Infor, The Teenager

I attended the Infor Innovation Summit in NYC last week.

It was a good event, headlined by Infor CEO’s Charles Phillips and most of his senior staff.  There were lots of presentations – but also oodles of conversations and questions with the ~60 analysts in attendance (from all walks of like, independent to large research house).  Anyone who has a say in the world of Enterprise Software was there (and, yes – the agenda was a cute attempt at civility, we were behind schedule just 10 minutes into it).

My attention was piqued in the last couple of years as I saw Infor progress from a collection of acquisitions to putting a credible story together.  I wanted to see what was the glue holding all this together, how it fared as built, and how it compares to the rest of the market.  I was not disappointed, Infor delivered all the information needed to make this assessment.

What? The title you say?

I thought you’d never ask…

I am in the middle of my oldest daughter’s awakening into a teenager.  Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment – as I hear, it passes in another 15-20 years.

I may be biased coming into this, but I am seeing similar behaviors and issues with Infor as I see in my daughter: all the elements that would make them a great vendor are there – just not all in the final form or matured enough.  Let me explain.

Infor has in my opinion the most advanced architecture for cloud I’ve seen among large #EnSw vendors.  It can support any “model” of cloud their customers throw at them – but this is mostly because they had the good fortune / foresight of re-architecting in the past few years from a non-existent platform that held it all together to a great three-tier, metadata-based (and this is the key, btw), public cloud that can also bastardize itself to be private or hybrid if their customers are not yet that advanced in the cloud world (something that will be solved in the next 2-3 years more or less).

Further, their ION EAI layer is one of the best answers I’ve seen from vendors to bring legacy solutions into the new world of cloud; it does the job well and the clients I chatted with like it and see it as a great interim step to move forward into the world of cloud.

They really thought about it, and the platform is well built and being adopted at a good pace by existing customers migrating from the old products into the new platform; we shall continue to see this if all my conversations are any indication.

They also distinguish themselves from other vendors by their UX (uber friend Paul Greenberg discussed this in detail in his post last year about this, read more there as I won’t be as detailed).

Using their Hook-and-Loop (I am a brand-killer, I am sure they don’t use the name that way, but works better for me – sorry) agency they have some of the most amazing UI I have seen for Enterprise Software in many years if not ever.  Mobile, desktop, tablet – all well covered and retaining the main attributes of the interfaces.  The ability to build and modify interfaces easily also supports the move to adopt mobile as the leading platform by most organizations.  All in all, definitely a key differentiator for them if not the best.

This to me is the equivalent of a teenager that takes care of their appearance (starts working out, stops eating junk food, buys more fashionable clothes, spends 2 hours every morning doing their hair – I mean, seriously? at 11? — sorry, I digress), begins to understand their likes and dislikes, their preferences, and puts a good amount of time into deciding what their looks are and how the world should see them.

And this is who I see Infor today: a teenager.  All the elements are there, they are lean, buff, and decided.  They have all the components that make up who they are – but are not yet ready to use them all together in critical situations.  They are learning (And having great successes in areas like Public Sector and Healthcare) what they have and how to use it, how to learn from the early mistakes and how to get better.

Infor, the teenager, has a great future as an adult if they continue on this path.  Will continue to watch them over the next few years to see where it goes.

I just hope they don’t spent 2 hours each day doing their hair…

disclaimer: Infor is not a client, but they paid my expenses for this trip, fed me (quite well actually), and took us on a private tour of the Modern Museum of Art in NYC – one of my faves.  Although they did not influence me by doing so, they came as close as anyone can – for future reference, sushi dinner would’ve come closer – but this was pretty good experience.  We were “housed” in the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was OK, but nowhere close to a fave… still food, and museums, rule over hotels in my book.

I’m Getting Engaged!

I know, I know.

I said I would never do it again.

They said it could never happen.

But, at the end of the day you knew it had to happen.  Right?

I mean, no matter how hard I fought it, how bad I wanted not to – I have to do it.

I have to enter the battle for the definition of “engagement”.

What did you think I was talking about? 

You see, that’s the problem.

If you know me, follow me on Twitter or somewhere else or heard me talking the past few years you know I am just wrapping up my second divorce – which makes me single – hello ladies 😉 – and therefore getting engaged to get married would not be outside of the question.

You might’ve been surprised to read about that in a business blog, but not the first time it’s been done.

But I am not talking about that engagement, just like you are not talking about that when you are talking about engagement with your clients.

How do I know?

Because you don’t know what engagement means. And I have the data to prove it.

I did a study last year, April through June, where I interviewed 45 CMOs from different countries and industries.  The goal was to find out what they thought about engagement, what they thought it meant, and how they had to react to it to make sure their organizations were prepared and addressed the issue.

What were the findings? Like I said above, there was not a lot of agreement as to what engagement meant, how it was defined and what they needed to do about it.

