Attraction Marketing for Architects: The Basic Why’s and How’s

Questions before you start:

1. What is your business? This is more in-depth than a simple “I am in the Architectural business” answer. You need to define what area and focus your business has now… and where you see yourself going within the next 5 years or so. The reason for this is you need to focus on specifics, not just generalities. Everyone marketing a design business is in the design business. What do you do, or want to market, that makes you stand out from the others? I specialize in Energy Efficiency. How about you?

2. Do you have a website? This is critical to every business in today’s marketplace. If you don’t have a website, you might just as well be conducting your business out of the trunk of your car. If you are operating out of your car trunk, then a website makes you look like your business is much larger than it really is.

3. Do you have a Portfolio or Catalogue of your products or services? You need to show off what you can do, based on what you have already done. This builds your credibility as well as becomes a source for samples of what the client can also have done. No matter how many years you have been in business, if you don’t have one put together, you look no different than someone else just starting out. Be proud of your designs.

4. Can you make money from the clients that don’t buy your product or service? Strange as this may seem, this is a very important step in developing your credibility. Since your credibility takes time to develop, you need to find a way to pay for that process until you can use your credibility to sell yourself. This will be explained in greater detail in a future article.

Now, to get started:

Once your website is up and running, you will need to add a few things to it:

1. Sign up for Affiliate Programs. These are free links from other businesses that allow you to sell their products or services through your website and they pay you a commission per sale. You just put the coded (in your name) links provided from them on your site. The client clicks on these links and is taken to the affiliate’s site where they buy something, the same way they would have if they went there direct, but since they arrived there from your site… you get paid a commission. How great is that? You don’t deal with the client, the money, delivery, complaints or returns… you just cash the check. Remember when choosing which affiliate sites to promote to pick products and services that compliment yours… and not the competition. Also, remember to buy from yourself. You may say that as an Architect, you don’t see how this applies to you. My answer is for you to be as creative here as you are in design. Look into one of those easy design software packages. No I’m not saying your clients should use them to design, just to put down on paper what their thoughts are. I find this to be an easier way to communicate the client’s desires to me. Not every visitor to your site becomes a client, so provide them with a means to access the products they will need for construction.

2. Start and online photo Gallery. There are a number of free and pay sites that will host your portfolio. Start with the free ones and work your way up to the pay ones. The free ones are just that… free. They have a number of great features, but the pay sites have many more. By starting your own portfolio site you can link to it from many different sources including your own website as well as blogs… and even other sites that you don’t own, but give permission to link to your portfolio. The more links you have going to your site, any site, increases relevance in the eyes of the search engines and increases your SEO (search engine optimization). Plus, you only need to change pictures in one place, and it automatically changes them on all linking sites. I know a few designers that sell some basic plans that they can make changes to. Think of it this way, if someone buys a plan from you in digital format, but wants to make some changes, who do you think they will go to for these changes?

Education is the Key:

Education is the key to success in anything, especially in business… and by extension marketing. Too many prefessionals leave the marketing to referrals. Architects whould get most of their work from them, but they have to have a starting point. Funny, but what I am describing here is actually a form of building a referral base. Using Attraction Marketing as your focus means you will be using an entirely new set of tools and rules to market your business online. The importance of developing a systematic, cohesive strategy to place yourself in the front of everyone you want to as an “expert” in the field you’re business is in cannot be minimized. If you want to be known as the “go to person”, you need to prove you are worth going to… thus the “expert” tag needs to be believed by the client viewing what you are presenting to them. Make it count, and make it organized… cohesive. A sloppy, disjointed approach can do you more harm than good. Think of that presentation to your client. How organized and cohesive is that? Just apply that same end result here.

Like I said initially, it all comes down to education, and the first steps to that end is to learn what it is all about and how to use it. There are a number of “social” sites that you will use for different reasons, but they all must link together to complement each other and thus feed off each other so they can all act to capture clients interest, develop that interest, and then lead that client to you as the expert that provides what the client is looking for. You need to learn the “why’s and how’s”, and the best sites for this provide the education for everything that I speak of in this article and much more. Plus, they provide the means to implement that education as well as a way to make money while you’re learning. Can’t beat that.

One of the best places to use the Social sites is in the discussion groups. Answer questions about design, architecture in general, different aspects of design or presentation, and more.

Here are some of those Social Media sites you will be using:

1. Facebook and MySpace. Establish your design “business” presence, not your “personal” presence on these sites. These sites will allow you to place what amounts to your business resume’ on the internet for all to see… with pictures, links and all… for free.

2. LinkedIn, PartnerUp and MeetUp. These are just a few of the many good business networking sites on the web… and they are free to join. You can put up your “profile” in detail and participate in group discussions on topics that are relevant to your business. This is crucial to developing your credibility on the internet… and all it takes is a few minutes of your time each day. Your name is visible, your answers are visible, and your “expertise” grows with each posting. The key here is you are NOT marketing yourself. Don’t advertise here, just answer the questions with valuable information, and sign your name… with a link to your blog, email and/or website. That signature is how they will contact you to get more information from the “expert”, and that is a very subtle way to advertise… without really doing so. That is very important.

3. Blogging. Here you have a great opportunity to keep new information updates coming on a regular basis… or as needed. This is a great tool to use in conjunction with your discussion group participation. When you are ready to answer a question on a group post you can refer to one of your blog posts as a source for added info. Don’t have a post for that info yet? Write it, then answer the group questions and refer to the blog post you just wrote. Can’t be more current and effective than that, can you. Link to your blog from everywhere you can, and make sure that link is in any group postings and in your email signature.

