Thursday, 15 January 2009

Infor's Green Solutions

I spent some time with Infor last Friday getting a briefing on their Green offerings. The company's pro-active approach puts to shame the more reluctant attitude I've come across from other software vendors. But then again Infor wouldn't have grow to be the third largest provider of business software from a standing start in six years if it hadn't been pretty forward-looking.

For those who don't know, Infor was founded in 2002, originally under the name of Agilisys, and has grown rapidly since then, primarily through acquisition. (You may recognise names such as Baan, Systems Union, Datastream, Infinium, SSA Global and Mapics). It now has $2.2bn in revenue (split roughly 40% US, 40% Europe and 20% rest of the world), over 70,000 customers and 125 offices in 34 countries.

The company serves a broad market, but there is a particular focus on manufacturing and distribution - half the customers are in these industry sectors. As regular readers will know, these are markets that have been at the forefront of Green initiatives, not least because emissions reductions go hand-in-hand with energy savings and reduced costs.

Around 18 months ago Infor started work on adding Green capabilities to its software. There was apparently no business plan that laid out the necessity or the return, but the company believed it would be an inevitable market development. (That doesn't sound radical now, but a lot of IT suppliers were - and in some cases still are - reluctant to make any significant concessions to Green IT until there was a cast iron business case).

Anyway, the company identified four areas of focus for solutions, with EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) and supply chain inevitably at the top of the list. The areas of opportunity the company identified and the solutions are shown in the Infor chart below.

The EAM Asset Sustainability Edition and SCM Network Design solutions are both new, developed over the last 18 months and released in 2008. The other offerings are existing products that are being improved to include sustainability features and benefits. The next big focus area will be in compliance, which has a broader appeal across industries.

Infor is certainly up with, if not ahead of, the market with its Green product development. The good part is that the new products command premium prices. The down side is that the focus for sales has moved away from traditional roles, such as plant managers, to environmental health officers and CFOs. But then that goes with the territory and something all suppliers will have to deal with.

My only concern is that Infor seems to be reluctant to talk about its own efforts in going Green (little or nothing on the web site). The company is simply supplying the tools which help customers minimise the environmental impact of existing operations, so it's not like they're providing environmental advice, as some IT services suppliers appear to be doing. Nevertheless, the solutions would have more weight if they were backed by a more visible Green commitment from the company itself.

© The Green IT Review

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