Infor hiring spree stresses ERP innovation

Infor is hoping to shed perceptions that it hasn't emphasized product innovation throughout the long string of acquisitions that made it one of the world's largest ERP software vendors after SAP and Oracle, announcing Wednesday that it plans to hire 400 additional developers by the end of this year.

"We're gong to be investing across the product line, both existing and new," said Duncan Angove, president of products, support and marketing.

That includes Infor's portfolio of industry applications, such as those for manufacturers, public sector organizations and hospitality companies, as well as its horizontal applications in areas like financial management and SCM (supply chain management), according to a statement.

The new blood will also support the further development of Infor's ION integration platform.

Infor, which is backed by private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, has been considered by some observers to be more of a holding firm than an active developer of new software. It is clearly hoping to shed that label through Wednesday's announcement.

Angove would not say what percentage increase 400 developers would add over Infor's current engineering staff, but said the new bodies would position it alongside the industry's most "aggressive" companies in terms of research and development resources.

Infor will hire people with a range of skill sets, from mobile development to back-end integration to UI (user interfaces), Angove said. The company has already been working with outside firms to build a "consumer-grade" user experience for its products, he said.

The privately held company also said Wednesday that license revenues for its third fiscal quarter grew 17% year over year. Precise figures weren't disclosed, but "the bulk of that growth was organic," Angove said.

Infor will be able to fund the staff increase through its cash flow, thanks to strong revenue performance and operational changes, Angove said. Infor signed 400 new customers in its third quarter, according to a statement.

The hiring announcement "means they're serious about building software," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "That's a pretty public commitment that you're not just going to scoop up companies. It means Infor knows it has to build products. Software companies that don't build new products die a slow death."

But it also comes close on the heels of news Infor wants to continue its acquisition spree in dramatic fashion, by scooping up Lawson Software for roughly $1.8 billion.

Lawson has yet to accept the offer and some observers expect a bidding war to ensue.

Angove declined to comment on the potential merger, as well as how Infor's hiring plan may affect the company's long-expected IPO (initial public offering).

He is one of a number of ex-Oracle executives brought to Infor by its recently appointed CEO Charles Phillips, a former Oracle co-president.

Phillips is credited along with Oracle co-president Safra Catz for guiding that company's long run of acquisitions in recent years. Observers see Phillips as a key driver behind the Lawson bid as well.

Infor's announcement Wednesday also reflects the Oracle culture, according to Wang.

"The only thing at Oracle that ever mattered is, you're product [development] or sales. Everything else is overhead," he said. Even as Oracle scooped up company after company, it tended to retain the programmers, albeit reassigning some to different projects, such as the upcoming Fusion Applications, according to Wang.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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