Infourm 2017 Hackathon (image credit John McGal)l

At Inforum 2017 I had the opportunity to talk with Martine Cadet, VP Global Talent Enablement at Infor. She joined Infor from Microsoft and took on the role of developing the Infor Educational Alliance Program. She initially put was in charge of the Infor Education Alliance program. Infor has a unique if at times disjointed approach to CSR, but their work in education is especially noteworthy.

The Infor Education Alliance program

Martine Cadet, VP Global Talent Enablement at Infor (Image credit :Linked)
Martine Cadet, VP Global Talent Enablement at Infor

Over the last year there were several announcements from Infor about this. New relationships were initiated with Wroclaw, Poland, to the University of Perpignan Via Domitia (UPVD) in Europe, as well as Thailand and India and Korea in APAC. There are also several links with universities in the US. In total there are currently 33 universities in the program educating 1,500 students each semester on Infor software.

I asked Cadet why the program was first started: Cadet replied: “Essentially when we first started the program it was about how do we start influencing students who are going to be our future customers. Hopefully future decision makers and partners who actually know who Infor is.”

Charles Philips, CEO at Infor wanted five elements to the program. Cadet continued: “It was originally Charles’ idea. Between Charles, Christina VanHouten and Jeff Abbott, they said, we want an education (they called it university) programme. We want to give away software, we want to have some internships and we want a centre of excellence and certifications.“

According to Cadet it was originally about influencing. Infor does not have the brand recognition of SAP and Oracle and they wanted to influence the next generation. Even Cadet admitted that it could be seen as a trojan horse into the education space. However, and this was obvious by Cadet’s passion for the subject, it is now much more than that. She added: ”It was doing good essentially”.

For Infor and Cadet it is now more about building out the talent pipeline. Not just for Infor but in the wider sense.

Two puzzle pieces that don’t always fit

Connecting business with academic institutions is not always that easy. It’s a bit like picking up a piece from each of two puzzles and hoping they fit together. Infor has managed to do this at several levels which will benefit the students ultimately as well as Infor and the universities. Infor has used their Dynamic Science Labs as a lure. They have a research partnership with North Western and sit on the IoT board at Georgia Tech MIT (where DSL is located). Cadet also revealed that they hope to have an announcement about further work in Boston. She commented: “We will see that take off a lot more.”

Unlike the consumer offering that companies such as Google and Microsoft offer, ERP is less glamourous. Cadet recognises the difficulty in getting academics to change their course in favour of a single software vendor and tried a different approach.

She said: “We started with industry projects. Universities are being challenged that students don’t have real world skills. We presented them with an opportunity for them to work on an industry project. Where it works the best is not only where we provide the software. It is where we can provide ourselves, our partners or even our customer is in the classroom teaching.”

This is further enhanced according to Cadet where they can persuade customers to open their doors. The goal is to allow the students to shadows employees and even get customers to offer internships to some. This is what is happening at UPVD with SNCF, the French railway company.

When will the Infor EAP complete?

Never, according to Cadet. She added “Success for us might look like having 200 universities worldwide. We want to make sure we can place the top students at Infor, Partners or customers.”

This is not about providing education for everyone, the process wouldn’t scale to millions of universities said Cadet. However, it will evolve once that 200 universities is reached. She commented: “We can rotate out the schools. Making sure we have the best quality talent and always providing the best experience to that talent and making our ecosystem thrive.”

CSR is not always coherent

While the Infor EAP is a global initiative, that is not the case for all CSR at Infor. Are they missing an opportunity? Possibly. There is no formal citizenship program though Cadet hopes that there will be soon. This was evident at Inforum. While there was a Hackathon at the event the conference lacked the support for charitable organisations that some companies enthuse about.

This is something that Phillips should consider. There are advantages to having the localised approach that Infor has. Many local charities are supported but on a global scale he, and they, could make a bigger difference than they are currently.

One area that Cadet was also eager to talk about was diversity. It is a focus for Infor according to Cadet. She commented: “We are more focused around workforce development, making sure there is equality in access for all people. Making sure that we remove some of the structural challenges that might exist through our educational initiatives.“

Pam Murphy, COO is an advocate of diversity, chairing a WIM round table at Inforum. She is not alone with new hire Mayumi Hiramatsu, SVP Cloud operations a board member of Girls in Tech (GIT).

Cadet herself has an interesting viewpoint on diversity and the challenge that is faced. She related the story of recently hiring three new staff. She asked for a diverse candidate slate. One agency thought that this meant she wanted a diverse candidate on the list regardless. Not the case Cadet insists. The quality needs to be there but the agency needed to think outside the box and not just use their normal sources for candidates. It’s an interesting take on the problem and raises the issue of unconscious bias in a new area. If you always look for candidates on certain job boards and locations, rather than the whole population is your sample skewed?

How do you ensure that all possible candidates are available to you? It starts with enablement

Why enablement matters

While the Infor EAP takes enablement to a new level for the company it did not go far enough. Phillips asked Cadet to look at it more broadly.

Cadet explained their approach: “Infor is taking a much more thoughtful approach around what does it mean to enable talent more broadly. Breaking down the walls between internal and external between partner and Infor.”

To do this Infor is looking to recruit its own employees to outreach into communities. Cadet continued: “Our Internal sales our EAP members and our partners will have the same education and training because it will come through my organisation . We are going to build a community internally where we already have people going out to EAP schools, serving as mentors. They then bring them in as interns.

We have hired 24 students to date, At this point we are training 1500 students every semester on our software and solutions. Having that all aligned really nicely is the evolution of the program if we can bring that same energy internally to our partners…then it can be game changing.”

Extending the education partnerships is something that Infor is already doing. It is a technology partner to a STEM initiative in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Why are they doing this? Cadet summarised why and what she hopes to do next saying: “You don’t have to get a degree to get a job. We do want to make sure that we are helping kids see other pathways. Helping them think about things that possibly they thought was not in the realms of possibility for them. Both on the college level, high school level and at some point, I would like it to get to the middle school level because that’s where most kid get turned off, especially the girls.”

What does this mean

While Infor does need to consider the wider CSR initiatives, what it is doing in education is impressive. The initiative may have started out as a marketing exercise but it has become far more than that. The hackathon that took place at Inforum was unlike any other. It was not employees or partners building software for charities, it was high school students. The same high school students who are getting an education from Infor teams.

Their presence at the event may have inspired some to a career in technology. It was not worse or better than other hackathons, but it was different and showed that Infor and Cadet are thinking outside the box.


  1. Correction above:
    We understood from the initial conversation that Infor were on the IoT Board at MIT, they have subsequently clarified they are on the IoT Board at Georgia Tech


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