Can the flap of a butterfly's wings change the surrounding air so much that it initiates the breakout of a tornado two continents away?
Whether or not this is true, the point of the question is to illustrate that tiny changes in big systems can trigger huge effects. This theory is called the “butterfly effect,” and the symbolism can be applied to climate systems as well as modern IT business systems.
Midmarket ERP leader IFS used this analogy during their recent World Conference (WoCo).
“The digitization trend reaches into every corner of today's activities,” said IFS’ CEO Alastair Sorbie, and concluded that in parallel with new disruptive technologies, digitization triggers an avalanche of change.
The complex IT world is becoming even more so, raising several questions:
- How do you navigate in the new landscape taking shape?
- How do you integrate all the new technologies, such as cloud, IoT, tools, predictive analytics, mobility, augmented reality, drones and more, into existing business?
- What tools are needed, and how do you create a cultural norm within the organization that makes it possible to take advantage of everything new?
There are many questions from several perspectives essential for future competitiveness. Alastair Sorbie points to this fact in this TV report.
“In spite of the dramatic shift, many people and organizations tend to ´go with the flow´ rather than taking an overall holistic approach to the issues,” he noted, adding that, “A survey we made showed that 40 percent of companies today do not have any strategy for a digital transformation.”
Sorbie asserted that users have indicated that IFS tools are effective in this context, stating, “Our most recent customer survey shows, for example, that 87 percent recommend IFS Applications over other ERP systems. This is a very good rating.”
The Applications 9 suite also received top marks from industry analyst Gartner, which put IFS in its “magical leader quadrant” for the third year in a row, alongside industry giant SAP, in the category of ERP mid-market software.
There are several reasons for this, but two stand out: the interface with IFS Lobby as their primary storefront, and the flexibility the system architecture brings with it. Being able to adapt and shape exactly the screen and the functionality an individual user wants is unique. This is mostly because it is easy to effect adjustments. Forget the visits from system architects and IT specialists; you can drag and drop yourself to create what you want.
“This is on a principal level what an ERP system is about, and why the butterfly effect analogy is so useful,” said the WoCo moderator, Jon Briggs. He continued, “You might be able to predict one butterfly’s wing, but add in a million butterflies and your calculation goes out the window, and is therefore useless. An ERP system is a controlled environment for all those billions of bits of data to be accessed and processed. So once you apply a controlled environment, the end results are much safer. But predictability is a difficult thing; some systems are better at it than others.”
It’s not far-fetched to realize which system he has in mind.
IFS’ chief, Alastair Sorbie, said that 40 percent of the companies in an IFS survey don’t have a digital transformations strategy. “And so, one of the main messages from us during the World Conference was to discuss around how we can help them in this. It’s important from many aspects, not least in the light of how fast technology are evolving right now.”
200,000 Upgraded to “The Ninth”
Users have also shown their appreciation, and it was not without a touch of pride in his voice that Alastair Sorbie noted how over 200,000 of the company’s more than a million users have already upgraded to IFS 'Nine'.
“A remarkable figure,” said industry analyst Ralph Rio, ARC Advisory, in today’s PLM TV interview. He continued, “It is unique to have 20 percent of users upgrading their ERP software within a time span of 18 months. ERP is really a bigger business type application. If it breaks you can’t take orders, you can’t order entry, you can’t bill people, and in the course of the scope of how much broader their ERP is. To build the kind of trust needed in this context, in such a short time frame… I've never heard of anything like it.”
Generally, IoT in the industrial space is about running analytics on data coming off a machine, analyzing it, predicting when a part is going to fail, and then doing something about it. What IFS does is not to replicate the analytics of the data coming out of the machine. “We decided to focus on what to do when it comes to the business process after the alert is generated,” IFS’ CTO, Dan Matthews, explained in today’s TV-report.
Internet of Things in Focus
While Applications 9 was a giant leap in terms of development, the solution continues to evolve. IFS CTO Dan Matthews noted that the new version includes more than 500 improvements. But above all, Matthews spoke about the Internet of Things (IoT), and among the event’s product launches the new IFS IoT Business Connector was the main attraction.
“It is about a holistic IoT solution that not only results in large amounts of data and stunning charts, but real actions that can be planned and executed in an optimal way in harmony with all other processes within the business. For our customers, this means an easier way to get started with the IoT, lower risk and faster return on investment,” said Matthews.
The solution has been developed to shorten lead times and reduce risks in IoT projects in areas such as maintenance, service and manufacturing. The “connector” helps companies take advantage of the data recorded by their products, facilities and equipment. These observations trigger self-defined, fully or semi-automated workflows in the IFS system.
IFS IoT Business Connector is configured to work with Microsoft's cloud platform Azure IoT Suite for communications and analysis. It has open APIs for connection to other IoT platforms or specialized IoT applications.
