9 min Applications

Infor Now 2023: Industry-specific ERP, now with RPA

Insight: Cloud ERP

Infor Now 2023: Industry-specific ERP, now with RPA

As we build the global technology industry back to the cadence we knew in pre-pandemic times, some events and conferences are reshaping themselves for regrowth. Staged on a slightly smaller scale than its Inforum event, Infor used a balmy week in New Orleans to stage Infor Now 2023. On the ground to listen to the Infor executive team explain how the company’s core architecture is being engineered and developed, Techzine made for Lousiana’s favourite city (aka the ‘Big Easy’) and slipped into ERP mode.

One of the first things to remember about Infor is its unapologetic focus on industry-specific ERP solutions. Restraining itself to work in eight core vertical fields, Infor builds its software for specific use case deployment in markets spanning aerospace & defence, automotive, industrial manufacturing, the high-tech & electronics industries, healthcare (specifically for the USA), food & beverage, fashion & distribution.

Infor CEO Kevin Samuelson used a ‘day zero’ press and analyst day at Infor Now 2023 to underline the company’s alignment to this group of industries and explain why they matter so much. By focusing on this defined group of verticals, Infor claims to be able to present work domain-specific interfaces and functions that set it apart from other ERP vendors.

A new injection of RPA

Along with a new developer portal and developer platform, the major news at Infor Now centralised upon the newly announced Infor Enterprise Automation solution. Described as a set of Infor Operating Service (Infor OS) multi-tenant cloud services, built on AWS (Infor is an all-in AWS partner) which are designed to help businesses in the firm’s defined verticals to develop and scale their application of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) acceleration across their organizations. It does this by connecting data integration, AI and ML plus RPA capabilities into a single platform.

NOTE: Infor OS is of course not an operating system (as we would normally use the OS acronym), used in this context it is best explained as a single composable platform and a system for operations – hence the name operating service – which can be used to gain what the company says is a unified user experience across all applications for organisation-wide visibility and a view into the real-time information.

Infor’s Enterprise Automation solution is said to be able to provide automation capabilities through this (above described) single composable platform, Infor OS, which connects systems and people through back-end automation, decision automation and – with the release of Infor RPA – front-end automation.

“There are not enough developers to build all the enterprise automation that enterprises need today and business users are frustrated about missing out on automation,” said Holger Mueller, vice president & principal analyst at Constellation Research. “With Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other low-code capabilities, enterprise users can take over and own their automation destiny. Solutions such as Infor Enterprise Automation help them with that. It is a triple win, as business users get the automation they want and need, it’s a win for IT that can now focus precious resources on more critical tasks – and, it’s a win for the whole enterprise that can increase its levels of automation.”

New Orleans CEO keynote

Speaking at Infor Now on the opening day keynote, CEO Samuelson said that Infor is now working to help companies get the most out of data. It’s an easy and broad statement to make – and, to be honest, it’s a message that we hear from every IT vendor – so what substance can the company offer in regard to this effort?

“What will be possible over the next several years will really change all of our businesses, those companies that are able to embrace what’s possible and operationalise it will be the real winners. But there are an endless number of tools available to use – and most companies don’t have the skills or expenditure needed to take advantage of all the new innovations happening right now. What all that means is that we aim to make it easier to be able to use cutting-edge cloud services in the most accessible and simplest way possible,” said Samuelson. 

From the very beginning when the team started Infor, they say they realised that building software for every industry was (next to) impossible. With its healthcare focus aligned to the USA market, the other industry-specific ERP solutions Infor offers are all essentially manufacturing-related. This focus underpins much of what went into making Infor the company it is today and it appears to have been able to keep its ship on a comparatively straight course, although now adding in key RPA functionalities for front-end automation.

All-in on AWS

Samuelson was joined on his keynote stage by Infor CTO Soma Somasundaram. Talking about the need to deliver a single user experience, Somasundaram spoke his team’s work which has led it to focus on best practices across world regions in a way that still enables organisations to tune applications to serve local needs, regulations and other specificities. Justifying Infor’s reason for going all-in with Amazon Web Services, the Infor CTO pointed to the 70 billion dollars AWS spent on research and development (R&D) in the last year, which – as he put it – is 70 billion dollars worth of functionality that should be available to Infor customers.

