Infor rolls out new 'Flex' upgrade policy

The program is supposed to let legacy application users upgrade or switch to new Infor applications easily and inexpensively

ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor Infor on Monday is announcing the Infor Flex, a program it says will make it logistically and financially easier for customers to upgrade or switch to other Infor products.

The Flex plan follows closely on Infor's announcement last week of a new zero-percent financing purchase option. It's also just the latest move by ERP vendors to court cash-strapped customers amid the global recession. For example, SAP recently made an agreement with user groups around KPIs (key performance indicators) that will gauge the value of the vendor's fuller-featured but pricier Enterprise Support service.

Meanwhile, under Flex, Infor customers can upgrade to the latest version of their application with "minimal or zero license fees," no change to annual maintenance costs, rapid implementation services from the vendor, and incentive pricing on additional functionality they may wish to acquire.

Infor users who no longer want their legacy application can switch to another one in Infor's portfolio, receiving the same benefits as a Flex upgrade. However, Infor is also planning to charge these customers a US$150 per user "transaction fee." But even so, the costs of an exchange would be minuscule in comparison to an all-out rip-and-replace project, Infor said.

With Flex, Infor is trying to look at upgrade decisions "from the customer perspective, head-on," said Dennis Michalis, senior vice president.

While customers have always had discussions with their vendors about transferring unwanted licenses to another product, Flex is meant to make that process "programmatic and formulaic," he said.

Privately held Infor, which reported $2.2 billion in revenue for its fiscal 2008, grew through a large number of acquisitions. For the past couple of years, it has been rolling out its Open SOA (service oriented architecture) framework, which is meant to ease upgrades and improve interoperability between its software as well as third-party applications.

Therefore, one goal of Flex is to get customers using product releases that have been SOA-enabled, according to Infor.

That said, Flex has "zero to do with a product rationalization or a [product] sunsetting strategy," Michalis said. "We're trying to build a future with the customer, but first and foremost, address their needs."

The Flex program seems like a sound idea, according to Forrester Research analyst Ray Wang.

"They're proactively going out to their installed base and saying, 'When you're ready, make the move,' " he said.

Therefore, Infor will get the first crack at customers who are thinking about an upgrade or change of application, and might look at other vendors, he said.

Infor will also gain incremental services revenue from any customers who pursue an upgrade through Flex, and as more companies move off legacy systems, it will make it easier for Infor to manage its overall user base, Wang added.

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