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Micro-verticals, Channels, and New Technologies for Infor Supply Chain

Published On: February 10 2014

By P.J. Jakovljevic (bio) and Robert Eastman

Infor’s stream of new technologies, approaches, and programs as of late indicate the vendor’s new technological leanings: there’s the Infor 10x platform, Infor ION, Infor Ming.le, Infor Analytics, Infor’s Hook & Loop group, Infor’s UpgradeX Program, and Infor’s recently announced new micro-vertical program for partners. Once known as a more stodgy home for software applications that had nowhere else to go, Infor has been making a bold effort to change its game with a focusing (or, more accurately, re-focusing) of its strategy around technology, micro-verticals, and the channel. In view of these, Infor’s supply chain offerings deserve another look.


Supply Chain: Planning and Execution

There are three pillars to Infor’s supply chain strategy:
  • Develop depth of functionality in each supply chain solution
  • Focus supply chain solutions on Infor’s target industry micro-verticals
  • Leverage Infor’s partners for product extensions
Infor partitions its supply chain offerings into the traditional planning and execution domains, which reflects a conventional view of the supply chain, and the history of how Infor has assembled its supply chain portfolio.


Infor Supply Chain Planning

On the planning side, Infor conceives of Infor Integrated Business Planning (IBP) as the wrapper for all of its planning solutions, which include sales and operations planning (S&OP), demand planning, inventory planning and optimization, supply planning, product innovation, and production scheduling.

Infor has a considerable rich heritage of acquired solutions (Mercia Software demand planner, SCT Fygir Advanced Planning and Advanced Scheduling, and Baan Berclain Moopi advanced planning & scheduling [APS]) from which this planning portfolio was assembled (see Figure 1).

Preview
Figure 1. Infor SCM Portfolio

Infor’s technology and other major strategies are being tapped to enhance these supply chain offerings. While the Infor ION technology will enable event management, for example, Infor is envisioning that the channel will enhance and extend Infor’s micro-vertical strategy (for example, development of S&OP for the healthcare vertical).

Infor seems to have a good story on supply chain planning (SCP), with its Advanced Planning, Advanced Scheduling, and Demand Planning, and recently added in-house developed S&OP. Infor Integrated Business Planning (IBP) merges these solutions within one suite on Infor 10x, but these can be sold as individual modules too. In certain continuous process industries such as breweries, and chemicals, Infor SCP is competing head to head with Oracle Demantra (and AspenTech and Logility to a lesser degree) with no clear winner yet.
 

Infor Supply Chain Execution

Infor organizes its supply chain execution capabilities around the pillars of warehouse management (WMS), labor management systems (LMS), transportation management (TMS), and 3PL billing, which are traceable to Infor acquisitions.
 
Over the years, Infor has acquired a range of execution capabilities such as EXE and Provia WMS and LMS, CAPS Logistics, ShipLogix, and Arzoon for TMS, and 3PL billing from Provia. Through this journey, Infor has taken the supply chain execution (SCE) assets and combined them into a unified solution which makes up today’s Infor SCE suite, which has a strong presence in North America, Latin America and in Asia. With the launch of Infor SCE in 2011, Infor unified its warehouse management, transportation management, labor management and 3PL billing modules onto one platform, simplifying its offering into one integrated supply chain execution solution. Infor has also adopted social collaboration through Infor Ming.le, but does yet not offer transportation fleet management or global trade management (GTM).

In the Infor SCE 10.2 released in 2013, Infor leveraged the newly released Infor 10x technology to add mobile and voice enablement, visual metrics, Infor ION integration to ERP, the Infor Ming.le social collaboration capabilities, and in-context business intelligence.  Still, Infor is much less known in SCE than in SCP, and Manhattan Associates, RedPrairie (now part of JDA Software), HighJump, SAP, Oracle, and others are fierce WMS and TMS competitors. There is some good action in 3PL, Asia Pacific (APAC), and Latin America, but Infor’s TMS capabilities need further development in order to support multi-modal functionality as well as the ability to handle private fleets.

