Seven Ways Infor Is Advancing HCM (Hint: Lawson is But One)

Summary: HCM growth gains prominence at Infor as investments across infrastructure and technologies combine to create a solid foundation for HCM growth. With a focus on complete vertical solutions, a consumer grade user experience and flexibility, Infor is poised to capitalize on its position as the third largest ERP vendor in the world.

infor logoLet’s face it: in previous years, if you were thinking about leading Human Capital Management (HCM) technologies, the name “Infor” just didn’t bubble to the surface. A collection of more than 30 acquisitions, Infor’s HR capabilities were largely delivered in the context of industry vertical-focused solutions, bringing solid HR functionality into the suite, but certainly not on any watch lists for best-in-class HCM technology. Last year, Infor acquired a market leader in HCM, Lawson Software, and the market held its breath while it waited to see if, indeed, this was “the end of Lawson HCM.”

It’s time to release that breath.

Infor is investing heavily in their HCM portfolio, and in fact positions growth in HCM as a strategic initiative for the organization. The last 6 months have seen a series of product and technology releases across the Infor and Lawson platforms. Infor has also been busy under the covers, making operational changes to improve efficiencies, speed innovation, improve scale, and refine their go to market approach.

I have spoken with executives and HCM leadership across Infor over the past few months. At the highest levels, CEO Charles Phillips speaks of Infor’s focus on delivering complete industry suites, delivering functionality with a consumer grade user experience, and “reimagining the management of software” for maximum flexibility. These tenets are manifest in the current and future directions articulated by the Infor HCM leadership team, headed up by Tarik Taman, General Manager HCM.

With the strength of Lawson HCM at its core, coupled with the latest Infor-led technologies for interoperability, collaboration and mobility, Infor is well on its way to capitalizing on its market position as the third largest ERP provider in the world, second only to SAP and Oracle.  As Infor prepares for its first user conference following the Lawson acquisition (Inforum 2012), it’s worthwhile to review the latest technology and infrastructure investments – I’ve summarized seven below – that are laying the foundation for growth across Infor HCM.

1. Infor10: Infor’s Platform for Innovation

September 2011 saw the launch of Infor10, Infor’s new platform for innovation. Infor10 is also the umbrella brand covering all of Infor’s current enterprise applications (including ERP, CRM, HCM, FIN, business intelligence and others); the ION suite of middleware; the Workspace graphical client; its Cloudsuite application suite; and its latest mobility platform, Infor10 Motion.

An in-depth analysis by my colleague Ray Wang, published at the time of the launch, provides details across these Infor10 components, all of which are applicable to the Infor HCM strategy moving forward.

The most immediate and critical of these components to the HCM strategy is the release of Infor ION: Infor’s platform for the social, mobile and flexible enterprise. Infor believes the path to the future lies in a loosely coupled architecture that easily accommodates change and plug-ins. “Enterprises need the flexibility to change components when needed and without loss of integration” said Phillips, explaining why he stopped Infor’s previous plans to standardize on Microsoft technology and instead embrace more open technology stack. This is where Infor’s ION platform comes in. Infor ION is the glue to Infor’s overall strategy – and the counter maneuver to Oracle’s Fusion middleware and SAP’s Netweaver middleware. The primary focus of Infor ION is to ensure complete communication and interoperability across all Infor solutions, as well as connecting Infor applications to third party solutions.

Integration is a lynchpin for success to HCM technologies, and as such, getting the Infor HCM solutions to leverage the ION platform is a top priority. Integration of Lawson HRM solutions with the Infor ION platform is scheduled for release next month, with the Lawson Talent Management suite to follow.

Infor10 also includes a new mobility platform, launched in January 2012, called Infor10 Motion. This platform plugs into Infor’s ERP, CRM, SCM and other applications through Infor ION, bringing real-time, mobile solutions to users when and where needed. While Lawson already has a collection of ERP and HCM mobile applications, further efforts across Lawson HRM, Talent Management, Enwisen HR Service Delivery and Infor Workforce Management have mostly been sidelined in favor of leveraging this new Infor10 Motion platform in the coming year. The trade off for customers is less rapid delivery of new mobile solutions in exchange for improved Infor10 interoperability via the new Motion platform.

