Global CIO: Can Charles Phillips Grow Infor While Avoiding Oracle & SAP? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
10/26/2010
06:13 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: Can Charles Phillips Grow Infor While Avoiding Oracle & SAP?

The Oracle ex-president's new company has $2 billion in revenue and 70,000 customers—and suddenly a much higher profile within SAP and Oracle.

Now that Infor has hired former Oracle president Charles Phillips and decided to stop being the only $2-billion enterprise-software company that no one's ever heard of, it's a good thing that Phillips is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a former captain in the United States Marines, as well as a veteran of the bare-knuckle brawling that takes place in the enterprise-software market.

And it's also a good thing that Infor chairman Jim Schaper, who turned over his CEO role to Phillips, was a national champion back in his days with the University of South Carolina's track team, in addition to being the passionate leader behind Infor's astonishing level of growth since it was formed in 2002.

Because for all of their protestations to the contrary, Infor has, by hiring Phillips, embarked on a path that will surely lead to intense and more-frequent direct competition with Oracle and SAP. Schaper and Phillips might wish that were not the case, but to achieve the ambitious growth plans the two have laid out, those marketplace confrontations with market leaders SAP and Oracle are inevitable.

So the big question is, is the privately held and 8-1/2-year-old Infor up to the challenge? Can it continue to grow and expand and roll out powerful new products and maintain excellent customer-renewal rates while also moving into new markets where SAP and Oracle are also on the prowl?

But beyond that, let's put that pressing issue of competition off to the side for a moment and consider: while there are lots of 8-1/2-year-old enterprise software companies around, there are almost certainly no other companies of that age with the following set of extremely impressive achievements:

--70,000 customers in 125 countries

--a record of profitable growth without the entanglements of impatient venture capitalists

--90%+ customer-renewal rates

--vast experience in M&A: Infor has acquired and integrated 70 software companies

--and an advanced generation of new products set to arrive in January 2011.

In a phone interview Monday, Phillips said, "I really feel like I've found a diamond in the rough here—the barriers to entry in this business are so incredibly high that I believe it usually takes 10 years to build a viable enterprise-applications company.

"It typically takes the first five years to understand the customers' requirements, and then the next five to get the software right.

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"But in less than 10 years, Infor has achieved all that—they're there. And they got it done by doing things, not by talking about it," said Phillips.

And by winning the loyalty of customers:

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