4. Group Discussion. This is an extension from the networking sites above. Start your own group and group discussion either on other group sites or start your own group on one or more of the group networking sites. Want to get a point across or a new product/service presented? Start a discussion that you know will lead naturally to you “needing” to present that new product or service in that discussion. Make it natural and it works much more effectively than just saying, “Here is what I’m selling, what do you want to know about it and how many do you want?”… not going to work. You make yourself an “expert” by presenting answers to questions, providing a service of knowledge if you will, and the sales will follow since buyers will buy from people they trust and are knowledgeable rather than someone that is just selling to them.

Here are some more advanced Social Media sites you will be using:

1. Writing Articles. This is a more advanced form of writing a blog and a great way to express your knowledge and spread that around the internet. There are many directories on the internet that post articles that are free from owners of website to download and add (as is, with NO CHANGES… including links) to their website as content. You get published and your words and knowledge, and linking power for SEO, gets spread all over the internet. Make sure you have links to your affiliate programs where allowed, on your websites and blogs embedded in the articles. Not everyone is a writer, or has the time to keep their websites updated and current, so they rely on this method of adding content to their sites. How cool for you. Write about different design options, using specific materials, styles, anything that makes you stand out in the field of Architecture.

2. Write your own eBooks. This can be all new material or just a series of articles put together in book form and made available for free or at a cost to those wanting more info. It also increases your exposure and thus increases your expertise… and your income if you are selling it. Provide the first 2 chapters for free, then have a link on the last page of the last chapter that allows them to buy the rest of that book… and maybe other books or memberships ore whatever you can add to make a sale more appealing. If everything is downloaded by the client instead of printed and mailed by you, the cost is non-existent… and the profits are all yours. You can take this to the next level and turn this into a Private Label Program, which is a combination of the Article Directory concept applied to eBooks, but that is a discussion for another day. Suffice to say, this program has you allowing others to sell your eBook in their name, without changing anything, and they keep all the profits, but you get all the free advertising through the many times this is distributed. Publish using the eReader formats and all of this can be done for you for free. I wrote an eBook, published, on Energy Efficient Design a while back. It works wonders for your cred.

3. Video Marketing. The only thing more powerful than the written word, is the video. People love to watch to get their information. Especially when you in provide it in the form of a Power Point presentation, a speaker presentation, a “white board” presentation, or any combination of them. Very, very powerful. Approach it just like you would a blog, but it’s a video instead of just words on paper or screen. In other words, a video blog. Did I mention this was very powerful?

Take it to a level above and use Internet Television like I do. For 10 years, I used to be the featured speaker at a national seminar on energy efficient home design and construction. I’ve taken that presentation, and put it on Internet T.V. Education is a big reason for people to use the internet, and education in Architecture, whether you are providing a source for students of Architecture, or potential clients, this is a great way to get yourself into the “limelight”.

4. Online Catalogue/Portfolio. This is who you are and what you can do. Put your designs, even your non-built designs, here. There are many different sites to post your portfolio, and many different forms it can take. The photos can be in a simple slide show format, or a very elaborate series of photos with detailed descriptions and even client comments. You can even take the viewer through the design process, from the conceptual stage (tissue paper) through the many changes (explaining the thought processes for making the changes), to the final design. Take your viewers through the budget process as well. I find this to be a great tool to keep my clients “in the ballpark”. You can organize them in one slide show, or in many different “folders” linked to each other… and linked to either in its individual sections or as a whole.

Action Plan and Following through:

Once you learn what all these sites are about, you need to put them into action… and if you follow the rules laid out in the education, the leads… and the clients, will come. The better you get at implementing the education in the form of a cohesive system, the bigger the quantity of leads you will see… and the quality will improve as well.

1. Start with the Social Media Sites… the Facebook and MySpace sites to “register” yourself and your business on the internet. Make sure you set these profiles based on your business and not your family… do that with another profile.

2. Start your blogs. Notice that is plural, as in more than one. Don’t try to cram everything into one blog. Why? It is better to separate them based on content, and then link them together as needed. I have separate blogs for design, presentation, and plan conversion.

3. Add Groups to these sites. Join the groups that are part of these sites first, then join the specific group sites and network, network, network. Answer and ask questions. Start your own group and post your own topics taking the group in the direction you want to market. This allows you to control the direction of the group which in turn allows you to “soft sell” your product or service in a subtle way… but very effective. Don’t forget to link to your blogs at every opportunity.

4. Put together your Portfolio. Link to your portfolio at every opportunity. Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, imagine what a slide show of pictures, with descriptions, is worth? Set up a PowerPoint presentation showing the construction in action from digging the hole to moving in. It’s actually easier than you think.

and, the Follow Through… What you do with these leads…

5. Email programs. Auto responders and aggressive email are parts of a critical ingredient to any marketing campaign. Why? You can’t possibly follow through on all the leads you get, especially when you come across the one lead that won’t stop asking questions… or talking about how much they know, but in no way intend to buy anything. Auto responders allow you to filter your leads before you make physical contact, or phone contact, with them.

6. Cards and other mailers. This may sound like “old school”, and it is, but people still like to “touch and feel” sometimes before they buy. Cards, like thank-you and giveaways, and post card flyers and other “reach out” methods can keep the client feeling important, and get your message out. Make sure all of your printed material has links to your blog, website, portfolio’s and email addresses as well as the usual telephone number. Always give them a way to see more marketing of yours. How about giving your clients a calender using pictures of their house. Put your name and contact info on the calender, and you have a year round marketing piece.

7. Paid marketing like SEO programs, professional attraction marketing programs, Pay Per Click programs and List Building programs can cost money and should be reserved for use when you think you are ready to move into, and are able to handle, the budget for these… but they work, and should be a very important part of your marketing programs.

Updating your Material:

You can’t just post and leave it. You have to keep everything up to date with new posts… especially on your blogs. If you want to keep people coming back, and the more times you can present yourself to them the odds of a sale go up, you have to give them a reason. Provide a membership option that has built in incentives to come back and join. Things like free items, eBooks, discounts on other sites and programs (you can negotiate this with other sites since this is advertising for them as well).