2. Lawson HCM: The Destination Platform for HCM

Infor acquired mid-market industry leader Lawson Software in July 2011. The Lawson HCM suite is comprised of Lawson HRM (which includes HR recordkeeping, benefits, payroll, absence management, employee and manager self service and select vertical functionality), Lawson Talent Management (including performance, goals, compensation, succession, learning, talent acquisition and competency management), and the Lawson HR Service Delivery platform (acquired from Enwisen in 2010, delivering knowledgebase, case management, on- and off-boarding and Total Rewards).

These Lawson HCM solutions and Infor’s Workforce Management solution (acquired in 2007 from Workbrain) combine to form the Infor Human Capital Management Suite. According to Tarik Taman, General Manager of Infor HCM, Infor’s strategy is to make this the destination HCM platform for their more than 70,000 customers, through continued innovation and improved interoperability across the HCM platform and by leveraging the Infor’s technology and infrastructure investments.

Following the acquisition, Infor added more than 90 headcount to the Lawson HCM division and significantly ramped up its development efforts. The first post-acquisition release occurred in December 2011, with the delivery of the Infor 10 Lawson S3 release(Lawson S3 10), delivering advances in functionality, integration and user experience.

The Lawson S3 10 release was not without its challenges. For example, customers are vexed by questions of when to use Lawson’s Smart Office (LSO) capabilities vs. Infor’s new Workspace, both of which provide collaboration capabilities but functionality and deployment options (desktop vs. mobile and web based) vary. Additionally, integration between the modules still lags, but starting in March 2012, a series of releases will begin to change this. Taman and members of his leadership team laid out an aggressive HCM roadmap beginning next month demonstrating Lawson HRM integration with Infor ION; Infor Workspaces extending across Talent Management; ongoing vertical enrichment and expansion; and later this year, mobile advances on the new Infor Motion platform across all the Infor HCM solutions.

3. Infor Workforce Management: Completing the HCM Suite

Upon the Lawson acquisition, one of the top identified priorities was the rapid integration of Infor Workforce Management (WFM) solution – which provides comprehensive labor management support and optimization – with the Lawson HCM solutions. The first of such integrations is targeted for delivery in March 2012, and should be on display at the upcoming Inforum 2012 conference in April. Infor also sees tremendous synergy between the Lawson HR Service Delivery platform and the Infor Workforce Management technologies for targeted industries and processes, and as such, deeper integrations between these two technologies are planned in the near future.

4. Lawson HR Service Delivery (Enwisen): Unifying HCM with Knowledge and Process Support

To date, integration between the Lawson, Enwisen and Workbrain platforms has been limited. The going forward strategy is to leverage Enwisen as a unification tool to wrap all the HCM applications together with knowledge and process support, seamlessly moving users across the various solutions with single sign-on. This makes sense for many organizations, as knowledge-enablement has proven to reduce costs and streamline processes while enabling HR to refocus its efforts on providing higher-value services to the business. However, this model isn’t necessarily warranted for all sized organizations, it doesn’t address the different look/feel of the Lawson, Enwisen and Workbrain technologies nor does it bring in the collaboration/social aspects available from the Infor10 platform.

In upcoming months, I will be looking for greater clarity on planned use of the Infor ION platform within this Enwisen unification strategy. Meanwhile, the ERP-agnostic Enwisen solution has 80% of its customers using SAP or Oracle HCM today; a great Trojan horse into hundreds of competitors’ customers as the value proposition for Enwisen and the rest of Infor HCM is enriched.