Out of IFS’ users and corporate customers, there are many who benefit from these analyses, which can streamline maintenance, service and manufacturing.
Analyst Ralph Rio agrees, explaining that in the industrial space, “It’s about running analytics on data coming off a particular piece of machinery, analyzing it and predicting when that piece of machinery is going to fail, then doing something about it before it actually fails. What IFS does is not to replicate the analytics of the data coming out of the machine. They decided to focus on what you do with the alert. What’s the business process after the alert is generated?”
At the center of attention during WoCo in Gothenburg, Sweden: IFS IoT Business Connector.
The Main Components of the New IoT Business Connector
- IFS IoT Controller helps companies decide what action to take when relevant IoT data is identified. The software component also handles practical issues surrounding the mapping of operational technology in the context of IT and business.
- The IoT Gateway ensures that the data which is detected and analyzed in the cloud is communicated safely to IFS solutions, whether they are installed locally or cloud-based.
- The IoT Discovery Manager secures additional monitoring and control capabilities using the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite as the platform for the identification of IoT data.
What can IFS’ new IoT Connector bring to the table in terms of businesses? “A lot,” says Daniel Spahr, CIO at Anticimex, a company that works with pest control. “It has already contributed to change in our business. With connected traps, we’re monitoring our clients’ sites around the clock, instead of doing controls once a week or once a month.”
From IFS’ CASEBOOK: Smart Pest Control with Connected Traps
The PLM TV NEWS crew spoke to one of the companies that invested in the IFS IoT solution, the international pest control operator Anticimex, which joined the IFS software’s pilot program.
The company's CIO, Daniel Spahr, said that the IoT solutions can add a range of new services while streamlining the surveillance process, as well as the actions they can trigger from a pest perspective using sensors and predictive maintenance programs.
As described by Anticimex CEO Jan Dahlfors, “IFS IoT Business Connector helps us to take control of the information generated by our digital pest equipment, resulting in an improvement in our customer service and the ability to offer them the information they need,” he says.
A More Efficient Mobility Tool
“Solutions for mobile workforce management is one of our strong points,” said IFS product director Jørgen Rogde.
There was more news, such as the new version of IFS Mobile Workforce Management (5.8). Among other things, this includes:
- Automatic shift generation
- Self-learning scheduling
- New options for cloud deployment
- Big data optimization
- Improved visualization
“All this will help our customers streamline their processes. We have also made the solution even more flexible thanks to the new opportunities for deployment in the cloud and the handling of large amounts of data,” said Jørgen Rogde, product director at IFS.
Major Upgrade of EOI
Another point worth mentioning is the extensive update of the IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (IFS EOI); the first major update since the acquisition of the EOI product, in connection with the acquisition of Vision Waves in July 2015.
On a basic level, the solution is all about getting different systems to "talk" to each other and to create greater visibility in the normally relatively compact application flora. Communication and interaction is a key to greater efficiency. In the new EOI version, there are improvements that let users improve their visualizations by adding their own drawings or images to the visualization of data.
Other concerns are integration with IFS Applications. The EOI can now easily integrate with data sources in IFS Applications, which means faster development of EOI models based on data in IFS Applications, and more coherent information between the different systems.
A third area is connected to the IoT, and the new version has been developed to work with IFS IoT Business Connector.
Scheduling is a fourth big improvement: It now benefits from the IFS Dynamic Scheduling Engine (DSE), which also forms the core of the planning tool of the IFS Mobile Workforce Management. And all of this is nicely packaged into a new modern interface.
The Cloud is Growing in Importance
Finally, we note that the IFS Cloud is growing in use. More than a third of the company's new customers choose to go with cloud-based business software. The cloud solution, launched in May last year, is a secure single tenant solution for IFS’ products in the Microsoft's Azure environment. Among the advantages of the cloud is that IFS Applications support is available for use around the clock.
This past year, 34 percent of all new customers in IFS’ three major regions (the Americas, Western Europe and Scandinavia) have chosen to deploy IFS Applications 9 in the cloud.
This is not – just as with the upgrading boom of Applications 9 — a bad figure.
ARC Advisory’s analyst, Ralph Rio, on the upgrade numbers of Applications, version 9: “200,000 out of one million users in as short a time frame as 18 months; I have never heard of anything like it in the ERP space.”
In this TV-report you will meet:
- Alastair Sorbie, CEO, IFS
- Jon Briggs, Broadcast journalist/moderator
- Ralph Rio, Analyst at ARC Advisory
- Dan Matthews, CTO, IFS
- Daniel Spahr, CIO, Anticimex
- Joakim Stolt, CIO, Beijer Electronics
- Michael Grindborn, CFO, Hexpol
- Anthony Bourne, Industry director, IFS
- Stefan Issing, Automotive industry director, IFS