If they keep coming back, they will eventually buy, but you have to attract them to your sites the first time… then keep them there. Present yourself as a very knowledgeable source… an expert, and they will… especially if the start of that information is free.

Water Quality and Carbonated Soft Drinks – Establishing a Healthy Life Style in Our Schools

o The Problem

Perhaps the greatest challenge to a healthy lifestyle in the United States today is the inclusion of carbonated soft drinks in the individual diet. This is particularly true in the diets of teenagers and younger children. Sales of carbonated soft drinks in elementary, middle and high schools are of particular concern to parents and consumer action groups.

Fueled by aggressive and effective marketing in schools and the population in general, carbonated soft drinks became a multi billion dollar business. In supermarkets, newspapers, television and radio and in printed media, soft drink companies spend aggressively to promote their message of supposed good health and refreshment.

Evidence is starting to emerge however that soft drinks are not good for the health of the individual and changes are required to ensure and establish a healthy life style for the soft drink consumer.

o Characteristics of Carbonated Soft Drinks

Carbonated soft drinks are widely consumed and present a unique problem, Although they are water based, much of their taste and appeal comes from the addition of significant amounts of sugar, sugar substitutes and other chemicals that are harmful to health. A good portion of their appeal however, comes from the promotion of the products in a way that appeals to younger customers.

Beverages containing significant of sugars stimulate the pancreas, boosting insulin levels and taking the body out of its natural fat burning state. Colas, in particular, contain caffeine, sugar, sodium and acid that are extremely destructive to human tissue…

o Effect on Youth

High levels of carbonated soft drinks have been traced to the increase in Childhood Obesity. Obesity is a major health problem for both adults and children. A surge of obesity among children is resulting in an increase in the rate of diabetes and other types of systemic health problems.

In the last two decades, the incidence of obesity among adults and children has risen nearly 50 percent. As defined by federal standards, approximately 30 percent of adults and 25 percent of children are considered obese today.

The sale of carbonated soft drink products is a major business by large corporations and advertising is a major component in the marketing mix. The messages communicated in an effective marketing campaign are powerful and subtle for all listeners particularly children and teenager who have not yet developed a frame of reference that allows understanding.

In a recent article by Susan Linn and Diane E. Levin that studied the impact of advertising on children, the authors concluded

“Children are especially vulnerable to the impact of advertising. A recent study out of Stanford University found that one 30-second commercial can influence the brand choices of children as young as 2. Repeated exposures to ads are even more effective. Very young children don’t distinguish between a commercial and television programming. And children under 8 aren’t able to understand that ads are created to convince people to buy products”. (Stop Marketing ‘Yummy Food’ to Children http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0620/p09s01-coop.html)

In the past decade, techniques for marketing unhealthy food to children have become increasingly sophisticated, subtle and effective. Marketing junk food in schools is a growth industry that includes direct advertising, sponsorship of sports teams and involvement with fundraisers that add revenue to schools for activities. The media is increasing dominated by advertising dollars from the food industry. Some estimates of total food promotional budgets exceed $30 Billion and growing.

Childhood obesity in the United States has grown considerably in recent years. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year and the annual cost to society for obesity of all forms is exceeds $90 Billion.

There are indirect effects of obesity as well. In a recent study, Dr. Ramin Alemzadeh, MD, explains that
“diabetes is not the only issue related to childhood obesity. Obese children may have greater difficulty with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, orthopedic problems, sleeping habits, as well as self-esteem and peer relationships.”

Dr. Alemzadeh cites studies indicating that adults who were obese children also face significant health and social difficulties in later life.

o Soft Drinks in the School

Parents are often told that it is their job to promote healthy nutrition, even as corporations undermine their efforts by spending billions of dollars marketing junk food to children. This results in a barrage of food industry ads that promote unhealthy fares, from the cereal boxes and TV ads at home to the soda and snack vending machines at school. Some 10,000 food industry ads a year for unhealthy foods are aimed to children, from 3 year-old to teenage years. Ninety-five percent of these ads promote fast food, candy, sugared cereals and soft drinks.

From the school board to the statehouse, efforts to ban sugary foods and combat childhood obesity are being debated around the nation however. This increased level of awareness is beginning to take effect but continued effort is required.

Solving the problem requires efforts at all levels. Consumer protection groups are pressuring the U.S. Congress and Administration and efforts are well underway at the state level to curb aggressive advertising. In response, suppliers have increased their promotion efforts and many schools, under continued budget pressure, often supplement their incomes with proceeds from soda and candy fund raising and booster club sales. In spite of the massive promotion budgets of food manufacturers however, a focused effort by consumer groups and parents is well underway.

o What Can Parents Do?

It is easy to blame large corporations who manufacture soft drinks and other fast food products but the solution to the problem ultimately rests with parents and the family. School programs are subject to public scrutiny and input from concerned parents can be particularly effective.

The American Dietetic Association and the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, offers suggestions on how you can improve your child’s nutrition at school and at home:

o Get familiar with the menu. Keep a current school lunch menu and discuss it with your child. Talk about making healthy choices. Many schools offer choices that meet guidelines for good nutrition if students make the right choices.

o Ask questions. Find out who decides what is for lunch. Who determines school policies on vending machines and snacks in the cafeteria and student store.

o Get involved. Join or start a parent advisory council for the school food service program. Learn how parents and students can participate in the decision making process.

o Support the nutrition education efforts at school. If your school has an edible garden, volunteer to help. If none exists, create one. Sustainable Table has information about how to start one.

o Encourage your child to pack his own lunch. Help him pick healthy choices that are fun to eat, such as string cheese, fruit, carrot sticks and pudding cups. If he packs it, he will be more likely to eat it.

o Make your child a savvy media consumer. Kids are bombarded with TV advertisements for sugary cereal and treats. Point out the techniques advertisers use to make their products attractive.

o Teach your child about nutritional labels. It will help her reading skills and make her a smart consumer if you make a game out of finding out how many names there are for “sugar” in a label.

o Advocate for the laws you want. Write to your representatives at the state and federal level. Express your concerns about school lunches, the placement of vending machines at your child’s school or requirements for physical education programs.

