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theCUBE is the world’s leading live interview show covering enterprise tech, innovation and the people who imagine, create and implement the technologies that are changing our world. This year, they joined IFS in Boston for IFS World Conference 2019. Below is the transcription of an interview with IFS Chief Customer Officer, Michael Ouissi and Industry Partner, Enterprise Application Services at TCS, Rahul Saha. Enjoy!


theCUBE: Welcome back to Boston everybody, you’re watching theCUBE, the leader in live tech coverage. My name is Dave Vellante, I’m here with my co-host Paul Gillin. This is IFS World Conference 2019, theCUBE’s second year covering this conference. Michael Ouissi is here. He’s the Chief Customer Officer at IFS. And Rahul Saha. Industry Partner, Enterprise Application Services at TCS, a platinum partner at IFS World. Gents, welcome to theCUBE.

RS: Thank you.

MO: Thank you for having us.

theCUBE: You’re very welcome. So last night I poked around the customer event and I was impressed with the number of partners here. I think the number is 400, is the public number. What is it about the ecosystem that’s attracted to IFS?

MO: Well, first of all, I think the ecosystem has now understood that we have renewed our commitment to the ecosystem. That is something a shift in mindset in IFSthat is demanded by our customers, that our customers actually ask of us especially while we’re moving into also more global corporations, and win more business there. They appreciate the choice of either IFS or our partners, or a combination of our partners and IFS actually helping them deliver the value that they expect from an ERP solution.

theCUBE: So Rahul, from your perspective, so TCS you’re obviously platinum partner so you’re making a big investment. Why, what’s happening in the market place? Where’s the momentum with the tailwind?

RS: If you look at TCS, TCS is obviously helping customers to become business 4.0 organization, which is all about harnessing the abundance of possibilities around digital technologies and getting more intelligent, better, lean, harmonized, standardized. And so that’s where we believe we are partnering with, and we are trying to leverage the ecosystem and one of the ecosystems obviously partners are IFS, which is a strategic partnership for us. And we believe that the investments that IFS has made and some of the unique last-mile solutions are going to help us to deliver those different shaded offerings to the customer, and create newer partnerships with them.

theCUBE: Michael your role is a net new role at IFS, did you get to write your own job description? I guess, what does a Chief Customer Officer do?

MO: Well, first of all, well, in a sense yes. We actually did specify exactly what that role is, and we did discuss what the best is for the journey we want to get on, when Darren asked me to take on the role. And what a Chief Customer Officer does, and there’s a specific reason why we’re doing it that way, a Chief Customer Officer really is heading up, and that’s what I’m doing, is I’m heading up all customer-facing functions within IFS. So from sales, to pre-sales, to support, to services. So it’s all the customer-facing functions, coming from how do we engage with a customer,pre-sales, and after-sales. And the reason why we did it that way is we wanted to have complete ownership and accountability for the transformation that we underwent and that we wanted to go through because we really needed to make sure that all parts of the business were aligning around this transformation, and pulling in the same direction. And that’s why this role got created newly.

theCUBE: So what’s the nature of the partnership, what the history of the partnership? How did it start, and where do you guys want to take it?

RS: Well I think we have an obviously longstanding partnership with IFS. And I think both organizations have deep mutual respect. And I think that one thing that we are trying to seethe centricity around our partnership is all about the customer. We keep the customer and we want to ensure that we help our customers. We’re customer-first organizations. And obviously, the investments that IFS made, especially in the field services area, ERP area. I guess those are the areas which are helping, because ERP, if you see, one of the strategic lever for an organization to elevate their digital agenda and get the right infrastructure in place, the right partner in place, to ensure that they create differentiation and create exponential value for the customer. And that’s exactly where IFS and TCSare looking at the market, and ensuring that we are helping our customers create exponential value for themselves in the market.

MO: Yeah and I think that maybe adding to that, we share the same belief as well that actually the time of the monolithic ERP, one solution for a huge enterprise-

theCUBE: Who are you talking about? (Laughter)

MO: They are gone, those days are gone. I think it’s about blended solutions where the ERP is much more agile, it has to be much more open and allow for much more agile deployments and much more agile development around the core ERP.So that actually customers can digitally transform, because it’s all about speed. And TCS sees it the same way so we’ve got the same view.

theCUBE: But the cloud mindset has changed that right Paul? Absolutely. And Rahul I’m interested the companies like Tatahistorically have done a lot of custom development work for customers that we have been hearing from Darren on down today is no customization. What value do you add to a customer bringing in an IFS solution?

RS: See there are two things here, very simple. One is basically customers are moving from best in class to the sub-breed, that’s quite evident. And secondly, while IFS brings the software expertise, we bring the industry expertise. We bring the domain expertise. We bring the SI, system integration expertise. And that’s where, it’s a very strategic combination. Strategic combination is helping the customer to get the right software, the right domain expertise, the right industry expertise. And together they’re helping them to address their business requirements, business need, and last-mile critical mile needs that they need to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. And, as a result, create exponential value, and also, a great customer experience for the customers.

theCUBE: So, how does that engage and differ from a more traditional one where you would come in and you would build custom screens and custom processes? You’re not doing that. Now, what does that relationship look like?

