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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.

Fritz Ekoff, senior vice president, BW Offshore

WoCo2013_BWOffshoreBW Offshore is a leading provider of floating production units. They convert old tankers into production ships. It’s a high tech operation. They operate the deepest FPSO at 2,500 meters.

They are truly global in the scope of their operations. They have vessels all over the world, with site offices connected to each vehicle. Their CEO has been clear that they want to be a world leader in using ERP in their operations – and he has been since they both worked together in a previous company in 2004.  To do this, they looked for a global company with a global presence – one that was large without being too large. They wanted to influence the roadmap – and they are with IFS. The upgrade from 7 to 8 allowed them to drop 50% of their customisations.

The system needed to be offshore orientated, and module-based, so they could buy what they need when they need it. They first deployed it with no customisations. He told people to adapt to the system – not the other way around. He was not popular.

When that company was acquired by BW Offshore a few years later, BW was running JDEdwards. But a reverse take-over happened, through the CEO and CIO moving to the same roles in BW Offshore – and they shut down JDEdwards and replaced it with IFS. They bought Prosafe Production in Singapore a couple of years later – they were running SAP. They copied out all the data, and shut that down, too. Half the finance department left. They loved SAP. But those who remained are now happy IFS users.

A global scale

They have 75 companies working with IFS, over 900 projects. 35,000 purchase orders passed through, and all their on-shore HR is conducted through it. They don’t do the off-shore ones yet. The servers are run from Oslo, and the system is “distributed” to all their sites and vessels in 35 locations.

There’s no VPNs at work in their network. They have a communication system through Orange that means all the vessels and stations are part of one domain. They’ve used local cacheing in their major locations to reduce latency. When they did the upgrade, they had people in all the offices just open all the IFS windows, cacheing everything on their riverbed technology. If it works offshore – it will work anywhere. They need to have a global infrastructure – but that comes with a cost.

They avoid customisations whenever possible. You should ask yourself if you really need them – and if you really know what the package can do? You pay for every customisation at each upgrade. If they have to develop new things, they do it outside the core IFS to keep the core clean.

They have a SharePoint interface to IFS. They’re also keep on building in-house competence. Consultants are nice – but they come with a cost. You need to identify and recruit the super-users within the company. Make sure you IT department are comfortable with it. Remember: competence is the only resource that increases when shared and used.

Building in-house competence

To further improved their use, they’ve employed an ERP manager, to build an ERP organisations, with the process owners reporting in to her. She’s charged with ensuring optimal use of IFS within the company. All they really need to run IFS is four smart girls – and that’s exactly what they have.

The BI solution they use is based on Microsoft SQL Server and IFS. At the moment they use a range of tools to deliver reporting, but they want to move to IFS BI, which will give all their users a report card of the things they’re responsible for. And it’ll be instant – displayed when it happens in SharePoint.

The COO will soon have an operational overview of all the vessels in use, and what their status is. A traffic light system will immediately flag up problems. People don’t need to know where the information is coming – they just care that they get it. That’s our job as IT to supply them.

New project: Offshore maintenance. They’re planning on installing it on 16 vessels – there in 2014 and the rest in 2015. After that? They want to look at inventory and logistics – and enable full tracking across all their warehouses.

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