Posted on 13 Oct 2010 by The Manufacturer

ERP provider Infor held its 2010 UK user event, Inforum, in Birmingham this week. Jane Gray reports.

The key messages reiterated time and again at Inforum UK this year made it clear that Infor are hoping to compete hard in a market quickly reorientating to respond to the voice of the customer more effectively.

The days of arrogance in software development and IT solutions for business problems would seem finally, and thankfully for CEOs and other business leaders, to be firmly on the wane. It would seem that no market or sector is immune to the trend of increasing customer empowerment which has impacted manufacturers themselves in recent years.
Speaking in Birmingham Infor’s new chief strategist, Bruce Richardson, who brings an analysts perspective to Infor’s development plans after many year’s experience with AMR, made clear to delegates that the company were taking customer experience stories and recommendations more seriously than ever in product development and were furthermore optimising the speed with which they can deliver appropriate solutions through canny industry partnerships.

These partnerships include collaboration with IBM and Progress but the partnership making its impact felt most quickly for Infor users or speculators is that with Microsoft. Recognising Microsoft’s superior expertise and experience in building technology tools Infor has embarked on a collaborative business suite development programme, Infor ION. Partnering has allowed Infor to play to its own strength of designing solutions for specific business issues.

The new business suite approach from Infor is role based allowing plant, supply chain, production or operations managers to easily navigate between all the different ERP modules they need to access for various parts of their work from within one window. Infor’s senior VP for product development, Soma Somasundarum, says that the business suite concept is driven by the realisation that manufacturers need to be able to think as little as possible about how they use their software and concentrate on business issues. For this reason Infor ION strives to deliver a user experience that needs one login, one way to navigate and one look and feel. In a live technology demonstration of the yet to be launched software Somasundarum showed how the connectivity allowed seamless transfer between cloud based and on premise applications and also integrated Microsoft WebParts so that contextual information around documents such as maps, directions or Skype enabled phone numbers.
The connectivity between different channels and modules in Infor ION will be driven by a document based approach rather than using transaction based coding as do many other ERP technologies. This innovative way of managing information transfer standardises information that might previously have needed adjustment on upgrade or at an interface with another system. Somasandarum claimed in his presentation to delegates on Tuesday “ION makes upgrade expense history!”

ION will be available to Infor users in January 2011 due to the accelerated product development strategy devised with Microsoft and unusually the new manufacturing suites will include CRM functionality as Infor responds to assist manufacturers competing in a market place increasingly characterised by servisation and an emphasis on successful project management from bid to fulfilment. This is just one of the industry trends investigated in the new research commissioned by Infor and strategic partner IBM and recently completed by IDC Manufacturing Insights.

Andrew Kinder, director for solutions marketing EMEA at Infor presented the research content to delegates on Tuesday. The report surveyed over 700 manufacturing companies around the world to try and collate how geography, sector and job role effected perceptions of strategic priorities among manufacturers. Among the key finding from the report were the discoveries that European and North American manufacturers identified growing complexity in their systems as a major challenge while in China only 27% of manufacturers surveyed agreed and 35% perceived a trend for reducing complexity. Another surprising finding regarding complexity was small and medium sized enterprises as a whole felt the pressures of increasing complexity just as strongly as larger organisations. Kinder said Infor had taken this on board as a message that their solutions for companies with less purchasing power than their larger peers still needed to be provided with comparable sophistication in their systems.

IDCs research for Infor and IBM reveals some fascinating trends and counter intuitive truths around global manufacturing. Delegates to The Manufacturer’s event ERP Connect, being held in Manchester on October 21 can visit the Infor stand to gain more insight into the motivations behind and findings emerging from the report.