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 Regional President, Cindy Jaudon, Controller at PPC Partners, Kayanne Blackwell and CIO of PPC Partners, Rod Hampton. Enjoy!
theCUBE: Welcome back to Boston, everybody. This is theCUBE, the leader in live tech coverage. We’re here, day one, at the IFS World Conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Cindy Jaudon is here. She’s the president of Americas at IFS, and she’s joined by, to my right, Kayanne Blackwell, who’s a Controller at PPC Partners, one of the divisions of PPC, Metropower. And Rod Hampton’s the CIO of PPC Partners. Welcome, folks. All right, so let me start with you. So, you were on last year in theCUBE down in Atlanta. You said I got to set some goals. You’re a little competitive with your other brethren within IFS.
CJ: Yeah, just a little bit.
theCUBE: We love it, you know? We’re Americans, so …
theCUBE: Okay, so how’s it going in North America?
CJ: Well, it’s going well. We’ve had fantastic growth, and it’s been a little bit of competition within IFS, but certainly, we were very proud. We were named Region of the Year last year, so we won the coveted cup, which means we want to keep that cup, so that’s some of the competition that we’ve got going.
theCUBE: Well, yeah. Of course, most US-based companies, they’ll start up, 70, 90% of their business is US, if not 100%. And then they’ll slowly go overseas. It’s sort of the opposite for IFS.
CJ: Very much. IFS is a European based company. We’ve been in the US for quite a while but we’ve really been investing in our growth and we’ve had fantastic growth over the last few years. And I think one of the reasons for that growth is our customer satisfaction and the fact that we really want to listen to our customers. I travel quite a lot, as you can imagine, and when I travel I always try to make sure I can visit customers and hear what they have to say. Of course, we love to hear the good things, but I also like to hear when they can give us some ideas for improvement. Then that gives us something to work on and to keep moving forward. I also think that, you know the good thing about that is it gives us a chance to listen. I heard something really great from one of our customers. They went live two weeks ago and they called up and said, “Hey, can we do a customer story?” I love things like that.
theCUBE: Oh yeah. Always love that. Let me think about it, I’ll get back to ya. (laughs) Okay, what’s your relationship between IFS and PPC Partners?
CJ: Well PPC Partners is one of our newer customers and they’re in the middle of an implementation and they are doing some great things around digital transformation. And when I had this opportunity to be here on theCUBE I thought it would be great to invite Rod and Kayanne with me and to tell some of the things that they’re doing.
theCUBE: Cool, so I kind of recruited Cindy as my co-host. You’re going to be the defective co-host so welcome to theCUBE. You know, we’re going to through you right to the fire. So, Kayanne, describe your role? You’re with one of the divisions of PPC Partners, right?
theCUBE: So, maybe set up, sort of, PPC Partners and then your role.
KB: Right, okay. So, PPC is a specialty contracting company and we have four subsidiary companies that operate in the upper mid-west and then also the southeastern United States, and we provide customers with innovative solutions in the electrical and mechanical contracting. So, there are those four companies. I was one of the Controller’s of those four companies for a lot of years and now I’m on the core team, there’s four of us, five of us now, that are involved in the implementation.
theCUBE: So you got all the numbers in your head?
theCUBE: And then Rod, you’re the CIO and you guys are a service organization for all the divisions. Is that correct?
RH: That is correct. That is correct. We sit at the holding company and we’re responsible for technology across all four of those specialty contractors that Kayanne just mentioned.
theCUBE: So, I love these segments, Cindy, because, we hear, I mean we go to a lot of conferences in theCUBE. And you hear a lot about digital transformation but, so I like to ask the practitioners, what does that mean for you guys? We got somebody who’s very close to the line of business, like I say, knows the numbers. But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to deliver the technology services so what is digital transformation mean to you? What’s the company doing in that regard?
RH: So, great question actually. You’ll find companies like ours that have been on the same platform for quite a while, 50 plus years.
theCUBE: Five zero?
RH: Five zero. Probably north of five zero but we’ll go with five zero. (laughs) And what happens over time is just, the system can’t grow with the organizations, you resort to a lot of manual, paper-pushing, a lot file flinging, lots of Excel, and so, there’s just a ton of duplication of effort and those types of things going on. So, from a technology standpoint, that’s really the stuff that I come in and see and go, (sighs). But overall, I think that getting to the IFS platform, getting a lot of those redundant processes, a lot of the file flinging out of there, it’s just going to be beneficial for all of our subsidiaries.
theCUBE: Okay, so you guys, sort of had to make the business, you’re in the middle of the implementation, right? Is that correct?