5. Complete Vertical Solutions with Leading Talent Management

According to Infor, 42% of ERP customizations are performed to address industry gaps. Infor seeks to minimize or eliminate the need for such customizations through a vertically focused go-to-market approach spanning sales, products and services. The Infor HCM roadmap includes continued vertical specialization across all HCM solution components. One area of potential mismatch, however, is with Infor Workforce Management, where more than 50% of its customers are in the retail industry, yet there is no associated strategy to build out retail-specific capabilities within Lawson HCM applications.

Infor is also committed to Lawson Talent Management as a competitive stand-alone offering in the market, moving Infor beyond its legacy of “good enough” HCM within its vertical suites. Infor spoke of their continued innovations in this area as well as improving integration with 3rd-party systems of record, reinforcing Infor’s message of flexibility, while also solidifying the up-sell opportunity of Lawson Talent, Workforce and HRSD solutions into Infor’s more than 75,000 clients regardless of core HRM solutions in place. (Note that the Workbrain and Enwisen solutions are already ERP/HR/Payroll system agnostic).

6. Infrastructure Investments for Scale and Value-Add

Infor hired almost 500 additional developers in 2011, bringing the total to 3400 individuals worldwide who are developing applications at Infor. They also centralized their development in common technology areas to increase agility and innovation, allowing the solution areas to staff up with deep industry and domain expertise. Infor has also created a new Value Analysis (VA) team, whose job it is to build out a reference architecture for customers and prospects so that a personalized ROI analysis can be developed, and in the future, upon which industry benchmarking will be provided. The vision is not unlike that of SAP’s Value Engineering organization, and this will be a beneficial service for Infor HCM clients over time as the team and HCM engagement experience grows.

7. “Purposefully Hybrid” Deployment

Infor has adopted a “purposefully hybrid” strategy, allowing customers to deploy in the cloud, on-premises or a combination of the two. Phillips sees only advantages in this hybrid approach and says this is the company’s long-term strategy to ensure maximum customer choice, not a stopgap measure on the way to pure Cloud.

There are obvious complexities for a hybrid model, and Infor is not immune to them. Product overlap is one immediate challenge. The Lawson HR, Lawson TM, Enwisen (SaaS only) and Workbrain solutions comprise the “destination platform” for Infor10 HCM, but additional HCM solutions continue to be offered that pull product, sales, services and support resources away from the core:

Overall, the hybrid strategy enables Infor to sell into a broader market than pure-play SaaS providers, as many customers are not yet ready to embrace HCM in the cloud. (However, the lack of an on-premise offering does not seem to be slowing the growth rates of vendors like Ultimate Software and Workday.) When competing against SAP and Oracle, Infor is at least on equal footing in this area, as their support for both on premise and cloud aligns with the approaches adopted by SAP, Oracle and others as they manage the realities of solution platforms comprised of multiple acquisitions. Success can follow if they are able to keep on premise customers current with the latest releases, maintain a rapid pace of innovation and truly make solution interoperability seamless and painless for their clients (still an aspirational goal at this point).

The Bottom Line

The changes effected across operations and products over the past 12-18 months seem to be working for Infor, as evidenced by their claim in January 2012 of 17% license growth and four consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, with growth in the HCM area especially strong. (Note Infor is a privately held enterprise and as such does not publish financial statements.) Infor is touting an operating model that allows them to remain private, but they did not rule out going public when the time was right. Charles Phillips also indicated that additional acquisitions would take place, most likely in the area of deep industry requirements.

It’s been fewer than 8 months since the acquisition of Lawson, not much time to make significant changes in product, but enough to demonstrate continued commitment. Infor has a good start in this area, and delivering on planned releases in upcoming months will be an important confirmation of that commitment.

In April, I’ll be at the Infor Lawson Users Conference, Inforum 2012, where I’ll look forward to more details and proof points demonstrating how the Lawson HCM suite is capitalizing on the Infor10 suite innovations deliver the next generation of Infor HCM. If you are not attending Inforum 2012 yourself, I am happy to serve as your proxy, taking your questions forward and providing a follow-up post after April’s event.

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