Modernizing ERP Systems: Innovative Strategies With Infor

By Robert Kramer, Patrick Moorhead - May 22, 2024
Infor specializes in modern, cloud-based ERP systems tailored to specific industries.
Free illustration from Freepik

Enterprise resource planning systems are critical for managing an organization’s core data structures and integrating various business functions, yet they are often misunderstood or overlooked in discussions about modern technology. Much like calculus, ERP systems are complex and tend to attract interest primarily from those who need them or specialize in them.

ERP systems centralize master data files and serve as a backbone for connected business applications. These systems are indispensable for data management, data accessibility and ensuring accurate information flows across both business operations and technology stacks. In my previous article on ERP systems, I highlighted that the ERP market is set for considerable growth. It is projected to reach $187.79 billion by 2030, expanding at a CAGR of 14.8%. This emphasizes the long-term relevance of these systems as well as the need for their ongoing modernization with advanced technology.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Infor’s CEO, Kevin Samuelson, who is an avid fan of both calculus and ERP. Samuelson and his team have shaped Infor’s company architecture to address the technology requirements of today’s customers. In this article, I will discuss Infor’s commitment to innovation, industry-specific solutions and customer retention as well as the role of data management in its strategic framework.

The Modern ERP System

Traditionally, ERPs were primarily installed on-premises, keeping most enterprise data on-site. However, modern ERPs are increasingly being hosted in the cloud, improving access and scalability while lowering initial costs. These systems are designed to be modular and flexible, allowing companies to choose and integrate different functions according to their specific needs and to adjust easily to changes in business processes. They also include advanced analytics and real-time reporting, enabling businesses to obtain more profound insights and make decisions quickly.

Additionally, modern ERPs feature user-friendly interfaces that enhance engagement and reduce the learning curve for new users. They are usually mobile-compatible, providing remote access applications and interfaces for smartphones and tablets. These systems integrate with other applications and tools, such as customer relationship management, supply chain management, business intelligence, manufacturing execution systems, project management systems, e-commerce and much more to support a unified technology ecosystem. ERPs work better than ever because they integrate advanced technology with generative AI, machine learning and automation to enhance processes, data efficiency and operations. Modern ERP systems are engineered to be more agile, effective and conducive to supporting digital transformation within today’s global organizations.

Infor’s Architecture

Infor has a dynamic history marked by several name changes and strategic acquisitions. Founded in 2002 as Agilisys by the Golden Gate Capital and Summit Partners private equity firms, the company was renamed Infor Global Solutions in 2004. Over the years, Infor has strategically focused its acquisitions on manufacturing and distribution verticals to meet customer needs better. Notable acquisitions include Lawson Software for ERP, SalesLogix for CRM, GT Nexus for SCM, Lighthouse Systems for MES and Birst for BI. In 2017, Koch Equity invested $2.68 billion in Infor, gaining a majority stake, and in 2020, it acquired the remaining shares from Golden Gate Capital. Samuelson, who has been influential in these mergers and acquisitions, previously served as CFO and is now the CEO. His vision has helped position Infor as a modern ERP provider. Today, headquartered in New York, Infor serves more than 68,000 global customers and generates approximately $4 billion in annual revenue.

When I asked what Infor’s most significant differentiation is, Samuelson said, “Tactically, it’s important not to try to cater to everyone—Infor has strategically chosen to focus on select industries, providing solutions already tailored for specific verticals.” These modern, cloud-based solutions are in contrast to much of the ERP industry, where many solutions start as general platforms and are then customized. Once these systems are customized, upgrading and integrating with new technologies can become challenging. But Infor’s approach aims to avoid these issues.

Infor’s focus includes discrete manufacturing such as aerospace and automotive, as well as process manufacturing industries such as chemicals and food and beverage. Infor also specializes in healthcare, as well as distribution for various industries, including food and beverage, professional trades, industrial supplies and fashion equipment. Samuelson said, “This focus allows for more structured implementations and processes for version upgrades.”

