Charles Phillips named CEO of Infor

Former Oracle co-president Charles Phillips emerged as CEO of ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendor Infor on Monday, about six weeks after he was replaced at Oracle by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd.

Phillips’ last year at Oracle was marked by a number of public missteps, but he is widely viewed as a key driver behind Oracle’s successful string of acquisitions. This makes him a good fit for Infor, which itself has reached roughly US$2 billion in revenue and 70,000 customers by purchasing a slew of smaller vendors.

In a statement, Phillips said he was eager to lead Infor “through its next phase of growth.”

He will succeed Jim Schaper, who will remain chairman of Infor.

Phillips arrives at Infor as the vendor prepares to release a next-generation set of applications in January. It has also recently moved to align itself more closely with Microsoft technologies for collaboration, BI (business intelligence), identity management and RIA (rich Internet applications).

Infor’s move is “good from the standpoint they’re hiring a recognizable industry veteran that can help the company raise its profile in the market,” said Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman. Customers should be encouraged by the fact that Infor is making such investments in new, high-profile leadership, he added.

But while Phillips brings senior-level experience to Infor, the company has “a number of tired, aging products … many of which are not competitive in the marketplace,” Hamerman said.

However, Phillips arrives in time to get Infor’s sales operations revved up for the upcoming applications launch, said Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang.

Infor may also become “more aggressive about trying to appeal to mid-market Oracle users” with Phillips at the helm, said 451 Group analyst China Martens via e-mail.

Phillips’ experience with middleware products at Oracle may give Infor another type of boost, she said. “In a way, they’re preaching a kind of stack message, trying to give their apps a common UI, middleware, et al, to encourage existing customers to buy more software from them along with vertical apps. This is textbook Larry Oracle strategy, isn’t it?”

Meanwhile, Infor has also been expected to file an IPO (initial public offering) at some point.

Phillips “gives Infor some leadership credibility that might help them in their bid to go public, but it’s uncertain right now when that might be, because the company’s been struggling,” Hamerman said.

But with Phillips on board, the company could also be gearing up for a significant ERP acquisition, such as of Lawson Software or Epicor, Martens said.

If anything, Phillips gives Infor a deliberate and thoughtful leadership style that could come in handy as the vendor pursues its growth plans. “The one thing [Phillips] does is, he takes good notes, listens to understand what the problem is, and then goes back and delivers,” Wang said.

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