Infor Expands Salesforce.com Work as 1st Joint Customer Goes Live
May 1, 2012 Alex Woodie
Infor and Salesforce.com are working on two new products that will deliver ordering- and marketing-related functionality as part of its joint Inforce line of offerings. And the CEO of the first Infor customer to go live on the generally available Inforce Everywhere product–the IBM i shop C.H. Briggs–shared her thoughts on the importance of integrating front- and back-office functions during last week’s Inforum 2012 conference.
C.H. Briggs is the largest independently owned distributor of interior and specialty building products in the U.S. The Reading, Pennsylvania-based company buys building products from 250 manufacturers around world, and sells them to residential and commercial builders.
For the last 20 years or so, back-office functions of the 170-person company have been handled by the IBM i-based A+ application. The application, which is currently known as Infor Distribution Enterprise i, is an RPG-based application that was obtained by Infor (then Agilisys) with its 2004 acquisition of Daly.Commerce.
About three years ago, the company adopted Salesforce.com to provide more information and automation to its front-office workers, who perform sales, marketing, and customer support functions. But as C.H. Briggs CEO Julia Stein explained during her presentation at last Tuesday’s Inforum 2012 general session in Denver, Colorado, there wasn’t much integration between the software automating front- and back-office functions.
So when Infor announced its Inforce integration program with Salesforce.com at last fall’s Dreamforce conference, Stein knew that was the right approach. “When we attended Dreamforce in the fall, we said ‘Absolutely this is it. This is the way to get this stuff. We want to get started.'”
C.H. Briggs got started quickly, and finished quickly, too; the entire implementation of the first Inforce application took about eight weeks, she said. The implementation involved Inforce Everywhere, which uses Infor’s ION middleware to make ERP-resident data available to Salesforce.com users. It’s currently the only Inforce product available.
Klein is expecting benefits in three main areas. “The first is speed,” she said, echoing Infor’s new theme. “What happens in front of customers automatically updates to everybody inside. And what happens inside, in the transaction system–orders, payments, returns–is automatically updated to everybody who’s in front of customers.”
Customer engagement should also improve. “ERP, A+–those are great systems of record. But they’re not systems of engagement. And that’s what we’re trying to build here,” she said. “We really believe we can differentiate C.H. Briggs with our customer intimacy strategy. We think the more we know, the more we share, the better relationships we build, the better off we’re going to be.”
The third area of excepted benefits is extending and leveraging the IT investments C.H. Briggs has already made. “We’re tying together Infor and Salesforce so we can leverage all of our investment we’ve made over the last 20 years, and make all of our systems work harder,” she said.
C.H. Briggs was expected to go live on Inforce last week. Asked by Infor president Stephan Scholl for any advice, she responded: “For whatever it’s worth, get started. Get moving. Unless you’re one of our competitors, in which case don’t.”
Klein also had these thoughts on the adoption of business technology. “I remember back in the day, everyone said A+ was overkill for a midmarket company, that index cards and DMAS would take care of our inventory just fine,” she said. “And then I remember 10 years ago [they said] that our manufacturing customers–cabinet makers, countertop manufacturers–would never use the Internet. That’s just silly. And I think the same is true today. Of course everybody is living socially. Of course we have to connect inside and outside, we have to connect the enterprise. So my advice is, the world is social, the world is mobile, information is moving faster and faster, and so we’ve got to move too.”
A sneak peak at the upcoming Inforce products was provided at Inforum 2012 by Mike Bristol, senior product manager for Infor, and Ron Huddleston, senior vice president of alliances and channels for Salesforce.com.
The next integrated Inforce application to be released is Inforce Marketing. This product, which is slated to ship toward the end of the year, will help companies manage their marketing and sales campaigns, including inbound and outbound marketing efforts and lead management. The offering, which is built on Salesforce.com’s Force platform, will also include reporting tools and analytics.
The third Inforce application will be Inforce Ordering. This offering, which is slated to become available during the first quarter of 2013, will handle certain aspects of ordering, including generating quotes and proposals, and setting prices. The proposal generator in Inforce Ordering will initially be based on the one already available from TDCI, Bristol said, but others may be available in the future.
Infor’s ERP systems continue to be the system of record, and do very well at tracking what the customers were quoted, what they ordered, what was shipped, what was invoiced, what they paid, and what was returned, Bristol said.
The goal with the Inforce products is to provide more visibility into these back-office functions for the front-office personnel that are interacting with customers–and to do so using social media capabilities, such as the Twitter-like feed that continuously displays all significant business activity in the ION Pulse component of the Inforce interfaces. This gives customer service reps a new view into business activity, and could empower them to address situations while dealing with a customer, such as out of stock situations or late payments.