Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In the End, Infor Gets Lawson. What it means for customers of the new Infor

Exactly 6 weeks ago today (March 15th) I posted an entry highlighting Infor’s bid to acquire Lawson. At the time and for several weeks afterwards, there was much speculation about the price, whether or not there would be additional bidders, as well as the probability of Lawson staying independent. Shortly after this announcement, Harry Debes (CEO of Lawson) addressed a large flock of Lawson customers at CUE 2011 (CUE stands for customer user event) and acknowledged all the speculation as the “elephant in the room.” He said the company was considering all possible options, including staying independent.
I don’t think a lot of people put money on independence as the future outcome, but there did seem to be a lot that counted on other bids popping up… maybe not a real bidding war, but at least a second bid that might drive the proposed price higher. Why do I think this? Quite simply, the stock price went up. At the close on the Friday just before the weekend when the initial offer for $11.25 per share was made, the stock price had been $11.55. Instead of going down as a result of the bid, it continued to go up. Someone was betting they could turn a profit on prices between $11.55 and over $12 a share. I don’t profess to be a trading whiz, but I do know $11.25 is less than $12. And $11.25 will be what they get when the deal is sealed. There won’t be an opportunity to watch the stock go back up because it will no longer be on the market. Infor, at least for now, is a privately owned company. Indeed the offer is really being executed by GGC Software Holdings, Inc., an affiliate of Golden Gate Capital, which is one of Infor’s investors.
So, now that the deal is really going down, what does this mean to the customers and employees of both companies?
There is always a certain level of uncertainty concerning the workforce of any acquired company. Those in Lawson’s development organization should take heart in knowing that Infor already announced its intention to hire 400 additional software developers. So my guess would be that good developers are safe. Poor performers in any department should probably be looking over their shoulders as an acquisition is the perfect opportunity to clean house. Let’s just hope Infor is able to distinguish the good employees from the underperformers. No offense intended, but that distinction is often much harder to make than it would appear to be. And in any acquisition, there will be some level of redundancy, particularly in the back office.
What about the impact on customers? My initial take is that the customers from both camps will benefit directly from this move. There will be more innovation and I hope this provides some impetus for some rationalization and cross fertilization of product lines because Infor’s reputation and brand has suffered as a result of having too many.
 In an open letter to Infor and Lawson customers, partners and employees, Charles Phillips, newly appointed CEO of Infor, highlighted several benefits to the deal, which also imply some plans. In fact he even starts out by saying, “Lawson customers can rest assured:  Product investment, innovation and customer success will be our key areas of focus” and references Infor’s previously announced plans for accelerated innovation, including those 400 developers he intends to add.
In this letter he highlights the following points:
4  Complete ERP suite: As the boundaries of ERP continue to be stretched, the top ERP contenders continue to expand their footprints.  Mr Phillips references Lawson’s enterprise financials and human resources products as standalone products, across multiple industries and the intent to integrate them with Infor’s manufacturing, supply chain, workforce, and asset management products. I “get” the reference to human resources as Lawson has developed this area further than Infor has, but Infor has financial management products that are available as stand-alone products as well, so the implication I see might be a rationalization of products, with Lawson’s S3 forming the basis over the SunSystems or Masterpiece product lines?  But just cross-selling independent extensions to ERP without truly integrating them doesn’t get you a “complete suite.”  So there is some real work to be done here.
4  Complementary products: Mr Phillips states, “The product lines are complementary, not overlapping.”  Complementary yes, but I diagree...they are also overlapping. Consider the financial product I mention above and Lawson M3 competes directly with several of the Infor ERP solutions for manufacturing. But I will say that Lawson has stuck to its knitting in terms of declared verticals. This means there is less overlap, but there is still a lot. However, the example Mr Phillips uses: ”… Lawson’s expertise in the healthcare industry will be enhanced by Infor’s Enterprise Asset Management which will be targeted for large hospitals and Time & Attendance product, complementing Lawson’s Nurse Scheduling application.  This is truly a scenario where 1+1=3.” But don’t forget Lawson also has an EAM solution.
4  Standards-based integration:  Infor’s underlying architectural strategy has undergone some changes over the past year, and appears to still be transforming itself somewhat, but the path seems to be towards openness and a commitment to stay out of the middleware market. This will pave the way for integrating the two new product lines with other Infor product lines.
4  Re-inventing the applications experience:  Both Infor Workspace and Lawson Mashup Designer have similar goals here. It will be interesting to see if and how these two separate products are rationalized.
The remaining points refer to expertise in key industries (of which neither company lacks in both complementary and overlapping industries), innovation and investment (as evidenced by prior announcements and growth plans for R&D) and scale. In terms of scale, Mr Phillips makes reference to 75,000 customers and concludes with, “Having more customers allows us to invest more, identify more requirements and develop a large partner ecosystem.” I agree with the premise, but Infor already claimed to have 70,000 customers, so I am a little puzzled by such a small (7%) increment.
I do believe Lawson customers in particular will benefit from the increased focus on innovation. While Lawson has indeed brought innovation to the table, even as revenues were down during the recession, its profitability stayed strong, which was commendable for a public company with an obligation to its shareholders. But it also limited its investment.
My conclusion… while I hate to see the number of distinct and competing ERP vendors shrink once again, I believe that if the combined companies are not afraid to make some bold steps to consolidate strategies, perhaps rationalizing product sets, the customers will be the clear winners.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Case for ERP Consolidation

