ERP System Gets an A+ in User Satisfaction
November 30, 2016 Alex Woodie
Infor generally received high marks from users of its A+ application, according to a recent report by the Frantz Group. However, the fact that many users of the IBM i-based distribution system are going five to 10 years between ERP upgrades means many are missing out on potentially valuable features, the report concludes.
There were no major revelations in last week’s release of the Frantz Report, titled “Customer Research Survey: Infor A+ and IBM iSeries,” which depicted a swath of North American IBM i shops in the light you would have expected. That is, Infor A+ customers are generally happy with their box and their software, and haven’t changed their systems much in the last decade.
According to the report, the majority of A+ customers are “highly satisfied” with Infor’s A+ software. On a 10-point scale, 57 percent of survey respondents gave A+ a 7 or higher in terms of overall satisfaction, while 70 percent gave A+ a 7 or higher when asked about functionality and scalability.
A+ is an RPG-based distribution suite that was originally called Application Plus when it was developed by daly.commerce and its predecessor, Daly & Wolcott. The Rhode Island company, which was founded in 1988, had about 1,200 customers on its OS/400-based Application Plus and its Windows- and Unix-based product, called commerce@work, when it was acquired in 2004 by Agilisys, as Infor was called then. Infor changed the name of the ERP system to Infor Distribution Enterprise i for a time, before switching it back to A+ at some point in the past five years.
As an ERP suite that only runs on IBM i, it’s difficult to separate the virtues and weaknesses of the program itself from the underlying platform that it runs on. As the survey shows, A+ customers are generally happy with the functionality, stability, and scalability of the mature, enterprise-grade software, which are sentiments they generally have about the IBM i platform, too.
“We love the stability of I Series [sic],” one anonymous A+ user told the Frantz Group. “It hasn’t been down in 15 years; it just keeps running! Infor solutions are a great partner for iSeries and they are very stable together.”
“What isn’t there to say about an i?” another anonymous A+ customer is quoted as saying. “It’s as close to a perfect machine as you can get! In 25 years of working with IBM i, I think I’ve had one stop on its own. Other than that, I’ve never seen an i go down.”
However, all that contentment has a tendency to breed complacency, which is another A+ user trait identified by the report. According to Frantz, more than four out of 10 Infor A+ users are using a software version older than 10 years. (Specifically, Frantz reported the percentage as 42.3, but without knowing how many people were surveyed, that level of precision is likely misleading.)
More than six out of 10 users are using a version of A+ that’s more than five years old, the survey found. By comparison, in the wider (read: non IBM i) IT world, organizations on average upgrade their ERP systems every one to two years, says Frantz, citing a 2015 Aberdeen report.
“Given the rapid pace of technology, manufacturers who are relying on 10-year–or even 5-year–old ERP technology are missing opportunities to enhance business processes and streamline operations,” the group concludes.
While A+ users are content to stay on old releases of their ERP software, they’re more apt to upgrade the underlying OS–but just by a little. Frantz said that 64 percent of A+ users are on IBM i version 7.1 or higher, while 36 percent are on IBM i version 6.1.1 or older. IBM i 7.1, you will remember, debuted in 2010.
Luckily for Infor, change may be in the air. Frantz Group reports that 52 percent of all A+ users are planning to upgrade their A+ ERP system in the coming year. Among the group of A+ users who have been on the same release for six or more years, Frantz says that exactly one-third are planning to upgrade. That’s good news for Infor, which makes much of its money by selling maintenance packages to loyal customers, but also by selling a range of “add-on” tools in the areas of mobile interfaces, integration, and analytics.
Mobile access will be the hot seller for Infor in the coming months, predicts Frantz, which says about three-quarters of A+ users are interested in Infor’s mobile offerings. Cloud ERP capabilities and analytics trailed mobile in the interest department. Security is also hot among the A+ crowd. About three-quarters of survey respondents say security is a medium to high priority for 2016. Social collaboration via Infor’s Ming.le offering will be the big loser, with about half of the survey respondents saying they had no interest.
Frantz says Infor has sold some type of software to nearly 20 percent of A+ customer base in the past six months. That’s a decent figure for Infor, which has been trying to connect with its IBM i customer base and energize them into embarking upon ERP modernization and migration projects for well over a decade, with varying degrees of success.