Taking Stock of Infor’s HCM “Inventory Items” - Part 1

What TEC’s recent in-depth article Waking Up to a “New Day” at Infor hinted, my attendance of Inforum 2012 in late April confirmed. Namely, Infor started out as a traditional acquirer and market consolidator, but that is old news now.

The re-energized vendor has recently moved on to a new chapter of innovation and industry focus with Charles Phillips and his renewed management team at the helm. The main themes and highlights from the multi-day event were as follows :

Momentum – Infor is on the move, as illustrated by the following developments:

  • New management and new headquarters (expected to be opened in the fall of 2012)

  • Strong quarter-to-quarter software license performance

  • Adding more than 500 software engineers in the last year or so

  • Continued strong appetite for acquisitions big and small – Lawson Software (with help from Infor's longstanding financial backer Golden Gate Capital), Approva (via Lawson), ENXSuite, Single Source Systems, and most recently (post-Inforum 2012) Easy RMS

Vertical Focus – Infor is specialized by industry and named best in class (BIC) applications. The “Specialized by industry, engineered for speed” mantra was omnipresent at the event that featured a number of specific industry tracks.

Transformation – Infor is about innovation, based on only a few selected examples as follows:

What About HR and Talent Management?

But one particular place at Infor where the “1+1>2” situation could now turn out to be true is in the human resource (HR) and talent management space. Prior to the Lawson acquisition, Infor has had a number of scattered HR and talent management pieces, but not a coherent and cogent strategy.

For a long time it appeared that the “old” Infor had resigned itself to losing the workforce management (WFM) ground on its 2007 Workbrain acquisition to the software as a service (SaaS) startups and other established players such as Kronos and RedPrairie. New product enhancements were few and far between and the vendor focused on the low hanging fruit of keeping existing customers as best as possible. New named Workbrain customers had also not been a frequent occurrence for years.

Occasionally, Infor’s sales folks would run across a new logo ERP deal that required HR capabilities. The strategy was to push any discussion to a “phase two” (meaning “likely never”) as the IBM System i-based HR product Infinium is often a non-starter. At some stage there was an HR product out of France called Anael (stemming from former Geac Computers) that was being reworked for multi-tenant SaaS. Reportedly, plans were in place for its launch and pricing was being developed, but that was quickly put on a back burner when the Lawson acquisition closed.

Lawson HCM – Promising, but Came with Its Own Baggage

While Lawson Software has long had an HR and talent management creed, this synergy with Infor Workbrain and ERP systems could not be leveraged right away. For one, only recently did Lawson become the same legal entity as Infor, which finally makes cross-sales possible (for a long initial period of time Lawson was just an affiliate of Infor or another legal entity, which complicated contractual terms in case of a joint sale).

Another reason for Infor’s need to think the HR/human capital management (HCM) strategy through is the fact that Lawson’s offering is not uniform and unified either. Namely, there is the good old Lawson HR system – based on Cobol, with about 1,000 customers, focused almost solely on the US market (the Lawson S3 Financial Management has even more customers than the HR counterpart).

Then, there is the Landmark language-based Lawson Talent Management suite, what is now called Infor10 HCM, and was just announced as generally available (GA) at Inforum 2012. Landmark was a very clever design, not as clever as Workday's underpinnings, but clever nonetheless in its ability to use the patterns in the applications to greatly reduce the development time and cost (via automatic code generation) while improving quality.

One could say that the existing Lawson HCM portfolio lives on in two different generations of that technology: there is an older generation that is very HR/payroll-centric and a newer generation that is very talent management-centric. The Lawson Talent Management/Infor10 HCM suite covers the following realms:

Talent acquisition (Recruiting), with the following high-level capabilities:

  • Evaluate the candidate's profile against the position’s success profile

  • Tap into job-candidate sources with views into user-configured talent pools

  • Enable recruiting professionals to play a key role in mobilizing talent within the organization

  • Monitor delivered recruiting metrics

Performance management (PM), with the following high-level capabilities:

  • Identify top performers

  • Recognize, retain and recruit the right people

  • Measure the “how” and the “what” of employee performance

  • Define expectations for future performance

  • Benefit from easy configuration and utilization

Compensation management, with the following high-level capabilities:

  • Capitalize on other talent management data (goals, performance, learning, and succession) to make performance-driven compensation decisions

  • Optimize budget dollars to hold on to top performers

  • Eliminate manual work regarding “who’s eligible for what”

  • Analyze data to drive pay equity

Learning and development, with the following high-level capabilities:

  • Assist resources with identifying additional knowledge, behaviors, skills, and competencies to be acquired

  • Gain visibility to employee's current and future learning activities within the performance, goal, and succession management processes

  • Achieve a competitive advantage using planned learning

  • Build and manage overall training budgets

Succession management, with the following high-level capabilities:

  • Easily identify individuals who meet the qualifications of a critical talent pool

  • Develop optimum talent for pivotal positions

  • Avoid business disruptions

  • Recognize and motivate high performers with personalized development plans

Infor currently has about 100 Lawson Talent Management customers, 60 percent of who are hosted (in a private cloud), but the offering is slated to go multi-tenant for the HRTech Conference in the fall of 2012. When Lawson wrote its newer generation of products, they were intended to be sold on their own and to co-exist with the older one, leaving core HR and payroll capabilities on the older Lawson HR product.

But the company was never able to sell the new talent management products as standalone products; instead they were sold only into the existing Lawson customer base. Another reason why Lawson has not sold a lot of the Landmark-based apps is because its traditional HR business is mostly at larger operations and the Landmark offering did not initially scale well.

In any case, the new Lawson HR Foundations serves as the centerpiece of Lawson Talent Management/Infor10 HCM for multinational companies (currently available in several languages) as a central employee profile repository. The aforementioned Compensation Management module has been built in conjunction with Lawson HR Foundations, a strategy that enables easy plan set-up and enrollment and makes keeping up with ongoing changes such as promotions and department transfers almost painless.

The HR Foundations module is a rewrite in Landmark (the aforementioned Java-based pattern language environment) of many components from Lawson HR, but still lacks payroll, benefits, absence management, and teacher contract (grant accounting) capabilities, all of which Lawson HRMS excels at in the US market. Lawson Performance Management for Healthcare, based on the 2006 CAS (Competency Assessment Solutions) acquisition, is still a differentiation, but is available only in the US, as is Lawson HR.

Part 2 of this series will analyze the current state of affairs of the Infor10 HCM portfolio and try to make sense out of this overwhelming cornucopia. In the meantime, your comments, thoughts, suggestions, or individual experiences with global talent management in general, and Infor/Lawson in particular, are more than welcome.
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