Volume 13, Number 13 -- May 7, 2013

Infor CEO Throws Down on ERP Competitors with New SoHo UI

Published: May 7, 2013

by Alex Woodie

ERP software has never been "cool" or "fun" to use. But if Infor CEO Charles Phillips had his way, enterprise software would be as enjoyable to use as the latest social networking tools from Facebook and Twitter.

SoHo is the name of the new HTML5-based user interface that Infor is adopting across its various enterprise applications, including its premiere IBM i-based products. We gave you the lowdown SoHo, which was unveiled last month at Inforum 2013, in the story "Infor Exudes Total Confidence at Annual User Confab" in yesterday's The Four Hundred.

What was clear from Phillips' comments during the Inforum 2013 opening session is that he is very much involved in the design of Infor's products. Phillips emphasized the importance of "creating experiences people love" and "democratizing access to information." That level of passion and attention to detail--especially the greater emphasis placed on how things look rather than how things work--at first seems odd coming from the head of an ERP company.

But Phillips is a different type of software CEO. He eschews individual offices at Infor's headquarters in New York City in favor of a wide open floor plan where the executive team can do "collective improvisation." After dozens of acquisitions bolstered Infor's credibility serving so-called "micro verticals," Infor needed a common UI to link its various enterprise software products. What wasn't expected is that Phillips would use this as an opportunity to trump his competitors in the looks department.

According to Phillips, it's high time that ERP software vendors started creating better user experiences. To that end, Phillips panned the user interfaces of his closest competitors during a well-received presentation at the Inforum 2013 opening session.

"This beautiful screen is SAP. An order form, designed in the '70s or '80s. To us, that's not a very pleasing thing to use. And it hasn't changed much in a long time. But it's the most-used business application in the world, and lots of people use it everyday."

"PeopleSoft. Very crowded. Too many words. Looks like a 1995 website."

"Microsoft. It looks like an Excel spreadsheet. Pretty much everything from Microsoft looks like an Excel spreadsheet."

"This is JD Edwards World. I'm not even sure what that is. Looks like DOS or something. DOS is a good operating system. No problem."

"Workday. It kind of looks like Lotus123. Small text. Not a good layout."

"We think the way people use [user interfaces of the future] is critical and will be a deciding factor in who uses it, if they can use it, and the people you will hire," Phillips says.

So far, the response to Infor's user interface designs has been mostly positive. One analyst said he was impressed that Infor's UI isn't just a PowerPoint, but is software that "it actually opens." However, there are also detractors. One IT Jungle reader dismissed SoHo, charts, and the Twitter-like Ming.le news feed as "eye candy" and said it's "about as revolutionary as coffee creamer Phillips clearly has lost it."

Time will tell if SoHo gains adoption in the enterprise, or serves as a temporarily sweet diversion from the drudgery of working in an ERP system.


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