Infor seeks to disrupt duopoly held by SAP and Oracle

CEO says he runs multibillion dollar company like a startup
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Infor wants to disrupt the enterprise resource planning (ERP) duopoly of SAP (NYSE: SAP) and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) through a multi-prong strategy, according to Forrester analyst George Lawrie.

Lawrie, who used to work at Info acquisition targets MSA, SSA and Mapics, said in a blog that Infor's strategy for breaking the two firms' hold in the ERP market is through architecture, industry-specific capabilities and "beauty as a competence."

In terms of architecture, Infor's customers have a choice of application portfolio elements and timing of upgrades because of its "loose coupling strategy" and its ION platform, Lawrie noted.

"This is attractive to firms that can no longer force all their functions and divisions to upgrade simultaneously to a lowest common denominator set of functionality," explained the Forrester analyst.

In addition, Infor offers message-based interoperability, which enables apps to tweet about changes in the status of accounts, documents, people or objects. "This delivers on the promise of event awareness in ERP and offers a glimpse of the potential of real time business," Lawrie explained.

Infor offers industry-specific capabilities to customers, such as its "catch weight" function in the meat industry or its "campaign management" function for process manufacturing. "This focus on critical industry functionality is a welcome relief from a diet of non-differentiated horizontal applications," Lawrie wrote.

In terms of "beauty as a competence," Infor makes a strong case for in-sourcing the capability to develop apps with a "seductive" interface. "Infor's in-house creative agency has delivered business apps with the compelling look and feel of games websites," the analyst observed.

In a recent interview with Fast Company, Infor Chief Executive Officer Charles Phillips explained that he runs the company as a startup, even though it has 13,000 employees, 70,000 enterprise customers and $2.5 billion in revenue.

"We want to change the way people work," Phillips told Fast Company. "Applications is where business strategy and technology converge and is the top of the food chain for the tech stack. The rest of the infrastructure only exists to run an application," he said.

"Now, we can be disruptive and fix the problems of enterprise software we've known about for decades. And we have the benefit of experience and the efficiency of trust--a team that is cohesive and has the same will to win and change the industry. We are free to innovate," he added.

Phillips' strategy appears to be paying off. When Salesforce.com, the dominant player in the customer relationship management (CRM) market, wanted to get into the ERP market, it teamed with Infor.

For more:
- read Lawrie's blog
- check out the Fast Company interview with Phillips

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