Infor Debuts New HCM -
Will It Be Truly New?
Infor, once a classic aggregator, has been quietly changing its stripes for two years and now will noisily debut its new look on April 21. If you recognize its new Infor HCM 10x as Lawson, Workbrain and Enwisen, it may have failed. But how well the three work together is a lot more important than whether they're beautiful.
By Bill Kutik
Until recently, Infor got no respect.
As an "aggregator" -- and there have been many others before -- it bought software products well past their technical prime and invested only enough money to keep them alive (not re-architect or modernize them), just enough to continue collecting monthly maintenance fees from the base of on-premise customers that for whatever reason felt stuck.
It's an old business model that can't possibly work as well in a SaaS world, where there's no large perpetual license fee paid years earlier and no separately defined maintenance fees - just the larger monthly payment based on users that undoubtedly has maintenance built in.
That was certainly the view of Infor I expressed nearly six years ago in what I thought at the time was a pretty kind column. If you don't have time to read it, know that Infor has made a total of 34 acquisitions, including at least five HRMSes and an equal number of full ERP software suites.
One oldie it has kept cooking is Infinium. You may remember it as the former Software 2000 on Cape Cod, running on the minicomputer IBM once called the AS/400 and now the iSeries. Including HR and financials customers, Infor says it still has about 1,000 Infinium clients, dominates the gaming industry, and still closes new sales.
Since hiring Charles Phillips, the former co-president of Oracle, about two years ago, Infor has turned around, spent a lot of money on its stable of products, and is clearly trying to become a more legitimate enterprise software company. Not to mention being truly worthy of the title "third largest ERP."
The first major results will be revealed at its Inforum user conference on April 21, when Infor will have a "soft launch" of its new Infor 10x ERP products (including HCM with a small number of development partners) and promises of General Availability sometime this summer, when the product can be bought by anyone.
Like any software company would, Infor's first step in this gigantic rollout was to soften the beaches with an Innovation Summit for analysts, which produced this fine blog from Brian Sommer, and included individual briefings with HCM specialists like Yvette Cameron. I suppose my briefing and this column is also a hand grenade lobbed onto the beach, but hardly carpet bombing.
So what exactly will they be selling as Infor HCM 10x within five months? Here's what Tarik Taman, Infor's GM for HCM, says.
First and foremost, Infor will be selling the former Lawson Talent Management SaaS suite created by Larry Dunivan, who chose not to stay after the acquisition and is now SVP and CIO at Ceridian. His suite got pretty good reviews before Lawson was acquired, despite his use of a rich client.
Also, the Lawson Core HRMS, which Larry inherited and was never SaaS, but instead included on-premise applications with about 1,100 existing customers. Lawson was offering a hybrid, co-existence model before Oracle popularized those terms with Fusion.
Tarik says that will end by the summer, when the Core HRMS will be SaaS; benefits is being rewritten for the Lawson Landmark platform used for Talent Management, and all Lawson applications will have Infor's new user interface.
No surprise, payroll and financials will take longer to become SaaS applications with the new UI - a year later in the summer of 2014.
The big functional addition to Infor HCM is Workbrain, the pioneering on-premise workforce management product created by David Ossip, who coincidentally is also now at Ceridian as its president, following its acquisition of Dayforce, Ossip's last workforce-management system.
Workbrain will provide the following workforce functions in Infor HCM 10x: forecasting, budgeting, scheduling, timekeeping and absence management. Tarik says it, too, will be multi-tenant SaaS with a UI that "is similar but not the same" as the rest of HCM by this summer.
In general, integration of different applications and their many different architectures or technical platforms, is a nagging problem for Infor. Passing data between them, sharing processes and running consolidated reporting are the biggest challenges. With the current focus on the value of integration, many talent management vendors years ago rewrote acquired applications (as Infor is doing with benefits) to make them all work together seamlessly.
But some companies with mature products, like Infor and SumTotal, are taking a less arduous route. So Infor will integrate Workbrain and Lawson HCM by dumping all their data into a common holding bin - which Infor likes to call a "Big Data Solution," though it has a code name used only interally.
Whatever you call it, it's really no different from the way mainframe applications were "interfaced" 30 years ago. Infor has developed some much more elegant solutions, including middleware called ION and HTML5 on the horizon, but Tarik says it's not clear when those will be applied to HCM, "but we'll get there; we're halfway there."
Given the roaring hot market for SaaS HR applications right now (just look at the sales numbers from Workday and Cornerstone OnDemand), it's a bit puzzling that HCM is farther back in line for Infor's latest and greatest. Tarik says it's because HR has unique requirements, like effective dating. OK.
Then there is Enwisen.
The company, based in Sausalito, Calif., put together a unique mix of employee-centric applications before Lawson bought it and Infor took it over months later. It had hundreds of PeopleSoft customers at the time.
It started life as a knowledgebase, a term I suggested Authoria use 15 years ago to avoid scaring prospects about its artificial intelligence system for benefits questions called Beneflex.
While Enwisen started as a poor man's Authoria (easy to do given Authoria's astronomical price), in the last five years it has created a very sophisticated system for search and content management, which will be the entry point for employee and HR users of Infor HCM.
Its other applications will also be part of HCM, including portal technology to provide single sign-on and access to all the apps, call-center case management, on-boarding and total-rewards statements (summer of 2014).
Enwisen was to be Infor's home page, but now the company has written Ming.le, an in-house social network application like Salesforce's Chatter. It enables collaboration around objects and content and will also be available this summer. Enwisen will still power the search.
Infor's mission statement is to take the mature, proven software systems it owns and integrate them with modern, innovative technologies, making them unrecognizable, seamless and beautiful. This clearly involves plastic surgery, not just new lipstick, which means a multi-step process with some bruising and ugliness along the way. Will it be worth it at the end?
HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is founding co-chairman of the 16th Annual HR Technology ® Conference & Exposition, returning to Las Vegas, Oct. 7-9, 2013. Prior conference attendees are receiving private invitations via e-mail. You can comment on this column at the Conference LinkedIn Group, which doesn't require prior or future conference attendance to join. He is also host of The Bill Kutik Radio Show ®. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.