January 26, 2022
With Infor Marketplace now live, I took some time to interview Story Monforte, the man behind Infor’s vision for the Marketplace. Infor Marketplace is an open enterprise software ecosystem that provides users with flexible solutions and services from Infor and our partner ecosystem. We talk about the when, the why, and the how.
Frank: Hi Story, thanks so much for joining me today—if you could please introduce yourself and give some of your background.
Story: Sure—I have been with Infor coming up on 10 years. I was first hired when we were taking ION to market and since then have focused on platform technologies, which segued perfectly into the conversation of a marketplace. Infor’s Platform offers a WYSIWYG environment to allow quick development of enterprise-wide workflows that work in conjunction with both Infor and non-Infor applications.
Frank: That’s great! One of the things to mention is that there have been attempts in the past. Why do you believe that a marketplace is required and what are some of the benefits you see coming from it at this point that we wouldn’t have realized previously?
Story: It’s interesting to see all the different shifts in enterprise software, but one of the most interesting to me, personally, is the fact that there’s a lot more emphasis being placed not only on the platform, but also on what people call the ecosystem. I think for a while, Infor as a company has typically been centered around ERP, the feature functionality of the core ERP itself, and our micro-vertical expertise, but I think there’s recognition that the ecosystem is starting to become as important as the software offering itself.
Frank: I want to dig into that topic a bit. Certainly the market is starting to recognize platform technology as a key offering with topics like Application Composition Platforms and Enterprise Application Platforms—with this shift, moving towards embracing it, is that something that the Marketplace will benefit from?
Story: They’re very symbiotic – of course you could still build a marketplace without that kind of underlying platform and extensibility, but the combination of all those pieces helps each other out and gives additional weight to the overall offering.
What starts to power the ecosystem and platform for us is integrations. Let’s think of integrations as a type of extensibility—connecting Application X to an Infor core solution extends that solution. We’ve been doing this low code, no code set of integrations for the last ten years and we have a whole suite of integration techniques that someone could take advantage of to connect to an Infor application, connected in a secure manner, connected in a way that allows each application to upgrade itself without breaking any others. So long gone are the days of these point-to-point integrations that break with each product release and having these loosely coupled web services-based integrations are the key as we move forward. Our partners can now integrate their applications with our platform technologies to any one of our Cloudsuites and do so in a way that is fast, secure, and highly efficient.
I like to think of it as the ecosystem flywheel. There is a certain amount of weight you can put on the flywheel, just with the core software itself. Then you add more weight because you have platform technology that makes it extensible. You add more weight because you have this low-code platform that makes it super easy for both partners and customers to build these micro-vertical applications. And then you add more weight to the flywheel because now you have a marketplace that easily showcases and makes it easier for our customers to consume these value-added applications.
As we continue to push this flywheel forward and put more weight on, it takes on a life of its own. It is rewarding to start seeing all of this come together where we have this incredibly robust platform technology software that extends our core ERP offerings. We have the App Builder initiative that over time will be the place to build everything from widgets to applications on top of our cloud suites. So now being able to showcase that through a marketplace is just an incredible set of services that all put together will be extremely powerful for Infor.
Frank: That’s amazing. When we talk about value added applications, what are the foreseeable short-term implications and some of the long-term implications that go along with this?
Story: I’ll talk to the customer viewpoint first and then touch on the partners. From our customers’ viewpoints, the short-term value is having exposure to the rich amount of partner solutions that are out there as well as internal assets available. Up until today, customers may find out about some of these solutions because a sales rep is familiar with a couple of these partners. There is a lot of tribal knowledge and they do not have a widened view of the different add-ons that are currently available. Furthermore, a robust amount of assets built internally by Infor are “hidden” in KB articles. Many customers do not know this free internal content exists!
By having a centralized modern showcase for all these solutions, our customers for the first time are going to be able to see the wide array of additional value-added components that can be implemented into their CloudSuites. Some of them will be addressed to fit micro-vertical gaps that Infor does not necessarily build inherently within the product; others may be very niche functions that meet their requirements but may apply to the broader base of Infor customers.
For our partners, it’s in the same vein—they invest their money to try to build these software components, but they struggle to educate all of the Infor direct sales reps and as new reps come in and out, they have to re-educate constantly. But now, the partner will have one place to be able to showcase the investment they’ve made into the core Infor solution offerings and then have it accessible and viewable by the entire Infor customer base.
Frank: I totally get it – there’s so much work that our partners and internal teams are doing and it’s never truly just a one-off. There will always be somebody in one industry or another that can utilize it, so being able to reach that broad audience is fantastic.
We talked about some of the short term—what about the long term? What do you see as the future?
Story: The long-term vision is to make this extremely easy for our customers. What do I mean by that? We want to get to a point where for many of these solutions that it becomes a seamless interaction....from the moment that you see something that will provide value to your company, to the moment in time that you get an email saying, “here’s your username and password for this particular add-on.” It is what I call the frictionless user journey of being able to discover, find, procure, and have access to these solutions. It is not going to happen overnight, but that is certainly our end goal from a vision perspective.
Frank: Thanks for putting that out there. I did want to ask a completely ridiculous question that’s not rooted in reality at all, so feel free to tell me off, but in an absolutely perfect world where everything is shipshape and done, and everything works perfectly with no bugs, what would that look like? Paint that picture for me.
Story: I’ll just walk through a random use case:
Bill is a brand-new Infor customer. He purchased CloudSuite distribution. It works amazingly well. But he found that the rebate process for his specific micro-vertical area is a little bit more complex than for all other wholesale distributors out there in the world.
There happens to be an Infor ISV that built an add-on product for rebates for wholesale distributors in this one key micro-vertical. In the perfect world, Bill would be able to discover that there is this add-on component for his Cloudsuite in the marketplace.
Bill notices that it's been reviewed by Sarah, one of his industry peers and so Bill calls up Sarah. "Hey, Sarah. I noticed you made a review on this add-on to CloudSuite distribution. How does it work for you?" She's like, "It's amazing. Just do it right. Just buy it. You're not going to regret it." So, Bill says, "Okay, let's move forward."
On that marketplace, there is a Buy Now button. It shows the pricing agreement, the support agreement, the integration, and any requirements that are needed. Hitting that Buy Now button, starts the process of letting Bill choose. "Do I want to purchase through my standard PO process within Infor? Yes, I do." The Marketplace kicks off a series of events. And 2 hours later, he has an email saying: "It's all been provisioned. It is set up. Here is the URL for that specific add-on and here are your logins."
Frank: That’s awesome – again, thanks for entertaining that question. I’ll be sure to hold you to that in the future! Before I let you go, I wanted to ask you one last thing: what’s the most exciting thing you see coming from all of this?
Story: The most exciting thing is, there's just a very clear focus from Infor on providing value to our customers, and in working with all the various internal Infor organizations, everything's becoming so aligned and it's just going to provide so much value to our customers as we are able to complete all of these pieces that are all being done at the same time.
I really have no other way to say it. It's just an exciting time to be at Infor, working on these projects that are focused on customer satisfaction—customer value. Seeing that come to realization has been the most exciting part of my journey here.
Frank: Thanks, Story, for your time. Really looking forward to seeing what happens next.