Infor Innovations Day: It’s RPA, Jim, but not as we know it

RPA – we all know about robotic process automation, the tech not being a unique offering along the lines of, say, GenAI. One SVP even copped to as much when discussing the latest updates to Infor’s CloudSuite platform at this month’s Infor Innovations Day Nordics.

Phil Lewis, senior VP, solution consulting for Infor international markets, graced the stage in Sweden with a keynote to Nordic partners and customers, and press such as ERP Today. In his presentation at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen, Lewis highlighted the addition of RPA to the new Infor CloudSuite, whilst admitting attendees may have been thinking “that’s nothing new, that’s been around for years.”

But as Lewis explained, Infor’s RPA is built into the platform and framework, and connected to all Infor applications.

“There’s no lead time, no implementation nor integration,” as he put it. “It’s consumable – customers can use it straight away.”

RPA has nothing to do with robots, but if we were to use a sci-fi analogy, then the ERP tech can often come after the fact – think Star Trek’s Borg, in which the robot species are created from ‘upgrading’ humans into their fold.

In this case, Infor’s RPA is more like the ultra-responsive holograms in the “holodecks” of Star Trek, embedded within the architecture of those virtual worlds which they serve and existing nowhere else. CloudSuite makes for the holodeck in this analogy, a software platform that’s constantly upgrading on the cloud, primed for a variety of business scenarios – and now equipped with bots awaiting users on its doorstep. This feature comes live in the October update to CloudSuite, the announcements of which coincided with the Innovations Day on the 10th.

Digital Darwinism

The CloudSuite talk came in a day summed up by the phrase “Digital Darwinism”. Kicking off Infor’s Innovations Day was an eye-opening keynote by futurist Sander Duivestein. In a look at AI, social media, deepfakes and the metaverse – probable progenitors of the holodeck one and all – the main takeaway for the corporate audience in Stockholm was “don’t be afraid to experiment”, especially if you want your business to evolve and survive. A message to be expected at an “Innovation Day”, one might say.

This through line of Digital Darwinism was expounded upon by Lewis as he laid out an AI use case in which the intelligence doesn’t simply watch and copy a human user in the manner of RPA, but instead makes decisions and carries out actions based on those decisions.

“These automation capabilities come together into what we call ‘enterprise automation’. This means automation of the back end, automation of the front end – and then decision intelligence, or ‘decision automation’, which can be injected absolutely anywhere.”

But with all this talk of AI and the virtual, it was clear Lewis and Team Infor are more people-focused than anything else. Infor’s ethos is to go in and understand a business, as examples including a Dutch baking brand elaborated upon.

This includes knowing the niche needs of a vertical – take grower’s contracts, a consideration of the food and beverage industry which Infor has “hard baked” into its platform.

“We really go to town in terms of building last-mile capabilities people need by industry,” as Lewis put it.

Another vertical the SVP talked about was healthcare, a sometimes overlooked part of the Infor offering. In the States, Cloudsuite Healthcare gave the real-life example of a nurse who can speak with a device and get the materials and equipment she needs instead of trawling hospital corridors for half an hour at a time.

“The nurse on our [promotional] video says, ‘this technology is saving people’s lives.’ This is through using voice to communicate with your system, and back-end automation to automate that process.”

“Sometimes the simplest things make for the biggest difference.”

Innovations Day Nordics ended with a panel hosted by Duivestein that again touched on winning Digital Darwinism as a business. Lewis spoke with Infor customers ranging across finance and garden supplies, along with a representative from Amazon Web Services (AWS being the “backbone” of CloudSuite).

When asked by Duivestein what innovation meant to him, Lewis responded that from an Infor perspective, it’s about innovating on behalf of customers – doing the research needed and carrying out experiments side-by-side with clients.

“The one thing that will derail an innovation project is not having the people behind you – so whatever you do to make people feel involved and not alienated is really important. Along with giving them that freedom to be part of the experimentation, to be part of the ideation and be able to feel they can come forward with an idea.”

“You have to allow people to have crazy ideas as that’s where the best innovations come from.”

In other words, you want people to be Infor-ming the disruption process from start to finish – meaning “robotic” staff need not apply.