RS: Yeah so I think if you see the scratch approach, obviously it has really transformed over the course of time. Customers are wanting off the shelf, out of the box products. Best of the best products to help them differentiate their business function, create exponential value for the customer for that business function as a matter of say, service. If I look at fin services as an example, and you talk about telcos, you talk about utilities. Where last-mile delivery, last-mile solution for that customer is very very important to create a positive customer experience. And the investments that IFS have made in there makes them a premium choice. And that’s where I believe that developing something with scratch means you know you’re boarding the entire ocean again. And whereas we have got software like, IFS build software which has invested their years of expertise, the years of, I would say, competency in building that. Getting the best of the breed solution, get the best KPIs into there in this solution, gives the customer a choice. A ready choice to take, to expedite their time to reality, time to value, and time to production reality.

theCUBE: So, a few times now, Raoul, you’ve mentioned last mile solutions. I like that term, I think it has meaning. Especially deep in specific industries. And I think the intent is so that you don’t have to do customizations. And I asked Aaron about tailoring, which he said, I wouldn’t use that word. That wasn’t my word, by the way, that was Christian’s word. He used that in his keynote. So I’m trying to understand here. I think what Christian meant is look, we got this API platform to allow people to bring in whatever solutions they want, if it’s a RPA solution, or a blockchain solution, or some AI module, they can bring that in and tailor it for their needs, as opposed to customizing the software. Is that correct?

MO: I think when you listen to Darren,what he’s talking about is customizing the core,which very often has happened in the past,where customizations have gone into the core,have been mandated to be on the core platform,which then actually has customers being stuck at some stage on the platform upgrades becoming paid for. So with Christian’s talk track around the APIs, API enabling the whole solution so that the core actually remains untouched. There will always be customizations, because customers need to differentiate. But they will be outside the core. There will be a level that you can upgrade the core solutions, you will have those maintained either application services, which will be custom out of the box solutions, best in breed, that actually tap into what we’re doing. Or actually you’ll have bespoke solutions that you will write yourself, and that is then a choice a customer can make, but without actually having the pain of not being able to upgrade the very stable, very performant transactional backbone.

theCUBE: So the API announcements give you guys a real opportunity to do integrations, right? And it’s been harder to do integrations. But that now, to your previous question, opens up I would think a whole new tam for you all. Can you comment?

RS: Oh absolutely.As I said, bringing exponential value means integrating and delivering a frictionless business. And that’s where it’ll fit in, rightly fit in, and obviously, that would result in creating exponential value for the customer. Not only they can differentiate themselves from the market but also get their product faster to the market, and ensure that also focus on custom centers as we are.

theCUBE:  So the core can be, it should be, Evergreen. We want people to get the new version as soon as possible. Bug fixes, security updates, et cetera.

MO: New functionality.

theCUBE: New functionality, avoid custom mods, but rely on service providers and partners to do further integrations that make sense. Rahul, I want to ask you the same question we just askedMelissa Di Donato about digital transformation.I’m sure your company does a lot of that kind of consulting work. What are the mistakes that companies make that we hear that these transformation products, most of them fail? What are the biggest mistakes that companies make?

RS: Let me put it this way. I think there are three elements to it. I think digital transformation, see I think creating the agenda for the digital transformation, what you’re expecting out of it is very very important. Creating a charter, what you want to expect, what is the output of it. Where do you want to take it? What does a futuristic organization on a digital platform means? It’s very very important. I think if you look at TCS, our vision has been helping the customer get into a business 4.0 enterprise. I think we have made the agenda very very very clear. Now how we can mass personalize the experience for the customer, how you can leverage the ecosystem, how you can basically help the customer embrace the risk, and obviously harness the abundance. I believe these are the pillars of any transformation, or digital transformation, that customers are taking. I believe if we can stick to these agendas, I think getting to the production reality, seeing the success has become more evident. If you’re going to go to the nitty-gritty, I think there are many things, looking at the processes, making sure that they are harmonized, standardized and rationalized, getting the right KPIs in the business. So I think these are things that are very very important as a precursor to our digital transformation. Once we do that, we know that roads ahead will be much smoother than what it looks like.

theCUBE: Is it more important to do a transformation with the customer at the center, with operational efficiency at the center, or can it be either?

