by   |    |   3 minutes  |  in Strategy

One of the founding principles of how we work at IFS is to begin by understanding our customers’ needs and then pragmatically addressing them with a combination of innovative products and committed people. Easy to say, harder to do in reality.

Often the key to success lies in the “understanding”part.

Our people like to invest time with customers individually to learn more about their needs. Over the years, to complement that one-to-one approach, we have run country-specific customer satisfaction surveys.

This year, we decided to align the process and ask the same questions in the very same ways across markets. After all, most of our customers are operating in global markets too.

In this study we included seven countries and focused exclusively on technology decision-makers in our focus industry vertical markets – a group notoriously difficult to reach with surveys. Even so, we had hundreds of C-levels and senior directors tell us what they thought of IFS as well as the opportunities and challenges they are facing.

So what did our customers tell us?

First of all, the view of IFS is consistent across the world, from the US to Australia.

Our customers tell us that they are very happy with our solutions, and that our employees and their way of working is what really set IFS apart from the competition. Our employees’ commitment, professionalism and the general quality of consultancy services were ranked as the top three best things about IFS. This echoes what many of our customers have told us face-to-face in the past: the product is important, but equally so are the people you work with.

However the point of the global survey was not to boost our ego, but rather to find areas where we can improve.

And the message from our customers is clear: they want us to continue to challenge them and critically advise them on how they can improve their own processes – without fear of negative repercussions.

It is not enough to just answer questions and provide speedy problem resolution – customers are asking for general, proactive advice so that they can create value and sustain their competitive advantage in a disruptive market.

In the enterprise software industry, we are very close to the core of our customers’ business. We are there in the board rooms to support major projects and to make sure that our solutions support the customer in the best possible way. We are in dialogue with the most senior decision makers who rely on IFS Applications for their business to function properly.

When you are working that close to a customer and earn their trust, they expect you to challenge them and question their strategy. Are they really using their IT to its full extent? Can they truly capitalize on changes in the market?

At IFS we are proud of our industry expertise. You’ve heard it before – we focus our resources on a handful of core processes and industries to become the best at what we do. An inevitable side effect is that our employees become not just experts on our solutions, but also experts on the industries we’re working towards.

They’ve seen first-hand how a global mining operation is run from the inside. They know a thought-through supply chain process when they see one. They have watched customers grow from one factory to a global consortium.

Our challenge at IFS is to dare to question the already assumed and to leverage our business expertise even more.

So the next time an IFS employee challenges the current status quo, or asks probing questions about your business processes, remember that our goal is to help you maximize the value you can realize from our relationship and to be more than systems experts.

Why?

Because you told us to.

4 Responses to “Why being a systems expert isn’t enough”

  1. Natasha Mustapha

    Fairly enough the outcome of the survey could only be true for major solutions companies for one reason. My observation has been that the larger the organisation is the lesser scope there is to challenge anything let alone status quo. This is again for the obvious reason of their successes over the years and that they’ve grown so big so the excuse of an assumption that comes into play that they need not be doing anything differently unless in trouble. Beyond a certain point it is in deed difficult to make radical changes for reasons such as cost, time and structural constraints due to mainly size of the organisation. This results in trying to constantly improve an existing solution rather than coming up with something totally different that could make a huge turn around for better or worse. If you take a closer look this is true for all giants whatever the industry maybe. What is lost in the process is the fearless creativity and innovation that existed at origin which led to their long standing success in the first place. It is true that lots and lots is still spent on R&D in comparison to a smaller organisation but there is a certain phobia to sell a never tried and tested product/idea because there’s just too much to lose in the event of failure.

    Reply
    • Per Åsberg

      Per Åsberg

      Thank you for your comment Natasha. I think you make an interesting point – change is seldom something companies actively seek unless they really have to respond to big shifts in the market or falling profit margins. We at IFS are pushing an initiative right now where we are trying to show how taking advantage of such change can strengthen your position as a market leader.

      However, the major take away from this survey is that the decision makers are actively asking us to challenge them. They need a speaking partner that knows as much about their industry and the solutions required as they do. They did not tell us that they really want big change – just that they want to be challenged. Big change may follow, but having a business-oriented systems expert look at what you are doing and asking questions can uncover gems missed by the customers themselves.
      I see what you mean. If I were in charge of a major IT investment that worked as the backbone for my company, I would not really be eager to carry out major changes unless they were absolutely necessary and if I was convinced they would work in the company’s favor. But how do I reach that conclusion? How do I know if change is necessary? How do I know that it would benefit my company?

      Having a trusted speaking partner with valuable insights is just what is needed to find answers to those questions, and that is precisely what our customers are asking of us. “Challenge us, question us. Then we’ll see if our strategy holds or if changes are required” is their message. I think it is a sound one.

      Reply
  2. Sameera Gunathilaka

    It is an interesting discussion for today’s business as the customers behavior changes more frequently towards the value creation. As solution providers we need to focus on making the customers loyal than making them satisfied. Customer satisfactions comes when we provide quality product as they request or expect for their business to create a value, but the loyalty comes when we can understand the customers requirement and create a value at customers end. because most of the customers even don’t know the exact requirements to create their future values and what our solution can do for them. As solution providers we need to understand the customer first and challenge the customers requirements or expectations towards their value creation. Once the customer can feel that we are not just providing them a solution requested but providing them a solution to create a value. We can make them loyal. Making the customer step up in the loyalty ladder is a today’s most important task than making them satisfied. once the customer is loyal, we can sell anything.

    Reply
    • Per Åsberg

      Per Åsberg

      Thank you for your comment Sameera. Indeed loyalty is very important, and that loyalty builds on trust. And in fact our customers tell us in the survey that they do trust us – that is exactly why they want to invite us into the discussion regarding their business strategy. I believe that this next step, which could be called a partnership, transcends the normal customer-supplier relationship in that it is beyond selling and supporting. To use a worn phrase, it is about “joint value creation”.

      Reply

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