The Infor C-suite leaders also spoke about the company’s approach to what it calls ‘continuous industry innovation’ throughout their keynotes. By building a rich API library and a deeply rich location for data store procedures (in this case, that will be the Infor data lake), the joint presenters also explained that they understand that technology is always only as good as the value it delivers… so, as such, Infor claims to only push its own architecture development forwards when it can deliver what it calls ‘proven innovation’ and so lead customers towards positive outcomes.

Loosely coupled architecture

Built on a loosely coupled architecture that doesn’t break, CTO Somasundaram said that when new developments come along (like generative AI or additional RPA for example) it is both durable and flexible enough to be able to incorporate and add more and more functions without disturbing the foundations of the technology itself.

Taking over from Samuelson and Somasundaram, Rick Rider, SVP of product management provided an extended extra keynote session designed to help showcase Infor’s wider platform development and also point to its customer base. 

“At Infor, it’s been our objective to partner directly with customers to prove out innovative use cases such as machine-learning-embedded intelligence, as well as complete operational automation fueled by predictive insights. We knew that to help our customers retain their competitive advantages, we had to embrace this challenge with levels of accuracy and speed unseen in the market. Fortunately, we had an engine and a culture that could really fuel this motion: Infor OS (Operating Service),” said Rider.

On the journey to fixing what the speakers called ‘broken experience’ (instances where enterprise applications ultimately fail to provide meaningful results the users), the Infor team explained how much investment Infor has put into its User eXperience (UX) design division. By putting more flexibility into Infor’s SDK, its application design capabilities and its ability to configure Infor functionality for user segnentation, Infor claims it can make users’ UXs better than at any time in the past.

What else did Infor announce?

Infor also announced the launch of its new Developer Program and Developer Portal, which are designed to provide developers with the information and tools they need to build applications on top of Infor cloud ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.

The Infor Developer Portal includes baseline concepts and definitions to get started, a centralized library of APIs (application programming interfaces), and a set of specific tutorials that will help developers assemble the components they need to build next- generation solutions. The 50+ tutorials are offered in addition to Infor U courses and topical videos on Infor YouTube. As the central place for developers, links to product documentation, developer forums (Infor Communities), and best-practice guides are all located within the portal.

“We view the Infor Developer Program as an on-ramp for launching solutions on our Infor Marketplace,” said Story Monforte, Infor’s senior director of digital strategy. “It is another key part of our growing partner ecosystem, which helps deliver a myriad of choices and innovation to our customers.”

Infor European customers

A blue and white truck parked in front of a building.

Looking at how Infor is doing outside of the Americas, key European customers for Infor include Nutreco (a Dutch producer of animal nutrition, fish feed and processed meat products), Amalthea (a Dutch goats cheese producer), Eindhoven-based bus and coach company VDL, bakery ingredients company Zeelandia and Papendrecht-headquartered maritime infrastructure company Boskalis. Also of note is German dairy firm Cremo, which selected Infor CloudSuite Food & Beverage. The company is implementing Infor’s cloud-native and purpose-built food and beverage industry solution to optimise its processes and ensure product quality is always up to meet the highest standards.

In summary then, we can also remind ourselves that Infor might set out its stall as an ERP company, but it is also a financial platform specialist and it has specialisms in Human Capital Management (HCM), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Workforce Management (WFM).

Speaking to press and analysts during his day zero address, CEO Kevin Samuelson started his opening remarks by inadvertently saying that Infor was the fifth largest enterprise IT vendor – of course he actually meant that Infor is the fifth largest ERP vendor  – but perhaps that slip of the tongue may prove correct one day i.e. there’s a lot of confidence at Infor and the technologists building this platform are confident they have created something that will set them apart from the competition and position them for future growth.

Infor Now… and presumably, Infor tomorrow. It’ll be on a T-shirt soon for sure.

A large sign with the word infor on it.