Jim Schaper – Keynote Address

Jim Schaper (CEO & Chairman of Infor) gave a very polished and impassioned speech at the start of inforum2007 in Las Vegas last week.

(I did have some video footage of the opening moments posted here but unfortunately Infor asked me to remove it for copyright reasons).

He started by reemphasising the theme of the conference “Be Enterprising” and went on to congratulate his colleagues and customers for the scale of the event we were attending (6, 000 delegates from 45 countries and 685 breakout sessions). Over 90% of the attendees had been acquired by Infor across the 31 acquisitions he has carried out as CEO. However it was not a speech of self congratulations and as an intro to his speech he acknowledged that customers only wanted to know one thing “Is Infor Committed To Me”?

Schaper articulated a clear Vision for Infor which I found credible and certainly left me with a much clearer understanding (and to be honest a more positive view) of the organisation than I started with. He used the familiar London Tube warning of “Mind the Gap” as a metaphor for Infor’s positioning and led into their proposition by explaining that most purchasers of Business Software today found themselves between a “Rock and a Hard Place” and this “Gap” was where Infor sat.

Schaper’s belief is that the choice of SAP/Oracle/Microsoft on the one hand (“difficult to implement, expensive and requiring extensive customisation”) and feature rich niche players on the other (“lacking size, scale and resources”) left customers in a no win situation. They could spend a fortune customising a high end solution or they could risk exposure and lack of scalability with a niche provider.

It will come as no surprise that Infor positions itself as providing the best of both, having the scale and resources to compete with the larger providers but running each of their product lines as independent business units with teams of developers and consultants who understood their markets and customers in the same way that the small niche players do. He announced that Infor would not be switching or consolidating customers onto one or more unified products sets and to gave a commitment that support and development would continue on the entire product range (which surprised me).

Schaper listed some impressive statistics to remind the doubters of their position as the 10th largest software company in the world:

Turnover of $2.3 Billion
9, 200 Employees
117 Offices
1, 100 Partners
24% of Sales via Licences
37% of Sales from Services
49% of Sales from recurring revenues
(Note: The maths error is his but I don’t know which one is wrong – I would guess Services)!

Schaper was very open about the stories being spun by competitors (Infor the aggregator, investment vehicle, cost slashing operation, IPO preparation etc) but he disputed each point and cited their 93% customer retention rate, 11, 000 sales of additional licences and 1, 700 new customers in the past 12 months.

When you analyse the numbers you can only be impressed at the scale of the business he has managed to build in such a short time. Their mantra “Infor is a 5 year old company with a 30 year old history” is certainly credible. The other key messages I took from his speech….

No forced migration
A Vertical & Global Organisation
Their message to customers revolved around the 3 E’s – Enrich, Extend and Evolve!
Their stated intention is to develop a single consistent user interface across all solutions.
Schaper concluded by saying that Infor were committed to keeping the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for their products amongst the lowest in the industry. He reinforced his earlier statements that they were building to last and for the long term and were not being built up for a float or trade sale.

His final sporting analogy stuck in my head…..

“There is no finish line”