Today I was reading Bruce Richardson’s View From the Inside. Bruce was one of the longest tenured analysts with AMR Research (and its Chief Research Officer) before AMR was acquired by Gartner at the end of 2009/beginning of 2010. Bruce and I really moved in opposite directions. While I spent 30 years working for software companies before joining the analyst ranks, at the time of the AMR acquisition by Gartner, Bruce moved to Infor and is now on the software side. So we’ve both seen the view from both sides now.
The subject of Bruce’s “View” today was “A Tour of the Distribution ERP Market with Infor’s Andy Berry.” It talked about roadmaps and growth of sales to this market. But what specifically caught my eye was the announcement that Infor would be consolidating its multiple distribution products down to two and eventually to one offering. This is definitely a new approach for Infor. Throughout its history of over 35 acquisitions, Infor has avoided the consolidation or rationalization of products, sometimes in sharp contrast to companies it acquired.
The one merger in particular that comes to mind is Infor’s acquisition of SSA Global (August 2006), which itself had been a product of serial acquisitions and had defined a path of rationalization. Having just left SSA myself about 6 months prior to the acquisition, I was intimately familiar with its consolidation strategy. With somewhere around 10 different product lines at the time, SSA’s plan had been to consolidate down to two ERP solutions (LX and LN) and one financial management product, which ultimately would provide the basis of the financial modules in the two ERP solutions. But the company wasn’t too far down the path of execution when the merger happened, and the consolidation message, quite frankly, had not been very well received by its customer base. So abandoning that strategy seemed like a no-brainer at the time.
Add to this a couple other similar situations in the ERP market. Oracle had acquired Peoplesoft and JD Edwards, and also had its own business suite. But its announcement of its Fusion product as a single consolidated product line also met with resistance from its installed base. This was also about the time of Microsoft’s Project Green, which was meant to rationalize the four acquired ERP products (AX, NAV, GP, SL) down to one. Same reaction. Boos from the crowd.
So the case seemed to be pretty solid against rationalization unless you wanted to seriously tick off your customers. And maintenance revenue streams are way too important to an ERP solution provider to risk. So why was one ERP that also grew by acquisition – Epicor - successful in doing exactly the opposite?
On October 21, 2008, Epicor Software Corporation announced Epicor 9, the culmination of an eight year effort to converge its nine different product lines. And along the way, it didn’t seem to alienate its customer base. In fact over the years I have spoken with numerous Epicor customers that perceived a reimplementation as an opportunity, rather than a hardship. What was the difference?
Of course there are a myriad of differences, but I think the one that really mattered was that Epicor made the new destination different enough to really matter. Many installed base customers faced with a reimplementation perceive it as a “rip and replace” only to spend lots of time and effort to get back to exactly where they started.  Epicor took a staged approach to delivering on its goal of convergence and did not lose sight of its promise to protect investments along the way. But it also knew that it had to bite the bullet and do a complete re-write of its underlying base architecture. So first it built its Internet Component Environment (ICE) 2.0, a second-generation Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 technologies. Then over the course of several years it converged from nine to four and then to one. Customers weren’t re-implementing on the promise of something new and different in the future. It was already there and they knew if they just tried to re-create their existing environment they would be cementing in place any restrictions they currently faced.
Oracle Fusion and Microsoft Green promised new architectures but they weren’t “there” yet. SSA had no new architecture to promise.
Infor always had the vision, but for several years got side-tracked through attempts to architect its own middleware. Infor has now decided to stick to what it does best – enterprise applications. By 2013 the two “destination” distribution products will share the same functional code base. Infor is already working on building identical user interfaces based on its new Infor Workspace and it is also working on integration with Infor ION, which it describes as “a new generation of business middleware that is lighter weight, less technically demanding to implement, and built on open standards.” I believe Infor ION will be a key factor if Infor is now successful in implementing a rationalization strategy here on the distribution side … and perhaps among its different ERP solutions for manufacturing? For its multiple financial management solutions? There are lots of opportunities for consolidation here and lots of work to be done. But then remember the 400 new developers Infor intends to hire?
And also don’t forget the two major acquisition announcements that emerged recently – that Infor intends to acquire Lawson and that APAX Partners intends to merge Epicor with Activant (ERP  for distribution). Fortunately Lawson Mashup Designer and Infor Workspace have a lot in common, at least conceptually. This could help. And time will tell if Epicor 9 becomes Epicor 10.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Twitter Spreads the Buzz as SAP's John Wookey departs

