Enterprise Times sat down with Alan Laing, Managing Director at IFS, UK to discuss the company and its last year. Laing joined IFS in November 2018 as one of several leadership changes made by Darren Roos, CEO as Roos looked to grow the Scandinavian based company. What’s changed in 10 months?
Laing said: “I can tell you the ambition, the opportunity and it is just growing phenomenally. The challenges are becoming more apparent. But, if we don’t grab this opportunity while it’s there, then it’s a great miss. The UK is tracking to the global growth. We have a huge opportunity in the UK, because we haven’t really penetrated any of the large account opportunities that we’ve seen in Scandinavia and in other bits of the world. We’ve set ourselves up now to be able to go after those.“
Changing the partner network in the UK
IFS has a small partner network in the UK, while it works with some larger SI’s, specially in Scandanavia, ET asked Laing what is happening in the channel.
“We’ve just appointed somebody, a team to look after the SI’s. We need to be very specific about who we want to work with because we can’t work with everybody. We need to know who’s got a real ambition in the verticals we are in and why do they get our values? Do they understand why we’re seeing ourselves as different as challengers. So the SIs may be different in service management from the SIs we work with on ERP. We are having discussions with all of the big guys, from the Indian companies to Deloitte to PwC to Accenture.“
These are statements that ET often hears from vendors. ET asked Laing to put a timescale against it. Laing answered: “We need to come to a conclusion within the next three months as to who we’re going to prioritise, because they want to prioritise us. This momentum is not going to go on forever. Whilst it’s a hot ticket, we need to then fulfil on the promise. We are really serious about partnering. So we’ve changed our partnering model in the UK.”
How has that changed?
“Historically, we had a number of small channel partners in the UK. Some of them are spin offs from IFS employees and some of them have built good reputations around specific vertical markets. I want to change the model with them. Rather them be fulfilment houses, we want them to go into reseller mode and we will work with them to build up their capability to resell. We will support them on the projects, unless a customer needs our brand on the contract with the right level of technical expertise, architects. We’re only going to fulfil the growth if those partners invest in services capability, plus they need to adapt their business model.”
A new business model for IFS and partners
What do you mean change the model?
“Cloud is not necessarily subscription. We’re delivering, application management called Success and Select. That is a subscription, an annual fee model. We’re going to allow partners that are certified to resell those services, providing they have the capability. Just because you’re certified as an authorised reseller, doesn’t mean you’re going to be certified for Select. You’re going have to prove how you’re going to do it and then back off to us.”
Will the existing partners need to change
“They need to change their business model if they’re going to operate in a subscription world. A few of them are and one or two of them have still to get there. I’m trying to explain to both new and old, we need to share our business model with you to see if it can layer onto your business model. If it does, then we’ve got a partnership. If we do it the other way, we are always going to have tension between us. We’re trying to put our business plans together with them. “
How is this going to be different from the old IFS partner model?
“I don’t want the channel to get the scraps below a certain line. I don’t believe in that. The issue is, where’s the channel capability? Have they got the maturity in their model to go after it in a vertical where we think they have some experience?
“We had a partner day in Staines two weeks ago. We brought them all together, explained to them the new partnering model, and how we really were opening up. I described it to them as they are an extension of us and we are an extension of them. We shouldn’t be seeing each other as competitors. Now it’s a bland statement in many ways, but it’s an attitude and a mindset and we have to change the mindset. The old IFS was not partner friendly.”
Are you finding partners that want to join the ecosystem?
“Yes, we’ve got a number of suitors. But again, I don’t want to partner with everybody. We have one very large SAP partner, who has signed an agreement with us to develop an IFS practice and then we’ve got a number of smaller ones. They’re not all SAP (partners), there’s one or two Dynamics and we haven’t announced them yet.”
Is IFS going after bigger fish
IFS has traditionally targeted the mid-market. However since Roos joined it seems as though it is now looking to target larger enterprise customers, traditionally SAP houses with its solutions, most notably EAM.
What prospects are you targeting in the UK?
“We’ve got a lot of new mid-market customers. What we still haven’t really tapped into are those above a billion dollar revenue, UK PLC. We’re winning. Are we going to displace an ERP vendor within a UK PLC tomorrow? No, but we’re getting a lot of interest around point solutions, around supply chain or enterprise asset management.
“The biggest customer we announced so far this year is Rolls Royce and that’s a fantastic opportunity. We’re doing the engine management system. It’s all about sharing data amongst the airlines. They were in it as a pre-existing Maintenix customer. We’re building a specific solution with them, which is really exciting.
“We are winning in construction, we’re winning in in the mid-market, manufacturing, aerospace and defence and then we’re doing very well in Service Management. The biggest opportunity we’ve seen this year is in service management.”
What are the challenges?
With IFS growing rapidly ET asked Laing what his main challenges are.
“Finding people, Finding the right resources at the right time for the projects, both directly and with our partners. We’re going to much more of a global model and services. IFS application is a big product. Getting skilled consultants across the entire platform takes time. We need to look at how we upscale and enable our people and then our partners people. We are opening access to the same training and certification as our own people have got. IFS is truly opening up the platform, our services, and our methodology. Because that’s the only way we can we can do this fast.”
Laing also needs a hybrid sales team. Account Executives may work on a deal for two to three years. There are also major accounts to look after. Laing believes that IFS needs both hunters and farmers. It also needs vertically aligned expertise. Selling effectively in the Aerospace and Defence market takes a lot of knowledge and the IFS team has been doing it in some cases for more than 20 years. Laing is looking to expand some of those vertically aligned teams as well.
What keeps you awake at night?
“How quickly and effectively we can do all this because time will very soon become our enemy. And I think we’re building something for the long term. We have to do it right and don’t overcomplicate it.”
What are your ambitions for IFS in 2020?
“We’re talking Darren Roos. We got very significant growth targets, very significant. The opportunities are there. We need to get the people, we need to get the partners, we need to get the operational model. The execution side is very clear what we need to do, we just need to do it fast. It’s all about taking customers on that journey. Making sure that we never leave a customer behind. That the customers time to revenue or ROI is there and they have a good experience.
“We’ve had teething problems with global support and our global model. As we built it up it’s getting much better. We need to ensure that we understand what the customers requirement is as we take them on that journey. We’re spending a lot of time in the UK ensuring that our customers are getting the expectations that we set for them.”
Life has been busy at IFS and Laing explained how while there was huge pressure for growth there is also a requirement to slow down. He added: “We made a huge number of changes over the last 12 months. We need to let the business settle in and consolidate some of those changes. Getting a time to do that is also important.“
Finally, what is the last business book you read?
“The last book I read was Benioff’s tome. I’m a huge admirer of what he’s done. How he’s built up the business, the values he’s instilled that business, the foundation. Right now when we’re all competing for skills, and we need to get the right people with the right skills at the right time. Your values come through every time, people have choice, particularly young people.
“Darren’s tasked me with driving the graduate and apprentice programme for IFS globally. Starting off in the UK because we run that successfully in a previous job I had. We’re introducing it here. We did do some of it, we didn’t do enough. Because if our growth continues. We’re going to have to find the raw talent and develop it. And that means with the values.”