‘We Eat Our Own Cooking,’ Software CFO Says

Infor uses the capabilities of its software and analytics products in its own integration, according to finance chief Nicole Anasenes.
David KatzJune 19, 2014

Just as it is with the players on a major league baseball team, keeping track of all the companies that Infor has acquired over the last two years is tough without a scorecard.

During that period, the company, a privately held, New York City-based software-as-a service (SAAS) vendor, has seemed hell-bent on putting together as exhaustive a portfolio of customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications as possible. The firm has, for example, gobbled up Orbis Global, a provider of marketing software, to bolster its offerings to the financial services, telecom, retail, hospitality and technology industries; GRASP Systems International, a provider of patient-management software to health care organizations; and two companies, CERTPOINT Systems, a vendor of learning management software, and, most recently, PeopleAnswers, a predictive talent analytics firm, to buttress its human capital suite.

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Nicole Anasenes, CFO, Infor

Nicole Anasenes, CFO, Infor

To be sure, all of that acquiring has boosted the size of Infor substantially, to a $3 billion company with almost 13,000 employees and 70,000 customers in more than 200 countries and territories. At the same time, however, the firm’s business model calls for Infor to drill down to specific industries to offer tailored software to fit the particular needs of a wide array of businesses.

That has put its executive team in the position of having to meld its acquisitions into a unified whole, says Nicole Anasenes, Infor’s CFO since November 2013. In an interview at the Bloomberg CFO conference in New York last month, Anasenes, a former finance chief of IBM’s middleware business unit and, before that, CFO of its cloud business unit, said that the company’s main approach to the integration is “eating our own cooking.”

That means Infor puts the capabilities of its software and analytics to work internally. The exciting part for the finance chief is the “integration … of all that data from all those disparate systems,” she says, noting that that her own goal is to transform her own function to “Finance 3.0.” Some edited excerpts of the interview follow.

How do you balance the similarities and differences of your client offerings?
Although a hospital is different from a beer manufacturer, they both have people and assets they have to manage. But the way their business processes work are fundamentally different. The way that we approach the applications is to tailor them for the specific industry. The insights you’re going to need from the applications are going to be very different. So we embed those [specific] analytical capabilities into the real-time functionality of our software.

How would that work for a beer manufacturer, for instance?
So let’s say you’re a microbrewery. You have a whole supply chain that you’re going to manage, you have people in the plant that you have to manage, and then you’re going to have to consolidate and manage your financial results. The solution is very tailored to the uniqueness of that beer manufacturer. You have a different need than a batch processing brewery. The vendors may come from multiple sources, and their supply chain may be very complex to manage from a small back office. So the IT does the management: it manages the supply chain, interacts with the manufacturing process and feeds into their inventory system. The results feed into their financial systems and are tracked into their asset management capability.

How would that differ from the approach for a health care company?
We have health care products that fit into the backoffice of the health-care organization’s system that support the ability to pull clinical and financial data. The challenge that health-care providers have today is the major catalyst of regulatory reform and Obamacare. The need to understand cost analytics in a way they never have before is a major change in their leveraging of analytics. Their initial need is to comply and be consistent: an MRI may cost me $400 to administer — not just the click of the machine but the time spent by the technician — and I have to be able to prove that with real activity-based-costing rigor. Step one for the providers is being able to comply and connect systems or processes that were never connected before. That was never in a hospital because there was no need.

How is Infor’s own integration going?
Our evolution over the past few years has resulted in a rollup of a lot of acquisitions. Over the last 12 months, management has been focused on the integration of the portfolio of products we’ve acquired. We want to align with that, and the focus of our own internal transformation is that we eat our own cooking and leverage our own capability.

So we have [general] ledger software to run Infor’s financials, human-capital management systems, etc. We use all Infor products to run our business. The focus I’ve had in this role is making the journey that many of our clients have made. We both have these disparate systems.

A classic example is tying cost to revenue. As a services business, we have a lot of people. Our biggest cost is payroll, and that gives me a large, [relatively] predictable base of my cost structure. Although I try to predict my revenue stream, some of that is more variable. Our human capital management system, which uses the data to predict who’s leaving, who’s coming and who’s going to come, is separate from our financial system. We’re bringing those together now.

Through our own transformation, we can then say to the CFOs of our clients: This is what the impact is, this is how you can do it, and this is how you can transform finance.