I’ve been watching the buzz that followed the announcement of John Wookey’s departure from SAP. Others have come and gone with hardly a mention but this departure is getting a bit more attention. Quite frankly I think it has more to do with Twitter than it does with SAP or John Wookey himself. That’s how I first learned of his resignation and I would guess most industry observers learned about it the same way. The immediacy of social media, Twitter especially, seems to spur everyone to either weigh in on the matter, or at least pass along the news. I was no exception, even though I am hardly as prolific in tweeting as many of my industry counterparts.
Ordinarily I don’t write much about organizational changes unless I believe they are somehow game changing. In fact I haven’t written a real analysis of a departure since Shai Agassi’s departure in March 2007. I did post a brief entry to my Aberdeen blog when Leo Apotheker left, but even that did not have the potential impact that Shai’s departure had. And John Wookey’s doesn’t even come close. But that is actually to John’s and SAP’s credit.
Yes John Wookey was a voice of the on-demand strategy at SAP, but let’s not forget that initially the “line of business” (which was really the large enterprise) on-demand strategy, which John was in charge of, had nothing to do with the current strategy which uses the Business ByDesign architecture as the overall on-demand platform. But today the revamped on-demand  strategy is firmly enough in place and execution has begun in earnest. I don’t believe John Wookey’s departure (or that of any SAP exec) has the potential of derailing the wheels that have been set in motion to carry through on that strategy.
Shai’s departure was much different. First of all, Shai had a far more influential position than John. Prior to his departure he oversaw the development of the SAP NetWeaver platform, SAP xApps packaged composite applications, mySAP SRM, SAP Business One, and the project that ultimately produced Business ByDesign (called the A1S mid-market initiative back then). And there was a massive reorganization when he left. I never really decided for sure whether his departure triggered the reorg or if the reorg triggered his departure.  In the end, it didn’t matter all that much.
At the time, as an Aberdeen analyst I wrote, “SAP appears to be far enough down the path of its enterprise SOA strategy to not be derailed by the departure of a single executive, even one as charismatic as Shai. The migration to its new platform and mySAP ERP [which became the basis for the Business Suite] has begun although SAP still has a long way to go to meet the publicly stated goal of 100,000 customers by 2010 [the Business Objects acquisition gave that initiative a big shot in the arm]. And SAP is in the early stages of delivering against the newly announced A1S mid-market strategy [which was made available on a limited basis as Business ByDesign in September of that year].”
Since Shai’s departure there have been a lot of ups and downs, as well as sideways motion on all these initiatives. But all of these goals have since been achieved, in one way or another. At this point I would just wish John well and will keep an eye out for where he lands. I am sure someone I follow on Twitter will tell me as soon as they know.