RS: The customer-centricity is very very key to all our organization at this point in time, because if you look at any organization at this point in time, they’re looking at the customer experience as the topmost agenda. Keeping the customer experience on the agenda, when you’re trying to keep that agenda, it means that you are trying to bring up a customer-first organization. So customer-first organization, it just doesn’t mean that you have a very intelligent front office, but also have a very intelligent back office. And gluing these two together, very intelligent mid-office. So I guess customer-centricity has to be on the top of the agenda, and then you have to ensure that your processes are streamlined, harmonized, standardized, lean, to meet that objective.

theCUBE: Makes sense. So I think, for customer centricity, so I feel as though, but part of that’s cultural, you know? And it’s true, you said this earlier this morning. Some companies are customer-centric, some are product-centric, some are competitive. And you can kind of tell the difference, especially when you’re a customer. But I think true customer-centricity mandates data access as central to the philosophy, the core. And I think the role that ERP provider or vendor provides you have a data pipeline that gives access to an organization such that a digital transformation allows them to put data at their core, and then build whatever processes around it. I think that’s a real challenge for incumbents especially where data’s all over the place, in different stovepipes and silos. But your thoughts on the role of data in terms of digital transformation, and IFS’s role in that regard?

MO: Okay, (laughs) I’ll try it, sweet and short. I think data is absolutely key to anything we do. Once you have and when you go into a digital transformation, what you need to start within my humble view is you need to start with what business outcome do you want to achieve? Most of the time it’s customer-centricity, it’s something centered around the customer which you want to achieve. That will define both the digital transformation agenda, the KPI’s you’re measuring to, but also the flow of data and processes. So you will need to build your digital transformation agenda around the targets you have, and then define where does data need to reside, which data do I need to fulfill on that outcome? And I think that consistency going through that whole chain is actually something that very often isn’t at the moment taken into account, but it’s very often isolated efforts to do something fast without actually looking at the implications of what kind of transactional engine do I need, what kind of data exits do I need,and how do I get through the process to the KPI that I want to influence?

theCUBE: Okay, and let me peel the onion on that, and I’d love for your thoughts. To me when you talk to a C-suite executive, what that business outcome ultimately comes down to is I want to increase revenue, so I want to cut my cost. Now of course if you’re in a different hospital, you want to save lives. But generally in a commercial business, increase revenue, cut cost. Now how I get there,I might want to have a better customer service organization to get cohort sales or follow on sales. I mean the strategy is different. But it comes back to data and how data affects the monetization of my organization, whether it’s increasing revenue or cutting cost. Do you buy that premise, or am I just simplifying it too much?

MO: No, completely agreed. I think in a business world it’s always either top line or bottom line, but the challenges are obviously very different from company to company and from industry to industry. So if you’re looking at manufacturing companies, trying to actually be less commoditized and getting into a situation where they stabilize revenue streams, increase margins, servitization is the name of the game. Very different value proposition to, for example in the finance industry, in banking and insurance. So there are very different models here where there it’s about ease of use and speed of actually interacting and transacting as a customer with the company. So very different value propositions, very different data streams you need to tap into. And things you need to know about your customer, and know about the service you’re providing. So completely agree with it is always about revenue and cost, that’s what businesses are in for. But eventually, data is at the core, but how to get that data, which data you need, that is then specific to each.

theCUBE: And bringing it back to IFS, your ability to go that last mile as you’ve been saying Rahul allows companies to think, construction and engineering, supply chain, contractors, just more efficiently managing their ecosystem, their resources to either cut costs or do more business and scale.

RS: Exactly.

MO: And that’s really where the whole idea of API, enabling the whole suite came from, enabling the reuse of services, the reuse of data within those services, exposing it transparently, making it available for customers to then use in their digital transformation effort.Whatever they need. We can’t predict and we can’t actually preempt what a customer will need,we’ll just need to make it all available, and then with partners like TCS, make sure we actually go on to the right journey with a customer to digitally transform and use the right data streams. We can make it easy and accessible.

theCUBE: And that’s the difference between a platform and a product. To the extent that you can deliver an API-enabled system, it becomes a platform that you can evolve versus a product that you install and manage. Final thoughts, Rahul?

RS:  I think what we discussed obviously, I fully agree on that. And as I mentioned that our take is to ensure that we have the customer built future systems enterprises,and we believe our partnership with IFS is a very key and strategic partnership for us to achieve the same,and we have some early success,and we want to ensure that we scale that, we ensure we go to the market together, and create a differentiation for our customers.

theCUBE: Michael, your thoughts. Where do you want to see this ecosystem go?

MO: Where do I want to see it go? Well, I want to see it thrive. I want partners to be successful with their customers on IFS implementations. That’s what our ambition is. We need to provide world-class technology, a world-class platform, as you said, that actually then can be used to help the digital transformation that all our customers will have to go through in one or the other way.

theCUBE: Success is outcome-driven. Good outcomes mean people come back, more business?

RS: Absolutely, absolutely.

MO: Exactly.

RS: That’s core to our DNA, I’m sure core to DNA to IFS as well.Repeat customers.

theCUBE: Congratulations on the partnerships, and good luck going forward.

MO: Thank you very much.

theCUBE: Appreciate you coming on theCUBE, you’re welcome.

MO: Thank you very much.

RS: Thank you.

theCUBE: All right thank you for watching everybody, we’ll be right back with our next guest, Paul Gillan, and Dave Vellante.You’re watching theCUBE.

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