Adapting to the new normal

Graham Porter, Channel Director for the Middle East & Africa region, Infor, elaborates to Channel Post MEA about the impact of COVID -19 on the business and the steps taken by the company to adapt to the new normal.

Graham Porter, Channel Director for the Middle East & Africa region, Infor

How has the ongoing COVID-19 situation impacted your business with existing customers?
Inevitably a lot of customers’ first reaction was to put everything on hold – not surprising when their staff were sent home, asked to work remotely and their own finances were unclear. What we are seeing echoes comments from various reports indicating that many projects in the region have been delayed by several months. Projects have been revisited and some have been shelved. I think that we are very fortunate to be primarily in the ERP business and moving customers to the cloud, as this is becoming more important to organizations whose people are dispersed to many locations. Continuing business with online tools has become the new norm, so not just managing processes but doing it electronically and completing transactions is key. A lot of customers now see Infor as the company to digitally transform their business.

How have you adapted your market strategy to counter this impact?
A lot of interactions have gone online; I’ve lost count of how many different video and web meeting platforms I’ve used recently. It can be quite productive to do product demos online with colleagues and customers in many different places. A lot of our marketing has gone online with vertically themed campaigns specific to certain businesses, like distribution or food & beverage companies. We’ve also quickly rolled out a “back to work” program explaining how Infor products can be used to ensure your work environment is safe. This means training staff on how to clean and check their premises, how to record when it has been done, and by who. Companies can also generate a dashboard so that managers can immediately see graphically on a tablet or mobile where they have issues and generate alerts to be sent to these devices when a problem occurs.

How are you working with your partners to help get through this crisis?
We are trying to be flexible as we understand that customers are having problems: simple things like having decision-makers available to renew their support contracts, authorize payments, etc. We’ve also taken the potential downtime and used it to run staff training and do more business reviews with our partners, explaining the vertical markets we intend to focus on in this region and the addressable market we want to address with our partners. Specifically, when it comes to moving to the cloud, we have been helping partners advise customers on how to minimize workflow customizations, so that we can achieve quicker cloud deployments and a quicker return on their investment.

How do the prospects look like for the channel?
More channel partners are becoming aware that having services revenue from a loyal customer base is much better than transactional/commodity revenue, and that being able to work with a vendor like Infor – who talks to the business about business-critical issues and solves business problems – is where the value of technology lies.

How would you advise the channel to grow its business if this crisis persists or gets escalated?
Focus on your existing customers, understand their business problems and identify which vendors can add value, especially when the customer realizes they need to be online or in the cloud. Our experience has been that we can even do an ERP rollout where most of the work is done remotely. In fact, it can be quicker and cheaper, but you just need to manage those web meetings with the usual “can everyone go on mute” moments, and need someone who can manage to make such meetings interactive and manage the outcomes effectively.