Friday, April 15, 2011

SAP Business One customer U-CLOCK makes practical use of mobile technology

I was talking to an SAP Business One customer today and came across an interesting use of mobile technology to help manage a workforce deployed to a remote site – think of a construction site perhaps or physical therapists that regularly go to a nursing home or assisted living facility, contract security, temporary locations. This is not a product the Business One customer uses in their own implementation, but rather a product they build and sell.
The name of the company is Advanced Ventilation in the UK and the product I’m talking about is made and sold by a spin-off called U-CLOCK which operates as a separate company. U-CLOCK makes use of mobile phones to manage time and attendance as well as project updates (including material requests), report health and safety issues and accidents and provide an audit trail of all of the above.
Here’s how it works: The U-CLOCK customer purchases a small device that it locates at the remote site. When the employee arrives, he or she enters the 8 digit number that is shown on the device. A free text message is then sent from the mobile phone (employees can use their own personal phones) to a secure online account to register the location and arrival time. The number changes every 30 seconds, so the time entered is precise within a 30 second window. Managers track this on a computer logged into the company’s U-CLOCK account, but aren’t tied to the console. Email notifications can also be sent to the managers’ mobile phones. If an employee doesn’t arrive as expected at the site, the manager knows immediately. They can also report health and safety incidents and requisition materials.
All this information can be exported to a .csv or .pdf file or can be integrated into back office systems for billing and reporting.
In addition- and this is the part I like best -  the U-Locate feature is designed for the lone worker. U-Locate is designed to address the needs of people who can potentially find themselves in an "at risk" situation such as, accidents, physical or verbal abuse at work, or dangerous roles with a real and present risk of physical danger. The main issues for employers is to know (with accuracy) where the lone worker is at any time via the worker’s mobile phone. The U-Locate Software, also accessible through the U-Clock secure console, gives the employer complete insight into the current location and past whereabouts of lone workers.
 But more importantly it helps the lone workers in reacting to a dangerous situation or an unexpected event and gives them peace of mind knowing they will be missed if they don’t show up where they are expected and in knowing there will be someone at the end of the line who will know what to do. The worker can activate an alert which will be received by a dedicated emergency response center that has the ability to listen in to events as they happen and contact the relevant emergency services to ensure the quickest response possible.
I guess I show my age when I shake my head over kids constantly texting – and some of my colleagues on Twitter and other social media sites aren’t much different from those kids. Not that I am surprised… many of them are half my age. But I honestly don’t care what my business colleagues had for lunch, when they go to bed or what the view is from their hotel room. This seems a much more pragmatic use of mobile technology.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Paying Down the US Debt

