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Infor to buy cloud BI company Birst

Infor is buying cloud analytics firm Birst in a move to bolster its cloud-first ERP orientation

Infor, a business applications company known for its fine-grained industry foci, has announced an agreement to buy Birst, a cloud business intelligence (BI) supplier. 

In recent years, under an ex-Oracle leadership team that includes Charles Phillips and Duncan Angove, Infor has sought to position itself as cloud first, and vertically focused, providing cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) for the fashion industry, the food and beverage industry, materials distribution and others.

Its main line approach to business intelligence has been to embed BI and analytics in business processes.

Infor is the home for a range of ERP brands from the 1990s onwards, such as Baan and Lawson. It seeks to integrate those using XML middleware, ION, as described on Computer Weekly’s sister site SearchFinancialApplications.

New York-based Infor boasts some 65 million users in more than 100 countries for its ERP business. It claims it has made investment of $3bn in research and development to re-engineer its industry specific applications for the cloud. It has eschewed building its own cloud infrastructure in favour of using Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.

San Francisco-based Birst has more than 300 customers worldwide, including American Express Global Business Travel, Kellogg’s, Reckitt Benckiser, Schneider Electric, and Citrix. The company has around 260 employees.

In a statement, Infor said Birst will provide a “single, elegant platform to render insights, discovery, correlations and predictive analytics in a highly consumable user interface”.

Under Phillips and Angove, Infor has emphasised the aesthetic appeal of its business applications, which it would say is exemplified in the work of its Hook and Loop digital design agency, based in Manhattan.

Birst finds ‘home’ in Infor

The Birst business intelligence platform is said to connect a network of virtualised BI pools on top of a shared analytical software “fabric”.

It runs from extract, transform and load (ETL), operational reports, dashboards, semantic understanding, visualisation, data discovery and data blending to form a BI suite in the cloud. Like Infor, Birst has also availed itself of AWS.

Brad Peters, chairman and chief product officer at Birst, said: “Infor is the perfect home for Birst, providing the global scale and resources to accelerate our short-term growth and also a common long-term vision for the future of data-driven businesses using advanced business intelligence, artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

In its January 2017 report, Critical capabilities for business intelligence and analytics platforms, Gartner ranked Birst first for “extranet access” – the ability to share data across enterprises – because of its cloud architecture. It also ranked the firm first for embedded BI, and fourth for data discovery.

Read more about Infor and Birst

Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor, said: “The founders of Birst have a deep BI pedigree. This is much of the same team that built Siebel Systems BI, which is now Oracle’s BI stack.

“They pivoted to the cloud, and built a modern BI platform with an understanding of future needs, experience with a wide variety of use cases and commitment to the cloud.”

The rationale for the acquisition is said to be that while “BI companies provide the analytics platform but don’t understand industry processes and potential insights, application companies understand the processes and industries but have lacked the platform to render data and analytics”. The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

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