Details of the Infor OS platform that supports Infor’s products
Infor

Infor’s Modern Capabilities

Infor OS is the foundation of its cloud platform, supporting Infor’s suite of enterprise applications. It enhances enterprise operations with its advanced cloud technology and integration capabilities. Infor OS integrates AI and ML to automate routine processes such as predictive maintenance, which forecasts equipment failures, and supply chain optimization, which anticipates disruptions. Additionally, it utilizes AI to analyze large datasets, revealing trends and enabling financial forecasting based on historical data. The platform features pre-built APIs for connecting Infor and third-party systems, and an app designer that allows users to create customized applications easily through a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface. Infor OS enhances data management, accessibility and quality with its data fabric feature, which integrates data from various sources into a unified environment. Additionally, the platform addresses governance and compliance to meet legal and regulatory requirements by monitoring operations, managing risks and enforcing operational guidelines.

A marketplace inside the Infor OS platform lets users integrate third-party solutions, expanding the technology options available to an organization. In conversation with Samuelson, we discussed the evolution from traditional to modern ERPs, emphasizing that modern systems can integrate a wider range of advanced technologies. This capability allows organizations to stay updated with technological advancements so they can remain competitive.

This modern ERP platform incorporates an enterprise automation solution to advance the digital transformation journey by focusing on the three areas of technology, processes and people. Technology includes AI/ML for decision automation, iPaaS integration for backend automation and robotic process automation along with intelligent document processing for frontend automation. Processes allow access to pre-built workflows from a content library, while the People aspect involves partnering with Infor’s innovation support services to provide automation professionals to meet the customer’s automation needs.

The Modern ERP Ecosystem

Most ERP organizations have built their ecosystems through partnerships to expand their reach. An ERP ecosystem incorporates various tools, applications and services to support the functionality of an ERP system. Partners and alliances can provide integration tools, consulting and implementation services, training and support, compliance and security solutions and analytics and reporting tools. These all play important roles in ensuring the ERP system operates efficiently, complies with regulations and provides valuable business insights.

Infor has teamed up with channel partners such as Circa Technology, Konica Minolta and Decision Resources to sell, implement and support its systems. It has alliance partners that co-sell with Infor, consult with customers and provide services to support the portfolio; these include Accenture, Wipro, Deloitte and more. Infor has also partnered with AWS as its main cloud hosting service. This partnership provides Infor with access to AWS’s global network of regions and availability zones, helping address the specific needs of Infor’s customers.

Summary

Modern ERP systems are critical for integrating global operations into a unified platform, centralizing data management within enterprises. They ensure consistency and enhance security with advanced features such as data encryption, plus ensure compliance with privacy regulations and other laws. These systems embed AI and ML to extract insights from historical data and enable the business to respond to changes in the market. They also analyze market trends, forecast customer buying habits, manage manufacturing of products and mitigate supply chain disruptions arising from external factors such as weather.

A key advantage of modern ERPs is their ability to leverage advanced technologies within an open architecture, facilitating integrations with other systems to enhance overall functionality. Infor’s ERP solutions, hosted on AWS, are designed to meet the specific needs of various industries. The platform supports core business processes, promotes collaboration across the enterprise and supports a growing ecosystem, all so customers can benefit and increase their productivity. Modern ERP systems serve as the foundation for global organizations, equipped to cater to customer demands, adapt to market conditions and sustain a competitive advantage.

Robert Kramer
VP & Principal AnalystatMoor Insights & Strategy| + posts

Robert Kramer is vice president and principal analyst covering enterprise data, including data management, databases, data lakes, data observability, data analytics, and data protection. Robert has over 30 years of proven experience with startups, IT companies, global marketing, detailed strategies, business modeling, and planning, working with enterprise companies, GTM assets, management, and execution.

Patrick Moorhead
+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.