I don’t use this blog to make political statements, but being a researcher at heart and using data every day, I couldn’t resist sharing a few data points from a short video a friend of mine sent me. The video was produced by an organization called Government Gone Wild and the title is, “Brother, Can You Spare a Trillion?” (As a registered Independent, I don’t subscribe to this or any political organization, but watch it here if you are interested http://governmentgonewild.org/brothercanyouspareatrillion ).
I’ve learned through my research efforts that specific numbers make much more of an impact on the psyche than generalities. So, per the video, did you know?
·         The United States spent $413 billion in interest payments last year
·         Since 1988 the total spent in interest payments has been $8 trillion. That’s a bigger number than many of us can comprehend. Just to put it in some context, it would be enough to buy every citizen in the US a Lotus Evora (luxury sports) car.
·         The Congressional Budget Office predicts by 2021 (just 10 years away), interest payments will be $1.1 trillion a year, which is more than one and a half times what we spend on defence.
·         If our Congress stopped ALL spending today and starting paying down the debt at a rate of $100 million per day, it would take 389 years to pay it off.
No, there is no easy answer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lawson Mashup Designer – Getting M3 Customers Excited

What got customers excited earlier this week at CUE 2011 (Lawson’s annual Customer User Event)? The announcement that seemed to cause the biggest stir amongst the M3 customers was Lawson Mashup Designer. It is a new tool that helps Lawson customers build their own composite applications from multiple data sources, on-screen views and business intelligence reports – all without having to write software code. Only having one (quite full and busy) day at CUE this year, I didn’t have a chance to see all I wanted to see. So for now this will be some initial observations, with more to follow.
Lawson Mashup Designer is based on Lawson Smart Office (LSO), which was released back in March 2008. The original goal of LSO was along the same lines of thought as Mashup Designer is today. It was meant to be an intuitive, personalized user interface that allows users to directly access Lawson and Microsoft applications and update data pervasively and instantly across the applications. But while the emphasis of LSO initially was on those Microsoft productivity tools such as Microsoft Excel, Outlook, Word and PowerPoint, Mashup Designer builds upon LSO and extends beyond the realm of Microsoft and has customers fired up about the possibilities. In fact in talking with the COO and CFO of JR Watkins, a Lawson M3 customer, the pair commented that Mashups were “what lit our fire. We can definitely visualize how they could be used in our environment.”
Matthew Allbee, product management director for Lawson describes Lawson Mashup Designer as, “a new way for our customers to build better applications that they can use every day. By combining forms, process flows, data views, reports and business intelligence content into a single user-created application, we're now offering a new level of user customization. But most important, this does not require advanced programming skills. Instead, people who use Lawson every day can quickly start to create their own task- or process-specific applications."
But the keyword here might be “advanced” programming skills. While the intent is to be a tool for line of business versus IT, it is primarily for Lawson power users, system administrators and programmers, not your casual user or users that spend their entire time performing one specific function using M3.
LSO, being the foundation for Mashup Designer, is a prerequisite. Although the Mashup Designer is only available with M3, Lawson also plans to make it available for S3. In the meantime, for a limited time (until the end of August) LSO is available at no charge to any S3 customer with Lawson System Foundation (LSF). Those that take the deal do have to pay maintenance on LSO. For those S3 customers that have already purchased LSO – contact your customer service rep. Sounds like you could get some added incentives.
Details aside, what struck me first and foremost about Lawson Mashup Designer was the similarity in concept to Infor’s recently announced Infor Workspace. This is particularly relevant if in fact the proposed acquisition of Lawson by Infor goes through. You’ve got two companies thinking very much along the same lines in terms of a role based user experience that blurs the boundaries between disparate enterprise applications and web-based tools and applications. It would be great to see this kind of synergy accelerate the feature/function and technology innovation that the combined company could deliver to its customers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My initial take on Epicor, Activant and Apax Partners

