Infor Backs Down From a “Creepy” Anonymous Paid Referral Program

My fellow Enteprise Irregulars did a bang-up job of covering Infor's recent announcement and subsequent retraction of an annonymous referral program that offered to pay any industry influencers (e.g., analysts, bloggers, consultants) that brought business their way. Specifically, Infor claimed, the program would create "new opportunities for industry influencers, independent sales professionals, and professional services firms, by letting you anonymously refer your clients to Infor for world-class business software. In addition to getting up to a 15% referral fee for any company you refer to Infor that becomes an Infor customer, our referral partner program will allow you to offer more services and establish a long-term relationship with your clients and business associates."

Naomi Bloom, HR tech Goddess extraordinaire (and another loyal Penn Quaker), summed up the market reaction succinctly in a tweet suggesting: "Has Infor lost their minds? They're offering me/influencers up to 15% for anonymous prospect referrals -- in writing. This is truly creepy." In other words, Infor decided to dangle a direct financial carrot in front of folks like me as an incentive to send business their way, even when the referral was anonymously (i.e., I would not have to tell my contact that I was getting paid in the deal). Theoretically, this program would enable technology advisers to receive payment from both end-users (who they were advising) and the vendor themselves, creating the potential for a significant conflict of interest, especially given the anonymous component of the program.

However, just as fast as Infor implemented the program, they decided to cancel it as well, noting that "the referral program ... has been terminated and all referral program initiatives are under review by the new Infor management team. Updates and a revised referral program will be provided in early January." In the above link, Michael Krigsman opines, "Infor quickly did the right thing to restore confidence, which demonstrates responsiveness, so I am impressed." Vinnie Merchandi also had some useful thoughts to add to the debate if you're curious to check them out.

I believe this entire escapade, which ended within 24 hours after it started, raises a number of questions we should all ask when it comes to making sure any technology/sourcing adviser is as objective as possible, and most important, does not have any potential conflicts of interest in a particular engagement or relationship. Stay tuned as I suggest five questions later this week that every tech and solution buyer should ask of their advisers before they accept any recommendation suggesting potential vendors.

- Jason Busch

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