I wrote one of my traditional long, but awesome, reports about it (thanks to my friends at ThunderHead who sponsored it) and I am now ready to share the information with you.

Two ways to get this information:

1) If you are not patient – go here to download the report now (there is also a consumer report on engagement you will get, another great read to get a two-sided perspective)

2) Sign up for the webinar.  I am doing a webinar on 04/16 (April 16th for people who grew up in Argentina or live anywhere but in the USA).

The webinar will give you access to all the information on the report (see some tidbits below) and will give you a better explanation of the model of engagement we are proposing (see chart below).

engagement 3.0

 

Some of the most interesting findings from this report:

  • Engagement is not an action or a single exchange with a customer, it is a function that happens over time.  It is not the same, not related directly to, as Customer Experience, Customer Interaction, Customer Relationship or any of the terms we use today (but I said this before).
  • You cannot engage a customer in a single interaction anymore than meeting someone for the first date signifies you are engaged to get married (or I’d be in trouble after this past year… but ask me sometime about my wonderful experiences dating at the tender age of 46)
  • Engagement can only be measured as a function of value given and value received (value exchange) as it accumulates over time (which is the same as saying that there is no metric for engagement – another fuzzy metric… yay!)
  • Trust, and how to create and maintain it, is the biggest barrier to engagement.  Nearly three quarters of the interviews surfaced a lack of understanding of trust as a key issue for brands – and engagement cannot happen without trust!

There are many more fascinating tidbits about engagement, a formula that will let you understand engagement further, and a great discussion and synthesis of the conversations I had.

Go ahead, sign up for the webinar and come hear me (and my very cute argentinian accent) present the report (you will get a copy of both reports at the end: consumer and CMO interviews), or simply go and download the report now if you are impatient.

Either way, we are starting the conversation that matters for the next two decades: what is engagement?

I am getting engaged into this conversation — what did you think I was talking about?

Is It All About Mobile?

Mobile First.

Mobile Only.

Mobile seems to be in everybody’s minds these days, no? I mean, name one person in #EnSw that has not added mobile to their credentials in the past 12-18 months.

(BTW, I was one of the originators of m-CRM while I was at Gartner back in the early 2000s – we pioneered this stuff; needless to say, I know more about for far longer than most of these new “experts”… sorry, where was I?)

There are  many, many, many issues with the way we are approaching mobile – from pretending it is a new way to work in the cloud (calling it Salesforce 1 mobile development client – or something like that), to making it a new channel for communication, to thinking it is a complete different way to do things.

If we did not learn the lesson with the recent Social debacle (seriously, try to get funding for a new social X application or project at any VC or organization today) and the end result (it was, is, and will continue to be part of the infrastructure, and only the outcomes matter – in the case of Social is collaboration), let me try to address it now in a simple manner.

Mobile is an interface, nothing more.

Anything you do via mobile (interface) leverages the device it is riding on (usually a smartphone or table, even a laptop or a kiosk in some cases), bur the device is not the solution (it cannot be, there are many, many more models of iOS and Android and Windows and even RIM based devices that you can ever plan for).  If it was, your testing would be in each device to make sure (for example) that the camera works equally well.

You don’t test in each device, because you don’t need to.  You are not developing for the device (with some exceptions) but for the interface.  You make sure that the display fits the information, you make sure that the information flows you need are available in your infrastructure (including, sometimes, social channels) and that your cloud architecture will support it (if not today, in the near future – trust me on this).

If you do all that, you can master the art of mobile.  Of course, there is a lot more to come – but understanding it is an interface it is the first step.

I have been doing a lot of work with mobile over the years (I was a pioneer, remember?) and I have compiled the lessons learned in a few pieces.

I did a session with Salesforce.com at Dreamforce last year (video included – well, more like audio over slides – below).

I am chairing an event on mobile commerce in Las Vegas today and tomorrow (link, but not sure if there is availability as it is by invitation only).

I wrote a white paper on how to master mobile customer service (an extension of the work done with Salesforce last year) with Bright Pattern.

You can download the white paper (I think you need to register for it) here.  The statement above is one of the three steps you I highlight in that white paper that will make you succeed at mobile.

Check it out, would love your comments as always – anywhere you want to provide them.

When it comes to mobile though, we are not even cracking the coconut — there is a lot more to come!

disclaimer: Salesforce is a retainer client (and it was last year as well, when I was paid to produce the content and present it).  Bright Pattern is a sponsored research client, where they subscribe to different topics and help me defray the costs of research for those topics and in exchange get content to use for their purposes.  I have no clients that produce mobile OS (mentioned above) nor do I expect to have any.  The research presented in this white paper would’ve happen anyways — but it is nice to know that I have nice clients willing to help me pay for my vices: my worst vice is research.  thanks for reading the research that I produce under that model. It is not pay for play research as, as you would see when you read it, I don’t endorse a vendor or technology – I simply present my research for free to the world thanks to my sponsors.