Source: (It Takes More Than An Apple a Day to Keep Your Child Healthy http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/az/253)

There is progress. In a recent report commissioned by the American Beverage Association, consumption of Carbonated Soft Drinks (CSD) decreased in High Schools from 57.2% of the product mix in 2002 to 44.9% in 2005. Similarly, the consumption of water as a percentage of the product mix increased from 9.1% to 12.7% in the same period. Similar results were reported for Middle and Elementary Schools.

Continued effort and vigilance is required.

o School Budgets and Fund Raising

An important element to consider in the fight against junk food obesity is the role of junk food products in fundraising for schools. As a result of across the board budget pressure at all government levels, school boards have reduced many activities or look toward other non tax sources of funding., Fund raising events for direct activities or through booster clubs became an important source of funding for sporting and other activities.

An important source of revenue at fund raising events was the resale of soft drinks to spectators and the profit was considerable. A program that replaces carbonated soft drinks in the schools for health reasons also requires products that generate an equivalent source of revenue.

o The Pure Water Element

Bottled drinking water is an ideal substitute for carbonated soft drinks if the quality is high and the taste is appealing. Our bodies are estimated to be about 60 to 70% water. Blood is mostly water, and our muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. We need to drink water because water is needed to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to all our organs. Water also transports oxygen to our cells, removes waste, and protects our joints and organs.

Water that is pure and free of minerals and bacteria is the ideal source for the hydration of our bodies and a significant contributor to a healthy lifestyle. If you consume coffee or alcohol, you should drink at least an equal amount of water. When you are traveling on an airplane, it is good to drink 8 ounces of water for every hour you are on board the plane. If you live in an arid climate, you should add another 2 servings per day. As you can see, your daily need for water can be significant.

The best source of water is plain, pure drinking water. Purified drinking water based upon filtration, distillation and ozonation techniques is readily available in the market today. This process guarantees a high quality product combined with a light refreshing taste.

o Water and Fundraising – The Private Label Program

Bottled drinking water is an ideal replacement for Soda in the fundraising process. Because of the increased demand for pure drinking water, bottled water is as saleable as soft drink sodas and many times more profitable for the fundraisers. This is because many bottled water suppliers can easily supply water that has a private label for the school and the occasion. The private label advertising feature allows the fundraiser the ability to charge a premium for the product and increase the profit on the transaction.

Soft drink or soda suppliers do not offer private labeling for their products because the strategy of these suppliers is to increase the recognition of their own brand.

Waking Up to a “New Day” at Infor

Infor, the third-largest provider of business application software with 70,000 customers and annual revenues estimated at nearly $2 billion (USD), is reinventing itself under the direction of new chief executive officer (CEO) Charles Phillips, who joined the company from Oracle in October 2010. Observers agree that Phillips has his work cut out to build a strong challenger to giants SAP and Oracle, given Infor’s checkered past. But observers also agree that if anyone can transform Infor, it’s Phillips, whose track record at Oracle was stellar.

A Look at the Beginning
Founded in 2002, Infor has developed a reputation over the years as the “place where ERP systems go to retire,” as a result of dozens of hit-and-miss acquisitions. Despite its reputation, Infor actually started out as a neatly run company. Infor was frugal, paying less than two times revenue for acquisitions. It also added significant maintenance revenue streams and aggressively controlled its costs. As a result, the company enjoyed a strong cash flow and ability to pay down whatever debt it had.

However, Infor’s disciplined approach began to go off track with the acquisitions of MAPICS (2005), GEAC (2006), SSA Global (2006), andWorkbrain (2007), which generally came with higher price tags but also brought a host of product quality issues, questionable management practices, and cultural challenges.

For example, SSA Global may have doubled Infor’s size but it caused major heartburn and indigestion. The overall fit of the two companies was hampered by SSA’s legacy management issues and certain practices that alienated customers, including those on IBM System i. In addition, the performance-draining practices that ensued among Infor and SSA exacerbated the situation. For instance, product teams got into turf wars, and the overall company goal seemed to be to subordinate growth and innovation, stop enhancing many products, and squeeze maintenance revenues from the increasingly agitated customer base.

Continued Transition and Confusion
In the late 2000s, customers were not pleased to be “nickeled and dimed” for hardly any new differentiating functionality from Infor, and neither were partners, who may have received much better treatment from the previously independent companies.

Next, the pressures of the 2008 recession led to numerous restructurings at Infor, with both quiet and not-so-quiet management departures. When cost containment and headcount cuts followed, product development inevitably suffered, and many industry observers doubted that the company could ever recover, especially without a focus on product innovation.

Infor’s management attempted to achieve a breakthrough with a distinct value proposition, but it was without lasting effects. Even a marketing campaign touting how Infor was not like the “Big ERP” guys fell flat.

Meanwhile, product direction meandered. At first, Infor’s ambitious Open SOA platform strategy was to do everything itself based on open standards, but that strategy was soon abandoned because it consumed too much time and financial resources. Then in 2009-10, Infor modified its platform strategy and declared Microsoft technologies as the preferred (which has since changed again). Of course, each failed attempt or abandoned initiative led to another wave of departures and more muddling through.

