A focus on beauty: Inforum 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

A young, multi-cultural, energetic and even perhaps irreverent executive board that jumped up on stage during the opening keynote speech, bounced corny jokes off of each other and finished each others' sentences. Some 6,000 attendees, 55 of which were press and analysts. Words you don't typically hear at an enterprise IT event: beauty, design, pleasurable.

Throw it all together and you get business application software provider Infor's world conference, Inforum, which took place in Orlando and to which BNamericas was invited.

Infor CEO Charles Phillips set the tone of the conference by declaring that enterprise software "sucks" and is "not fun to use." He then took pot shots at enterprise solutions from competitors such as SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, saying they had tired designs left over from the last century. In turn, Infor's goal is "creating experiences that people love."

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He then pointed to Infor's moving headquarters late last year to a sleek new building in New York City in a move to be closer to the clients and not lost behind a walled tech garden in Silicon Valley, as well as the formation of Infor's Manhattan-based in-house design agency, Hook & Loop, as evidence of the move towards the company's mantra to make "beautiful, flexible and social" business applications in its quest to end the "SAP-Oracle duopoly."

This year the company plans to deliver the most products, features and integrations in Infor history thanks to upped R&D spending and an expanded development organization. Since the company came under the leadership of its new executive team, hailing from Oracle two years ago, Infor has hired more than 650 new software engineers and designers.

Showcased at the Inforum event, one result of the collaboration between the engineering and design departments was the introduction of Infor Ming.le, a platform for social collaboration, business process improvement and analytics. Embedded in a number of enterprise systems, Ming.le allows employees from different areas throughout the company to communicate and collaborate in a Twitter-like setting.

Ming.le forms part of Infor's 10x enterprise release (also launched during Inforum), which in turn can be integrated on ION middleware, connecting applications and storing information which is published in industry standard XML (the "language of the internet"), making data easier to read, use and store.

In the big data play, Infor kicked off Sky Vault, where, using ION, customers can take transactions formatted in XML documents and send that data to the cloud for further analytics. But with the business plan clear, CEO Phillips said that Infor isn't interested in having its own data centers for those cloud services. Instead, the company will turn to providers with their own data centers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM.

"If we have to share a little bit of our margin, that's a better use of our capital," Phillips said. AWS would provide services primarily in the US while IBM's more global footprint would make it "helpful" outside the US.

Inforum's closing act, which due to an early trip home I didn't have the pleasure to attend, featured the rapper Flo Rida. It's hard to imagine a bunch of IT guys rockin' out to rap, but maybe that's just another sign of Infor's irreverence.