Inforum 2018: Focus on human potential and the power of AI, HCM

At Inforum 2018, the company announced new vertical products, while emphasizing the need to rethink HCM and talent analytics in today's tight labor market.

Washington, D.C. -- ERP platform provider Infor introduced new healthcare and government-specific additions to its product line at the company's annual Inforum 2018 conference here. But while the product announcements extended the company's large line of vertical offerings, the central theme of the conference -- human potential -- focused attendees heavily on the role of AI-powered HCM software in the workplace.

At a time when a tight labor market has made hiring and retention tricky, it's clear why a growing number of human capital management (HCM) tools offering in-depth data analytics and prescriptive services have sprung up recently, particularly in the HR tech space. But Infor's long presence in many ERP vertical markets makes it uniquely positioned, said Jon Reed, analyst and co-founder of Diginomica.

"The industry piece really differentiates Infor," Reed said. "There are more [HCM companies] that aren't ERP players, but Infor has done a pretty good job targeting certain verticals and modernizing them. The HR tech market is pretty hot right now, and it's clear they're a player."

Before unveiling Infor TrueCost Healthcare and CloudSuite Federal at Inforum 2018, CEO Charles Phillips outlined the company's journey to define what he called "the future of work." He pointed to the gap between available jobs and skilled workers and suggested it was unsustainable.

"We need more workers," he said flatly. "We have to do something different than we've done in the past."

When Infor moved its platform to the cloud, the company had new insights into the minds of workers, and that was a starting point.

"You've watched us build our functionality year after year, and we know how people work," Phillips said. "We couldn't do it before, because we couldn't see how people used our apps. But now we can because of the cloud."

Multinational rolls out CloudSuite

Infor's CloudSuite HCM underwent a multi-tenant refactoring to get it cloud-ready and then a complete rewrite that eliminated the legacy COBOL programming language, Phillips said. The HCM offering works in tandem with the company's AI-powered Talent Science product that serves up behavioral and performance data from 19% of the U.S. workforce, and it can offer pre-employment screening, as well as prescriptive advice.

The combination of industry-specific ERP data, Talent Science metrics and classic HCM functionality is what elevates Infor's offering, Phillips stressed.

"Other companies have access to other [things] like operational data, but our 'last-mile,' [industry-specific] features can map back in to HR. That's not something you get in other [HCM products]," Phillips said.

That level of insight into the business was one reason Koch Industries -- a multinational company in the transportation fuel and building materials industries, as well as an investor in Infor -- is in the process of rolling out CloudSuite HCM, said Koch's CFO and executive vice president, Steve Feilmeier, who spoke at Inforum 2018.

Infor has done a pretty good job targeting certain verticals and modernizing them.
Jon Reedanalyst, Diginomica

"We have no single system of record," he explained. "We have dozens of systems to track our employees, and it had become manually intensive just to count the number of our employees."

In fact, Koch was spending $500 million a year on HR functions -- a number Feilmeier said he expects to reduce by 20% to 50% when the Infor HCM installation goes live in approximately 12 months. Employee engagement and service should improve, he said, but the real win would be in hiring and retention.

"We expect faster cycle times when it comes to hiring," he said. "Who is the better hire? It's not the person down the street; it's the person already employed at Koch. We want the right people in the right roles at the right time with the right skills. And we don't want to lose them to turnover."

The risk of software-driven HCM

To date, CloudSuite HCM has more than 5,000 customers worldwide, said Amy Ihlen, Infor's senior director of HCM product management, with more than 10 million employees and 1 million contract or freelance workers. Talent Science screened more than 17 million applicants in the last year.

HCM isn't Infor's biggest area, and the company could have spent more time on its success in vertical markets during Inforum 2018, Reed said. "But this resonates with attendees who are thinking about their own work futures."

And although AI and machine learning (ML) are what everyone is talking about today, Reed said he wished Infor had gone a bit further.

"Everyone is pushing AI and ML toward talent, but I'm really worried algorithms are going to change HR for the worse. They would have done well to acknowledge the dangers."

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