Yesterday Epicor announced it had agreed to be acquired by Apax Partners. While I am not personally familiar with Apax, its website tells me it is an independent global private equity advisory firm and holding company for the worldwide Apax partnership which is the lead investment adviser to the most recent Apax Funds. Apax Funds buy both majority and minority stakes in large companies that have strong, established market positions and the potential to expand. It has a strong heritage of technology investment.
At the same time, it was announced that Apax would also acquire Activant Solutions and merge the two companies. The combined entity will operate under the name of Epicor Software Corporation and become a privately held company. Of course it is too early to tell exactly how the merger will be executed, but Epicor itself has a history of acquisition and is the only ERP company that has grown through acquisition and successfully executed a product convergence/consolidation strategy. Epicor 9, released in December 2009, is built on Epicor Internet Component Environment (ICE) 2.0, a second-generation Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 technologies and is generally recognized for its visionary architecture. But just as importantly, Epicor 9 merges capabilities of nine different products (hence the “9” in the name).  If Epicor remains true to past strategies, I would expect it to treat the Activant products similarly.
But then again….maybe not. Activant serves some very specific vertical industries including:
·         automotive aftermarket
·         farm-home
·         hardware and home centers
·         heavy duty truck and trailer
·         lawn, garden and nursery
·         lumber and building materials
·         painting and decorating
·         pharmacy retail
·         specialty retail
·         wholesale/distribution
While Epicor also serves retail and distribution sectors, Epicor also has products which complement ERP in support of a retail environment, and has never been that “niche” oriented.  It remains to be seen whether these industries are best served by separate product lines or whether Epicor will decide to continue the convergence and turn Epicor 9 into Epicor 10, or maybe even Epicor 11 or 12.
For now it is safe to assume the transaction will be good for Epicor and allow it to fuel more aggressive growth in the market. As for Activant, customers should take comfort in knowing that Epicor’s strategy has been very customer-centric with a motto of “Protect, Extend and Converge.” Whether convergence is in the future or not, I have a lot of confidence in the resultant management team preserving the part about protect and extend.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Infor Workspace: Work Without Leaving the Comfort of “Home”

On March 31, 2011 Infor announced Infor Workspace, calling it a new “consumer grade user interface designed to revolutionize the experience of doing business using enterprise applications.” Built on Microsoft SharePoint with significant investment, Infor Workspace delivers the next generation user experience by blending a common user interface across a mix of enterprise applications, web services  and business intelligence.  The role-based user experience is akin to setting up a home base of operations from which a business user can comfortably operate all day long, without ever leaving “home.” More than a portal, and more than just a common look and feel for Infor’s products, its power lies in further blurring the boundaries of applications and carrying context between applications of all types.

Boundaries are blurring

For the past several years the lines have been blurring between Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and other enterprise applications to the extent that it has become very difficult to determine where ERP ends and these other applications begin. This is particularly significant in any discussion of Infor, due to the company’s voracious appetite for acquisition. Over the years Infor has collected quite a variety of ERP solutions as well as complementary products that expand its footprint beyond the usual confines of traditional ERP. These acquisitions have put applications such as Supply Chain Management (SCM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and others into the Infor portfolio.
While this provided Infor with a more complete solution along with up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, there is never a silver bullet that turns different applications into a single cohesive solution that allows data and processes to flow smoothly between applications. That takes time and effort.  
Now these boundaries are blurring even further. Think about it. As a business professional you spend time in enterprise applications that run and support your business; you spend time using desktop tools, time on your own Intranet and you spend time out on the Internet. Lines between your business and personal life are also beginning to blur as the data and applications you use as a consumer also start to permeate your consciousness and re-set expectations, particularly those of younger folks fresh from college or business school.

