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Last week I had the opportunity to attend Infor’s 2014 Innovation Summit – an event designed to bring together analysts and Infor executives to hear the latest and greatest on their product innovation and customer success. But the event started in a slightly unusual way. We were provided a tour of the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, not too far from Infor’s new global headquarters. My particular tour group started with a stop at Paul Cézanne’s “Still Life with Apples.” Our guide explained that Cézanne is often considered the father of modernism, and this particular piece shows the beginning of his explorations that led to the modern art movement. She pointed out that when you look at the edge of the table, the artist’s perspective is from above into the right. When you look at the bowl of fruit in the center of the composition, the perspective is straight on. In this way, the artist is capturing one image from multiple perspectives – something that cannot be achieved in real life without the element of time. She also noted that it was important to understand what was happening in the world at the time it was painted in 1898. There had been a technological disruption – the introduction of photography. For centuries, one of the main goals of art was to realistically capture life and accurately translate three-dimensional images into a two-dimensional plane. Suddenly, technology had come along that could do a far better job of accurately rendering images than any artist. So Cézanne and his followers had to reinvent themselves, respond to disruptive technology, and learn to add value in a way that this disruptive technology could not. This response is at the core of the modern art movement, in which artists broke down their images, abstracted them, reassembled them, and forced us to look at life in new ways.

So, what does this have to do with anything other than indulging my collegiate art history experience? Infor, like many of its competitors, is seeking to disrupt today’s organizations with new technology. Their goal is to create enterprise technology that connects information and individuals in new ways. The ION platform that is at the core of Infor’s four main technology solutions is designed to let their software connect with other existing enterprise solutions and point solutions to exchange information and provide their customers with new ways of connecting financial, supply chain, human capital, and other data to drive business decisions and enable what Infor referred to as the “modern organization.” But much as disruptive technology in the form of photography shook the foundation of the art world, requiring a new human response to add value, this disruptive technology will also require a human response from today’s organizations. Truly recognizing the value of disruptive technology requires a lot of effort for the sake of modernity. No matter how elegant and easy to use the solution is, the human mindset behind rethinking the organization and becoming comfortable with using data in new ways will remain one of Infor’s biggest challenges when it comes to adoption.

It seems worth noting that as the modern art movement evolved, artists like Duchamp and his found object sculptures, Kandinsky and his bright slashes of color, and even graffiti artists like Keith Herring have often made viewers uncomfortable. They have caused the world at large to question what art even is, and if these responses to the modern world and modern technology are indeed of value. There’s no question that today’s organizations create significant value for themselves and the world they serve. But the journey to becoming a “modern” organization that can implement and take full advantage of disruptive technology will be a long one. From the looks of Infor’s latest releases, easy to use, beautiful to look at, and effective solutions will not be their greatest challenge, helping their users navigate change just may be instead.

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