Infor to Target BPCS Shops with ‘Flex’ Upgrade Program
March 9, 2010 Alex Woodie
Infor says its customers are beginning to take advantage of the “Flex” upgrade and migration program that it unveiled seven months ago. Since the start of the program, more than 220 customers have either upgraded their ERP applications to the latest release, or migrated to another ERP application, Infor says. About 60 System i customers–mostly ERP XA (MAPICS) shops–have availed themselves of the program, says a senior VP with the company, who says he’s set his sites on the vast BPCS installed base.
Infor launched its Flex upgrade and migration programs last June as a way to entice customers to get on current releases of ERP software. Under the two Flex programs, the $2 billion software company offered favorable terms to encourage customers to make a move. As long as a customer is currently on maintenance, it can upgrade from any version of its product–even one that was 10 or 15 years old–to the most current release of the product for a “nominal” transaction fee ranging from $100 to $1,000 per seat, in addition to any services that may be required. The company offered a similar deal for migrations, as long as they’re exchanging “like for like.”
The Flex program has reinvigorated the lines of communication between Infor and its customers, according to Dennis Michalis, corporate senior vice president of Infor. “At this stage, it’s still early days. These are multi-month discussions, and we’re just getting started,” Michalis tells IT Jungle. “But our customers are revealing themselves to us in new ways. The dimension and shape of the program is really interesting to watch as it unfold and matures.”
While every customer’s situation is different, Infor has taken steps to make the upgrades and migrations as “cookie cutter” and repeatable as possible, according to Michalis. Considering Infor has 70,000 customers across 25 supported products in dozens of industries and countries around the world, that is an incredibly daunting task. Even just within the System i space, Infor has 15,000 customers using dozens of products in a wide variety of industries. The sheer scope of Infor’s product lines, and the industries and sub-industries customers use them in, is enough to make one dizzy.
But with 220 upgrades and migrations in the bag, and hundreds more in the pipeline, it appears that Infor’s customers are biting at the prospect of a relatively cheap and pain-free upgrade. Michalis attributes that early success to trying to keep things simple.
“We spent a lot of time with our services teams and talking to partners–not to implement best [practices], but better practices–and to truly try to cookie-cutter, or template-ize it,” Michalis says. “I would say this: We’re 80 percent good right out of the chute. We’re able to get a good portion of customers upgraded, no matter which customer we talk to.”
In other words, the company claims it’s able to eliminate 80 percent of the customizations for the average customer upgrade. Considering that customized modifications usually present a major roadblock to upgrading an ERP package, this bodes well for the program.
This level of early success is due in large part to the use of outsourcing developing to overseas partners, according to Michalis. These developers work to duplicate in the new ERP system the custom modifications the customer previously relied on with their old ERP system. The new ERP systems are able to accommodate this level of flexibility, presumably, because they are service oriented architecture (SOA) enabled. (Only ERP applications that have been SOA enabled, or just “Enabled” in Infor-speak, are eligible to be the target application platform for upgrades or modifications, under the Flex program).
With the first successes under his belt and a sense of momentum building, Michalis is now looking to fine-tune the Flex program, and bring more System i customers into the fold.
“Our job now is more about that version and sub-industry specificity, where we can sharp-shoot some real commonality,” Michalis says. “The permutations, when you go into sub-industries, is a little daunting. So we’re trying to maintain some balance of keeping the program simple and straightforward and easy, but also make it highly applicable to customers when you actually sit down with them. The good news is, as subject matter and industry experts, we’re able to handle the discussion. It’s just how do we shrink wrap that. We’re getting there. I’m going to pick and choose my most important targets at the moment. I have BPCS in my cross-hairs big time.”
To date, only about five BPCS customers have upgraded to the latest release of the product (now called ERP LX), according to Michalis. The compares with more than 50 XA customers taking advantage of Flex upgrades or migrations, and about five for System 21 (the other leg of the Big 3 i/OS ERP products at Infor). “We have a huge lead with XA, we’re strong with System 21, and just getting started with the BPCS crowd,” Michalis says. “We’re going to do some things to punch it up.”
While Infor strives for the volume, cookie-cutter approach with Flex, the company is also willing to tailor its deals for customers, including BPCS shops, Michalis says.
If Infor can get anywhere close to eliminating 80 percent of custom modifications to BPCS implementations, that should be enough to bring BPCS shops to the discussion table, at the very least. “We have put so much into LX, with SOA enablement and so forth, that these customers are starting to lift their heads up from the work and pay serious attention to this,” Michalis says. “I can guarantee you, from what I see in growth in the pipeline of the BPCS customer base alone, you’re going to see a lot more there.”
Programs for other i/OS products, including Anael and Infinium, are being developed.
Flex is off to a good start, according to Infor. While the company doesn’t have many Flex references for the vocal System i minority, the company seems to be saying the right things, which bodes well for Infor and its goal of preventing competitors SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft from poaching disaffected customers.
“We have a huge portfolio to leverage, and we have a deep investment in the technology. SOA enablement is a big thing. They can’t leverage it unless they move themselves to it. In some cases, we’ve gone backwards compatible with SOA [with an ERP application]. But if a customer’s sitting on a 10-year-old release, that’s difficult for us to sustain across the kind of portfolio we have,” Michalis says. “We’re not going to make a lot of money on this. But getting them moving means we get to work with them for a lot longer. They get what we want. We get what we want.”