Today’s customers want their engagements with software vendors to be much more proactive and business-focused than in the past, which is why IFS showcased new support offerings this week at IFS World Conference (WoCo).
Traditionally, IFS has provided customers with technically-focused support services where the emphasis was on IFS being very reactive and responsive. “The objective was to resolve errors and malfunctions in the software, as well as future-proof the software through maintenance and updates,” said Paul Helms, IFS senior vice president, customer success, in an interview at WoCo.
So, while IFS has worked closely with customers to deliver projects and to provide maintenance, the vendor hasn’t been as involved post-go-live on helping organizations to deal with more wide-ranging, ‘big-picture’ issues. For instance, how a customer can derive the ultimate value from their investment in IFS software, or how they can face and respond to challenges which may only have emerged after they’ve implemented IFS. “Customers also want to know where their peers are going and where their industry is going,” Helms said.
Customer-Driven Outcomes-Based Services
IFS has added new offerings to complement and build on its existing support product portfolio of the Gold program, which focuses on product updates and software fixes, and the Platinum program, where the emphasis is on business continuity assistance. The brand-new IFS Community, peer-to-peer support portal, launched at WoCo, sits alongside those programs.
In addition, IFS debuted the Success and Select frameworks at WoCo, alongside improvements in IFS tools and methodologies, such as the solution visualization capabilities of IFS Solution Composer and faster and more cost-effective deployments via IFS Industry Accelerators.
“Success and Select focus on long-term customer outcome-driven engagements,” Helms said. “This is something that there’s really demand for, but which we at IFS didn’t really have an answer for until now.” In developing the new support frameworks, IFS worked closely with some of its key customers.
Success as Lego Building Blocks
The best way to think about the Success framework, according to Helms, is as a Lego-like set of outcome-based services building blocks, where customers can choose which support ‘bricks’ are relevant to their particular business needs. “Success is open for everyone, any IFS customer,” he said. “They can buy as much or as little ‘Lego’ as they want.” In keeping with the “Lego” metaphor, the aim of Select is that the different support ‘blocks’ fit neatly together so customers can build out their predictable outcomes engagement model. The Success components will be individually priced. A Success engagement will start out with IFS sitting down with a customer to discuss the customer’s business outcome. Using that information, Ifs can scope out the optimal engagement model for that individual customer, which fits with the customer’s own definition of success criteria for the project and their organization.
Success includes business value assurance – so ensuring that customers can demonstrate and continue to realize value from their investment in IFS software. Then, there’s application management services (AMS), which provide rapid access to IFS experts and speedy resolution of customers’ requests; and customer success management.
In addition, there’s what IFS calls ‘safeguarding,’ which is effectively IFS “having skin in the game” in terms of the partners with which customers are working. So, IFS will be available alongside partners like systems integrators and change management specialists to provide access to IFS’s own best practices and other advice, thereby helping to “safeguard” customers’ IFS projects.
Select as a Set of Nested Services
When describing the “holistic” Select services framework, Helms uses the analogy of the Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls. “It’s the ultimate engagement with IFS and contains everything – Success, Community, and maintenance, etc.” he said. “It’s for IFS customers interested in a really intense, high-touch engagement, and in maximizing the value of IFS throughout the life cycle.”
Typically, such customers will be larger organizations which are looking to transform themselves, for instance, in changing their business model and they have questions about how their enterprise software landscape should adjust to fit that new corporate identity. Customers choosing high-value, high-cost Select will have an IFS executive sponsor. There’s also the ability for co-innovation between Select customers and IFS, as the two organizations develop additional technology to resolve issues and differentiate individual customers, which may later end up becoming a standard element of IFS software and therefore available to all customers.
In providing Success and Select to customers, IFS is not looking to compete with its implementation and support partners, but to work alongside them and to highlight areas unique to IFS. According to Helms, IFS already has existing talent to draw upon for the longer-term types of engagements required by Success and Select, and will also likely look to hire additional customer success managers.
IFS Runs IFS
What will be key in delivering outcomes-based services will be the ability of IFS to gain a deeper understanding of its customers from an organization’s stakeholders to its priorities and its politics, and all factors which provide the context for the engagement. That level of understanding will help ensure the success of the projects. As compared to short support case interactions or projects based on a statement of work (SOW) with a defined beginning and end, Success and Select engagements are more lifecycle models.
It’s interesting to note that IFS has recently been its own customer, with a six-month deployment earlier this year to go live on IFS Applications 10, consolidating seven different IFS instances around the world, a mix of Applications 7.5, 8, and 9, into a single global instance.
That engagement has helped to provide insight not only into Applications 10, but also into the IFS service portfolio and to flag and then fill any gaps in those offerings. As Sal Laher, IFS chief digital and information officer, put it in describing ‘IFS runs IFS’ during a keynote address, “We’ve walked in your shoes,” using IFS implementation methodology, consultants, and change management capabilities. “What I’ve learned is we need better tools to migrate data and to set up user profiles,” he said. One outcome of ‘IFS runs IFS,’ is that “Customers will get a better implementation from us,’ according to Laher.
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