Infor CEO Charles Phillips Discusses Software Vendor's Remaking

The third-largest ERP company wants to get a whole lot bigger through specialization.

By Chris Kanaracus
Tue, January 10, 2012

IDG News Service — Infor CEO Charles Phillips mostly kept out of the limelight after landing the job in October 2010, following a high-profile stint as co-president of Oracle.

That's because he was busy figuring out the future direction of Infor's vast portfolio of ERP (enterprise resource planning) software applications, which make it the industry's third-largest ERP vendor after SAP and Oracle.

Phillips, who was known for his role in Oracle' long series of acquisitions, engineered a big one soon after arriving at Infor, when the company and its primary shareholder Golden Gate Capital bought Lawson Software in April 2011 for about US$2 billion. The new CEO also pumped additional money into development, hiring hundreds of developers and announcing plans to move Infor headquarters to New York's "Silicon Alley."

Now, several months after the launch of Infor10, a next-generation set of technologies, Phillips spoke at length about where Infor has been and intends to go in an exclusive interview with IDG News Service.

IDGNS: When you first arrived at Infor and took a look around, what needed fixing?

Phillips: The priority for me was reorienting resources into products and away from other areas. We basically reduced our expense in the back office and shifted all of that into product development. I think that the company had a stable customer base, but hadn't delivered enough innovation and change. Some customers tend to view that as a good thing, but I think you're better off shipping a lot of innovation even if it means a little disruption.

So with that in mind, the second thing we had to do was invest more wisely. Even though the company had invested a huge amount on R&D, and we obviously increased that, the way it was being spent wasn't optimal, in the sense that each distributed development group got to make their own decisions, and they largely did that with input from a very small number of customers. They were doing very tactical things, you know, changing the screen from blue to red, that sort of thing, because they talked to the same three customers.

You want to step back and look at ways that can differentiate yourself, things that can make a big difference for a lot of customers and translate into commercial success. You want to push back and say, why is that on the road map versus something else, and force people into a disciplined conversation with a process behind those decisions. Just doing that alone, you get a lot of development capacity back because you stop doing things no one cares about.

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