You may know Charles Phillips’ name for a number of reasons; he’s a former US Marine, Morgan Stanley managing director, economic adviser to Barack Obama, and president of the world’s largest enterprise software company, Oracle. If that doesn’t ring a bell, then try his former hotline, 1-800-MR CHUCK.
At one stage of his career, Phillips was widely considered the don of software analysis. However, after a series of personal and professional hiccups at the start of this decade, the Arkansas businessman retreated before resurfacing in New York City as the CEO of a quiet little company called Infor.
Infor sits third, by a distance, behind enterprise technology giants Oracle and SAP; two companies Phillips knows well.
In addition to be being close friends with SAP chief Bill McDermott, with whom he regularly catches basketball games in New York, he also worked alongside Larry Ellison at Oracle for seven years. During this time he had a hand in no less than 70 corporate acquisitions and arguably guided the company through its most dominant era.
An erroneous statement in 2010 that Oracle had an acquisitions budget of $70 billion was publicly quashed by the company, many believing the words had come straight from Ellison himself, prompting rumours that their relationship was on the rocks.
At the time, Ellison’s PR adviser offered clarification on the matter in a tone so familiarly espoused by the Oracle CEO. “Oracle does not have a five year acquisition budget. We don’t even have a one year acquisition budget, the statement read. Soon after, Phillips departed the company, being replaced by former HP CEO Mark Hurd.
Outside of work, he admitted to an eight and-a-half year affair after his jilted mistress spent $250,000 revealing their relationship in spectacular fashion. Giant billboards at Times Square included.
“We’re just geeks who know what we like, and we wanted to bring that into the workplace.”
Regardless, few can deny Phillips’ impact at Infor. A man obsessed with turning humdrum enterprise software into beautiful and engaging programmes, he is the first CEO to boast his own in-house design agency, Hook & Loop, which has quickly become the largest design agency in New York City.
A ‘No Fugly Software’ poster pinned on the wall of the company’s fancy new headquarters emphasises its ethos of producing functional but attractive enterprise solutions.
“Our goal was to build something that reflects the programmes we use at home,” Phillips tells Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East. “We’re just geeks who know what we like, and we wanted to bring that into the workplace.”
Hook & Loop has increased its staff numbers from 15 to 80 in the past 12 months, while Infor as a whole reported licence and subscription growth of 10 percent in the final quarter of 2013. Phillips spent $350 million on research and development last year and claims that his funky New York office played a role in these developments.
“We’re having an impact from New York now,” he insists. “People like coming here, so it’s easier to see customers.” As well as the strategic advantage from a customer side, he also says that locating talent is far easier as the city hosts some good schools. “I’ve visited a lot of cities. New York is a good one for a 23-year-old engineer to come and have fun in.”
It should come as no surprise that Phillips has quickly transformed Infor into a company that can be counted alongside the likes of Oracle and SAP. His management team is well-stacked with ex-Oracle executives with years of industry knowledge. His right-hand man, Duncan Angove, is a former Oracle GM; his COO, Pam Murphy, spent 11 years at the company; and his SVP, Chip Coyle, ran the company’s America’s marketing division.
And even though to the uninitiated, market share suggests the company is still leagues behind, tech analyst Gartner says that there is plenty of ERP (enterprise resource planning) market share to go around. Infor may possibly needn’t ever worry about the other players.
“There’s a lot of market out there,” says Nigel Montgomery, a research director at Gartner.
“While SAP and Oracle have a good share of it (Oracle had 13%, while SAP dominated with 25%, Infor held just 6% in the 2012 ratings), there’s a lot of emerging markets and new types of business that Infor can go after.”
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