IFS hosted its World Conference in Atlanta last week, and The Service Council was invited to cover the event as an Influencer in the Service Management space. Our summary of the event will fall into three primary chapters.
IFS Strategic Direction
This was the first World Conference for new CEO Darren Roos. Mr. Roos wasted no time in introducing himself to customers across the globe prior to last week’s event, but the World Conference served as his official introduction. In his event keynote, Mr. Roos indicated that he intended to continue IFS’s focus on ensuring customer success by spearheading efforts that focused on:
- Faster time to value
- Risk mitigation
- Value assurance
With this in mind, he highlighted that IFS’s near term opportunities for growth were primarily centered around:
- Extending market leadership in Aerospace & Defense
- Growing product and customer presence in Service Management
- Increasing reach in Mid-Market ERP (defined as companies generating $1b-$5b in annual revenue)
From a product functionality point-of-view, Mr. Roos (as supported by VP of R&D Thomas Sald and CTO Dan Matthews) highlighted that the following four areas continue to drive IFS’s product R&D.
- User Interface
- Internet of Things
- Artificial Intelligence / Robotic Process Automation
These areas were also highly visible in IFS’s launch of Applications 10 (Apps 10). (See Official Release)
As Influencers of the service community, we had broader access to Mr. Roos throughout the event. It’s evident that he sees an opportunity for IFS to be more aggressive when pursuing growth in the three areas identified above. He sees this growth being accomplished by a continued push on the core functionality of the product, an expanded focus on customer success, and an enhanced partner network. The increased reliance on a partner network for product extensions, implementation, and professional services is a new direction for IFS, and one that is necessary to support the more aggressive growth objectives that Mr. Roos is expected to deliver. From a customer success point of view, Mr. Roos also hinted at a more standardized engagement model across IFS’s global businesses and increased technical and brand integration of IFS’s acquired products within the overall umbrella.
These are early days in Mr. Roos’s tenure, but his comments suggest an acknowledgement of IFS’s strengths as well as a realization of the need for support in accelerating growth. We anticipate a period of cultural change within IFS, where the hallmark focus on product quality will be accompanied by a greater push in the areas of sales, marketing, and customer success.
IFS and Service Management
In Service Management, there were three major product updates. Firstly, the announced IFS Apps 10 suite includes several new service management capabilities. This is typically intended for manufacturers running IFS as their core ERP and looking to extend the capabilities for service-specific functions. Additions are focused on linking service work and quotations to contact records, adding improved resource forecasting capabilities, and better integration of work sent to contractors. (Other improvements in Apps 10 focused on the entire organization, such as chat bots, and more are also applicable to the service organization). The niftiest service-focused demo in Apps 10 involved the direct scheduling of some service work with a partner within the confines of the Aurena user interface.
IFS also showed a demonstration of its newly launched (in Alpha, General Availability planned for Q4 2018) Field Service Management 6 with UI enhancements (Image 1 below) and added functionality (Image 2). The Field Service Management product is a stand-alone field service solution that is aimed at customers leveraging other enterprise partners as their back-end ERPs or CRMs. Much of the core functionality in the FSM product comes from IFS’s acquisitions of Metrix and 360 Scheduling.
Customers can choose to deploy the FSM Solution in the cloud (multi-tenant on Microsoft Azure or as a managed service) or on-premise. The on-premise focus is interesting, as most field service management software providers only support cloud versions of their software, given that this is where most companies are headed. Legacy systems in field service management are primarily on-premise and there is still an appetite from certain companies, especially in the industries of utilities, oil & gas, and telecommunications, to stick to the on-premise deployment format.
The demo during the FSM keynote focused on the UI enhancements and the ease with which users can configure fields or events within the solution. We also got to see the enhanced scheduling engine to which IFS claims to have added support for more business and delivery models.
Away from the bright lights of the keynote stage, I also got to view a demo of the IFS Customer Engagement platform, acquired through the purchase of mplsystems (TSC commentary). The solution extends IFS’s service management footprint into the area of customer engagement, typically a strength of traditional contact center or CRM providers.
The Customer Engagement Platform can support an organization’s multi-channel service desk, but the focus of the demos was on the intelligent desktop available to service agents and the AI-driven intelligent response capabilities that can be extended to agents or directly to customers in the channels through which they choose to interact (text or voice). These capabilities are quite powerful, and they not only enable IFS to claim a more robust service management solution, but also play on the increasing interest from B2B service companies to offer more consumer-like experiences to their customers.
In our 2018 research on customer support trends, our members indicate that their customers are demanding better response times and increased visibility from their service providers. Essentially, customers want better visibility into the status of their purchased assets and associated service requests and expect greater response and action times when service actions are needed. Enterprise customers aren’t as likely to move to messaging or chat as communication channels, but they do expect the response and the convenience that these channels provide.
No review of an event is complete without a conversation with customers. Luckily for us, several TSC members are customers of IFS and I had the chance to catch up with several of them at the show. Most conversations centered around the breadth of IFS’s portfolio and the excitement around key capabilities introduced in the FSM and the Customer Engagement Management solutions.
All of the customers were pleased with the solution stack and the continued focus from IFS around service management. Several indicated that they were excited to see a greater collaboration with partners to support added functionality and to enhance deployments. A few also highlighted that they were surprised by the breadth of IFS’s Service Management portfolio and would prefer to see a greater push from IFS’s account management and customer success teams around solution awareness and education.
I also had the opportunity to host a panel with service leaders from Eickhoff-Bochum, The Polygon Group, and REMA Tip Top around the challenge of finding and retaining talent in the field service discipline. All of the leaders conceded that they were struggling to find new talent, but all three claimed that they saw this as an opportunity to rebrand their organizations in order to increase interest in the field service profession. Several of the takeaways from the discussion focused on:
- Increasing the measurement and evaluation of employee engagement at the field technician level
- Enhancing the autonomy of field service agents in a time when technology allows for more control
- Focusing on broader personality traits at the time of hire to enable a more customer-centric field service organization
- Driving greater levels of diversity in the field workforce
- Using technology to remove some of the obstacles to the completion of service work and essentially making life easier for front-line agents
As you can see, there was a lot that took place over the two days of my experience at the IFS World Conference. The customer panel was definitely a highlight, especially as it focused on the human element of field service at an overall technology conference. It also highlighted that companies who work with the likes of enterprise software providers such as IFS are grappling with the role that technology will play in the future of work. There are more questions than answers at this stage, but there is a greater awareness that leaders within organizations need to take a greater interest in their employees as opposed to solely focusing on employee output.
On a final note, IFS’s Global head of Service Management and I had the opportunity to share our thoughts on major field service trends on a live broadcast on The Cube.