IFS focuses on IoT, Cloud and Operational Intelligence

Cambashi Report on the IFS World Conference
Gothenburg, 24-27th Oct 2016

by Alan Griffiths
@cambashi_alan
LinkedIn

Key Takeaways

IFS has a large (over 1 million users) and loyal customer base, and claims to be very successful in new bids.

It is seeking to increase its visibility to support further growth.

It has a good, componentised system that can be introduced gradually or partially, e.g. to fit with incumbent systems.

IFS has a sound cloud strategy, working primarily with Microsoft Azure, and on average 34% of new customers are implementing cloud-based solutions.

Its Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) product could be a big advantage with new customers who haven’t fully planned their implementation strategy or business benefits – particularly if adopted by major consultancy partners who perform the initial business analysis.

IFS has a pragmatic IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) strategy as it is enabling links from established IIOT platform(s) to its existing systems and is not ‘reinventing the wheel’, e.g. it uses Microsoft Azure IoT suite and BI analytics.

IFS is a fun and interesting company, with a passion for customer service; this was illustrated by one of the founders who, as well as doing a passable rendition of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan, told the story of ‘the IFS tent’ in which he and his colleagues camped outside the main gate of their first customer in order to provide excellent customer service!

IFS’ Corporate Strategy

Alastair Sorbie, CEO of IFS, explained that the company’s new owners, EQT, will be investing in the company to accelerate growth, initially in these three areas:

  1. Mobility
  2. Field Service.
  3. Localisation.

Alastair also introduced the company’s strategy for IoT – see next section for Dan Matthews’ presentation.

ifs-alastair-sorbie-crop
Figure 1: Alastair Sorbie introducing IFS’ IoT strategy

IFS Announcements

IFS IoT strategy

Dan Matthews, CTO, explained:

ifs-dan-matthews-iot
Figure 2: Dan Matthews introducing IFS’ IoT reference model

IFS is not ‘reinventing the wheel’ with respect to IoT platforms – it is launching ‘IFS IoT Business Connector’ with plug-and-play connectivity to Microsoft Azure IoT suite,and open APIs to other IoT platforms.

The IoT Business Connector will be released to market in early 2017, and will enable IoT data to be handled across IFS Applications, FSM (Field Service Management) and EOI (Enterprise Operational Intelligence).

ifs-iot-business-connector
Figure 3: IFS’ IoT connection strategy

Other aspects of IFS’ ‘digitalisation strategy’ include:

  • Mobile, in-memory developments.
  • Cloud platforms (primarily Microsoft Azure and its IoT suite).
  • Re-engineered data model (this allows for example, its own CRM to work directly on the core database).

IFS Cloud strategy

IFS is working closely with Microsoft to use its Azure cloud/datacentre network to provide its customers with ‘IFS Managed Cloud on Azure’ which is a fully-managed solution.  Customers can also deploy IFS Cloud as IaaS on Microsoft Azure.

ifs-dan-matthews-cloud
Figure 4: Dan Matthews presents IFS’ cloud strategy

IFS ‘EOI’ (Enterprise Operational Intelligence).

EOI is a distinctive capability that IFS obtained through the VisionWaves acquisition in 2015.  VisionWaves was founded in 2000 with headquarters in Zeist, the Netherlands, and a sales office in the US.  It successfully implemented its solution in large multinational customers in Aerospace & Defence, Transportation, Mining, Engineering & Construction, Energy & Utilities, Public Sector, Finance, and Healthcare.  Well-established partnerships exist with several system integrators including Capgemini, Accenture and Serco.  IFS has invested heavily in the ‘EOI’ product and will release version 8.1 in early 2017.

According to IFS: ‘The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solution forms part of the IFS visual insight strategy and enables a full 360-degree, enterprise wide, top down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy’.

Dan Matthews explained that there are three steps with EOI:  ‘MAP, MONITOR, MANAGE’.

The top-level business strategy and goals are captured (mapped) in BizMap™, and then real-time data is connected to monitor and manage the end-to-end processes.  A nice aspect of the mapping is the availability of a standard business template that can be filled-in as the business is mapped; this provides a structure to work with and ensures that no aspect of the business is left out.

EOI is interesting because IFS (or a consultant/partner) can map a business from the strategic level (using EOI BizMap) and then connect this to the IFS business (ERP) system in real time so that actual operational data can be used.  It refers to a ‘cockpit’ – which is active and allows changes to be made in real time, rather than a ‘dashboard’ – which just presents views of data.  This could present a very powerful strategy if IFS consulting partners were to use EOI in their business advisory services, as it would then lead easily into sales of IFS due to the ease of implementation.  The challenge is that they may already have their own business mapping tools, so re-training and commitment would be needed.

One technical point; EOI is built on a Microsoft platform using SQL Server as the underlying database while IFS is built on Oracle as the underlying database.  Web services or APIs are used to enable integration.

ifs-system-architecture
Figure 5: IFS’ system architecture

Formula One Promotion

IFS is sponsoring the Sauber Formula One team.  They brought a formula one car on stage – see below – and Axel Cruse, Sauber’s Operations Director, was a guest speaker.

ifs-alastair-sorbie-sauber-f1-car
Figure 6: IFS’ Sauber Formula One sponsorship

Axel also attended the IFS dinner in Gothenburg’s famous ‘Fish Church’ after which the guests were entertained by a rock band featuring Ulf Stern, one of the founders of IFS back in 1981.  Ulf did a passable rendition of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan (who had not at that time accepted the Nobel prize for literature offered to him by that august Swedish institution!). He also told the story (famous in IFS) of ‘the IFS tent’ in which he and his colleagues camped outside the main gate of their first customer in order to provide excellent customer service!

Your views

IFS is aiming to provide an alternative to SAP and Oracle for ERP. Its approach, as evidenced by the Ulf Stern story above, is a little different too. If you were at IFS’ conference, let us know what you thought in the comments section below.

Does the product roadmap meet your expectations? Have I missed something you thought was important?

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