Last week Rich had the pleasure of attending TUG Connects 2015 and this is his report. TUG Connects is the annual meeting for members of “The-User-Group.org”– also known as TUG – an independent non-profit association of Infor Distribution product users. This includes SX.e, M3, A+, Facts and bunch of legacy products including SHIMS and Enspire. TUG is run by Members, Inc., an association management company and overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of Infor Distribution product users, with David White, President of Kyana Packaging and Industrial Supply, acting as the Chairman of the Board. Hats off to Gary and Karen Brown of Members Inc. They run good meetings. They design and implement the program from keynotes to receptions while getting the details right so the attendees can focus on the good programs, good sessions and good networking that make the meeting a good investment for the attendees.
This year’s four-day meeting was the second largest of all time with more than 600 users, Infor employees and service vendors in attendance. It was held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD which, in my opinion, is an outstanding venue for this size meeting. All the facilities were close at hand for everyone.
There were 18 special interest group (SIG) meetings and over 200 educational sessions, case studies, product demos and roundtables. And like any good user group meeting there were numerous networking opportunities.
The meeting was sponsored by more than 35 service vendors, but Infor makes the largest single commitment in people by bringing key management and technical people to make presentations and to network with users. Infor presented over 50 individual sessions that ranged from the details of optimizing specific products to a roundtable discussion with the Infor executives who run the Infor Distribution business unit.
This year’s meeting also included three keynote speakers: Dirk Beveridge, author of Innovate! How Successful Distributors Lead Change in Disruptive Times, former White House CIO Theresa Payton speaking on CyberSecurity, and Laura Stack, author of Execution is the Strategy: How Leaders Achieve Maximum Result in Minimum Time.
One of the highlights was the main stage presentation by Charles Phillips, the CEO of Infor Software Company. Under Charles’ leadership, Infor has grown to $2.8 billion in sales with almost 13,000 employees – making it the third-largest private technology company.
Infor offers products to more than 12 industries that include manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, fashion and distribution.
Charles discussed the overall strategic direction for Infor and how the distribution business unit fits well into their overall direction. The overall focus for Infor includes major investments in optimizing the user interface and business workflow as well as offering solutions that run at a customer’s location or in the cloud.
Sometimes users, as they should be, are very focused on their immediate technical needs and issues. It is, however, very important that their specific package be part of a successful, forward-thinking software company. This certainly does not guarantee but greatly increases the odds that users will enjoy the stability, investment in and growth of their individual packages over the long term.
I had the opportunity to talk with Matt Breslin, the Senior VP of Technology, Distribution and Equipment Business Units at Infor. Matt is fairly new to Infor but an industry veteran with time at SAP and Oracle before joining Infor to run their platform business which includes their Infor ION, Ming.le and Mongoose products. In his new role, Matt will be responsible for both the distribution and platform products. I asked Matt where he would be focusing his efforts. Breslin responded, “We will be working to take a more strategic view of each customer. We want to help our customers solve their business problems. So it’s a focus on providing our customers with solutions versus a traditional product orientation.” I asked for some examples of how that will look from the customer perspective? “We want to be more creative. We understand that it may require non-standard agreements or co-development projects in order to build the right solution for our customers. We also want to provide services that add value to the distributors’ businesses.”
I also had some one-on-one time with Kelly Squizzero, an Infor veteran, who has recently assumed the new role of Sr. Director Industry & Solution Strategy after many years in Infor’s product development group. When I asked Kelly about any changes in strategy since the last meeting, she responded, “I would reiterate Infor’s previous commitment to four go-forward products: Infor SX.e, Infor A+ for the IBM AS400/iSeries platform, Infor Facts and M3, a product we picked up in the Lawson acquisition. We have evolved our approach regarding international. We will focus our efforts on selling M3 into international markets. Instead of making a major investment in the customization of the SX.e, A+ and Facts products to support local currencies and customs of our targeted international markets, we determined that M3 was already adapted to many countries and is best-positioned to serve other countries. This allows us to make better use of our development dollars in providing new features to our users.” (NOTE: M3 is not a TUG represented product.)
I had a great time with the TUG folks and want to thank them for their hospitality.