08/29/2013 11:50 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2013

In A World Of High-Tech, Don't Lose Sight Of High-Touch

When CMO Chip Coyle joined Infor - a large enterprise software company serving 70,000 customers with nearly a $3 billion annual revenue - in 2011, he joined a new management team that focused on fundamentally transforming the company's approach to product development and integration.


The enterprise software business is generally driven by the technology, and focused on selling features, as opposed to driving from the point of view of the customer and the buyer. Coyle however is institutionalizing a more customer-oriented perspective that drives product design and development from the outside in. This innovation around the user experience of the software goes beyond the traditional software function of just getting the job done, but takes it to the next level by creating software for the workplace that is simple and pleasurable to use. But just how does a 13,000 employee-deep company drive this type of change?

Coyle give us these 7 practices for orchestrating a technology transformation:

Invest in Your Products - Revamping your product lines to bring real signs of innovation to the market starts with an investment in your products, with R&D and adding new developers. Through technology and user interface investments, Infor was able to take products that span the enterprise, unify them and make them easy to integrate and roll out into full suites regardless of industry. The new product line offers deep industry-specific applications and suites, engineered for speed, and with an innovative user experience design that is simple, transparent and elegant.

Deliver Speed to Value - Implementation is at the core of Infor's strategy and they try to avoid putting customers through long implementation cycles. The product design supports this by requiring lightweight integration's and providing flexible deployment options that give customers a choice to run their businesses in the cloud, on-premises, or both.

Their customers are very business-focused, so by shortening the time to deliver a product to market they are able to add value incrementally and deliver value more quickly. Their marketing philosophy mirrors this by focusing on marketing agility so that campaigns have a much quicker turnaround. Coyle notes that having a great relationship with IT is critical to this, as they rely on the infrastructure for all they do - marketing automation tools, the website, etc.

Be Unconventional - Infor created their own in-house design firm, Hook & Loop, to focus on creating user experiences and even relocated their headquarters to NYC to create a more interesting environment to host customers that gives the feeling of walking into a creative agency. The agency is made up of 50 designers, copy writers and user experience and interface technologists, who are part product developers/part marketing communications. They have had a tremendous influence on Infor driven by the human thinking of the way that their software is used. As such, they are coming up with new ways to visualize data and influence the visibility of their applications. For example they are developing new ways to communicate traditional spreadsheet data by using dynamic graphics that can be drilled down on.

Align Brand Attributes with Product Attributes - Moving to an outside in approach to software design required driving change throughout the entire organization. In doing so, Coyle says it was helpful that Infor's brand and what they stand for as a corporation was consistent with the attributes that they are striving for in their products. He tells us that the brand and corporate attributes are inextricably linked. To ensure consistency in the software, they brought all the developers together across the many different product lines. He says that in doing this, the developers have embraced the transformation full-heartedly.

Rethink Marketing - Coyle's marketing team of 450 people is changing the way they approach marketing to make the best use of digital interactions. In one of their own corporate presentations they make reference to the fact that a prospect is already 57% of the way through the buying cycle before they ever engage with a human being - proving the concept of the power of digital influence. With much of a prospects investigation being done online, companies need to get better about how to create an online environment to help customers think of things in a different way. To evolve the marketing organization to understand this type of marketing, Coyle says that all the domain experts at Infor fuel his central campaigns team to help them institutionalize the best practices of digital marketing. To help with all their marketing efforts, Infor uses their own marketing products in-house, such as the CRM software that they deliver to customers.

Coyle tells us that they are looking at how to take customer use cases and bring them to life leveraging digital technology, such as info-graphics. When it comes to telling that customer story Coyle says you need to think of customers as buyers and ask questions like "what is their buying psyche?" and "what do they need now?" and then "how do we demonstrate our product attributes in this story telling way?"

Make Use of Digital Interactions, But Don't Lose Face - While customer engagement can be accomplished with forms of marketing that involve back and forth interactions, Coyle firmly believes that there is no replacement for being face-to-face with customers and striking that balance between the high-tech and the high-touch. Infor also blends the face-to-face experience with real-time digital concepts like digital polling, tweets and videos, and leveraging the website for pre-and-post event momentum. They also host a lot of field events and make an effort to be visible in the places where their customers congregate.

Measure Results - The real challenge is to understand how to deliver integrated campaigns in a multi-touch, multi-device world and also have the ability to track and measure the collective impact of all of those touches to then drive the next likely purchase or to decide when to trigger the next offer to a prospect.

Many of the digital marketing techniques can be easily tracked and measured to help fuel the demand gen engine, such as gated assets on the website. In addition, they have a lot of traditional tools. tracks all interactions through to the sale, and marketing is tightly aligned with the sales teams they support to measure, support and adapt to campaigns. One way that Coyle measures the ROI of their user experience-focused products is by analyzing worker productivity which can be determined by looking at the sheer volume of emails in an organization. He says if you are doing it right then a lot of the organizational communications will be done in a more efficient way than email.

In closing, Coyle advises CMOs to try to avoid the marketing hype of the moment. "It's not all high-tech these days, don't forget the high-touch and the importance of face-to-face interactions." At the end of the day it's a CMO's job to figure out how to balance the high-tech and the high-touch to deliver maximum value to customers.

You can watch the full interview with Chip Coyle here. Please join me and Michael Krigsman of Asuret every Friday at 3PM EDT as we host CXOTalk - connecting with thought leaders and innovative executives who are pushing the boundaries within their companies and their fields.