Infor Attacks SAP and Oracle in ‘Down With Big ERP’ Campaign
November 10, 2009 Alex Woodie
System i ERP giant Infor recently launched a new marketing campaign attacking its two biggest competitors, SAP and Oracle. With the Web site www.downwithbigerp.com, a virally “Declaration of Software Independence,” and a pointed keynote speech by CEO Jim Schaper, Infor is painting “big ERP” vendors as slow-moving relics that suck the life out of customers with slow implementations, high maintenance fees, and software of dubious value. “We’re on a journey to change the way things are done in the software industry,” Schaper said.
At first blush, the idea that Infor would attack “Big ERP” might seem contradictory. After all, Infor is the third biggest ERP software vendor on the planet, with dozens of different product lines, more than $2 billion in revenues, 8,000 employees, and 70,000 customers. Only SAP and Oracle are bigger players in the broadly defined ERP market.
But as recent statements by executives and marketing activities show, Infor is adamant that it’s not like SAP and Oracle. It’s trying to paint its bigger competitors as lumbering giants that are only out to serve themselves, while portraying itself as a nimble innovator that lives or dies with the success of its customers.
Schaper set the tone of Infor’s new market approach with a 25-minute keynote address two weeks ago during the company’s annual user conference, Inforum 2009, which was held as a virtual event for the first time. The CEO covered a lot of topics. He compared Infor to “great companies” like Apple, Google, and IBM. He also spoke painful truths about the ERP market, and quoted industry statistics that portray the horror of ERP implementations.
“Obviously our industry hasn’t done the greatest job serving their customers,” he said. “Software implementations have become disruptive. They’ve become known for over-budget and seemingly never-ending implementations, increasing maintenance costs every year, and forcing customers to upgrade or exchange software when it wasn’t advantageous or economical to do so. In many cases, the quote ‘software experience’ has been anything but a good experience. Many in our industry actually seem to specialize in planned obsolescence. And worst of all, the industry simply quit listening to their customers.”
But Infor isn’t without fault, Schaper admitted. “We haven’t been without our problems, and we are not perfect,” he said. “I think we’re better than most, but by no means perfect. What’s important is we’re doing something to improve.”
Schaper accused competitors of hurting their customers by “hunkering down” and riding out the recession by cutting costs, reducing headcount, scaling back on new product development, and in some cases completely eliminating strategic initiatives. According to Schaper, Infor is taking a different road. “We chose to invest and we chose to innovate. We make decisions based on what’s in our customers’ best long term interest,” he said.
Infor has been trading verbal barbs with its larger competitors, and waging warfare from the PR desk for some time. Earlier this year, when SAP announced that it was pilfering Infor customers, Infor responded with a sarcastic “Sorry SAP, we didn’t mean to scare you.” A preamble to the current campaign was evident in June with the launch of Infor’s Flex program, which Schaper characterized as “sowing the seeds of a revolt against business as usual.”
While it attacks “Big ERP,” Infor is also looking to improve internally, with specific focus on interoperability, choice, and “customer intimacy,” according to company statements. The interoperability mandate is largely driven by Infor’s service oriented architecture (SOA) componentization strategy, and the $300 million R&D commitment that Infor made two years ago. “Those open standards allow you to use both Infor products and products from other companies, including our competitors. We’re not going to lock you in,” Schaper said.
Choice is highlighted by the Flex program launched in June, which gives customers options to move laterally to other ERP products at no cost, and provides caps on implementation costs. Infor says the Flex program has been working well, and is responsible for a 22 percent increase in maintenance revenue since the launch.
Customer intimacy refers to a new effort Infor is making to contact all of its customers. “Communicating with over 70,000 customers around the world is not the easiest thing to do with any consistency But we have made it a priority,” Schaper said. “If you haven’t spoken with a member of our customer direct team, I can tell you, you will in the very near future.”
Infor is also trying its hand at viral marketing with the www.downwithbigerp.com Web site, where interested parties can download stories describing how “big ERP” has “duped us for decades,” how Oracle “has customers over a barrel,” and how Oracle and SAP are aggravating customers “one continent at a time.”
There is also a nod to iSeries Nation, the viral marketing campaign that IBM launched to help customers promote the AS/400 in the early part of the decade. Infor has something called the “InforNation,” which is a way customers can send in and read success stories. And since InforNation lives in 2009, it exists on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Infor also encourages customers to take the “Declaration of Software Independence,” a 111-word overture against big ERP and for choice in the market. It can be accessed in PDF format here (but beware: even though it’s only one page, it’s a hefty 3.5 MB download). And, like any good revolution, there needs to be a manifesto. The Infor Manifesto is 85 words long.
But there is more to come, including a new ad campaign and other attention-getting exploits that are the apparent handiwork of Infor’s new chief marketing officer, Robert Humphrey, a former marketing exec at McAfee and i2 Technologies, whose hiring was announced yesterday.
“Our goal is to break the industry model, to excel by creating or acquiring the best software tools and solutions,” Schaper said. “In the coming months, watch out for Infor. You’re about to hear a lot more about us in places you would have never expected, places like the Wall Street Journal, the USA Today, major airports. You’re about to see these two guys [the Big ERP buffoons] everywhere. So stay tuned. We’re on a journey to change the way things are done in the software industry.”