Did you know that IFSrunsIFS? This should be expected – that we would be ‘dogfooding’ – but our journey to move into the cloud, on the latest version of IFS Applications in 6 months was achievable, though not without its challenges.
Earlier this year, we formally acknowledged the opportunity to improve the way we work, to use our own technology to break down regional barriers, and to enhance our ability to operate as one global team.
We knew we needed to modernize our business operations and get ourselves onto our own latest solutions, so we took the decision to experience what our customers experience, the way our customers experience it.
In short, we moved from seven disparate instances of IFS Applications onto a single instance of IFS Applications 10. And, I’m pleased to report, that earlier this year we successfully walked six months in our customers’ shoes.
Intelligence and Insights
All great leadership teams must have access to data and insights into how their business is performing. When data and related analytics are consistently captured across an organization, they add transparency and inform better decisions. So, this program wasn’t a “nice to have” for our business, it was imperative for us to be able to run the business as effectively as possible.
That was the genesis of what would become the most comprehensive program in the company’s history – aimed at getting all 3,700+ IFS employees, across more than 45 entities, across 27 countries, working with one global set of processes in one central version of the solution providing one version of the truth.
It’s worth pointing out that the deployment of IFS Applications 10 is just one part of a much larger transformation program that involved unifying and centralizing all aspects of the way we work. So, even though we had added to our workload, we were in a position to address old constraints and bottlenecks at root level.
The picture below shows the high-level architecture of how we transformed our complete landscape with our IFS ERP at the heart of it:
Getting Integrated and Getting Digital
One of the major wins of this program would be integration across the different parts of the business.
We were using a combination of IFS Applications, third-party legacy technology, and manual processes across our regions and business units.
The challenge with using disparate systems and having unconnected processes and data is the obvious inaccuracies and breakdowns that can impact the ability to make informed decisions based on accurate information.
We knew that getting all our people and processes onto one central platform would be a challenge, both technologically and culturally, but that the potential benefits were enormous.
When the decision was made to move the entire business onto IFS Applications 10 in the cloud, we approached this as any other customer deployment program. We scoped out an ambitious but doable six-month implementation program and got to work.
When mapping out our business processes, we started with a relatively small group of people, which we successively expanded as things started to progress.
To make the six-month deadline, we focused on:
- A set of global best practice processes
- Standardizing reporting across the business
- Transforming both internally and externally to the cloud
- Selecting a few processes to start our digital journey: 1) we started our journey to only supporting electronic invoices; 2) remove paper from timesheets and expenses; 3) remove printing of payslips where this was taking place.
In parallel with the implementation, we undertook a change management exercise to ensure every single IFS employee knew what was coming and how to use the solution. Working together with process owners and super users, we ran roadshows, prototype sessions and training to get people comfortable and confident with the new solution.
One of the things I’m most proud of is that we ran this program just as our customers do. There were no shortcuts or secret work-arounds for us.
This was delivered by our own people all over the world. Literally, hundreds of employees were ’double hatting’; doing their day job as well as managing some elements of the technical or cultural change.
Many lessons good and bad were learned from this program and we will use this to better inform our implementation methodology; our product; and our cloud operations so we can improve for our customers.
We made the decision to deploy in the IFS Managed Cloud, which we knew would give us a robust and secure infrastructure as well as a swift way to roll-out new innovations coming from product development in the future – what we call ’evergreen’.
IFS Managed Cloud and IFS Applications 10 integrated very well with many other cloud solutions we chose including marketing, payroll, e-invoicing, Office365, and our internal Intranet (My IFS) on Sharepoint Online.
Driven off IFS Aurena, our modern UX, evergreen describes the ability of IFS solutions running in the cloud to always have access to the latest features, without costly and disruptive upgrades.
We took the opportunity with our latest product that has significantly delivered hundreds of new features to reduce the number of modifications we had from more than 70 to just seven, and then five of these will be in the core of IFS Applications in a later release truly keeping us evergreen!
This is actually one of the most exciting things about this IFS program: IFS is a showcase for its own customers in what we call IFS runs IFS. Plus, we’re now able to benefit from the latest technology while at the same time providing real business value to our customers and proving that this works.
After launching the program in January, IFS went live on IFS Applications 10 on 29 July which is a phenomenal feat given the size and scale of the deployment. We have a digital platform in which to continuously evolve, innovate and grow.
Key elements for success
1. Senior stakeholder support
Our CEO, Darren Roos, set the tone by emphasizing the importance of the program and ensuring the whole organization was behind it. The senior management team naturally supported this and aligned their people accordingly.
2. Defining a clear scope and structure
To get the system up and running with the fundamental capabilities was the focus. Our strategy was to get the platform in and ensure the business was operational and to then start to evolving to the innovation and features.
Naturally, we will build on that, and as our business grows and evolves we have the confidence that we’re doing it on a solid foundation.
It is thanks to the ambitious pace that we set for ourselves that we are already seeing a number of tangible business benefits.
In the next few months, it will only take us a fraction of the time to close the books every month and we have full transparency with online payroll, budgeting, forecasting, and group consolidation all within our single ERP Platform on IFS Applications 10.
For the first time, we have a customer 360 view; we have addressed major hurdles for inter/intra company invoices utilizing new MCPR functionality; better resource planning on programs; automated employee onboarding and many employee and manager self service functions.
A Valuable Experience
This program has been an eye-opening experience for me and the entire business.
It has taught us new ways of empathizing with our customers when it comes to change and transformation as this project was not without its own challenges that we had to work hard to overcome. It has also given us renewed confidence in our solutions and our people. After all, carrying out such a complex program in only six months is no mean feat.
Having a consolidated view of how the business is performing globally is crucial for everyone, especially the leadership team, which is highly focused on structuring our business so we can deliver value for our customers. A crucial element that enables this is having reliable data, all in one place, with meaningful analytics.
It has taken all the guesswork out of our planning and decision-making for IFS as a business. As I mentioned, like any new major ERP implementation there were teething issues within the first month after cutover that included access and permission set challenges for users; basic data set-up coming off an old legacy data structure; and getting people familiar with new global processes, but we had absolutely no performance issues within the cloud, were much more cyber secured on our data and processes, and the business was successfully operational from day one.
Looking ahead, I’m confident our technology will help us not only scale our business but help us provide cutting edge solutions and services to ensure our customers are set up for success.
We are already on a Wave 2 to implement our own budgeting and consolidation within our own solution, to implement HR strategic processes like recruitment, performance management and qualifications, and finally, to increase the reporting to the business and identify further processes to digitize.
Our priority has always been to provide technology that is easy to use and fast to deploy. This program is going to help us get there, for you, our customers.
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Feature Image by Kurt Rebry