Infor Refreshes Its Lineup for 'Micro-Vertical' Industries

COMPANY: Infor

HEADQUARTERS: New York, N.Y.

EMPLOYEES: Infor has 8,500; its affiliate Lawson Software has 3,400

2010 REVENUE: Combined with Lawson, $2.7 billion

CEO: Charles Phillips

WHAT THEY DO: Infor was the Aindustry's third-largest ERP vendor even before it acquired Lawson ASoftware last year. The combined company is rolling out next-generation technologies and looking to go even deeper in vertical markets.

The Pitch

Infor has grown aggressively via acquisition over the past 10 years, driven by infusions of cash from its primary shareholder, Golden Gate Capital. However, the buying spree also resulted in product overlap and rumblings that some software lines lacked innovation.

But after ex-Oracle president Charles Phillips came aboard as CEO in late 2010, he quickly made a mark, engineering the $2 billion acquisition of Lawson Software, a move that gave Infor a major presence in healthcare and human resource software.

Phillips also presided over the September 2011 launch of Infor10, which includes the Ion middleware suite for tying together Infor's own and third-party applications, as well as a new user interface called Workspace.

Meanwhile, Infor has hired hundreds of additional developers to speed up the pace of product innovation.

The Catch

Competitively speaking, Infor focuses on about a dozen verticals, including food, fashion and manufacturing, but not in the way you might expect.

"We think of industries differently than anybody else," Phillips says. Infor is targeting "micro-verticals" within the broader vertical market categories, he says. For example, bakers and butchers are both in the food and beverage business, but their processes are quite different.

Infor is taking a multifaceted approach to growth, says analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research.

"You've got to keep your maintenance customers happy by making sure there's enough relevant updates. Second, as they go into more verticals, over time it makes the product better."

Meanwhile, "Ion allows them to bring together all these new ­capabilities to the user base," Wang says. "This is the most important thing. If they can't get their existing customer base to buy new products, they're in trouble." The amount of risk new Infor ­customers face depends on what they're looking to use, Wang says.

"If you're buying a newer product with Infor, you're catching them on the rebound. It's a lower risk than three to five years ago. Three to five years ago, the product was stale."

The Score

Long-time Infor customer Brewster Dairy--which claims to be the largest maker of all-natural Swiss cheese in the United States--is already using next-generation technologies such as Ion, and the results have been good so far, says CIO Dale Brittan.

The company is running Infor's Adage and enterprise asset management software, using Ion to exchange data between the platforms.

"The integration was smoother than what I thought it might be," Brittan says. "They're headed in the right direction by using this. We've had it running with not an ounce of trouble."

Brewster Dairy's experience with Infor has been characterized by consistency--aided by the fact that support staff has remained the same for many years--and responsive product managers, says Brittan.

"They seem to listen to your ideas and see if they can put them in the standard product," he says. "All of our Infor products are standard out of the box. They are not customized at all."

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