Lawson Thrives as Infor

While Infor strives to become “the third ERP vendor” after Oracle and SAP SuccessFactors, it is using Lawson in all the ways CEO Charles Phillips might have imagined.

As Oracle president, Charles Phillips led the company’s nearly eight-year spending spree acquiring about 80 companies. The first company he bought after becoming CEO of Infor seven years ago was the former Lawson software.

In HR, I first knew Lawson as one of the two leading HRIS companies running on IBM minicomputers, which went through many models and names, but I most remember the AS/400. The larger business world considered Lawson an “almost ERP” because it lacked manufacturing software.

But then Lawson moved off the minicomputer and adopted a true client/server architecture and then found its way into the cloud–partially. All the while tightening its grip around the healthcare vertical it has long nearly owned for HCM. And it bought Intentia, a Swedish vendor of manufacturing software.

All of this was on display at Infor’s recent Innovation Summit, held in its 19th-century department-store headquarters in the heart of Manhattan’s Silicon Alley.

There the former Lawson HCM never gets much air time because Infor goes to market by industry verticals with each package, including some HCM, along with financials, procurement, etc. HCM is still sold standalone (and even still on-premise), but not so often. Happily, Senior Director of HCM Products Amy Ihlen was available separately for an update. She has lived with the product for 12 years under both owners.

She was happy to report that payroll, the last module to move to the cloud, is going into limited release in July. The company calls the bundle Infor Cloudsuite HCM. The first payroll customer is scheduled to go live in early 2019 with other betas lined up and general release planned for later that year. Payroll functionality will be U.S.-focused, with plans to partner for multinational customers.

I was happy to hear that recruiting functionality is being complete renovated. Lawson was the first HCM vendor smart enough to realize that it had to own its own recruiting, when every major vendor was still partnering for that functionality. The story goes downhill from there, so it won’t be repeated to protect the guilty.

Analytics is on the roadmap of many software pillars with Infor’s acquisition last year of Birst, a modern business-intelligence product. Talent Science–the assessment and analytics part of HCM originally called PeopleAnswers–is already using it.

Birst allows for the easy creation of industry-specific dashboards that can combine Infor and outside data. In healthcare, that could include patient data and in manufacturing, labor cost. With AI, of course, the hope is to recommend what to do about the information.

You may recall that the company’s AI product is called Infor Coleman, named after Katherine Coleman Johnson, the African-American NASA computing pioneer lionized in the movie Hidden Figures, which chronicles a time when Jim Crow still ruled Florida and Texas.

Within HCM, AI will first be embedded within learning for searching and suggesting content. It was also planned to be in employee self-service, where, like seemingly everyone else, Infor is developing a digital assistant accessible by text, voice and eventually image! It is also planned for workforce management (the former Workbrain) with shift trading.

Workbrain remains HCM’s fastest selling product with its own dedicated sales team. I have long thought it was the best product the original Infor management team bought, better even than Infinium, which seems to remain the HCM darling of the casino and gaming industry.

Healthcare is the leading vertical for HCM, and second within the entire company only to manufacturing, which accounts for half its business. So Infor just loves to cite its statistics for healthcare.

To wit, Steve Fanning, who has run healthcare since his Lawson days and is now Infor’s vice president for healthcare strategy, put up a slide at the summit which includes healthcare customers for all its software, not just HCM:

  • 72 percent of hospitals with more than 150 beds;
  • 12 of 15 U.S. teaching hospitals;
  • Seven of 10 children’s hospitals; and
  • Five of six largest insurance payers.

Fanning said one third of the clients have decided to move to the cloud, and 50 clients are doing so today.

All this is important because the Big Three–SAP SuccessFactors, Workday and Oracle–have all targeted healthcare as the next vertical they want to penetrate. It seems Infor has done some of the evangelism for them about the cloud, but lots more will be required.

Finally, I was delighted to hear a presentation from Henrik Bilgren, the co-founder of Intentia, originally Lawson’s acquisition. He asked for a show of hands from those who knew the company previously and seemed a little surprised by how many did.

So, let the bragging begin: Infor, which sells more than one manufacturing product, has 37,000 customers larger than $30 million. In the last fiscal year, it acquired 300 new customers and 160 customers are moving to the cloud this year.

Infor, as a whole, seems to be having a harder time moving its clients to the cloud than SAP SuccessFactors or Oracle, perhaps because it still sells on-premise. By itself, Ihlen reports HCM has 62 percent of customers in the cloud and 38 percent on premise. Those cloud numbers are better than Infor’s. In fact, they are better than anybody’s but Workday.

And as Phillips predicted after announcing last year an ERP deal for 10 Koch Industries companies (now owner of 49 percent of Infor), some of the big system integrators have suddenly become partners, including Accenture, Deloitte and Capgemini. So this expands Infor’s ecosystem to support future big deals.

Often, acquired software companies disappear within the new owner (though certainly not PeopleSoft, whose name, it seems, will live forever within Oracle). It’s good see the former Lawson thriving within Infor.

Bill Kutik
HR Technology columnist Bill Kutik, as chairman emeritus, is at the 22nd Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition® in Las Vegas, Oct. 1-4, 2019. Watch Kim Billeter, the new Americas Lead for EY HR advisory group (PAS), discuss the question: Why is Cloud adoption taking so long? Just six minutes for the current video episode of Firing Line with Bill Kutik®. Bill can be reached at