Infor Shows Flexibility as Reseller Channel Evolves
January 20, 2009 Alex Woodie
A couple of years ago, when Infor was still figuring out exactly what it owned following a string of acquisitions that made it one of the world’s three largest enterprise software vendors, the company irritated some of its reseller partners by mandating they sell only Infor solutions and drop competing products. Today, as the company refines its reseller model, it says those restrictions are in the past, and is displaying a more nuanced understanding of channel politics.
As senior vice president of global partners, Dennis Michalis is in charge of the diverse group of partners peddling Infor products around the world. He’s tasked with making sure that Infor has the right mix of boots on the ground to successfully sell a huge catalog of ERP products to customers of different sizes, operating in various industries, and with a diverse mix of needs.
It is not an easy job to juggle all the variables and get the right mix for success in 125 countries and tens of thousands of customers, and Michalis realizes that flexibility is perhaps the most important trait to achieve his goal.
“We’ve looked at the dimensions of the relationship in a more sophisticated manner,” he says in an interview with IT Jungle. “They’re not just resellers–some of them are truly more professional services partners. They’re also re-marketers, and by the way, a real substantial extension of our support organization, for certain applications.
“So we had to sophisticate ourselves to match the needs of the customer,” Michalis continues, “not just about getting them data sheets. It’s a whole lot more about, ‘Where are their strengths? Where are their investments? How can we leverage Infor’s infrastructure . . . to give partners the same kind of access as our direct teams?'”
The reseller restrictions that Infor put in place nearly two and a half years ago are “ancient history,” Michalis says. In their place is a more “nuanced” approach that looks at the reseller’s entire business, he says. The enterprise software market is just so big and broad, there is room for diversity among reseller offerings.
So, for example, if a reseller sells an Oracle product into the enterprise-level financial services space, it won’t exclude the company from selling an ERP LX (BPCS) product to midmarket automotive suppliers. Even though Infor might compete with Oracle on the financial services account, there is enough potential upside with the remaining midmarket automotive business that Infor won’t exclude the reseller from participating in the reseller program.
However, resellers that carry other products besides Infor may not be entitled to the same level of resources (marketing dollars) as vendors that carry nothing but Infor products. There is flexibility built into the system, and it’s simply a matter of managing the multiple “layers” to Infor’s “global matrix,” Michalis says.
Currently, Infor’s channel of 1,400 resellers around the world account for about 20 to 22 percent of the company’s revenues, which are currently about $2.2 billion, a percentage that hasn’t changed in several years. Michalis is happy with that percentage, and says he isn’t looking to change it much going forward, although it may shift in certain regions.
There is always the possibility that VARs will compete against each other or against Infor’s direct sales force in certain regions, and Infor has rules of engagement to deal with “new logos,” or customers that are new to Infor, to protect territories.
“When new logo hunting, there’s a registration policy that governs all behavior above and below the line,” Michalis says. “In North America, for example, it’s $100 million for discrete manufacturing for parent company. So the channel partner knows that they have protected territorial space below that marker.”
All told, Infor is relying on resellers to keep the business moving forward. The new VAR drive that Infor launched in North America recently was preceded by similar drives in the EMEA and Asia-Pacific regions. In each region, being flexible and listening to the needs of the customers and partners is the name of the game.