Infor Develops New Program, Standard Contracts For Its Channel Partners

Business application vendor Infor Corp. is launching a formal partner initiative that for the first time puts its 700 channel partners under a single, comprehensive program with a standard contract.

Under the new Infor Partner Network, which the company is unveiling today, the software vendor hopes to double is channel sales during the next three years, said Jeff Abbott, vice president of global alliances and channels, in an interview.

"This is a reset of our channel strategy under one unified program," Abbott said. "The marker I've set is to double our channel sales over the next three years and this program is a key part of that."

Infor has a broad range of software products including ERP, CRM, financial management, human resource management and supply chain management applications, among others. That stems from the company's history of being assembled through a series of acquisitions including GEAC Computer Corp. (which itself made a number of acquisitions including Dun & Bradstreet Software) and SSA Global (which bought many companies including Baan, Epiphany and Infinium Software).

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Infor, in conjunction with private equity giant Golden Gate Capital, is currently in the process of acquiring Lawson Software for $2 billion. Infor expects to wrap up that deal sometime in the third quarter.

The channel initiative is also tied to a broader product strategy that will organize Infor's broad product portfolio into unified suites focused on vertical industries. Infor has not announced details of the product strategy and Abbott said an announcement is forthcoming.

Infor CEO Charles Phillips, who joined the company in October after stepping down as president at Oracle, is driving the new channel push, Abbott said. Abbott also came to Infor from Oracle where he was responsible for setting up the Oracle Accelerate program that created a set of application packages for mid-size businesses that are largely sold through the channel.

About 80 percent of Infor's 700 partners came to the company by way of the acquisitions – some have been selling specific products for 20 and even 30 years, Abbott said. And those partners have been managed using individual contracts rather than through a unified, comprehensive partner program with a standard contract.

Today the channel accounts for about 25 percent of Infor's top-line software license revenue, according to Abbot.

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The Infor Partner Network will consist of three partner tiers: Associate, Silver and Gold. Partners will be provided with extensive training and certification opportunities, according to the company, and tier assignments will be based on level of certification (Certified, Advanced and Expert), product specialization and sales performance.

Infor is offering market development funds, and will create an MDF account for each partner and provide funding equivalent to a percentage of the partner's sales. Abbott declined to provide specific details about the percentage. And channel managers will develop an annual plan for each partner, including sales goals and training plans.

Under the new program Infor is also spelling out what markets channel partners will be given exclusive sales rights in order to avoid channel conflict. Abbott said those areas will vary according to product and geography. The channel, for example, will have exclusive rights to sell ERP applications to North American customers with annual revenue of $100 million and less.

Infor is dedicating 15 employees to manage the new program and support channel partners: Currently the vendor has no employees specifically dedicated to partner support, according to Abbot.

"We are very impressed with the investment that Infor is making in the channel through the new Infor Partner Network," said Sam DeBone, sales and marketing vice president at solution provider Decision Resources Inc., in a statement. "We believe strongly that this program will help grow our business and increase our profits."

Infor worked with between 30 and 40 partners earlier this year to design the Infor Partner Network, Abbott said. The program details, including the new contracts, will be explained in a series of conference calls with partners on June 27 and a partner conference is scheduled for the week of July 11 in Orlando.

Along with better organizing and serving Infor's current channel partners, Abbott said Infor would use the program to recruit new resellers and he said the company's channel community could double in size within three years.

Abbott is also counting on the program to boost Infor's efforts to get partners to cross-sell a broader range of Infor products. While the company has been working on that for some time, with limited success, Abbott said there is still a lot of work to do in that area.