ERP: IFS prioritizes cloud and “business services”

Miami – After a three-year hiatus due to Covid, IFS (Industrial & Financial Systems), the global giant of enterprise software platforms (ERP, EAM, ESM, FSM), brought together all its partners and major customers in Florida last month for a convention called IFS Unleashed. CEO Darren Roos, at the helm since 2018 and a veteran of SAP and Software AG, has posted double-digit growth in four years.

Net revenue for 2021 increased by 14% compared to 2020 and amounted to about 620 million euros. Explanations: Highly profitable transition to the cloud (+105% turnover in 2021) and a string of targeted acquisitions this summer Ultimo, an EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) solution in the cloud in SaaS mode; Axios/Assyst Help Desk; or even a “joint venture” with Arcwide, the engineering and integration services company that emerged from the merger with Bearing Point.

The headquarters of IFS, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2023, is still located in Linkoping (200 km southwest of Stockholm). Originally this ERP-classified editor was known for its specialized “best-in-class” solutions for critical facilities such as nuclear power plants. “We rank #1 in the world for EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) and FSM (Field Services Management) solutions and #3 for ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning),” says Darren Roos.

But here another key term appears: the concept of “service”, that is, the ability to provide new services with partnerships as an extension of production. This is the case for Bénéteau in France, which recently chose IFS as part of its five-year strategic plan to, among other things, replace and standardize its many ERP systems (house and Infor) focused on design and production. One of the problems is the industrialization and automation of a large part of the manual, very professional tasks. A watersports champion wants to increase maneuverability and maneuverability in order to position itself in new services (boat rentals for the day, etc.).

Vincent Dubois, Sales Manager for IFS France (Engineering, Construction, Infrastructure), confirms that the organization is structured around five main sectors:

  • aerospace and defense industry;
  • energy, utilities and retail;
  • engineering, construction, infrastructure;
  • manufacturing sector;
  • Services.
  • In France and Europe, IFS has key partners including Capgemini and Arcwide. His client portfolio includes very loyal companies such as NGE, SPIE, Bénéteau, Samsic and even Schoeller Allibert.

    Innovation Goals

    In the area of ​​strategic development, IFS lists digital twins, contextual intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), automata or robots, and simulation solutions. Innovations in 22R2 primarily focus on user experience, automation (through AI and machine learning), enhanced reporting and analysis, vertical and horizontal integration (on a single data platform), IoT connectivity, and new services ESG support. (environmental, social and managerial). Added to this is the “sustainable environment” dimension: CSR reporting for direct and indirect CO2 emissions (electricity, heating, cooling, etc.).

    As far as human capital management is concerned, innovation here is also pragmatic: providing skill profiles in context within a company or across companies, or even the possibility of reassigning tasks in the field or evaluating services provided. Another target: in manufacturing and aeronautics, IFS knows that the race is on meeting deadlines. Hence the offer adapted for maintenance service providers (MRO).

    Cloud change without haste

    The IFS installed base has only recently transitioned to cloud solutions around the IFS Cloud offering, capable of integrating asset management, supply chain, manufacturing, finance and HR solutions.

    Could this ignition delay be the result of companies, often in manufacturing and “utilities” (energy, air travel, etc.), that have remained culturally attached to “on the spot”? Everything has changed: the cloud offering is what is developing the most in IFS.

    Robust monitoring solution, management of “assets”, connected objects: everything is now based on the IFS cloud, designed to support all kinds of “workloads”. This offer also has its own peculiarity: IFS offers hosting, application management and maintenance/support, and consulting, all in a “single tenant” approach: the platform, unique and duplicated, is shared; clients’ bodies are separated from each other, waterproof, as Vincent Dubois points out.

    In the “analytical” approach, IFS Cloud has just added an in-memory (in-memory) analysis engine that replaces the old version of the “cube” BI type; installation and configuration is highly automated, reducing the need for technicians. Plugins provide new features such as process exploration and forecasts. The priority is the integration of functional analysis models and more granularity of reference data for forecasting (zoom in) and, again, cross-functional (CRM, HR, project management, purchasing, sales, service, etc.).

    In short, we understand that IFS is positioning itself outside the scope and approach of ERP. “We will no longer do ERP, as before, but we will do something broader,” sums up Darren Roos.

    Specialized “workflows”

    In addition, IFS encourages and helps its clients develop “workflows” – automation processes such as processing customer orders using OCR (Optical Character Recognition), NER (Named Object Recognition) or even keyword classification.

    Another example of a “workflow”: monitoring exchange rates; this makes it easier to automatically find rates by engaging external service providers. This also applies to automated expense management: here, AI (artificial intelligence) training allows you to collect expense reports or invoices and automatically edit accounting reports before payment (after threshold verification, electronic signature verification, etc.).

    Managed Services Offering

    In terms of services, IFS has a good map with its “branch” Arcwide, a joint venture that came into existence a few months ago through a merger with Bearing Point. Again, this is an option that, in France, completely satisfies a client like Beneteau, who has already worked with… Bearing Point.

    Arcwide has become stable: almost a hundred clients in 12 countries (soon in the US), 35 million euros in turnover, 250 consultants in the field (and soon more than doubled).

    Another service is the Assyst helpdesk, which emerged from the recent takeover of Axios based in Edinburgh (Scotland); it will be free for one year, in 2023, to encourage the installation of ESM (Enterprise Service Management), ITSM (Service Management), or even ITOM (Operations Management (ITOM)) solutions. IFS will not stop there.

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