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This is one of a series of live blog posts directly from the site of the 2013 IFS World Conference in Barcelona. Business journalist Adam Tinworth is a veteran of Reed Business Information and a lecturer on digital journalism at City University in London. His first-hand impressions are accompanied by illustrations of Matthew Buck, cartoonist for Drawnalism.

The Panel

  • Alastair Sorbie, President & CEO
  • Glenn Arnesen, CEO, Scandinavia
  • Mark Boulton, CMO
  • Cindy Jaudon, President, North America
  • Paul Massey, VP, West Europe
  • Thomas Sald, VP, R&D

The Questions

Is IFS making enough noise?

Sketch303141756Mark: In my job, I’ll say yes, obviously. We have changed our strategy. We were focused on marketing to verticals. But it’s probably fair to say we’re not well known outside of them. We’re doing more horizontal marketing. You’ll see the IFS logo at airports, and we’re sponsoring events. We’re working closely with customers on video, and our events are on a different level. We’re getting the message out there.

Glenn: We have more than 200 partners working with us now. Those are new channels for marketing, too.

Mark: There are companies out there with very well-known brands like Microsoft, who are our diamond sponsors here. You’ll see our brand alongside theirs in a lot of places now.

What are your acquisition plans?

Alastair. We’ve been very clear: we’re looking for companies that give us added value in certain sectors.

Cindy: We’re always looking. I’ve had the chance to work with two of our acquisitions – LATIN IFS in Brazil and Metrix. We were able to sign new contracts because of those.

In what sectors will you see growth?

Glenn: There’s high activity in defense and manufacturing. But oil and gas is a real growth market.

Cindy: I think Service Management is an area we’ll be growing a lot. With the things I see coming out of R&D I think we’ll be growing very strongly.

Paul: There’s a balance we have to find. There are some markets where we need a partner – but we also need to keep our own USP. Finding the right model in the right geography and sector is important.

Glenn: Our customers ask us to engage with the systems integrators. It allows them to run really big projects.

Cost of ownership is on everyone’s mind – how can you ensure you control it?

Glenn: Our service organization is doing a lot to create greater efficiency in upgrades. We have a centralized upgrade unit now to assist.

Alastair: At the end of the day, everyone wants a simple package experience, where they can take the benefits they’re entitled from from the maintenance contract. They don’t want a lot of difficult customizations getting in the way. We’re making our product more configurable to allow that. If people don’t upgrade, there’s a danger that they’ll drift away from the IFS community, which is bad for everyone.

Thomas: Software is not a numbers business, it’s a people business. You can get more out of five brilliant developers than 50 average ones. We’re very efficient in developing creative and innovative products. We are an application vendor – and all our investment goes into one product. Many of our competitors spend most of their money on their technology stack.

Is there a danger that if you don’t grow fast, you’ll be taken over?

Alastair: We’re a strong, debt-free company with a supportive shareholder base. We can’t be taken over in a hostile manner without their support.

Does your Scandinavian heritage have an influence?

Paul: Our Scandinavian heritage make us more relaxed and approachable to customers. Internally, we’re very democratic – sometimes almost too much. American companies have a different approach.

When will we see the next version?

Thomas: We’re planning on releasing the next versions in 2015, and will start our early adopter program next year.

Any new interfaces you’re interested in?

Thomas: If we see high adoption of smart watches, we’ll develop our IFS Touch Apps so they run on them.

What have you learned during the IFS World Conference in Barcelona?

Glenn: One thing I’ve observed that there are more and more developers that can talk business.

Thomas: It’s really reinforced how important global support is. I’ve spoken to many customers doing global rollouts.

Cindy: I learnt that customers stay because of our people.

Paul: The customers are the best resource we have – and we need to talk to them more.

Mark: I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how willing customers are to get up on stage and tell the story for us. I’ve never been in an environment where they were so willing to do that. I like marketing where you don’t have to take it from us.

Alastair: I tend to meet senior managers, and at these events I get to meet people at the project manager level, and I really enjoy hearing about the detail at that kind of level. We need to learn how to work better with the systems integrators.

So…about next year?

Cindy: There hasn’t been a conference in North America since 2004 – so, we’re going to Boston!

Alastair Sorbie’s Closing Thoughts

He wants to thank everyone for coming and being part of the experience. It’s important that we get more and more customers to these events, because it makes a better learning experience for all of us. We had over 100 break-out sessions, which represents a  lot of work I’m very grateful for.

There are 47 countries here – a record. Also, we had a record turnout of analysts and press, which is very good for us, because they want to talk to you (customers), not us.

These things do not happen easily. The events staff and contractors we use have done a great job, and thanks to them.

All the speakers have been really impressive. When I opened this event, I talked about the perfect storm of change – that’s come up again and again. We all need to embrace that and work closely with out customers to do that. I do like meeting customer informally and talking to them over a meal, a beer.

I think the party was a highlight. It embodies the culture of the company, accelerated through alcohol… It’s engagement, it’s openness and a sense of fun. That will stay the same – and the party will get better every year.

It’s great for all of us that we offer an ecosystem through our partners. You’ll see a lot more of that. we’ve gone from 5 to 150,000 Applications 8 users in a year – that’s good out of a base of 900,000. Moving into the leaders quadrant from Gartner has been satisfying,

We talked a lot about mobility. everyone talked about it. We will continue to invest in it. People are doing impressive things with it.

See you in Boston!

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