IFS spins the golden thread of mid-market IT/OT convergence

Katy Ring Profile picture for user Katy Ring March 14, 2024
Summary:
IFS recent event in Birmingham offered a glimpse at tech to tackle real-world industrial challenges of today.

Headshot of Mark Moffat, CEO, IFS
Mark Moffat

IFS recently held its IFS Connect customer event in Birmingham, UK. Not so many software companies run events in Birmingham these days. However, in the UK, the Birmingham area remains a bastion of UK manufacturing and engineering businesses, many of which are IFS customers.

Phil has already met with recently appointed IFS CEO Mark Moffat, so we know that under his watch, that the IFS strategy is unchanged: continued investment in the composable cloud model to support the company’s six core industries. Those core asset-intensive industries are served by IFS Cloud providing ERP, EAM and Service Management functionality that can be used to put together value chains of data from assets, the back office and field services. This means the company is in an enviable position to work the IT/OT convergence opportunity.

IFS marks the spot many software companies are trying to reach

As industries sped up their adoption of cloud during Covid-19 to enable them to continue to operate under unusual business conditions, so the ability to run converged industrial and office environments began to emerge in asset-intensive companies.

It is the convergence of the data between the two environments that is potentially transformative for such businesses. While many tech vendors are looking to embrace both environments from their market strength in one of them, IFS finds itself well-positioned right in the intersection of the two, with IFS Cloud able to spin the data thread connecting insights from assets, services and the back office.

This thread spun from a single data model enables, what the IFS community refers to as Moments of Service, where the gods of assets, people and processes align to deliver products and services at the right time, of the right quality to the customer, with (most importantly!) the correct invoicing. Chief Product Officer at IFS Christian Pedersen, was at pains to explain that:

Gen AI will not account for the majority of AI usage in enterprises, since the planning and automation systems required by enterprises use rules-based AI. The detection of anomalies and what happens next – that is where gen AI comes into the picture.

This anomaly detection piece is of course bolstered by IFS’s recent acquisition of Falkonry. Having outlined the IFS.ai platform which brings together data services, AI services as well as governance and orchestration services, Pedersen explained that customers have:

no need to start a separate AI project, because it is part of your IFS Cloud business system.

IFS may have built the IFS Cloud business system, but getting existing customers to adopt it is neither fast nor easy. Speaking at the event, customer Chris Dare of Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group was quite candid about the challenge this migration poses, commenting that “adopting IFS Cloud is more of an implementation than a migration.” Such a shift typically requires partner support.

Partners hold the magic beans of growth

Moffat is clear that while there are 500 partners currently in the IFS ecosystem today, in the next stage of the company’s growth they will become even more important. Partly this importance lies with the prosaic necessity of helping the existing customer base move to IFS Cloud, partly it lies with helping customers migrate away from competitor products and onto IFS Cloud, and often it will require the business transformational consultancy skills of partners to sanity check innovation approaches that take advantage of new technologies.

At present IFS is working with Accenture, PwC and Capgemini as they embark on the development of dedicated IFS practices. IFS’s market positioning is so promising for Global System Integrators (GSIs), especially where they are looking to work with larger mid-market asset-intensive companies. Similarly, Moffat knows very well the potential pull-through market muscle that the GSI community can provide IFS to reach into larger enterprise accounts. Certainly, in the field services management market, IFS is already beginning to win contracts with big global brands where the GSIs are already in place.

Indicative of GSI partnering success, Tech Mahindra was the biggest sponsor of IFS Connect, and talked about its work in the Aerospace and Defence sector with IFS, where it provides end-to-end capabilities from business process transformation, through to system implementation, change management and internal communication programs.

Another sponsor, regional system integrator, Baker Tilly Digital is an IFS reseller that is finding that customers are currently asking for more guidance around implementations, as they no longer want consultants that will simply agree to a list of customer requirements. For example, where a business goal is to improve productivity, consultants need to be involved in working with the client to clarify business objectives because IFS is a tool to enforce process within the business and the process often needs to be transformed.

My take

From a product positioning point of view, IFS is in a very good place. Despite some world-weariness regarding the noise around gen AI, customers, partners and execs were all very upbeat about the future for IFS Cloud. On the day when Birmingham City Council declared bankruptcy and the UK Chancellor announced a Budget with few answers as to how to grow the British economy, IFS Connect offered a glimpse of the potential of technology to address real-world industrial challenges today.

Yes, the exhibition area could have done with some more SI partners. But, hey, there are not many European headquartered software players that can boast an MIT stand amongst their exhibitors, running a data monetization assessment for customers. MIT was there because Moffat has brought it in as an IFS partner, to assist with data around the company’s Business Value Assessment methodology. Another sign of how serious IFS is about stepping up to address the IT/OT opportunity.

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