Infor's Inforce Opportunity

Infor and salesforce.com have joined "forces" to offer several brand new collaborative applications. The first joint product offered by Infor and salesforce.com, Inforce, connects Infor ERP with Salesforce CRM and adds new functionality to Salesforce that enables the sharing of information and business processes between Infor ERP and Salesforce CRM. TEC principal analyst P.J. Jakovljevic reviews the SMB CRM solution and outlines what the product has to offer and how it compares to other related Infor solutions.
TEC’s mid-2012 article 'Waking Up to a “New Day” at Infor' depicted Infor’s transformation from a traditional acquirer and market consolidator to a rejuvenated software company focused on innovation. The recently spruced up Infor Human Capital Management (HCM) suite is one great example thereof.

Perhaps the best example of Infor’s new mindset is the 2011 partnering between Infor and salesforce.com, the enterprise cloud computing pioneer and leader, to offer several brand new collaborative applications. These Force.com-based solutions by Infor, cleverly dubbed “Inforce,” are aimed at bringing the power of the back office to the front office throughout the social enterprise to promote collaboration and growth. To be precise, the Salesforce Platform today includes Force.com, Heroku, Database.com, Site.com, and other components. In addition, salesforce.com made a multi-million dollar investment in Infor as part of the agreement and because of Infor’s endorsement of Force.com (which salesforce.com has done with a plethora of other companies, many of which are much smaller than Infor).

Nucleus Research opines that product development on the Salesforce Platform is multiple times faster than traditional development from scratch. With the Inforce portfolio, as an independent software vendor (ISV) partner of salesforce.com, Infor takes advantage of these R&D economies and, with its extensive experience in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise marketing management (EMM) spaces, focuses on differentiating to streamline accompanying business processes. Both vendors are involved in reselling and implementing Inforce, often together with other salesforce.com products and complementary products from the Salesforce AppExchange marketplace. Afterwards, Infor provides ongoing support and maintenance. In fact, Infor is one of only a handful of salesforce.com partners that can resell salesforce.com solutions. This is critical to Infor’s strategy to offer a comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) solution to its customers and ultimately be the single point of contact for supporting the entire solution from ERP to CRM.

Inforce (Everywhere)

The first joint product offered by Infor and salesforce.com, Inforce Everywhere, was announced at the time of the Inforum 2012 user conference, and has since been rebranded into simply Inforce. The solution connects Infor ERP with Salesforce CRM and adds new functionality to Salesforce that enables the sharing of information and business processes between Infor ERP and Salesforce CRM. One result of the combined solution is a more robust customer 360-degree-view in Salesforce CRM that incorporates Infor ERP information including contacts, quotes, orders, shipments, invoices, and returns into salesforce.com’s sales force automation (SFA) and service automation solutions (i.e. Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, see Figure 1).

 
Figure 1 – Inforce's added value solution – sales credibility, marketing precision, and fulfillment execution.

Inforce offers the following capabilities:

  • standardized integration that jump-starts a salesforce.com implementation by loading Salesforce CRM with critical Infor ERP customer information—and then keeps the information in two-way sync;
  • a way for salesforce.com users to view customer information from Infor ERP applications, as currently the following seven Infor ERP products are certified: SyteLine, LN, Visual, SX, A+, M3, and XA, while more of them are coming soon (LX, System21, Adage, etc.).
  • the ability to create and maintain customers and contacts in Salesforce CRM or Infor ERP, and have them remain synchronized between both solutions.
  • connection to Infor10 ION, Infor's standards-based lightweight integration platform that can be leveraged to integrate multiple Infor and non-Infor solutions (i.e. ERP, CRM, supply chain management, warehouse management, HCM, etc.).;
  • integration to Salesforce Chatter (to make data and processes more social); and
  • the ability for Infor's current 600 channel partners to resell bundled salesforce.com’s CRM products. As noted earlier, Infor first released Inforce in March 2012, and also announced a companion product called Inforce Order Management that would deliver Quote and Order functionality to CRM. Subsequently, Infor decided to enhance the value of Inforce by including the planned Quote and Order functionality with Inforce rather than offering it in a separate product at additional cost. Planned for release in 2013, Inforce will offer comprehensive configure, price, quote, propose, and order management capabilities (see Figure 2).
 
Figure 2 – Inforce.

With Inforce, Infor finally gets a viable small to medium businesses (SMB) CRM solution that can scale to meet the needs of a global enterprise. For a long time Infor has had Epiphany CRM, but that solution is best suited for large enterprises, mostly business to consumer (B2C) or business to business to consumer (B2B2C) and highly transactional industries. In addition, several Infor ERP products have introductory operational CRM-like solutions but not at a best-of-breed level. There have been some indications in the past that as much as 70 percent of Infor customers had some usage of salesforce.com. At the least, Inforce provides a “cloud/on-demand” check mark in a request for information (RFI) document.

Again, given that Epiphany is a CRM solution for large customers, Infor now has a plausible CRM solution strategy for SMBs—i.e., start with a proven and wellrespected CRM solution, and develop subsequent functionality and integration for Infor customers. This should make Infor more competitive with respect to making new deals, while filling this big functional CRM gap should eliminate the need to replace an existing Infor ERP system. This partnership was badly needed by both Infor and salesforce.com in their ERP-CRM fight against SAP, Oracle, Sage, and Microsoft Dynamics.

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