IT needs to be customized. That is the current, modern trend, and what everybody is looking for. As a result, vendors of enterprise software (ERP) have fully accepted that the user should be right in the center of the design process of the software itself. There are numerous ERP producers out there, like SAP, Oracle, Workday, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Infor. Each of these are investing heavily in, as they call it, ‘customerize’ their software.
The only one who seems to have been able to really take it to another level, however, is Infor. Charles Phillips Infor CEO and wife Karen have placed beauty and design at the heart of everything that they do. Simply entering their New York headquarters demonstrates this, and how they live and breathe design in everything. The minute you step into the office, you will see the senior executive team, sitting right next to the waiting area for visitors. They share one office together, which has only one very large table. This means nobody, not even CEO Phillips, has their own office. The design team, meanwhile, sits right next to the executive office, in another large open space.
Three messages are immediately made clear:
- Everything is about design.
- The company’s culture is about collaboration.
- Customers can feel close to the executives, and vice versa.
These goals may seem aspirational, but they lie at the heart of the strategy that Charles Phillips, with support of his wife, has set. Check the Infor website, for instance, and even there the design and the elements of collaboration can be clearly seen. In fact, those elements are pretty much right at the top of the website itself.
So what is design when it comes to software? For Infor, it is about creating something that is innovative and that customers find benefits them overall, meaning that they want to use it. According to Phillips, by focusing on design, software:
- Looks attractive and feels friendly. This is all about emotions. The goal is to make sure customers feel good, and that is about more than benefits, features, and processes. His motto is ‘no fugly software’, which means that people have to feel good when they use his products. Without that, it would become worthless.
- Works properly. No matter how good something looks, how user friendly it is, or how good it makes someone feel, it has to be functional as well. Infor products quickly and efficiently solve any problems their clients may encounter.
- Can rethink in a non-disruptive way. Infor software constantly rethinks how it operates, but does not lead to any downtime. It is designed to understand how the actual people who use it work, and what they need.
Infor, under the guidance of Charles Phillips, seems to have come out of nowhere, and the other ERP vendors are worried. In fact, it currently shares second place, together with Oracle and after SAP, in terms of largest companies. They clearly are the one to watch!