Attending any vendor convention is an interesting experience. It provides the opportunity for customers, press and analysts to find out how the company has moved forward over the year and to feel the pulse of its ecosystem.
IFS World Conference in Boston is no exception. What has made IFS different from many other vendors? Despite its long heritage as a legacy on-premises ERP vendor, it has kept in touch with the majority of its customers and helped them through numerous updates and improvements to their software. This has sometimes been achieved with an almost laissez faire attitude with little in the way of formalised structure around its customer engagement.
Things are changing under the leadership of Darren Roos. Following the acquisition by EQT the company is slowly becoming one that its competitors should not underestimate. The first major announced at WoCo were four new customer success offerings:
- IFS Communities
- IFS Success
- IFS Select
- IFS Tools and Methodologies
These are in addition to the normal Silver and Gold level services contracts, aiming to supplement them.
The aim of these offerings is to assist in delivering continual customer success. Michael Ouissi, Chief Customer Officer later commented that: “Customers expect us to help them differentiate”. He added that they expect the software to be: “easy to consume and deploy and then help them make their business strong.”
Ouissi also commented that IFS intends to focus on what is actually driving customer value and ERP is not a purpose in itself. There are five stages of a customer journey and Ouissi talked about how IFS is looking to support it.
Decision: Leading to the decision IFS can provide business value engineering. Like other vendors it hopes to have a closer engagement with prospects to understand their business, gain trust and increase the win chance,
Order Service: The customer begins by ordering the service. Then the project and service offering is planned with the customer. This is to ensure it achieves the business objectives
Project: The actual solution deployment whether by IFS or a channel partner.
Go Live and Stabilization: Post deployment there could be teething issues. This phase addresses those to ensure that the value is realised. It is a process that some omit as they rush off to the next project. The hard question that needs asking is how successful this is. Is it an idealistic objective or can IFS achieve it?
Customer Success: This is where the new offerings come into play. They help deliver the promise and deliver value maximisation. A combination of IFS Success and IFS Select deliver this.
Launched at its World Conference, IFS Communities is powered by Insided. It delivers a collaborative forum where IFS experts, customer experts, partners and customers are able to share information and have questions answered about the IFS ecosystem. It is early days and while active forums can be incredibly useful at engaging customers, they also are prone to failure without active support from both inside and outside the organization.
IFS Communities replaces the apparently less popular forum that customers used behind the portal. This is an open modern platform that customers should be able to access more easily. There are already at least two other communities/forums that exist to talk about IFS http://ifshelpdesk.com/ and http://letstalkifs.com/. The former appears more successful than the latter and neither were created by IFS or its subsidiaries. Whether IFS will be able to convince the owners of those sites to merge their data in is unknown but it is something that they should consider. What it does show is that there is an appetite for a forum.
IFS Success is services framework that customers can select from. This ethos of choice is an approach that IFS stressed during the event. It enables customers to select the most appropriate engagement for their company. The service is subscription based.
IFS Success consists of four pillars. These are all outcome driven services and include:
- Value Assurance: Identifying and understanding the expected business value and running the initiatives needed to unlock it.
- AMS (Application Management Services): Operational and expert application management with ongoing access to top-tier IFS experts as well as quick response and resolution times for any IFS-related request. Application Management Services is based on a number of tickets bought in advance.
- Safeguarding: Offering customers choice through an extensive network of specialist partners from system integrators, change management specialists, and boutique industry technology houses. IFS provides a structured engagement to secure the outcomes.
- Customer Success Management: IFS will work proactively with customers leveraging two or more of the components above. the goal is to ensure the business is served in the best ways possible with continuous improvement and enhanced support models as required.
One question asked of Darren Roos is whether IFS offers value based pricing. While it has discussed such pricing models with customers, none had taken it up to date. IFS will also look to partners to deliver these services. They must be certified partners and IFS will validate that they have the resources to provide these new services.
This is an important opportunity for the channel partners. The question is how many will have the resources in place today? Most of these are likely to be the larger system integrators who already offer similar services.
IFS Select is the ultimate service engagement from IFS. Its aim is to transform business through lifecycle value management. It has executive sponsorship from IFS and looks across the whole business to see how IFS can deliver business value as part of the business strategy. IFS will work with the customer to identify how they can adopt data driven decision making.
The service includes the provision of ongoing business support, on-site enterprise architects and IT change management. The aim is to align best practices from IFS and combine them with the customers unique differentiation to maximise the value that IFS products can deliver.
IFS Tools and Methodologies
This is not specifically a service. It is the components that help IFS deliver implementations and subsequent services in a repeatable consistent manner. This includes the IFS Solution composer. It visualizes the software architecture that a customer will utilize down to element level including the interactions between modules.
IFS also has both a well defined implementation methodology and upgrade methodology to assist its consultants to deliver those services. There are also implementation accelerators aligned to specific industries. This includes:
- sub-sets of Aerospace and Defense
- Energy, Utilities and Resources
- Construction and Infrastructure
Accelerators, as the name infers, shorten the time to value for customers and are the learnings from many implementations.
Stefano Mattiello, IFS Senior Vice President of Consulting commented: “Our focus, as always, is on accelerating time to value for our customers. Beyond this we want to ensure that we empower our challenger customers and align to their business imperatives by offering a set of services that allow companies to drive incremental value from their IFS solutions beyond implementation. We are therefore providing a holistic set of services that allow for full lifecycle value creation. This is a clear statement that we are totally focused on our customers and drive more business benefits.”
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
This service is not unique to IFS. Other vendors, especially SaaS vendors, have similar offerings such as NetSuite’s SuiteSuccess. What IFS has done is bring the different offerings together and clearly define its service offerings to customer. This is a good and thing and is an indication of the maturity that CEO Roos and his team are bringing to the organization.
This cookie cutter approach is working well for IFS. However, if the company realizes its potential and scales, it also needs to remember not to lose the personal touch that has made IFS trusted by its customers.