We recently attended the IFS World Conference in Boston where the release of IFS Applications 9 was a big topic on the agenda, as was providing a platform for handling the "disruption" that exists in the market today. As IFS CEO Alastair Sorbie said in his keynote, "disruptions empower you, or put you out of business." Subsequent presentations and discussions highlighted the IFS case as to why it can provide the platform to empower manufacturers.
Five early adopter customers appeared at the event, talking about their positive, early stage experiences with version 9. The company's strengths exist in ERP, enterprise asset management, and field service management. However, many of the capabilities they discussed that raised my interest from a product innovation perspective include "embedded CRM", configurable decision support dashboards ("Lobbys" as they call them), and analytics. Here's more detail on each area:
- Embedded CRM: That is, embedded into IFS Applications 9 so you can have access to customer data whenever needed whether during fulfillment of a service request, sales proposal creation, or even (potentially, as this is not the focus of embedded CRM) as a catalyst for innovation. On the latter point, we think the next generation of product design and development will incorporate real time and historical feedback from customers, for product enhancement and initial concepts.
- Lobbys: Configurable user interfaces for whatever data the user wants quick access to – early stage examples from customers are focused on sales information, but the possibility exists to create other data views. Visually, this is reminiscent of where many PLM and ERP applications are going already; it's unique in that it provides users the ability to quickly configure a dashboard for any unique set of information – could be sales, finance, quality, manufacturing, or service.
- Analytics: In one of the last sessions of the event, CTO Dan Matthews discussed what's next for IFS. One short term (next year) area he alluded to was around analytics, where they will offer an "in-memory advisor" update to IFS Applications 9 that includes visual reporting and analysis. The natural progression of this would be to surface relevant analysis as part of the appropriate Lobby.
There was a lot of discussion about partnerships with Accenture (for European IFS consulting engagements), IFS Managed Cloud on Microsoft Azure, DinERP (enabling easier usage of enterprise applications), and others. This expansion of its partner ecosystem will be critical to integrate service management, quality, and enterprise asset management into the rest of the enterprise, and to grow its cloud based offerings. On the service front, I spent some time speaking with the CIO of Sporveien Oslo AS, a public transport operator in Oslo, Norway, who talked about how they use IFS to monitor and enable maintenance and rapid response to service and product quality issues; in his words, they are "sitting on an untapped ocean of data", that they now use for rapid and predictive maintenance and service.
Is there an opportunity to tie the aforementioned IFS capabilities to a product innovation platform? Although IFS is not a PLM vendor per se, the company has key pieces of a product innovation platform such as enterprise service management, quality management, and CRM that could be connected into an existing system or at least to the IFS PDM tool for small to midsize manufacturers.
As the IFS Labs lead said, operationalizing IoT data is the challenge, the opportunity is to prevent, predict, and act. I agree, and I'd add, to innovate.
Feel free to share your thoughts, feedback, and questions with me anytime at jhojloidc.com.