Infor Carves Out a Dedicated System i Division
February 17, 2009 Alex Woodie
Infor last week announced that it’s creating a new division that will be entirely dedicated to serving its installed base of 15,000 System i customers. The division, which will be headed by former IBMer Mark Wright, will result in the separation of System i-related sales, support, and most development resources within Infor. The move was made as recognition of the uniqueness of the System i platform and the special skills and knowledge that it demands.
As senior vice president and general manager for the System i organization within Infor, Wright becomes the most visible head of the largest System i software vendor in the world. As a vocal proponent of the System i platform, Wright is also not afraid to let you know where his loyalties stand.
“Truthfully, I think it’s the best platform ever invented,” he says in an interview with IT Jungle. “If I had a company, I’d run it on System i. I’m delighted to see that it’s still doing great. And I’m delighted to be involved in it again. I’ve never fallen out of love with it.”
Upon leaving graduate school, Wright joined IBM as a sales rep in the early 1980s, cut his teeth on S/34 and S/36 hardware, and sold MAPICS, DSAM, and other popular packages of the day. He worked his way up IBM’s sales and marketing ladder, and in 2000 he worked as vice president of software sales for the North America region. For the next several years, Wright explored other pastures, founding a dot-com and a virtualization vendor that was bought by Citrix Systems. Eight years later, he’s back in the business where he started. “It’s interesting how life comes full circle,” he says.
Wright is in charge of revitalizing and redefining Infor’s System i business. Acquisitions over the years have netted Infor many of the industry’s most popular OS/400 ERP applications, including MAPICS, BPCS, PRMS, PRISM, Infinium, System 21, A+, and many others. Infor has promised to never sunset a product as long as the underlying platform is viable, and has committed to providing ongoing maintenance. But that hasn’t stopped questions from arising as to Infor’s commitment to the ongoing development of the various products. There have also been questions about Infor’s long-term product consolidation strategy.
“There was no customer revolt, no pervasive problem,” says Wright, who joined Infor in December. “Just a general understanding that the best way to address a market affinity group that’s so closely tied together is with a dedicated team that has the same skill sets they’re looking for. The company realizes that it is somewhat unique as a platform. It’s an integration of hardware and applications and operating systems that doesn’t really exist in too many other places. And therefore I think it requires a special dedicated sort of coverage.”
As part of the System i realignment, Infor will be seeking to prove that it is committed to not only maintaining its extensive array of ERP systems, but actively developing them. To that end, Infor announced that there will be eight development labs around the world dedicated to System i product development. Infor will also move or re-assign employees to System i-exclusive posts in the areas of sales, pre-sales, and marketing. The exact number of employees in the System i organization was not immediately available.
The end result will be a unified System i organization that is fluent in “i” across all components–product development, sales, and support. Above all, it will result in a group of workers that’s loyal to the platform, Wright says. “You’ve got, basically System i reps, but you could almost call them System i specialists, in a way,” he says. “They’re focused on this one platform. They’ve filtered and synthesized the requirements that they see over and over again. They bring those back into the product management community, and that gets transferred to development.”
Wright will report to Greg Corgan, president of Infor’s global field operations and corporate senior vice president. Corgan in turn will report to Robin Peterson, who reports to CEO Jim Schaper and the board.
Wright says the move marks a renewed enthusiasm for the System i within Infor, especially from a product development point of view. “I think it’s going to be a huge benefit to the company that we are working on products that customers want in the short term,” he says.
What’s less certain is how the reorganization will affect Infor’s far-reaching SOA strategy. The eight System i development labs will contribute to Infor’s SOA product development, along with Infor labs focused more on Unix or Windows development, Wright says. But “On the SOA piece, that is a longer-term strategy, but I think our customers on the System i platform . . . believe that over a period of time, and I don’t know how long that is, that SOA is the answer for them,” he says.
Infor operates what it calls a System i Center of Excellence, or iCOE, where it works on all of its i OS-based applications. This list includes: ERP LX (BPCS), ERP XA (MAPICS), ERP A+, ERP Infinium MM/PM, ERP KBM, ERP PRISM, ERP PRMS, ERP System 21, ERP Xpert, FMS Anael, HCM Anael, HCM Infinium, and CRM AutoRelease.