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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.

Thomas Säld

Customer_feedback_storiesLast year, we announced IFS Applications 8. Today we’ll hear from customers who have been using it. We also said it would be our platform for innovation, and we’ll share progress on that with you. Last year, we had five early adopters running it. Now, we have more that 150,000 users live or implementing it. Here’s one: NEC.

NEC’s Computertechno produces large scale tech like mainframes and server tech. They use IFS Applications because it covers their processes most fully, it’s easy to integrate with their financial systems and they already had internal expertise on it. It’s one of the most advanced manufacturing plants in the world.

IFS has had positive feedback from analysts, too. They’ve been moved from challenger to leader in many fields. In the end, though, it’s how well we support individual businesses that matter. The predominant reason most people adopt it is improving their business. They’ve launched over 700 new functions to facilitate this – as well as making applications available on tablets and mobiles.

Another reason is cost of ownership. You can extend IFS Applications 8 yourself, reducing the need for customization. They’ve added a complete mobile solution.

Visualiser

It’s a giant leap forwards in user experience for manufacturing. It can quickly make visible the availability of materials against the orders you have. It’s not just informational, though. You can perform actions, like reserving materials, straight from the visualization. There’s a configuration screen that allows you to build the visualizations to your own business’s needs. People respond better to visual cues than just textual information. This opens the door to better monitoring and thus better quality of work.

Development Strategies

This is an example of innovation-driven development. We had an idea, developed a proof of concept, and then developed the visualizer with customer feedback.

Other development is customer-driven, like the Enhancement Package.

We have a whole new warehouse data collection system, which is getting good feedback. We are adding functionality to the Trade & Logistics system. We’re investing heavily in the needs of truly global companies. For example, there’s a need for consolidation, and we’ve added functionality to match. It’s consolidation made easy – it’s an integrated part of Applications 8. You avoid the need to sync data, and can drill down to the actions in individual companies.

We’re also investing heavily in supporting the different regulations in different countries. These change constantly, so it will need constant investment.

Getting WISE

Linear Asset management has been improved, and integrated with GIS. In field service, people have struggled with planning. Do they have the right people? Can they fulfill their service level agreements (SLA)s? That’s what the What If Scenarios Emulator (WISE) does. It can visualize current demands and staff locations. You can test the impact of staff changes using the system, seeing if you can still hit KPIs. You can bring up a schedule of work, which highlights points where SLAs are being missed. That allows you to spot where the pain points are. You can import likely workload from Excel and combine it with existing work, then run a test against current staff to see likely outcomes. You can even pull up a list of what additional staff you need – and where they should be based.

There are 200 more reasons to upgrade — 200 more enhancements — than we had last year.

Panel Discussion

  • Åke Ekblad – Teracom
  • Leonard Huray, RTI Remmele Engineering
  • Linda Hallberg, VBG
  • Glyn Booton, McTaggart Scott
  • Mike Skucius, Communications Systems
  • Thabo Ndlela, Sun International

MS: We interrupted a 7.5 upgrade for a feature we wanted in 8. Some employees have engaged and some haven’t. The early adopters, while often a pain for the implantation team, have been promoted. Many of those who held out are no longer with us.

AE: We upgraded mainly for user experience and usability.

LeH: The new user interface is very intuitive for new users. Before version 8, we tended to turn down requests for customization. Now we’re more inclined to say yes.

LiH: Main reasons for upgrading were to have everything in one ERP, and to reduce customizations.

General customizations were down 40% to 50% across the panel – making it easier to do the next upgrade.

GB: You’re bound to get issues – but we found IFS very responsive. We had a consultant with us over the go live weekend.

MS: The technology is easy. It’s dealing with the people issues is hard.

TN:  We’re implanting now, and the fact we can customise it do make it a tailor made solution is very attractive.

LeH: You need to do enough stress testing to identify problems.

LiH: Have flexibility in time a resources to test and deal with problems. And don’t try to recreate what you had. Remake it to fit your core processes better.

GB: Get your superusers and do really good testing on hotspots.

MS: You need a dedicated team, and they need to be one step removed from the core processes so they have a new pair of eyes on it.

 

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