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Monday, March 16, 2009

Infor using SOA to breath new life into old apps

Dennis Howlett has been spending some time in briefings with Info coming up to speed on the vendor's efforts to "SOA enable" some of its many acquired products. He writes:
It turns out that Infor is roughly half way through a six year program to service enable all of its applications at a budgeted cost of some $350 million. That’s over and above the 12% of revenues it allocates to R&D. Eighteen teams in nine locations are working their way through the process which will see Infor offering interoperability across old favorites like Baan, System 21, Sun Systems, XPPS, iSeries (Infinium) and MSA.
The idea is that customers should be able to take upgrades and enhancements at their own pace rather than go through a technical forced march. It also means that products like Baan 4.c.4, last sold in 1998 according to Infor will be just as capable of enhancement as later versions 5 and 6. This has to be good news for customers, especially as the SOA components are included as part of the company’s maintenance arrangements.
My take: From time to time I get calls from Wall Street analysts looking for insights into Infor's competitive position. I generally tell them that Infor has some truly best-of-breed products in its portfolio, in particular some of the complementary product offerings such as those for warehouse management, logistics, and product data management. In addition, some of its resellers, such as the Lilly Visual guys, have seen success selling into the smaller end of the ERP market.

Infor is one of those vendors that is easy to dismiss. As Dennis writes, "Rolling up a rag bag of distressed software vendors is not my idea of innovation but of financial engineering where you usually have to carefully watch the bang per buck coming out of the maintenance stream." Recent observations of Infor's sales performance --or, lack thereof--in new deals lends credence to this view.

Nevertheless, Infor does have considerable strengths, if it could just leverage them better.
  • It has an enormous installed base that gives it a natural market to sell into.
  • It has some truly best-of-breed products in its portfolio, in particular some of the complementary product offerings such as those for warehouse management, logistics, and product data management.
  • It has some very good resellers, such as those selling its Lilly Visual and Syteline product lines.
Infor's work to SOA-enable its applications may provide that leverage.
  • Infor can position itself as adding value by extending the life of its customers installed applications.
  • It can offer an easy path to adding complementary functionality if it successfully SOA-enables its best-of-breed products.
  • It can provide more opportunities to its resellers if its SOA strategy allows them to offer a bigger bag of products to sell to their customers.
Then, if it can combine all this with maintenance programs that don't cost an arm and a leg, it will have a real winner.

Infor's business model may not make headlines, but it can make money if it delivers value. For the sake of its many customers running its many products, I'm hoping it succeeds.

Related posts
Infor chases customer for fees on 20-year old software
Infor reassures customers of financial viability
Infor layoffs, Dec. 2008

by Frank Scavo, 3/16/2009 08:00:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!

 Reader Comments:

The work that Bruce Gordon, CTO of Infor and the team has done to SOA enable applications without requiring a whole new technology foundation fits the Infor customer profile very well. In fact, these new Infor Evolve components breathe new life into the overall Infor family and allow both new and old Infor clients to leap frog old code. Overall very impressive

R "Ray" Wang
Vice President
Forrester Research, Inc.
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