Channel Marker

Feb 18 2009   6:10PM GMT

SAP-Infor saga shows ups, downs of vendor exclusivity

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow



It’s always good to watch the shifting allegiances of VARs and their vendor partners.


Take SAP for example. Last week, the ERP giant, trying to boost its midmarket cred, blasted out a press release touting the migration of companies and VARs from Infor to SAP Business One.
Infor has ruffled channel feathers with its requirement that its partners be exclusive to it. You can’t be an Infor partner and an SAP partner or a Microsoft ERP partner, for example. 

Infor and its expectations of partner loyalty thus makes a fascinating channel tale. Based in Alpharetta, Ga., Infor is Computer Associates-type borg in enterprise apps. (Well, mini-borg if you’re comparing it to Oracle.) It buys  (or bought) lots of  small companies and assimilated them—for better or worse. Then it expects the VARs who sold and supported those often-specialized ERP packages to be 100% true blue to Infor. In return it promises advantages.


Now back to the press release. Some of it checks out fine. Navigator Business One Solutions evolved out of an Infor partner into one (as its name implies) fully in the Business One camp.


Navigator CEO Grant Fraser said  his old business, Alpine Systems was a Lilly Software partner and when Infor bought Lilly, became an Infor partner. That was fine for awhile but then he started to look around.  “We had about 700 customers on the Infor product but decided to look around,”  He said the issue was uncertainty over whether Infor would truly continue to improve and support all the code bases it had acquired. “I mean, if the Oracles and the Microsoft’s of the world can’t do it, how could Infor do it alone and Infor had a grand vision of two superset products, one for Java one for .NET,” Fraser said.


The upshot is he decided to form another company to sell Business One and keep Alpine for Infor. When Infor found out, it wasn’t happy and Infor ended up buying out Alpine.


Other Infor partners have had harsher words for Infor. Off the record two other then-current Infor partners told me in the last Infor exclusivity go-round  that the company’s demands for 100% exclusivity were draconian and they both wanted to switch to Business One. Neither partner returned phone calls this time around although one’s website makes it clear it’s in the SAP camp now.


The flip side is a Midwestern Infor partner that two years ago started a move to SAP but has ended back with both feet firmly in the Infor fold. This partner said Business One turned out to be a big disappointment. “SAP got all hot and heavy in SMB market then pulled back. It has no clear vision,” this partner said.


He and others point to the SAP’s enterprise ERP roots—and its related legacy direct-sales focus. These partners said that the struggling Business ByDesign effort was a mess that didn’t help matters.


But the larger question of vendor exclusivity remains. Focusing on one vendor eases training and certification issues—and can save money. But it also restricts customer choices. Very few VARs recommend a total commitment to any one vendor and that’s the problem Infor will continue to face.


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