Although I didn’t attend Inforum 2014, this is the backdrop against which I watched the keynotes via streaming video and digested the executive/analyst briefings.
“’Designing emotion into the product is now something you really have to think about explicitly and measure yourself against’, says Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, the maker of personal finance and small-business software.” – Fortune Magazine, September 22, 2014, page 55.“
My thoughts, eyewitness reports and unsubstantiated rumors follow. I’ve included some article links at the bottom so you can get other perspectives.
Business Value of Empathy
In his Fortune op-ed, Geoff Colvin expounds on the decline of empathy in U.S. students and how CEOs are realizing that—in order to compete and win—they need to increase their organization’s level of empathy. What brought this into my focus on Inforum was that—later in that same article—Infor CEO Charles Phillips is quoted: “We’re hiring artists, special-effects creators, and people who understand beauty.” Infor, he says, offers “beautiful software for your business processes.” Enter the new paradigm of the IT industry: empathetic software.
I’ve told you before, and you may not like it nor agree, but business software doesn’t revolve around the green screen anymore. The next generation of users will be different from you, and certainly from me. They’re evermore mobile and connected. And the software needs to be ready. Right or wrong, we’ll leave that to history (and the market) to judge. But for now, let’s just say that Infor gets it, and continues to evolve their Ming.le / Soho design aspects (e.g. “Soho Glide”) in their quest to deliver beautiful business software.
At the crux of their vision for beautiful software, Infor is building their next generation “CloudSuite” products from the ground-up, using a “cloud first, mobile first” paradigm. Let’s eschew the details of implementing this strategy and/or debating the merits of the cloud, trusting your business data to cloud security, choosing private cloud vs. public cloud vs. hybrid cloud, or whatever, but clearly this is Infor’s strategy. Is Infor the first to say “cloud first, mobile first”? Of course not. But Infor’s strategy of building for the cloud provides you with additional options for deployment, high-availability, scalability, integration, etc.
Pick Your CloudSuite
Infor unveiled this next generation of business applications by grouping various combinations of functionality into various “CloudSuite” offerings, such as CloudSuite Business, CloudSuite Healthcare, CloudSuite Human Capital Management (HCM) and Cloudsuite Financials. Each “CloudSuite” offering incorporates various generic and industry-specific modules integrated via Infor ION backplane and delivering UI/collaboration via Infor Ming.le and Infor Analytics. (See http://www.infor.com/content/brochures/infor-cloudsuite.pdf/)
Infor Xi – Platform for the Next Generation
The technologies behind the CloudSuite offerings are collectively referred to as “Infor Xi”, are built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) for multi-tenancy, and provide for auto-scaling/auto-provisioning of Infor applications to your users.
A Lawson Perspective
This is the third Inforum since the acquisition of Lawson by Infor. With the continued absorption of Lawson products, technologies, and—of course, customers—into the Infor fold, Inforum is becoming increasingly less and less relevant to the traditional Lawson customer base. In other words, this isn’t about just Lawson any more. Most of the focus is on products that—for the majority of traditional Lawson customers—may be far into their future. And are deployed and delivered in a radically different way.
Previously at Inforum 2012 and 2013, Lawson S3 customers were introduced to Infor 10 / Workspace, then Infor 10x / Ming.le, and now Infor Xi. Many are still running Lawson / LSF 9.x and haven’t made the upgrade (or more likely, migration) to Infor 10/10x. When many of you started to hear about “v11” (now Xi) at regional user groups, the collective response was “hey, we haven’t even upgraded to 10 yet, and you’re already talking about 11?”
Sure, Infor is rebuilding applications (e.g. Infor CloudSuite Financials) from the ground-up, but in the meantime, end-to-end process integration across their various acquired products continues to improve and expand. Bits and pieces of Infor’s products, e.g. Lawson S3, IPA (Infor Process Automation), Strategic Sourcing, EAM (Enterprise Asset Management), LTM (talent management), Cloverleaf, Enwisen (on-boarding), Workbrain (workforce scheduling), XM (Expense Management), d/EPM (Dynamic Enterprise Performance Management), Approva (governance), end up sprinkled across Infor Workspace and Ming.le to form a cohesive process, facilitated by Infor’s ION integration hub, and captured into the Infor BusinessVault.
While Xi and the CloudSuite offerings might be the future vision for existing Lawson customers, the journey needs to be more clearly-defined and have an easily-digestible roadmap:
- Will we still need to upgrade to 10x in order to get to Xi (or can we just 10/10x altogether and move from 9.x directly to Xi when it’s available)?
- Which additional Infor products integrate well with legacy Lawson S3 products, provide a “quick win”, and should we be considering while we plan our upgrade?
- Which core Lawson products / processes will be incorporated into Xi?
- How will my investment in custom content (e.g. LBI, ProcessFlow/Process Automation/Integration) be preserved?
- How should we be evaluating the Infor CloudSuite offerings vs. keeping things on-premise? Lawson S3 10 (and 10x) has a lot of components. Is it still beneficial to install, and/or maintain all of this ourselves? Or is a hosted/cloud-delivered version in our future?
Other Viewpoints / Further Reading