The industry focus of Infor SCE and SCP means that most common customers are found in the food and beverage and wholesale distribution industries, as well as in discrete manufacturing—Infor SCE’s main industries, such as 3PL and healthcare, have minimal needs in planning, and Infor SCP today doesn’t have a focus on the retail industry.
 
Preview
Figure 2. Warehouse Manager


Micro-vertical Focus

Another major component of Infor’s strategy, both for the supply chain and in general, is its focus on micro-verticals. While there are only around 20–25 major industries, Infor would say that there are more than two thousand micro-verticals. Focusing on micro-verticals is, however, not only about focus, but also about selective focus. While Infor talks about 12 industries (aerospace and defense; automotive; chemicals; distribution; equipment; fashion; food and beverage; healthcare; high tech and electronics; hospitality; industrial manufacturing; and the public sector), the company takes a micro-vertical approach to targeting its supply chain management solutions: for example, the dairy, beef, pork, poultry, fish, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and health/personal care verticals for Infor’s supply chain planning solutions, and the 3PL, distribution, and manufacturing verticals for supply chain execution.
 

Infor’s Partner Programs

A critical part of Infor’s supply chain strategy is the development and sustainment of a viable partner channel. So much has changed at Infor over the past several years that there is reason to believe that their partner channel too is being reinvigorated.

Infor’s late December announcement of Infor’s new Micro-Vertical Product Program for Partners, an enhancement of their Infor Partner Network, is indicative of the new commitment Infor is making to the channel. This should have particular implications in the supply chain arena.

While this program presents an opportunity for Infor partners to develop new solutions, it also complements other efforts to add to Infor’s services partners. Any micro-vertical strategy requires the resources of an extended channel. Infor’s success depends, more than ever before, then, on the successful development and support of its channel, and also on Infor having more success with this than the company has ever had with its channel before. This is likely getting a lot of attention from Infor’s Jeff Abbott, senior vice president, Global Alliances and Channels in 2014. By the time Inforum 2014 rolls around in September, it will be interesting to see the progress on the channel front.


Looking Forward

Infor’s goal of being “the recognized leader in targeted verticals,” not just for the supply chain but overall, is ambitious, but the company is supporting this ambition with assertive steps in design, user experience, technology, and channel strategy.

Still, a micro-vertical strategy requires something more—bigger advertising and better marketing, which has not always been seen as an Infor strength. The channel is a key part of this (and it is still hard to predict Infor’s success in reinvigorating its channel partners), but it also requires a commitment and flair at the corporate level that has not been particularly evident from Infor in the past.

Infor is shrewdly going on the attack with new technologies and strategies, but there are hints that silos from the past continue to persist in places. No one can accuse Infor, however, of not aggressively trying to shed the perception of being a legacy vendor of legacy solutions.

Infor’s focus on integrated business planning as the wrapper for all of its planning solutions makes a lot of sense. Converging its warehouse management solutions is also a very positive step. There is much more opportunity for Infor to grab, from broader process and discrete industry offerings, more micro-verticals to reach out to, a beefed up services channel (and channel strategy), and messaging that goes further to reflect the blurring of the lines between planning and execution. Infor’s marketing and channel execution are likely to be critical to Infor’s success in 2014 and beyond.

If you are evaluating supply chain solutions in 2014, Infor’s offerings are worth another look, particularly if you have not looked at how Infor is using its new technologies to enhance its supply chain offerings.


Further Reading

Infor M3 to Handle Fresh Food Planning (October 2013)
 
Infor Releases Advanced Scheduling 5.5 (July 2013)
 
Infor Reports Rapid Growth of Distribution Business Unit (July 2013)

Infor simplifies Demand Planning  - (July 2013)
 
Infor Updates Automotive Supply Chain Collaboration Solutions (June 2013)

Infor announces collaborative social S&OP model (May 2013)
 
Infor Gets Social (April 2013)
 
Infor Unveils the Infor 10x Umbrella Release (April 2013)
 
ION Middleware-Infor’s Fastest Growth Engine (March 2013)
 
 
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