IFS World 2016 - intelligence, cloud, partners and the wrap

Profile picture for user brianssommer By Brian Sommer November 15, 2016
Summary:
IFS has a lot going on but is shy on details. In this final excerpt, I walk through key areas that are either being addressed or need addressing.

IFS World had plenty to offer and as I wrap up this mini series on the event, I'm turning attention to analytics/intelligence, cloud issues, partners and then coming to some final thoughts with specific reference to IFS ambitions for a US audience and how they are likely to react to some of the offerings.

EOI (Enterprise Operational Intelligence) 8.1

About a year ago, IFS acquired VisionWaves, a Dutch firm that made a good looking dashboard and process automation tool. That tool, now called Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI), has been integrated with the IFS applications and the new IFS IoT connector technology.  The newest EOI version will be generally available Spring 2017 as version (8.1) of this product. The EOI solution:

  • is fully integrated with all of the IFS ERP application software products
  • added a dynamic scheduling engine which is great for the process automation features within it
  • accepts data from the IFS IoT Business Connector
  • possesses a new UX (user experience)
  • incorporates maps and other graphic imagery

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From my vantage point, the EOI product is part:

  • process management tool
  • part event/trigger driven tool
  • process controls tool
  • dashboard/Business intelligence tool
  • data visualization tool
  • business heat map/management tool

The product looks at a business from a value chain perspective. Metrics adorn the chain and it can support a number of projections around specific metrics/indicators.

Space limitations do not permit a deeper review. Suffice to say, it’s a great addition to the suite. IFS uses the term “cockpit” to describe different operational and functional displays/dashboards. It’s a great term, even if it pays homage to their aviation vertical customers, especially since it connotes a forward looking view of things to come. In that sense, it is not backward looking like so many business intelligence or data warehouse dashboard projects.

 

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Interestingly, this tool was originally designed to accept all kinds of data from all kinds of systems not just IFS. As a result EOI can accept data from older versions of IFS software, competitor ERP systems, non-ERP data and more. For those implementing EOI in older versions of IFS software, I worry that this will make these users more complacent about getting to a more current version of IFS software since they’ll have much enhanced business capabilities and visibility with this add-on.

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Potential EOI users should note that while this tool can do a whole lot, it can’t fix your old sub-systems. So, if you’ve got a bunch of data islands or spreadsheets with poor quality of information or latent information, you’ll need to fix them before you get maximum advantage out of this tool.

To cloud or not to cloud

I also heard IFS executives say that comfortable, well-rehearsed comment that their customers just aren’t asking for multi-tenancy (or public cloud either). Part of this is clearly a European vs. North American difference where North American firms are moving ever greater numbers of applications to public clouds and with multi-tenant and/or multi-instance underpinnings. The economics are much better and customers are aware of this.

But, usually when I hear a vendor state this, it is because they are parroting what their on-premises customers are telling them. If all your old customers are running your product on-premises, then statistically you’ll find a lot of them prefer to keep it that way. This is selection bias.

There are other deals and customers to be had but these prospects often select out vendors who lack multi-tenancy before the vendors even get wind of a potential deal. It is this phenomenon that is fueling the likes of Plex, Rootstock and others.

I thought it interesting to note that 34% of net-new IFS customers implemented the solution on a managed cloud service. I wonder how many of those would have liked a multi-tenant version?

About multi-tenancy: As mentioned before, two IFS products are available in multi-tenancy: Mobile Workforce Management and Field Service Management. The core IFS solutions are available as on-premises, private cloud or hosted single-tenant solutions.

One of the reference customers for the Field Service Management solution is running IFS software in the cloud with all common IFS software resources  in a multi-tenant mode. This customer then maintains separate data stores for the individual entities they support.

IFS buyers should determine which deployment method/approach they want/need. From my vantage point, some aspects of the suite could already be viable as a multi-instance solution but you’ll want to verify this in your own assessments.

Partner ecosystem

Unlike many of its mid-market ERP competitors, IFS has relationships with major systems implementers like Accenture. Yes, they also possess a number of partners that are more country or region specific, but, the inclusion of a mega-integrator like Accenture was noteworthy.

It wa notable that an Accenture executive gave one of the keynote talks. For an integrator that frequently prefers software partners with actual or potentially huge ecosystems (e.g., Salesforce.com, SAP, Oracle, Workday) or vendors whose solutions could employ tens of thousands of outsourcing personnel, I found this relationship to be either hype local i.e., Scandinavian or very speculative. Nonetheless, something important may be going on there.

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My take

  • IFS was pretty mum re: new capabilities, markets and enhancements beyond the immediate timeframe. When I quizzed their executives in one-on-one conversations, I realized that they’re quite aware of other technologies and trends. They just don’t like telegraphing their moves. I get it.
  • IFS intends to focus on enhancements in field service management functionality, enhanced mobility solutions and greater globalization of its products. That much is known.
  • IFS must alter its messaging re: cloud especially for the North American market. Hosted cloud solutions are losing market relevance. IFS must move the entire product line to multi-tenant cloud if it is to capture the IT savvy audience.
  • IFS needs to expand its digital efforts and drive more new and existing customers to a world using more externally sourced big data. While there were some use interesting and novel cases like drone technology, more are needed.
  • Likewise, future IFS events should showcase more analytic proof points/use cases. It’s one thing to announce that a vendor is using new Microsoft machine learning, cloud and other capabilities. It’s entirely different when these technologies are an integral part of the solutions.
  • IFS needs a solid in-memory/Hadoop story and proof points. Yes, the Microsoft tools are part of this but I left feeling hungry for more direction, proof points, etc.
  • Revenue Recognition functionality may need to get escalated as a priority enhancement particularly if a number of IFS customers start adding services and warranties to their manufactured goods. This will not be easy given the varying and emerging nature of standards in different locales.
  • Brand awareness in North America must become a priority. North America is a very noisy, crowded ERP market and repetitive volume of focused, targeted messages is a pre-requisite to deal flow. That comes at a price and IFS should be aware that many non-US companies have trod this path before, often with poor results.
  • IFS’ historic growth rate has been around 8-10% YOY. Their private equity owner, EQT Partners, believes that more growth is possible. Will EQT have the appetite and funding for a more meaty growth rate? It's hard to get one without the other in current markets.