The Arrival of Charles Phillips
In late 2010, Infor CEO Jim Schaper found a successor who seemed fit for Infor’s next phase. Indeed, former Oracle president Charles Phillips had orchestrated and overseen Oracle’s growth from about $10 billion in the mid-2000s to more than $35 billion today. Phillips was at the center of blockbuster acquisitions, such as PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems, Sun Microsystems,BEA Systems, and Retek. He was also at the center of the Oracle Fusion Applications (OFA) convergence strategy and has probably seen what works and what doesn’t in that major (and still ongoing) feat at the software giant.

With him, Phillips brought along other Oracle seasoned executives, most notably Duncan Angove, current president of Infor. At Oracle, Angove set up and ran full profit-and-loss operations for Oracle Retail, Oracle’s first industry global business unit. Oracle Retail became the largest and number one provider of software to the retail industry (read more).

In addition, Pam Murphy, now corporate senior vice president (VP) of operations, has an extensive background in field sales and consulting operations. During her 11-year tenure at Oracle, she was responsible for a variety of operational and financial functions. Murphy has deep operational experience in global organizations and has worked in Europe and America in a variety of roles. Prior to Oracle, Murphy worked at Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen.

Stephan Scholl, now executive VP of global field operations, runs Infor sales, consulting, alliances, and channels globally. Scholl was general manager of the Utilities Global Business Unit at Oracle where he was responsible for sales, development, and marketing for the vertical. He was instrumental in generating significant growth for Oracle and a leader of the company’s successful Green Strategy. Prior to that, Stephan ran Oracle’s North American consulting group, the company’s largest organization. Before Oracle, Scholl was in consulting and sales management roles at PeopleSoft.

In the spirit of innovation, Infor announced in November 2011 a relocation of its headquarters to New York City, now planned to open in the autumn of 2012. The new office will feature an Innovation Center where software engineers and graphic designers will focus on building out Infor10’s intuitive graphical user interface (GUI), and lead the integration of social applications into the enterprise.

This move reflects a big shift in development strategy and even political power within Infor, which can only be a good thing. By tapping into the New York City creative mindset and potentially the financial community, Phillips can use the new Innovation Center to help drive Infor10 to become a leading-edge solution.

Infor’s newly espoused strategy outlines a product-driven company with services for a complete application, containing localization, analytics, integration, industry-specific content, social media, and mobility. To back up that strategy, the company is making significant investments in product development, with more than 500 software engineers added in 2011 and announced plans to hire an additional 75 developers in its New York Innovation Center.

In 2011, Infor reportedly shipped 69 new products (e.g., Infor10 Sales and Operations Planning), 1,904 new features, and 2,001 customer enhancement requests-an increase of more than 70 percent from the previous year. Infor10 Financials Business (SunSystems), the company’s global financial management system (FMS) saw a major new release in 2011, and was reviewed in Business Intelligence software solutions.

Blueprint for the Future: Infor10
Over the course of its history, Infor has acquired more than 40 companies, with more or less strategic importance. The company’s latest strategy includes a common UI, analytics, reporting, workflow, event management, master data management(MDM), localizations, mobility, and packaged integration for all of its applications. Rather than having each product line development team work on these functions, a dedicated central team attending to all Infor applications works on each of these functions. The objective is to enable software from multiple acquisitions to function like one big application as much as possible.

To that end, in the fall of 2011, Infor unveiled Infor10, its next-generation enterprise software, which offers an enhanced user experience and industry-specific functionality. As indicated earlier, on the front end, Infor10 Workspace, which incorporates Microsoft SharePoint, provides customers with a single sign-on, common navigation, and common look and feel across multiple applications. Infor10 Workspace is designed to deliver a consumer-like user experience and change the way the average enterprise user has traditionally done his or her work. The UI unifies and presents all relevant information for each user on one screen, including role-based workflows, task and alerts, in-context business intelligence (BI), event management, social media collaboration, consumer-like search capabilities, and business activity streams.

ION: The Infor10 Workhorse
The Infor10 ION Suite is at the heart of Infor10. As a lightweight middleware technology, ION connects and integrates Infor and non-Infor applications, storing information in a common format and repository called Business Vault. ION allows information that flows among applications, analytics, and social media streams to be accessed by users from their desktops, laptops, or mobile devices.

ION software provides middleware (and open-source enterprise service bus [ESB]) for cross-application integration, workflow automation, machine-to-machine business process management (BPM), and shared data reporting. The tool thus enables new and existing Infor and non-Infor applications to work as a holistic solution, helping to create streamlined workflows and end-to-end business processes, while considering system performance speed and upgrades. It uses standard XML business document for data transfer.

ION Suite is a new generation of business middleware that is lighter weight, less technically demanding to implement, and built on open standards. It is designed to meet the needs of the business, and the needs of the chief information officer (CIO) in containing information technology (IT) costs. But there’s more to ION Suite than just easy-to-use connectivity. With ION Suite, businesses get common reporting and analysis, workflow, and business monitoring with one, consistent architecture. In addition, ION Suite uses event-driven architecture (EDA), so it proactively pushes data, work activities, and exception notifications to users. Users don’t need to go to the system to get the information they need-ION Suite makes sure the information comes straight to them.

What it Does
ION Suite includes the following four services that are easy to install and configure:

1. ION Connect-Allows applications to operate together easily, enabling the seamless execution of business processes, and allowing for quickly bringing new partners and customers onboard, as well as reusing business functionality to realize a quick return on investment (ROI).
o Easy setup. Infor applications operate with a standard business language so ION Suite setup is easy. Businesses don’t need to do any translation or mapping-two of the biggest integration challenges.
o Easy operations. For those companies running a portion of their business in the cloud, ION Suite can exchange data working in a hybrid model. Companies don’t need a second, separate integration stack to maintain this hybrid environment.
o Easy connections. ION Suite includes a library of “connectors” to integrate to third-party applications, so businesses can quickly integrate non-Infor apps into their system.

