ERP

Capabilities in the backbone should include ERP: Soma Somasundaram

With the establishment of its new development centre (DC) in Hyderabad’s Hitech City, Infor recently announced the expansion of its operations in India. According to Soma Somasundaram, President & CTO at Infor, customers have learned that things can be done remotely if you’re running in the cloud. It creates more continuity and one doesn’t have to rely on a small set of resources, however big that IT organization is. The company has increased operations and manpower in Hyderabad over the years, he adds.

Excerpts from the interview:

Spokesperson Image Soma Somasundaram Infor
DQINDIA Online | DATAQUEST

DQ: What is the status of ERP today and how is it helping the enterprises with their digital transformation journey?

Soma Somasundaram: Even though we are in the ERP business, no company would want to replace their ERP if they don’t have to because it’s not an easy project. In their own industry, there’s a lot of consolidation happening, they sell a lot of personalization of products to their customers, so that requires the customers to be really nimble and continue to evolve new revenue streams. In order to do that, you need capabilities in the backbone which includes ERP. 

So in a sense, that is one of the reasons we built our architecture, the way we built on a common technology platform, which we built on top of AWS called Infor OS 10, operating systems and operating service, and have a lot of the things that you require for digital transformation. Like I need API gateway, I need a data lake with all the data. I need a lake house that has curated data that I can consume, I need AI capabilities that I can embed and automate my business process. So that is something that we did on it besides the industry, you know, capability that we feel that that gives that flexibility to the customer to really, you know, do that their own business transformation without being hampered.

DQ: What is Infor’s strategy for the enterprise software market? What’s your uniqueness in the market?

SS: The enterprise software market have players like SAP, Oracle, the Microsoft, they all are go to market with a single product that serves every single vertical on the planet, whether you’re an aircraft manufacturer, a soup processor, or a hospital, and a bank is the same piece of software, that’s not exactly what the customer wants because usually if you buy a generic product, you then need a lot of investment to really customize it to make it work for your company. 

Our idea is to focus on only few industries and really go deep, so we primarily serve discrete and process manufacturing and distribution, and healthcare. We serve some other markets, but these are the big ones. The solutions we build and deploy for healthcare is not the same we sell for process manufacturing and it’s not the same solution we sell to discrete manufacturing.

This is fundamentally why Infor exists. We have three different ERPs, not one. And then the second thing is that the generally the software vendors prefer owning the entire stack, the database, the hyperscale, the infrastructure and cloud services and the application and so on.

Our idea was, that is a very hard thing to do, because you have to excel in every lane of the technology.

We decided to only focus on the application side, and then leverage AWS as a hyperscale, we bet on AWS and we’re going to leverage their R&D for our advantage.

Amazon spent USD 40 billion in R&D so why not leverage that? That’s the second differentiation for us and the third, we own the industry’s applications and because we are leveraging AWS, we feel that we can actually deliver quicker and we should be able to use our own services. We can actually make that differentiation, and deliver value quickly, and continue to innovate in the cloud, and deliver more and more value over the relationship with the customer. 

If you’re a large company, and you’re looking at a corporate solution, you generally look at financials as the backbone of the business. Our view is that finance is important but operations is really what makes what that company is. We go more and more deeply into the operations and that is our differentiation.


DQ: What is your approach for a successful clientele?

SS: Success is when the customer actually gets the value even when they go live with the software, that’s still just the beginning of the journey, so for us keeping that relationship for years, that’s really the testament to success.

DQ: Can you tell us about your journey in Infor so far? 

SS: I’ve been with Infor from day one, and I’ve always been in the product side. I would say if I were to look back, the success stories that Infor initially grew through a lot of acquisitions, in the first eight years of the company’s existence, we bought a lot of different software for specific industries. The second phase, starting in 2011, to 2018, where we really put four plus billion dollars in R&D to build out these capabilities on top of AWS that was actually not an easy Effort. That was very complicated effort, where we had really pull AWS capabilities, our capabilities, open source, bring it all together, and be industry specific.

The fact that we managed to launch these industry clouds by 2018 was initial. Our strategy is working but then from that time to now in the last four years, we now have over 2000 customers in the cloud, running these multi-tenant solutions across the world, and we have those customers, as you know, saying good things about us. We still have a lot of work to do. I would say that journey personally is the highlight of my career that we were able to pull this off.

DQ: How has the pandemic impacted technology? 

SS: The pandemic has actually sped up our efforts because IT professionals own infrastructure and run the apps that have produced fragility concurrently with the pandemic. Customers have learned that things can be done remotely, if you’re running in the cloud, it creates more continuity and one doesn’t have to rely on a small set of resources however big that IT organization is. 

It’s easier to support in the cloud. Cloud transformation has actually accelerated for us from a pandemic standpoint. On the other side, the pandemic also created great resignation and a skills shortage. That is definitely affecting us, just like everybody else. So we’re working hard to retain the right talent and hire new talent, that challenge is an ongoing challenge for us. But business wise pandemic is really helped the energy crisis, not really directly affecting technology, as far as I can tell. 

DQ: What are your future plans for Infor?

SS: We feel that because our solution is so specific, the SMB market generally does not have the resources to really take on a massive project. So for us, that’s an advantage because we should be able to deliver these capabilities quicker for those customers in an integrated fashion. We feel that market really is still open, like in India in this region, somebody to take the lead, and we have ambition that we should be able to be a leader in this market for those verticals in the region. So that’s part of something we are looking forward to.

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