create an enterprise application platform that responds to customers where they are (2/2)

(© kirill_makarov – Fotolia.com)

Businesses today are struggling with the limitations of traditional software applications. They want to operate with integrated data and processes that deliver fast results and remain responsive to customer needs, breaking down old application silos. In response, software vendors must revamp their products to integrate beyond these old boundaries and offer a more modular and adaptable choice of features. One provider on this path is IFS, whose CEO explained why customers reject old acronyms in an interview we published yesterday. Today I look at the practicalities of how this is actually done with Christian Pedersen, Product Manager at IFS.

IFS’s customer base spans several different sectors – aerospace and defense, energy and telecommunications utilities, civil engineering, manufacturing and asset management – but what they all have in common is that they deal with things physical ones that are built, maintained and maintained. They also share with other industries a focus on customer outcomes, which IFS defines as the “moment of service”. Pedersen explains:

What we mean by moment of service is when everything falls into place in that moment when you serve your customers. It’s not just about field service management, service management, or customer support. It is also a service when you deliver products at the right time with the right quality at the right price. It’s that you keep your promises all the time. It’s even as simple as handing over an invoice that customers can actually…understand.

For industries served by IFS, delivering the moment of service depends on coordinating people and assets around this goal – this is where support for enterprise applications and the underlying IT architecture becomes crucial. . But since most companies in these industries are established businesses with an existing IT infrastructure, there are many obstacles in the way of modernization. IFS may offer an up-to-date component architecture on a containerized cloud platform designed for scalability and elasticity, but companies can’t just scrap what they already do and swap in with an entirely new alternative. Past experience has also made IT buyers wary of both built-in suites that cannot be scaled to their needs and adoption of a set of discrete SaaS applications, each with its own update cycle. independent. An offer that addresses all of these concerns simultaneously has to pull off quite a balancing act.

Start with what you need

IFS is well aware of these issues. It aims to provide deep functionality around customers, people and assets as a single suite that supports the delivery of that “moment of service”, tailored to the unique needs of each of the industries it serves. At the same time, the product is comprised of building blocks that are “individually deployable yet inherently integrated,” says Pedersen, so customers can choose to implement the components that work best for them at any given time. He adds:

I don’t encourage clients to go big bang and do it all. Start with what you need. Get some initial results, then expand.

To facilitate connections to existing IT assets, pre-packaged integration is included in the form of user-friendly RESTful APIs as well as an OEM agreement with iPaaS provider Boomi. The recently launched Sustainability Hub, which was developed using Microsoft’s Power App low-code development tools and uses Microsoft Teams as its user interface, provides a proof point for the extensibility model and low-code development. code on the platform, says Pedersen.

IFS also extends its functional reach beyond the traditional boundaries of enterprise applications. Besides the sustainability hub, its latest version, delivered in October, adds new APIs that connect to factory machines, while machine learning has been added to improve predictive maintenance of installed assets. Pederson says:

It’s not just about software integration. It is now real that everything has an IP address. It makes a phenomenal difference in the value that can be created, and it fits right in with our field of working with physical things, assets, and objects.

These new capabilities are the result of leveraging the technology stack to meet customer needs, rather than being bound by legacy application categories. Pedersen explains:

We’ve asked all of our developers and product managers to say, don’t just focus on what you think about the software, focus on what we have to deliver to the customer… It’s been a great release for the product teams .

Living up to expectations

Another case where meeting the customer where they are is that IFS does not force them to move to the cloud if they prefer to implement the software on premises. Even though the architecture is cloud-native, it can also be deployed in a customer’s data center as “the exact same set of containers with the exact same set of services around it,” says Pedersen, and managed at distance by IFS. Many clients operate in regulated industries and are required to perform certain processes in place, he explains. According to CEO Darren Roos, this option has recently helped IFS win several major accounts. He says:

We’re knocking down one after another – big blue chip global names you’ll recognize – because they don’t want to put it in the cloud. And they have a lot of cloud apps. It is therefore not a question of being immature, nor of being naive. They are huge companies with lots of cloud infrastructure. But there are very good reasons for this specific application to be installed on premises.

It’s all tied to the focus on delivering IFS’s “moment of service” – a customer experience that lives up to expectations from first sales engagement through deployment, and beyond into everyday use. , future upgrades and expansions. As an example, Pedersen says he’s excited to see one of the first customers to sign up for a fairly extensive IFS Cloud implementation online recently in less than six months. But perhaps the most telling manifestation is the investment IFS has made in its business value engineering process, which was previously an entirely manual process that lived in spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Enhanced with benchmark data and incorporating industry-specific pre-packaged process definitions, it is now fully digitized and will be delivered as a dashboard integrated into the finished product. Pedersen comments:

That’s very important, and we build that into the product. So now we’re doing a business value engineering exercise with the client on all the things they want to measure, and where they can get all the benefits. We can actually configure that in the product and measure that. So there will be proof of the pudding there.

my catch

It shows how far we’ve come when an enterprise application vendor is willing to not only sit down with the customer to define the business goals they want the software to help them achieve, but also to create a dashboard in the product to measure how successful it is. Back in the days when software was delivered on discs, the only commitment vendors were willing to give their customers was that the disc wouldn’t be corrupted – they didn’t even guarantee it would work once installed. This new focus on customer outcomes is something we call the XaaS effect and is long overdue.

The big picture is the use of modern digital technology to connect data and processes across the enterprise in ways that make these older categories of packaged software obsolete. We call it Frictionless Enterprise and it too is long overdue, but getting there is a tougher challenge. As Pedersen says, once you start thinking outside of those old categories, you start connecting functions and resources that have never been brought together in the past. IFS is one of many forward-thinking providers putting in place the right technology infrastructure to make this possible, but its focus on using it to improve customer outcomes is inspired. It is now up to customers to harness this technology to reshape their operations and show what can be achieved.