2. ION Business Vault-A single, optimized, unbreakable business repository where ION Suite stores enterprise data. This unifying source for all the data that flows through ION Suite makes it a robust platform for reporting, BI, and analytics.
o Up-to-date data. The Business Vault uses an event-driven model for synchronization, so that data is synchronized as soon as a transaction occurs in the originating system.
o Easier search. Enterprise search is easier, as data resides in one place-so there’s no need for a business to index their transactional systems.
o Better reporting. The Business Vault features a master data reference for better reporting and integrations scenarios.

3. ION Event Management-Allows users to monitor the status of tasks in relation to promised completion or established service level agreements (SLAs), and automatically receive alerts about exceptions and potential non-compliance.
o Make the rules. ION Event Management detects exceptions based on business rules that users define. Notifications and alerts can be triggered by Event Management and directed to the appropriate users with ION Workflow. Also, ION can detect exceptions within a single source system.
o Detect non-events. Event Management can also detect non-events-things that should have happened, but didn’t-for example, a shipment to an important customer that missed its due date or time. Sales or Operations Management can be immediately alerted, so they can address the business issue.
o Provide better service. Event Management can also be used to monitor SLAs, so businesses can meet their performance levels and maintain good customer service.

4. ION Workflow-Allows for directing work activities, events, and business documents to any user so that business processes can be executed quickly and accurately.
o Create quickly. Workflow modeling is graphical and based on Business Process Management Notation (BPMN 2.0) standard. This makes it easy to create even complex workflows, and know that they’ll work across applications.
o Automate approvals. Allows for creation of simple to more sophisticated workflows to automate document routing and approvals across departments and office locations worldwide.
o Manage centrally. All tasks and alerts generated by Event Management and Workflow are managed through the Tasklist, which features an Activity Stream-based UI. And because ION Tasklist can run stand-alone or in a portal, users can work the way they want to work. Infor will be adding support for mobile and tablet devices at a later time to enhance flexibility.

The Infor10 release also provides flexible deployment options, including the Infor10 CloudSuite platform (formerly Infor24), to increase business speed and agility. Customers can run their entire solution on Infor10 CloudSuite or can keep core enterprise systems on premises, while running other applications or services in the cloud. The Infor10 CloudSuite platform features a unified user experience and security, and enables two-tiered, hybrid cloud and on-premises deployments. Whether customers access functionality from a software-as-a-service (SaaS; cloud) model or on-premises deployment, they should get the same functionality and look and feel. The only difference is in how users connect to core applications. Customers can even move from one deployment model to another, as the same application code is used for all deployment models.

The Infor10 Motion Platform
For the cloud and mobility, Infor recently launched Infor10 Motion applications to provide fast and reliable connections to back-office systems, regardless of location, through smartphones and tablets, such as the Apple iPhone and iPad. The idea is to accelerate productivity and help users work smarter and faster. Infor10 Motion is built with a loosely coupled architecture on the Infor10 ION framework, meaning that Infor10 Motion applications can plug into different back-office systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), expense management, and supply chain management(SCM).

Unlike the tightly packaged solutions on the market today, which often require customers to buy more products in the hopes of extending solutions, Infor10 Motion provides native rich applications that leverage the data that already exists in enterprise deployments. Security is built into Infor10 Motion to help address the threat of theft and data loss, allowing customers to retain control over critical business data.

Infor10 Motion applications take into account differences between devices, such as tablets versus smartphones. Because it is core product independent, Infor10 Motion is able to adopt a consistent user experience across back-office applications. Infor10 Motion applications are further differentiated by being “app aware,” which means that they enhance the user experience by detecting when another app on the device could provide additional functionality, including consumer apps that would work in the context of the enterprise. An example of this is the Infor10 Road Warrior app, which incorporates Skype and FaceTime within a customer’s contact record so salespeople can more seamlessly access consumer collaboration tools.

Infor10 Motion is cloud based, and the Infor10 Motion App Manager (IMAM) provides a single location for companies to deploy Infor10 Motion applications quickly within their existing IT infrastructure. In contrast, many other mobile platforms require an add-on solution to centralize the effort of multiple deployments. Once a company has gained access to IMAM, it is ready to begin using Infor10 Motion applications. IMAM also allows managers to determine which users have access to specific information and to be able to change those settings at any point.

Infor has immediately made available two applications-one is Infor10 Road Warrior, a mobile CRM application with embedded BI. Infor10 Road Warrior empowers sales productivity by sending mobile alerts, approvals, and tasks-allowing users to make decisions faster and turn what was previously considered downtime into a tool to outpace the competition. This connectivity is coupled with embedded BI to provide an overview of data-heavy screens, helping users make sense of data more rapidly, highlight problems at a glance, and compare current and historical order volume-reducing the amount of time spent searching for information (including voice recognition).

The other application is Infor10 ION ActivityDeck, which helps solve critical problems that arise when users are on the road and have no visibility into pressing issues going on in the office. ION ActivityDeck provides users with the ability to remain connected to the back office so they are able to respond to important tasks, receive real-time alerts, and approve pending requests-keeping the business in motion. Similar in function to Twitter, ION ActivityDeck provides the ability to define filters based on almost anything, helping users address questions before they become issues.

Infor10 Road Warrior and Infor10 ION ActivityDeck are available for secure installation through the Apple iTunes Store. Additional Infor10 Motion applications are expected this year and will serve a variety of critical office functions, such as creating orders or quotes, approving expense reports, and reviewing key business metrics from anywhere.

