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Infor cloud exec explains approach to moving users off on-premises ERP

In a Q&A, Lisa Pope identifies which industries and product bases are migrating, and details the routes to the Infor cloud, including a recently consolidated service group.

The Infor cloud strategy, like that of most ERP vendors, has been two-pronged: Gain new customers by enticing them...

with easier-to-use, web- and mobile-friendly cloud ERP; and move users of the vendor's older, on-premises systems to the cloud, so it can serve them more profitability and avoid defections to competitors.

Lisa Pope, senior vice president for global CloudSuite strategy and sales, heads a team focused on helping the customer base migrate to the Infor cloud. She also supports 40 edge applications that run in the Infor cloud and handle specific processes, such as customer experience management and expense management.

Pope spoke with members of the U.S. and international press at the Inforum 2016 conference this month in New York.

Do you have any figures about what percentage of the installed base has expressed a serious interest in moving to the Infor cloud?  

Lisa Pope, senior vice president, InforLisa Pope

Lisa Pope: We've done surveys in some of the user groups. None of those are really official surveys, but what we are seeing is increased traction literally every few months, where more and more customers start to make that request and say, 'I'm interested.'

We anticipate that up to half -- 50% of the base -- will probably consider the cloud in the next year or so, and that's predominantly because many of them are at that upgrade decision. And when you start to think about upgrading, you start to think about spending money, which usually means spending money on hardware [and] resources. So, that's a natural time for them to say, 'Do I want to invest in more hardware and resources, or would I, at this point, go ahead and think about moving to the cloud instead?'

We are seeing increased traction across all of our bases. Our Lawson [ERP software] base has been probably the fastest moving to the cloud, and I think that's just based on a lot of the pressures that we saw in healthcare -- cost pressures, and the fact that many of them were ready to make that upgrade, so it made sense to consider the cloud.

Are any industry segments moving faster than others?

Pope: Healthcare was probably No. 1.  We are seeing tremendous increase in manufacturing. A lot of people thought that base traditionally would be a little bit more of a laggard ... but we've worked very extensively with our manufacturing customers on a sales process, if you will, that's very much focused on due diligence. We really make sure they're comfortable with security.

We look at things like their modifications. Many of them have made a lot of changes to the software, so we go through a modification analysis with them and show them how many can be retired in the future version. Those that can't be retired, we really work to try to get those in the core product as part of our industry focus.

By going through that process, if you can resolve the security concerns, you can show them the value in the fact that moving to the cloud is actually less expensive, and you can address the modification and functionality concern. Then, you start to see them all of a sudden saying, 'OK, this makes sense.'

We've definitely done well with our M3 base [and] LN base now making those decisions.

What are the risks and challenges of migrating to the cloud? What kinds of things do customers need to pay attention to?

We anticipate that up to half -- 50% of the base -- will probably consider the cloud in the next year or so.
Lisa Popesenior vice president, Infor

Pope: Like any kind of project, there's the change management. When you move to the cloud, you don't have your resources down the hall, so you lose your local IT staff and some of that. So, there's a user change.

For most of the customers, once they've moved applications to the cloud, the benefits that they get and the user acceptance -- it quickly erases some of those concerns. Most of the concerns, we find, are really unfounded. There's more a nervousness about it. And once they go [to the cloud], the users like it, they see the increased performance, and so then they're much more comfortable with that decision.

But in the beginning, there's typically a lot of hesitancy, which is why we structure our sales process with a lot of those due-diligence pieces so that customers feel confident that they're kind of checking all the boxes: the security piece, the network piece, how the modifications will be handled and then the cost side.

Does Infor have any other process for encouraging people to get off the old platforms? Some vendors will retire products or announce the end of support.

Pope: In some cases, we have said support will stop for this product in two years. They can continue to use the product, but some of the enhanced support that they would get on some of the older versions [will end]. That was on Lawson.

But we're careful about that. We want to give our customers the time to get there.

We've also introduced a program that was mentioned today on [the] main stage, called Lift and Shift. That program was designed for customers who are on very old product bases. We would basically take that existing environment and put that in the cloud, and then give them up to two years to actually do that upgrade and migration.

Is that first step like a private cloud?

Pope: Yes. Basically, we lift them up either into [Amazon Web Services (AWS)] -- or HCL is our partner for [IBM] System i -- so if they're a System i customer, then we also have the ability to lift that base up. So, that's [products] like Movex -- some of the M3, System21 user bases. That gives them what I call the luxury of a little bit more time to plan that upgrade and feel comfortable about going to that next evolution. In that case, we would be moving them to one of our industry cloud suites.

AWS has had its own security issues. How do you deal with that?

Pope: We have additional security on top of AWS, so an AWS issue doesn't necessarily translate to an Infor issue. We think that's very important.

The concept is: Infor is managing the systems. We're responsible. We take ownership for it. Our customers aren't dealing with Infor and AWS. They deal with us as kind of a single source and a single contact.

All of our service-level agreements are with Infor, and Infor then has agreements with AWS. To our customers, it's all through us, and we felt that's very important, because you don't want to get into a debate: Is it software, is it network, is it infrastructure?

When you're talking about cloud, does it naturally equate with software as a service (SaaS), or are there some other types?

Pope: The way our cloud business works, yes, it's all considered basically SaaS revenue. I think what you're asking, though, is the difference between, say, a single-tenant application and a multi-tenant application.

We have applications that are multi-tenant, and some of our customers really prefer to still run in a single-tenant environment, especially if they're heavily regulated or have compliance. Certain hospitals who are HIPAA-compliant may need to have it run as a single-tenant environment. If you're a medical device company and you have FDA regulations, you tend to be a single-tenant environment. Government organizations, and then some large manufacturing companies -- [24/7], global -- may decide that they are more comfortable running in a single-tenant environment.

We do both, and we really work with the customer to determine the best option for them. Obviously, the multi-tenant options tend to be less expensive.

Is there anything Infor could be doing better?

Pope: The one thing that we knew we needed to do better is really streamline the delivery of our cloud. We grew very quickly, and that's great, but at the same time, then you've got to get the rest of the organization to catch up.

We had had our support, our cloud operations and our implementation teams under separate leadership, separate organizations, all trying to go into a cloud customer.

Over the past few months, it became clear to us that we needed to make that change. So, [Senior Vice President] Darren Saumur now runs Infor Services, which does include our entire support organization, all of the cloud operations and all of our consulting teams. And that allows us to really have a cloud-first approach to delivery.

News editor Jim O'Donnell also contributed to this story.

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