Advoco, an Infor Alliance Partner, providing EAM services, has had, for several years, a user group meeting called Connect.  Connect 2020 was unique in two ways; first, due to COVID-19, it went virtual, and second, Infor became an official sponsor of the event and was a significant partner throughout.  This Infor investment reflects some of the impacts Koch Industries is bringing to Infor since it completed its total acquisition of Infor earlier this year (at least this is my opinion).  Koch is an industrial company, and one that is very asset-intensive; therefore, EAM is a critical application area.  This investment bodes well for Infor’s industrial customers.  Also, by partnering with Advoco, Infor joins the ranks of IBM and SAP, two other EAM mega players in partnering with a third party to deliver content to its EAM centric users.

Advoco has Emerged as a Key APM Services Provider

Advoco, a privately held services company with offices in California, New York, and most importantly, Greeneville, South Carolina, where Infor’s EAM product is centered, has a long history of EAM implementation. Advoco has focused on optimization services and has evolved from Datastream, the first key element in Infor’s acquisition history centered on the maintenance management market.  Advoco’s sole mission is to drive performance from Infor’s EAM solutions.  One of the ways they have accomplished that is through their annual user group meeting Connect and their Connect Education Network, Advoco’s online learning system.

Advoco Pulls Off Connect 2020 Virtually

As an analyst, I regularly attend user group meetings and, like most everyone, have only done so online this year as COVID-19 changed the game just as the event season started in earnest.  Unlike many events which have gone virtual and opened up to attendees for free, Advoco retained their registration fee.  But, they offered a lot of value for that fee:

  • They shipped the usual swag bags to all attendees
  • They provided Starbucks (an Advoco customer) gift cards to attendees to donate to essential workers locally
  • They held virtual social events such as a cooking lesson for the “group” dinner
  • They had a curated social wine tasting event

All this made the event just that, an event, instead of a series of webinars, which is what the other events that have gone online all seemed like.  What made the attendance fee (more than $1000) valuable, though, was that they gave each attendee and five additional associates from their company access to their Connect Education Network. Providing access to the event content to six people instead of just one and, more importantly, allowing access to additional content in the network and was probably a key in driving participation.  With over 500 attendees from five countries, participating in the event and with over 3000 session course completions and the donation of 5100 meals to charity instead of physical attendees, Advoco pulled off a very different virtual event.

Infor’s Participation Demonstrated Commitment to APM

As mentioned earlier, Infor has always been a key EAM application provider via its acquisitions of Datastream, an early CMMS pioneer, Intentia, an EAM capable ERP provider, and other critical industry maintenance solutions.  With Birst and Coleman, Infor has had the underpinnings of a richer APM 4.0 capable solution. Still, much of the effort to derive APM value depended on customers stitching those components together.  At Connect 2020, Infor announced more formal products that better position them to compete against IBM’s Maximo solution set and SAP’s APM solution set.  Infor also announced an enhanced mobility solution that recognizes that the future of APM work is via connected workers.  Asset-intensive industries and the public sector and other manufacturers should see Infor’s increased investment in moving beyond EAM to a full APM 4.0 footprint as welcome news.

The Future of Virtual User Group Meetings

Infor and Advoco showed that moving a user group meeting online doesn’t mean you have to give up engagement.  The structure of Connect 2020 serves as a blueprint of how to keep engagement high in a virtual scenario.  As other organizations are forced to go virtual, they would be well served to look at Connect 2020 as a blueprint.  Yes, there were technical glitches, and yes, it was not the same as being at the event, but overall of the four virtual user group meetings I have attended since the pandemic enforced travel restrictions, Connect 2020 was by far the most engaging.