The Infor10 Motion mobility platform, which is based on Java and some open-source tools, could be used by even Infor’s ancient ERP solutions, as those apps are already available in the cloud. In contrast, the Infor10 Workspace UI cannot be deployed until the old ERP system is Web enabled. Workspace is a shell, aiming to unite Infor’s multiple products into a solution using their existing UI. Motion is about creating consistent UIs that draw from style and technology for a consistent (solution) approach. For more intricate mobility tasks in the field service and asset intensive industries, Infor has established relationships with Blue Dotand ClickSoftware.

It’s About Industry Focus, After All
ION software also makes it possible to connect the rich functionality of leading ERP and best-of-breed solutions from Infor and affiliate Lawson Software for specific industries. Infor10 suites are targeted for aerospace and defense; automotive; chemicals and life sciences; distribution; equipment; fashion; food and beverage; health care; high tech; hospitality; industrial manufacturing; and the public sector.

Infor10 is nothing like a converged (single-code) uber-suite of applications, as seen with OFA or Epicor 9. Namely, all major Infor ERP products remain on their tracks and codes, and are just rebranded, e.g., Infor ERP LN is now Infor10 ERP Enterprise,SyteLine is Infor10 ERP Business, VISUAL is Infor10 ERP Express, Adage is Infor10 ERP Process Business, and so on and so forth. As LN, VISUAL, SyteLine, and Adage still have large install base and development teams, and most of the heads of development or technology are from these platforms, these products have been selected as horizontal discrete or process ERP platforms, depending on the customer size. Lawson and other industry-specific ERP products in Infor’s arsenal will be deployed within Infor10 industry solutions.

Through its acquisition of SSA Global in 2006, Infor acquired the PLM8 solutions for discrete manufacturing (which came from the former Baan ERP system). On the process manufacturing side, Infor acquired Formation Systems in 2005, which became the company’s Optiva PLM process solution set. Today, within Infor10, both discrete and process product lifecycle management(PLM) solutions have become Infor10 PLM Discrete and Infor10 PLM Process, respectively. Via acquisitions of former Geacand Lawson, Infor also gained fashion and apparel PLM solutions (a future TEC article will zoom in on all of the Infor PLM products). The Infor10 enterprise suite also includes industry-specific enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions (from former Datastream) and SCM solutions (from multiple acquisitions).

With Infor10 as the strategy, all these products on diverse technologies will be able to leverage ION, CloudSuite apps (as they become available), and Workspace for new user experience. Workspace has also borrowed some enhancements from Lawson Smart Office (i.e., mashups), and it looks modern, with all the social (Infor10 ION Pulse is a Tweetdeck-like application for alerts and feeds), mobile, open (in terms of interconnectivity) themes, etc. Companies need to be on the latest two versions of Infor ERP and/or EAM products to be eligible for free downloads and for Infor10 compatibility. Companies with older product instances can get these pieces for a fee, as well as their maintenance contracts reinstated.

Stellar 2011 Results
After the first full year with new strategy and management team and major investments in industry-specific business applications, Infor was able to report accelerated growth in licenses, subscriptions, support, margins, innovation, and customers. In early January 2012, Infor reported 17 percent license growth for the 12 months ended November 2011. The company also reported 16 percent organic license growth for its second fiscal quarter, which ended November 2011. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margins improved to 27 percent, and new customer additions and support subscriptions accelerated. Growth in Infor’s core ERP business in the second fiscal quarter was up 25 percent over the previous year.

Infor (including Lawson, especially in its health care stronghold) added more than 2,500 new customers in 2011 and expanded its relationship with more than 12,000 existing customers. Infor also saw growth in support and consulting, with more than 500 customers re-engaged with Infor for support. New or existing customers that made significant investments in Infor products in 2011 include Ferrari, BAE Systems Military Air and Information, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc., Grief, and Liberty Mutual.

The EAM business continues to grow at a healthy rate, as many of the aforementioned large customers are still rolling out additional plants. Many legacy ERP customers on System i are continuing to add (implement) modules or roll out implementations to other plants. PLM was another product line with stellar growth in 2011. A great portion of new sales came via the reinvigorated channel, Infor Partner Network (IPN), which saw many new deals for SyteLine, SunSystems, and VISUAL. Infor ERP LN continues to lead in terms of existing install base and also does well with new license revenues, albeit outside the United States (where negative sentiments dating back to 15 years ago [and former Baan Company’s wrongdoings] still linger).

Getting Cozy with salesforce.com
While Microsoft and IBM remain solid technology partners for obvious reasons, in 2011 Infor partnered with salesforce.com, a leader in enterprise cloud computing, to offer three new Inforce applications. These Force.com-based solutions by Infor bring the power of the back office to the front office, and throughout the social enterprise-to help customers collaborate and drive growth. In addition, salesforce.com made a multi-million dollar investment in Infor as part of the agreement (and Infor’s endorsement of Force.com).

The three new Infor-salesforce apps, dubbed Inforce apps, have a strong focus on collaboration. The first one, Inforce Everywhere, brings ERP data into Salesforce solutions and offers a 360-view of invoice, contacts, quotes, shipments receivables, orders, and return merchandise authorizations (RMAs). The application offers
• a way for salesforce.com users to view orders from Infor ERP applications,
• access to customer information and transactions from the Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud,
• connection to ION, Infor’s standard integration platform, and
• integration to Salesforce Chatter to make data more social.

Inforce Everywhere also gives Infor’s current 600 channel partners the ability to resell bundled Salesforce CRM products. Meanwhile, Inforce Order Management will offer a comprehensive quote, order, and proposal management application built on Force.com, and will integrate with Salesforce CRM to give Sales Cloud and Service Cloud users a view of pricing and availability. Finally, Inforce Marketing will leverage the Infor10 CRM Enterprise (Epiphany) recommendation engine for global marketing automation technology that includes inbound and outbound campaign management and lead maturation.

