No. 3 with a bullet

A company whose name many IT managers might still not know is quietly gobbling up enough business software firms to seriously challenge SAP and Oracle, and a Canadian acquisition may add to its arsenal.

Infor Global Solutions was only founded about five years ago by a group of investors from Golden Gate Capital, but it has used that time to purchase close to 20 smaller companies. This includes the takeover last August of SSA Global for US$1.4 billion, and more recently Toronto’s Workbrain, a human capital management company, for about US$227 million. Infor now claims more than 70,000 customers, 8,100 employees and US$2.1 billion in annual revenues, putting it in third place in the overall business applications market. Its Canadian clients include Bell Canada, which uses Infor’s CRM.

Mike Frichol, Infor’s vice-president of global industry and product marketing, said the company was founded as Agilisys at a time when segments like ERP were already considered too mature.

“The large vendors had scale and global reach and were trying to take large-scale, heavy applications built for large companies and force-fit them lower down into the market,” he said. “The smaller vendors didn’t have the scale to reach the larger marketplace to offer a broader spectrum.”

Unlike SAP’s NetWeaver or Oracle’s Fusion, however, Infor has no plans to create middleware to integrate the diverse products under its portfolio. Instead, it is developing what Frichol called Open SOA, a services oriented architecture that will provide interoperability between Infor’s products and those of other vendors.

Middleware like NetWeaver forces customers to use SAP’s tools to build applications compliant with its architecture, Frichol said.

“Customers don’t want to hear there’s a migration strategy. They want to continue with their product line essentially unchanged,” Frichol said. “We are not attempting to smash the products together into a single solution set.”

A lot of Infor’s money comes from maintenance revenue, so it might make sense to leave the products alone, Gartner analyst Jim Holincheck said.

“It’s a different strategy. They’re not trying to follow in the path of SAP, certainly,” he said. “I think they view innovation coming to some extent through acquisition as opposed to something they would organically build over a period of time.”

Although Infor has a common group that is responsible for the SOA project, Frischol said its R&D is largely decentralized, with the development for individual product lines being done by the teams from the original acquired companies.

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