynamic Science Labs (based in Cambridge MA right near MIT) will focus on Analytics and Insights.  CEO Charles Phillips discussed how most of today’s Business Intelligence (BI) tools produce information that people already know. For example, a manager dashboard that shows the sales numbers over the last 4 quarters. Infor wants to deliver information that can look deeper into the patterns of why things are happening and ultimately provide predictive measures to stop negative business impacts before they occur.

Image:Infor is Hooked On Collaboration, Design and Data

This concept ties into my research into Personal or Social Analytics, where instead of just having a to-do list or project plans, employees will have tools that provide them real time guidance on what they should and should not be working on.  Imagine combining several data sources such as email, social media, CRM, supply chain, product tasks and more to produce real-time (daily, hourly or even immediate) guidance on what you should be working on and with whom.

I look forward to working with Infor as they think about the future intersections of analytics and collaboration software, and how data and machine generated insights can help people get their jobs done more effectively.