More than a beauty contest

While Infor Workspace gives a common look and feel and a single sign on to potentially a vast array of disparate applications, it is more than just a portal. While how an application looks and feels is more important than ever, the real value of tools such as Infor Workspace are in providing visibility and ease of use and in fueling productivity. While top of the list of goals for ERP (and many other enterprise applications) is providing added visibility to the business, most companies today still lack a clear line of sight from quote to cash, and many individuals in those companies waste precious time searching for data on a regular basis. In this quest for information and knowledge, it is less important to know exactly where the information is coming from and more important to be able to easily carry information from one of these applications to another. This is what is meant by “context.”
Let’s take one example. One of your sales representatives might be using sales force automation tools available from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. This is where he has all his contacts, including an address. Now he is preparing to visit the prospect or customer and needs to plan his day around this visit, so he needs to know how long it will take to get there; he needs directions and he might also want to determine if he might be able to combine this call with a visit to another prospect or customer. No problem, he just opens a browser where he probably has Yahoo!Maps or Mapquest or Google Maps bookmarked. Then he grabs the address from CRM and copies and pastes it into the navigational application to get driving directions. This probably takes two or three steps because the address is contained in several different fields in the application that must all be strung together in the navigation application. And he better not forget to put that appointment in his calendar.
Fast forward now to Infor Workspace. Instead of multiple copy and paste steps, right from the customer record, he can click on a button to open up Google Maps and the destination location is automatically filled in from the CRM application.
In this case the sales rep doesn’t know or care if his directions are coming from an internal business application or an application he is accessing via the Internet. What’s important is that the customer and address was carried over automatically without having to find, copy and paste.
Or what about when that prospect is not within driving distance? He will need to determine the closest airport, then visit the company’s approved travel site and then search for other prospects and customers in close range. And he also needs to get approval (online?) from his manager for his travel.

It’s about context

This may seem like a trivial example to those who operate on the bleeding edge of technology, but there are plenty of business professionals out there, including some Infor customers, who have yet to apply these efficiency and productivity steps to their everyday work experience. If one individual can save a few key strokes every day, how much time and effort can a sales force of 100 individuals, or 1000, save in a day, a month or a year? Then think of other ways to save time and key strokes. What about currency or time zone conversion? How many other small tasks are you doing every day that quickly and quietly suck up minutes that, when added together, turn into hours. How many different applications do you typically have open at any one time of the day?

Exception management

In addition to the mapping, currency and time conversion tools that are available, Infor Workspace also provides automatic alert management tools that monitor the status of tasks in relation to promised completion or established service level agreements and alert users to exceptions. Event management tools that alert decision makers when conditions or activities occur or fail to occur have been around for more than a decade. Yet adoption rates and implementation of these types of tools are still very low. Building these tools into the application is certainly one way of encouraging more exception management.
But the real value of alerts is dependent on the level of intelligence available in the data. Infor has added certain charts and alerts as standard fare, but if the customer wants to build their own Business Intelligence they do need to buy those tools from Infor.
Another factor that impacts adoption of alerts and event management is the question of where and how these alerts are delivered. As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, just delivering these on your standard desktop or laptop is not sufficient. An application running in a standard browser, which is a prerequisite for Infor Workspace, generally allows it to also run on an iPad. Today Infor Workspace is available on an iPad, but Infor admits it still needs to do some work on the touch and feel aspect of the interaction since some of the standard icons are quite small.

Underlying architecture

Infor has made use of its ION integration technology as well as Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Reporting Services. As noted above, applications will have to be browser-enabled in order to take advantage of Infor Workspace.
While most of Infor’s key go-forward products are browser-enabled, this will leave some of the legacy applications out of the picture. That is not necessarily a bad thing. While giving customers choice is good, encouraging them to stay on old, outdated technology is empowering them to remain underserved by technology and innovation. One of Infor’s goals is to get customers on the latest and greatest versions of their applications without having the customer incur a huge cost. For existing Infor customers Workspace is available through their annual maintenance agreement and Infor has tried to minimize the cost and impact of upgrading through means such as pre-built migration kits.

Recommendations and Key Takeaways

Infor Workspace provides a new paradigm and a new experience for Infor customers. It is more than a portal, it is a work space (hence the name), customizable by role and by individual, bringing together the power of internal and web-based applications. Existing Infor customers should explore the possibilities that unfold in implementing Infor Workspace along with applications they already own.
What about expanding beyond current products implemented? Because many of the solutions besides ERP have been acquired by Infor , current customers may not have perceived significant value in purchasing those complementary solutions from Infor. Now with a consistent look and feel, the benefits of a single sign on and “in context” business intelligence, they may want to think again.
For prospects of Infor currently considering a purchase, fully explore the application under consideration but also look carefully at how Infor Workspace can continue to expand the scope of the implementation, without adding extra cost.