Infor intros SharePoint-based UI for ERP apps

The new user interface will provide a 'consumer-grade' experience

Infor is now shipping a new user interface utilizing Microsoft SharePoint that provides customers with a "consumer-grade" experience, tying together core business processes, BI (business intelligence) and collaboration.

Infor Workspace is now available for Infor's ERP LN, ERP SyteLine, Infor EAM, Infor FMS SunSystems and Infor Expense Management products, with more to come, according to the company.

Workspace is one result of Infor's decision last year to broadly adopt Microsoft technologies for building its products. Along with SharePoint, the new UI (user interface) also uses Microsoft Reporting Services for the BI capabilities, as well as Redmond's Silverlight platform for rich Internet applications in places, according to Soma Somasundaram, senior vice president, global product development. Infor's ION integration technology provides the "back-end glue" tying everything together, he said.

He demonstrated how a worker could move from reading a purchase order, to checking available stock and calling a related colleague on Skype to discuss the matter, all within the Workspaces UI.

It made sense for Infor to base Workspaces on SharePoint, given its status as the "de facto" portal in enterprises today, Somasundaram added.

Infor has tried to minimize the impact on customers of upgrading to Workspaces through means such as pre-built migration kits, he said. "One of our goals here is to have customers run the latest and greatest applications without having to incur a huge cost."

Customers can get Workspaces as part of their annual maintenance contract, with no separate licensing fees involved, he said.

In addition, the Workspaces functionality has been applied throughout the applications, not just in selected screens, he said.

Infor has a vast catalog of software products gained through a string of acquisitions in recent years. Applications will have to be browser-enabled in order to take advantage of Workspaces; that covers about 80 percent of Infor's major products, Somasundaram estimated.

Overall, Workspaces "looks infinitely better" than the individual product's previous UIs, said Jim Shepherd, vice president and distinguished analyst with research firm Gartner. It is also much better than previous attempts by Infor to create a unified look-and-feel for its software, he added.

There are strategic considerations in play for Infor as well, given that a big part of the company's business is cross-selling products to existing customers, Shepherd said.

"One of the things that this does is make it attractive, if I'm an Infor customer, to think about buying other products," he said.

Meanwhile, Infor hasn't stopped moving to acquire companies. Earlier this month it put in a roughly US$1.8 billion bid for Lawson Software, which as of early Thursday hadn't been accepted.

Workspaces makes sense for Infor's acquisition strategy as well, Shepherd said. "This represents an investment in a common UI, a common navigation platform that they can plug additional acquired products into. If they end up buying Lawson, they could extend Workspaces to Lawson's products as well."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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