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Digital distribution is noisy. Partly because of its impact upon human workflows as we move to cloud-first software deployment, but also due to the maelstrom of white noise emanating from enterprise technology vendors at every level — all of whom want to tell us about their ‘solutions’ and their ability to deliver insight and value.

Cutting through this cacophony is tough. Technology vendors appear to be largely happy to talk about ‘outstanding innovation’ as they stay almost wary of explaining what their software actually does.

Although not completely free of marketing hyperbole, IFS has used its latest cloud platform update cycle to detail specific software-based functions designed to be applied to real world industry use cases.

Dedicated to six defined markets that it pledges to stay within (and not work outside of), IFS is focused on a group of industries that spans: construction & engineering, manufacturing, aerospace & defence, telecoms, energy & utilities and the services sector. All of these verticals are characterized by their propensity to feature asset management requirements and make use of field service for maintenance, upgrades, management and more.

The company reminds us that digitizing essential processes and asset-centric workflows is key to every digital transformation initiative, but achieving this across the entire enterprise has often been complex and expensive. In an attempt to address some of the complexity conundrums out there, IFS has this year launched its free IFS assyst offering to enable users to experience how effective service management capabilities can help them standardize, improve and automate workflows.

This all forms part of what IFS calls its mission to democratize service management; but how does its total platform approach really play out in the enterprise software world where customers are now weighing up the balance between complete software suites and individual applications?

Best-of-suite vs. best-of-breed

“In terms of how enterprise software works, any given best-of-suite solution (i.e. a complete suite of apps and services taken together as a coalesced bundle) always has the highest levels of integration, but typically only offers reasonable functionality. Conversely, any given enterprise software best-of-breed solution (i.e. one application, data service or other from a wider total platform) has the best functionality, but is always less well integrated. Given our understanding of that trade-off, IFS has worked hard to make sure we can offer both benefit and value streams in our one single platform in the areas that we specialize in and on the tools we provide,” said IFS CEO Darren Roos.

This is an interesting point given the proclivity that enterprise software vendors have for selling what they like to call multi-product sales solutions, sometimes even called ‘suite solutions’ today. So does IFS mainly sell one product best-of-suite sales contracts as the whole IFS universe, or does it sell on a more best-of-breed contract basis where customers pick one thing they need from the IFS stable?

“In less than 20% of customer contracts do we sell a customer just one single IFS software solution. In what is the majority [80% obviously], we work to build a solution that features composable elements of EAM, FSM and ERP deployed as a combined and fused total final solution for maximum effectiveness and functionality,” explained Roos.

Disruption through disintermediation

We promised to talk about specific software and real examples of where change is happening in our world brought about by new ways of delivering products and services, some of which will be new innovations, but some of which will be things that already exist in our world. IFS tasked Constellation Research’s Ray Wang with the job of illustrating what’s going on here.

“If you want a real example of digital transformation, think about food delivery aggregators [like Uber Eats and GrubHub in the USA, or the UK’s Deliveroo and so on] who have disintermediated the customer-restaurant connection and elevated the business model. They have also introduced memberships, loyalty systems and elements like gamification,” said Wang, in an illustration of real world digital transformation – that term we have heard so much about but so often don’t see validated illustrations of that play out in our real world.


With so many disruptive world forces happening now in terms of inflation, infection and invasion – Wang suggests that there is so much to think with digital giants (like Google, like Facebook, like Amazon) emerging as monopolies… and with the second stream of massive duopolies (Burger King & MacDonalds, Uber & Lyft etc.) out there.

Given the breadth of digital change happening everywhere from the burger joint to the taxi rank (and with the recent history of Covid-19 in mind), isn’t it open season for digital disruption everywhere?

As much as Roos and team say their industry devotion is set in stone, surely the experience of the pandemic has shown us that cross-industry fertilization can happen far more rapidly than previously thought. Surely digital transformation today gets us to a point where even (insurance, for example) an organization that previously defined itself in other terms might now think of itself as an asset-based business, right?

“When people ask us when we are going to do something outside of our five focus verticals, the answer is – we’re not. Across these complex verticals, we are working to deliver value far deeper than any individual Systems Integrator (SI) might try to provide – this is a depth of functionality a magnitude deeper,” said IFS CEO Roos.

“Look, the industries we work in have complex business models and the ones we don’t work in have that characteristic too,” explained Roos. “You have to appreciate that in today’s modern enterprise marketplaces, business systems are rich and sophisticated. Even though software is a huge part of [most enterprise organizations’] processes – it’s quite another thing to be able to understand workflows, commercial models and any firm’s internal cultural approach,” he added – in a note that almost suggests that IFS respects the markets it doesn’t work in… and perhaps denotes a respect for the ones the company does devote itself to work in.

End-to-end process automation

As the organization now rolls out the second part of its bi-annual platform release schedule, central to this iteration of IFS Cloud are enhancements that will support end-to-end process automation and advanced analytics capabilities that will impact a business across functions. The release includes over 340 new features and advancements.

New automation features include a new cash planning analysis model enabling customers to improve cash management, reduce risk and plan for unforeseen scenarios for projects and companies. A new streamlined Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is designed to improve production quality control and performance, helping to drive fast decision-making and identify patterns.

There’s also simplified expense submission and reporting process, for Human Capital Management (HMC), improving the quality and accuracy of receipt types. Also here we find improved accuracy for work estimates and technical productivity through AI and historical data-driven work schedules and job completion times.

“With regards to Advance Analytics, the October release of IFS Cloud, will build on the new architecture, new user experience as well as automated management and deployment. The enhanced capabilities will allow customers to gain a faster understanding of key challenges across the business, transform operations, work more efficiently and increase productivity,” noted the company, in a product statement.

There’s a shift happening here and it’s the shift to automation, which happens in concert with the shift away from a) paper and b) manual processes. No organization is going to be able to make this gear-change overnight, so identifying where and when to move asset management with field service control towards the acceleration offered by a platform like IFS needs to be a carefully audited, strategically planned and sympathetically managed process. That’s obviously part of what IFS sales and product consultants do all day long, but it’s worth saying out loud.

Yeah, but what does it actually do?

With too much generic talk surrounding digital transformation still happening, it is (arguably) compelling to hear an organization talk specifics and explain how its aviation maintenance software enables mobile workers to take accurate Lidar-based measurements on mobile devices more easily in order to record measurements and reduce errors.

If IFS has done anything in our quest for some software specifics, it has directly answered more of the ‘yeah, but what does it actually do?’ questions that we have been asking for a while.


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