The multinational with start-up ambitions
When Kees van den Houten joined Infor, ambitions were sky-high. Turnover had to double in three years. This was only possible by innovating at a rapid pace and making consistent policy choices from which the policy objective logically followed. In this interview, we spoke to Infor’s Managing Director Benelux about the decisions he made at Infor and how he managed to achieve his business objective by putting the customer first.
Infor is an internationally operating company dedicated to the development of industry-specific software solutions in the cloud. With 17,000 employees spread over 44 countries, the company serves more than 67,000 companies. At the start of our conversation, Van den Houten emphasizes the Dutch influence within Infor. The company has grown in recent years by, among other things, acquiring Dutch software companies. Partly because of this, 3 of the 4 global software units are still controlled from the Netherlands.
In order to distinguish itself in the (hyper) competitive market, van den Houten has made the clear choice that the company only focuses on sectors in which they can be experts. From this choice, growth is possible and Infor can distinguish itself with industry-specific software. Direct contact with the end users is essential to respond quickly and adequately to new needs.
Acceleration of innovation
Digitization in business has accelerated in the past year. However, van den Houten does see a big difference between the various sectors in this regard. For example, he sees companies in fashion retail struggling to survive while the food & beverages sector is busier than ever. Infor tried to respond to the (new) needs by being flexible with the users and being responsive with all new requests. As a recent example, he mentions setting up a Pick & Collect system for entrepreneurs which helps them continue their business under corona measures.
He is convinced that this flexibility contributed to the success during the crisis. By playing open cards with customers and creating realistic expectations, mutual understanding was created. Van den Houten identified three major trends in consumer behaviour.
First of all, a growing trust in cloud applications. “Due to the lack of physical encounters, the concerns about cloud applications disappeared, whether or not out of necessity.” In addition, there was a growing need for applications that provide insight into the status and management of the supply chain. Finally, he notes that the view on remote implementation is changing. “Infor has a lot of expertise offshore, so the restrictions on physical meeting had no impact on the duration of projects.” This last point has always been one of Infor’s strengths but turned out to be an added benefit in 2020 as it prevented additional delays on projects.
In recent years, Infor has been able to grow rapidly due to the start-up culture in which permanent improvement is central. Maintaining this growth can only be done by continuously staying in touch with customers and meeting their new needs. In addition, van den Houten believes that focusing on new sectors will contribute to the growth of Infor in the coming years. As an example he discusses the healthcare sector in which the multinational is the market leader in the United States.
Since six months, the applications for this industry have been suitable for the European market. “The Dutch team is in close contact with American colleagues whose knowledge and skills are excellently used to position us within the Dutch healthcare sector.” This experience abroad ensures reliability.
Every day, van den Houten feels like he makes a difference which he hopes to continue in the coming years. He wants to translate the great potential he sees into both horizontal and vertical growth. Additionally, he has the drive to expand the partner landscape. He is interested to talk to the Flevum network about various forms of cooperation and accelerating growth through permanent innovation.