Given that Epiphany is a CRM solution for large customers, Infor now has a plausible CRM solution strategy for small to medium businesses (SMBs)-i.e., start with an outstanding, proven, well-respected CRM solution for SMBs and develop functionality and integration for Infor customers. This should make Infor more competitive in new deals, while filling a big functional gap would eliminate the need to replace an existing Infor ERP system. This partnership is badly needed by both Infor and salesforce.com in their fight against SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft.

As in the case for Infor10 Motion apps, many more applications on Force.com are on the horizon. For example, Inforce Marketing will be a new application designed to offer optional integration to Epiphany for inbound marketing execution for those customers for whom it makes sense and for those who desire that level of advanced marketing. As the Inforce solutions will be inherently cloud based, they will ultimately be part of Infor10 CloudSuite.

Looking Behind the Numbers
In conclusion, it is difficult to dispute Phillips’ statement:
As we look to the future, 2012 will be just as exciting for Infor. We have a strong, motivated team, a market looking for new alternatives, and a customer-centric strategy that is working well and generating growth.

In the past, Infor’s strategy appeared to focus on managing the acquisitions as “cash cows” for profitable service and maintenance revenues, with only the necessary investments in product development. Now, with new management and a product strategy that includes several common utilities that allow the multiple acquisitions to function as a more coherent solution, Infor has become vibrant. In addition, its applications focus on specific vertical industry solutions with services and support.
Without trying to rain on Infor’s parade, we might want to note here that, during their best days, combined “Old” Infor, SSA Global, and Lawson Software revenues were much larger than current “New” Infor’s revenues, which still indicates a loss of market share to SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics. Also, maintenance and services still remain the biggest revenue sources, but growth for new licenses is nonetheless encouraging and refreshing.

If SAP is moving to in-memory databases (SAP HANA), analytics (BusinessObjects), and mobility (Sybase), Microsoft Dynamics leverages its parent’s ubiquitous technology, and Oracle is a one-stop-shop from hardware to applications, what then is Infor known for? Even though Infor’s new strategy is indisputably better than the old one, is it a game changer?

Well, Infor is talking industry-specific software that is deeper and yet cheaper to roll out. By focusing on standards-based integration, ION is easier and cheaper than Oracle Fusion Middleware (OFM) or SAP NetWeaver. At a large enterprise, SAP or Oracle might still win out the new deals owing to their brand recognition, but at a SMB prospect or existing Infor customer, Infor has a good shot owing to deep industry-specific solutions that are easy to demo and implement and/or not that easy to replace with another solution. The Syteline, LN, LX, SX.e, Adage, as well as Lawson S3 and M3 ERP solutions have vertical depth or the ability to have division-specific configurations that roll up into a corporate umbrella. SAP still struggles with this requirement, while Oracle is not universally focused on manufacturing industries.

As the cost of migration is high, few companies that buy into ERP system standardization companywide will achieve an ROI with SAP or Oracle. In fact, some of the biggest SAP shops may use SAP financials centrally, but plants or divisions still run on Infor ERP. SAP HANA is a cool concept, but at this stage it is unclear as to how many enterprises, especially midsized ones, really need HANA. Infor can counter with deeper functions such as in Infor10 Advanced Planning and Infor10 Advanced Schedulingfor process industries.

Trust but Verify
While, in general, the Infor10 “upgrade, integrate, and sell more modules” strategy is sound and compelling, the “trust but verify” attitude is needed when treating ION as some universal integration and messaging panacea. In one press release, Soma Somasundaram, Infor’s head of global product development said:
We say ION is unbreakable architecture because extensions don’t break during upgrades.

Well, the question is: Does ION work out of the box for most Infor products and most customers? (An estimated 60-70 percent of current Infor ERP users are on obsolete or unsupported releases.) If it does work for a particular advanced Infor ERP product (say, LN or SyteLine), will it allow it to integrate with all of Infor’s products (let alone to non-Infor legacy products)? If ION still requires users to configure each solution set and support multiple underlying infrastructures (Oracle, Microsoft Windows, IBM System i, Progress OpenEdge, even the arcane Ingress OpenRoad), one should be a bit more cautious about using strong sounding words such as “unbreakable.”

We have repeatedly heard of how hard it is to integrate ERP systems with other enterprise solutions. With service-oriented architecture (SOA), we really started to see the issues come up with MDM, SOA governance (transaction integrity), and overlapping or conflicting application rules. For example, inventory allocations in ERP, warehouse management system (WMS), and SCM typically have different logic, and one has to use the least common denominator approach (i.e., with the lowest overlap). Namely, to deal with likely application conflicts in the industry packs in the following case of allocations:
• Infor10 Advanced Planning does inventory cost-based and some key attribute-based optimization as soft allocations across all orders and lots.
• Infor10 Advanced Scheduling does soft allocations to optimized throughput (by schedule conflict) as soft allocations.
• Infor10 ERP Process Business (Adage) does hard allocations by First In, First Out (FIFO) to the sub-lot level (this does not change-no matter what the other apps do).
• Infor10 Supply Chain Execution offers the following:
o Transportation management and warehouse management combined into a single solution on a single database
o Powerful tools to help you achieve advanced supply chain collaboration
o Built-in best-practice management to improve supply chain performance

Not only does each system have some overlapping features, but also their logic is not consistent. How can one turn on/off features as required? For some companies, Advanced Planning is the best place for allocations, while for others it’s Adage, etc. As a response, Infor says that Infor10 Workspace is aware of all of the applications that are installed and operational. The system can be used to prevent users from running overlapping planning applications (or any other kind of overlapping application). This is really no different than what Infor does today when a customer decides to run an advanced planning and scheduling (APS) application instead of the built-in planning function of the ERP Software system – except that this has now become built-in capability rather than an implementation decision.