Dashboard Insight recently asked Raj about his enterprise software products and why spreadsheets don't cut it in a recession. He also knows how to make the finance and IT departments happy.
Dashboard Insight: Tell us about the history of Infor
Raj Rajaji: Infor was founded in 2002 by Golden Gate Capital, which appointed Jim Schaper as Chairman and CEO. At that time, they saw a unique opportunity to serve midmarket companies that essentially had no good choices when it came to enterprise software. They could choose a global vendor like SAP or Oracle, which offered horizontal industry solutions designed for large enterprises. For a midsized company this typically means customization and long implementation cycles, either one of which leads to a high cost of ownership. The alternative to the large vendors was the niche vendors, who provided solutions designed for their specific business and offered a low cost of ownership. These vendors had great solutions for midsized companies but they lacked financial stability and global scale.
Through a rapid series of strategic acquisitions, Infor has matched the global scale and stability of the large vendors together with the business-specific advantages of niche vendor solutions. Today, Infor is one of the largest enterprise software companies in the world and an acknowledged leader in the midmarket. We’ve maintained strong organic growth and our customer retention rates are among the highest in the industry. Our model is definitely working and people are taking notice.
DI: How did the acquisition of Extensity and Systems Union position you in the Performance Management arena?
RR: Infor acquired Extensity (which itself acquired Geac/Comshare) and Systems Union in August 2006. In March 2007, we announced a performance management strategy and roadmap that combined the strengths of the Exensity MPC products and the Systems Union MIS products. In November 2007, Infor delivered on this roadmap with the introduction of Infor PM 10, an integrated performance management solution.
There has been a significant amount of consolidation in the performance management sector since Infor’s introduction of PM 10. We’ve had a two-year head start on the competition in terms of delivering customers an integrated PM platform. The integration aspect is extremely important because operating on a single version of the truth is critical for effective performance management.
DI: With more than 70,000 customers, 125 offices worldwide, and numerous product lines – how does Infor assure customers that they are getting a successful business-specific performance management solution?
RR: One of the common threads we hear from our customers is that they need best-in-class solutions that extend the capabilities of their core ERP. This goes beyond just performance management - we offer enterprise asset management, supply chain management, workforce management and CRM applications as well.
So the breadth of our product line is actually a tremendous asset because all of these teams collaborate to make sure that we are creating extended solutions that deliver value to our existing customers across a number of business-specific applications. In addition to that, Infor is different in that our extended solutions don’t just address our ERP solutions but can be deployed standalone or alongside other vendors solutions.
DI: What areas of the BI stack do your solutions cover?
RR: Our focus is on delivering pre-packaged PM applications that business people can use to get answers to specific business questions. This includes business processes for strategy management, planning, budgeting, financial consolidation, and forecasting. We also provide reporting and analysis capabilities to support these key business processes.
What we don’t provide are a set of tools that are designed for IT staff, so they can build and maintain applications. We focus on making sure the finance department can easily administer and manage processes such as budgeting, without having to involve IT. That makes finance and IT happy.
DI: What’s the process if someone wanted to evaluate your solutions?
RR: We can provide them a number of educational resources to help them understand performance management benefits and how our software can help them. Usually, customers have a specific business issue they’re facing, like difficulty closing their books in a timely fashion. We can put them in touch with companies like theirs that have gone through the same process and solved it. We also have a team of domain experts that can go in, analyze their business, provide recommendations and show them how our solutions would work in their business environment.
Once they’ve actually taken the next step and implemented one aspect, like financial consolidation, for example, they understand the value of the integrated approach. They then have the foundation to add other useful applications like planning and budgeting or forecasting.
DI: Tell us about your customers, what key clients are using your solutions?
RR: We have customers across all industries representing small, medium and large companies. Manufacturers such as VF Corp. and Jabil. There's Fortis Bank and Santander in financial services, as well as healthcare organizations including National Institute of Health and Rush University Medical Center. Customers also include distributors such as Baker & Taylor and Benco Dental, as well as retailers like Meijer and Diesel. I'd also include hospitality companies such as Foxwoods Resort and Casino and Orient Express and non-profit organizations like World Vision.
DI: How is the recession affecting demand for your products?
RR: Demand for all enterprise software products is under pressure because of the recession. Performance management is in a slightly better position than other types of software for a couple of reasons though. First, a lot of companies were caught completely by surprise by the rapid deterioration of the market. Now they’re in a position where they need to quickly readjust their budgets and forecasts. They’re trying to do it in spreadsheets, which are extremely difficult to manage and error-prone. Performance management applications are purpose-built for this task. A lot of companies are looking to implement this approach now so they can manage the process today but also avoid future scenarios where they are caught completely unprepared by rapid fluctuations in the business conditions. Performance management helps them plan better and be more proactive rather then reactive.
Secondly, customers have lots of data in their existing transactional ERP systems and they’re looking for ways to unlock that data and turn it into information that is actionable. That’s what performance management does and so we’re seeing demand to bring data from ERP and other source systems into a single location to better analyze it and then act on it.
DI: What new products or developments are in the works that you would be able to share with us?
RR: One of the most exciting developments for us is Infor MyDay, a Web 2.0 user interface that helps users accomplish their specific jobs. Infor MyDay helps answer the first set of business questions that a user faces in their day. It is based on deep research into the personas of the types of people who use software and comes pre-built with reports and metrics for individuals in sales, operations, finance and other areas. Eventually over 150 roles will be supported.
Infor MyDay utilizes our services-oriented architecture framework as well as our intellectual property from our performance management solutions to deliver this job-specific content. It will be available across a number of our ERP and other applications. We’ve just released it for our ERP solution for the process manufacturing industry.
DI: Infor’s website states: “Infor is the world's third largest business software company. We develop and acquire proven software products that have rich, built-in functionality. Then we make them better.” After acquiring Geac/Extensity, what resources were invested into product innovation and enhancement to improve what was already in place?
RR: Infor’s business model is predicated on taken proven software and making it better. The best example of this is Infor MyDay, which we just discussed. We’ve taken components from our performance management applications and externalized them so they enhance the capabilities of other solutions across the board. Infor MyDay is delivered to active customers as part of their maintenance fees – it’s not a separate product that customers will need to buy.
Of course, we are continuing to deliver new functionality and features within all our products that we allow customers to consume at their own pace. The latest release of PM 10, for example, supports XBRL. This financial reporting standard will become mandatory for public companies in the U.S. and so we’re helping customers easily create XBRL-tagged financial statements in PM 10 through a simple drag-and-drop process.
In fact, we’re using PM 10 for our key business processes. Having grown so quickly through acquisition, we inherited multiple performance management systems. Using PM 10 has allowed us to reduce consolidation from two hours to under 30 minutes and reduce the budgeting cycle from 12 weeks to four weeks. And we can now map the Chart of Accounts once with subsequent acquisitions, which is important in our business environment. These returns allow our finance professionals to spend more time on analysis and decision support.
Delivering value for maintenance is critical in enterprise software, especially in a down economy, and that’s one of the things that sets Infor apart.
||Raghavan (Raj) Rajaji is CFO and Executive Vice President at Infor. He is responsible for Infor’s accounting and reporting, as well as all functions related to finance, planning, treasury and taxes. Rajaji has previous tenures as CFO at Internet Security Systems, Manugistics, BancTec, and Occidental Chemical Company.
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