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Infor Lawson Software Review

 

Infor/Lawson Company Viability Review

Understanding the viability of Lawson means understanding Infor, Lawson's parent company since 2011. Privately-held, Infor is the 3rd-largest software vendor in the ERP space (and 10th-largest software company globally), providing services and business software applications to 70K+ customers in over 164 countries. As such, the enterprise software company's history up until this point has proven its staying power and with the 2010 appointment of former Oracle president Charles Phillips, Infor looks poised to underpin its market strategies with some serious leadership firepower. Indeed, given the fact that Infor rakes in approximately $3B in annual revenues (with 17% annual licensing growth); employs 8K staff in 120 offices worldwide; and cultivates a partner channel 1,100 allies deep, it's clear that the vendor has solid footing (and deep pockets) to compete at the highest levels and advance its business strategy.

However, much like other enterprise-level legacy vendors, Infor has seen the paradigm shift of the software industry towards the "cloud" as highly disruptive to their time-tested revenue model. With business software suites that run the gamut from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Financials, the company has a solid lock and solid liability with providing on-premise (and thusly license/maintenance driven) solutions. Adding to these issues is the fact that the company has seemed to have favored acquisitions over organic growth. In fact, much like Oracle, the company has based a large amount of their growth strategy to date on acquisitions, including: Agilisys (2002); Brain AG (2002); Future Three (2003); Infor Business Solutions (2004); Daly.commerce (2004); Varial Software (2004); NxTrend Technology (2004); Aperum (2004); IncoDev Software (2004); Lilly Software Associates (2004); Mercia Software (2005); MAPICS (2005); Paragon (2005); Intuita Holdings (2005); Alpine Systems (2005); Formation Systems, Inc. (2005); Datastream (2006); GEAC ERP (2006); Extensity (2006); Systems Union (2006); SSA Global (2006); Profuse (2007); Workbrain (2007); Hansen (2007); Corpsoft (2007); SLA Management Services (2008); SoftBrands (2009); Bridgelogix (2010); Qurius (2010); Lawson Software (2011); and ENXSUITE (2011).

While these company acquisitions have certainly driven revenues (especially with the Workbrain and Lawson purchases), unfortunately they have also piled on a mountain of "technical debt" and given Infor a rather undesirable reputation as, according to IDG News Service, "more of a holding company for its many acquisitions than a cohesive software vendor with a focused vision". In fact, analysts and pundits alike have long-lamented that Infor appears to be a cobbling together of disparate systems with no discernible direction—a belief that the current executive team seems more than willing to dispel through a set of recently outlined strategies.

Aside from the industry-shared strategies of increasing market presence in mobile and social technologies, the first part of Infor's strategy moving forward is their new middleware offering ION—a competitive bid to shore up the company's own disparate application base and address the technical issues with 3rd-party solutions. A welcome addition for the company's current middle market customer base, according to Ventana Research's Robert Kugel, "ION is designed to be easier and more economical…to get multiple applications to work together to execute end-to-end processes, whether the software is on-premises, in the cloud or in a mixed environment". Indeed, the company's latest release, Infor10, incorporates this new technology into the mix; which, along with the addition of common business rules, localization, and reporting features, delivers a much needed variable deployment option for the company—an increasingly important element.

Of course, Infor is also focusing on strategies that revolve around bolstering the company's already-present emphasis on industry-specific solutions—a hallmark of the vendor that has been a key differentiation point against its competitors. Indeed, the depth and breadth of this vertical focus is such that few companies can compete without resorting to, at best software configuration, and at worst code customization. As such, this means for customers that fall into supported verticals that significant savings in terms of implementation and maintenance can usually be achieved. Building on this strategy, Infor has sights set on using these verticals to increase market share in the Global 1000; adding significantly more members to its global sales teams and honing in on companies that are seeking ERP capabilities dedicated to their industry—a niche that Infor believes will grow its value proposition and competitiveness.

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