Features, Insight, Interviews

A different approach

Phil Lewis, SVP Solution Consulting EMEA and APAC at Infor, tells Anita Joseph what makes the company different.


Infor is a company with a difference and according to Phil Lewis, SVP Solution Consulting EMEA and APAC, there are many things that make it so.

“There are many things that make Infor different,” Phil says. “We do lots of things incredibly well. But there’s really five key areas, from my perspective, and the number one is cloud, number two is industry specific, number three is digital built- in, number four, reduce time to value and number five, an unusual one, our ownership structure is very different in the market. So, if we start with the first one, cloud, you know, here we are at GITEX and every application vendor in this building if you speak to them, they will all tell you they’re in the cloud. Everybody’s in the cloud, and you have to be if you are not SaaS, if you are not cloud, you’re actually not relevant anymore in today’s market. But some people are doing it really well, and other people are doing it not so well. And what I mean by that is I have this concept of being ‘on the cloud’, or being ‘in the cloud’- to be true cloud you have to be in the cloud. So what do I mean by that? Well, on the cloud, a vendor can take an old, on-premise, traditional application and load that onto Google, or AWS or Azure, and then they call it cloud. But it’s not cloud, you’re just hosting your old application in somebody else’s data centre. At Infor, we’ve taken a different approach. We’ve gone done the road of investing huge amounts of money, billions of dollars, into our product strategy and a big component of that product strategy is ‘true cloud’. We’ve partnered with AWS since 2014. They are our strategic partner for cloud. We have enabled our applications to use more than 130 AWS web services, our applications don’t work without being in the cloud. We’ve engineered our applications to be truly multi-tenanted, which gives massive advantages to us in terms of managing all of that, but huge advantages to our customers in terms of economics. So that’s the first thing – true cloud. And if anybody is thinking about moving to the cloud, it’s hugely important that they understand the difference. You don’t want to be on the cloud, you have to be in the cloud”.

“Number two, industry-specific. The market today is screaming out for industry-specific applications. People want applications that are built to support what they do. They are fed up with buying a generic application and then modifying it and bending it and folding it to make it work for them because that’s so restrictive, massively expensive to maintain and it actually stops the ability to innovate, dead in its tracks. So, customers are demanding technology that’s built for purpose, technology that’s built for their industry. And that’s exactly what we do at Infor. We have some core focus industries, and we don’t deviate away from those industries, and then we design, we develop we deploy industry-specific solutions for those industries. We don’t try to be all things to all people. We focus on core industries and then we do those incredibly well. So when a customer now uses an Infor solution, we have a zero-modification policy. The fact that the application has been built to support distribution or healthcare or automotive or industrial manufacturing, if you’re in one of those industries, our application will support you. You will not need to modify it-it is based on industry best practices. There’s a statistic that was mentioned last night actually by IDC, that 50% of G-2000 companies, ie the 2000 largest companies in the world, will be deploying industry specific software by the end of 2022. So Infor is incredibly well positioned to take advantage of that. We see ourselves as the number one industry-specific cloud company. That’s number two”.

“Number three, digital built-in: We have this maniacal focus around cloud, around industry-specific. And, really, that whole industry-specific strategy is designed to give our customers the control that they need in their business, control in their operations and business processes. So, if that’s the part that gives them the control, it’s our technology platform that we call Infor OS that really gives our customers the digital capabilities that they need to optimise and transform. And that’s really important today. It’s a real challenge for customers to deploy digital capabilities. Whereas with Infor in our platform, all of those, cutting-edge technology components-big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, predictive analytics, extensibility, user experience design is all delivered and standard within our technology platform. It’s already connected, so customers can use it straightaway. They don’t have to bolt anything on, they don’t have to integrate anything, it’s all there. So when you put all of that together, it gives you everything that you need, not just to control your business, but optimise how you operate, and to transform your business using digital capabilities”.

“Number four: It’s vital that we do everything that we can to enable our customers to use that as quickly as possible. So we actually have a unique deployment methodology that is an agile approach we call it Engage and it is what is based around something that we call 60-30-10. So if you think about all of the customer requirements and all of the things that they need within their business, typically we can support 60% of their requirements without doing anything, just using our product as it was designed to be used. Then the 30 is where we may need to do some light configuration of the system. It may be slightly updating your screen, it may be creating a new report, it may be changing a business process, but it’s very quick and easy to do, so that takes us to 90% pretty quickly. But we can’t forget about the 10%. The 10% is typically the stuff that makes every customer unique. It’s their differentiator, it’s their USP, and that’s where we may start to use extensibility we’ll heavily use our Infor OS digital capabilities to actually deliver that final 10%. In relative terms, the 10% can take a lot of time compared to the 90% but it’s the bit that’s actually critical to our customers. So this is tried and tested, we have a customer in Saudi Arabia that just went live Al Jazira Equipment (or AutoWorld) . They deployed our Infor CloudSuite Equipment using 60-30-10 approach, they got themselves live really quickly – a fantastic success – and they’re up and running on a multi-tenant true cloud. So we’ve proven that this approach works. So 60-30-10 is a guideline. Maybe it’s 70-20-10 maybe it’s 60-35-5. But typically is around about 60-30-10”.

“So that brings us to number five. Last one. And this is quite an unusual one, because you don’t really hear many tech organisations, talk about their ownership. And we have a unique ownership, where we are owned by a privately-owned conglomerate, a called Koch Industries. They have revenues of $130 billion a year and what that means to us is that we don’t have the pressure of Wall Street on our shoulders. All of our competitors have shareholders that they have to answer to. And that actually really drives them into kind of taking a short-term perspective, having to do things that aren’t necessarily the right things, but because they need to prove a point to their shareholders they need to drive their share price. And that actually introduces incorrect behaviour in some of the things that our competitors are doing. But with Koch Industries we do not have that quarter on quarter pressure. Koch Industries actually have a 30-year rolling plan for Infor. 30 years! That’s a long-term view. And that means we can do the right things at the right time, as we see fit, not because shareholders are asking us to, not because we need to do something with the share price, but because it’s the right thing to do to create value for us, and to create value for our customers. One of the key principles of Koch, and therefore Infor, is that we believe in something called virtuous cycles of mutual benefit, which in its simplest terms means “we succeed when our customers succeed”.

So, that really is the viewpoint of Infor. “If you want to know what makes us different – true cloud, industry specific, digital built in, reduced time to value and owners with a long-term view. So, what really makes us different? We are here to make a difference”.

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