RH: Hm hmm,
theCUBE: So, you had to go through the business case, I mean it sounds like the business case was, you know, where basically, we’re struggling with running our business because data’s all over the place, we don’t have a single view of our business, our customers, etc, so we have to come to grips with that. But so, what was the business case like, I presume that you were involved as well Kayanne?
KB: Right. I was really involved in building the software that we’ve used for that 40 plus years, though I haven’t used it all of those years. (laughs)
theCUBE: So sorry. (laughs)
KB: It was built by accountants. We intended for it to meet the needs of the whole organization but really it was built by accountants. So, we found that we just really weren’t able to keep up with meeting the needs of all of the users. So when we started looking at that, we also had, we were running on a couple of different, I’m going to call them boxes, we were running on IBMs, so we were not able to look across the entire organization and see a consolidated view of the whole organization. So that was one of the things that we were looking to do was to really bring all four companies under one umbrella and be able to get a picture of the whole.
theCUBE: So you had a mainframe?
KB: Yes, we had a couple of mainframes and all of that software was internally written and it was good. But it met just the needs that those of us within the company saw. So I think we were missing a whole lot of opportunity to really see what else was out there and see new things and really get outside of our sphere of understanding.
RH: I was going to say, as Kayanne pointed out, and sort of the running joke within the companies is, the system we have today does numbers really well. Words, not so much because it was designed by accountants for accounting, tracking the financials, primarily.
CJ: In PPC, you do construction, of course, you’re a construction company but you also do some service as well, right? You got people out in the field that are doing service? So when you were looking, I’m assuming that you were trying to find a system that could do both solutions?
RH: Absolutely. One of the things that’s been concerning to the entire core team is it’s great to go out and find a system, and there’s plenty of them that can handle your back office, most systems do that fairly well. But what about your field services? And in our particular industry, electrical contracting, you might have residential, you know, we could very well be working on the Buc’s Stadium or a military installation, or even a school, those folks have to be able to process invoices, do all sorts of things form a handheld etc, etc. That was a big, big driving factor for us.
theCUBE: So, got a lot of cobalt code running? Is that right? (laughs) You said 50 years. So now, I’m interested in the migration and what that looks like.
KB: We are too.
theCUBE: Yeah, I’ll bet. So, do you have to freeze the existing systems and then, sort of, bring the other ones up to speed? Is this cloud-based? What does that all look like?
RH: Great question. We subscribe to the managed cloud solution. For most construction companies, electrical contracting companies like ours, technology is important but it is not what really makes our wheels turn. It’s a competitive advantage if you use it wisely and so, for us it was very important to think about this holistically and try to figure out if we’re going to bring in a solution, what does that solution need to look like and will it work for all of our companies? Not just one, not just residential, commercial, etc.
theCUBE: Okay, so what’s that journey look like? When did it start and what’s your timeline?
KB: So, about two and a half years ago we really started looking at what we had on hand now and what we had in place and thinking about do we really want to make a move and so, we had a team that came together, about 15 people across the organization from operations and also the back office, to really evaluate what we had, evaluate our needs. We decided yes we needed something new and then we actually brought in a second team that started looking at what that new thing would be. We had a consultant assisting us with that and we kind of narrowed it down to two players if you will, and IFS was one of those. And we, even though, one of the things that we liked was the fact that IFS had a broad reach over different types of industries and we felt like that would give us something in addition to a construction-centric view.
theCUBE: So that domain expertise..
CJ: Exactly. And you know, with our core industries, construction is a big part of that but one of the things that we’re seeing in the construction industry today is the trend to go to, what we call prefabrication. The fact that, you know, you can really speed up a project if you aren’t trying to build everything on-site and you can also do it much cheaper. McKenzie has a study out and they believe that over time, if a construction company will engage with prefabrication they can reduce the project timeline 20% to 50% and lower the cost up to 20%. And with IFS’s heritage in manufacturing, it’s really a perfect marriage for construction companies, because construction companies need the project management, the installation, the change management that goes along with some of those back-office things. They also a lot of time have to do service but if you really want to get that competitive advantage, if you can take advantage of the prefab, which is really manufacturing, IFS’s heritage, you could really have a full, complete solution from one supplier.
theCUBE: There’s a huge trend in home building actually when you see modular homes and that’s kind of the future of it. So how does that affect you guys? I mean, is prefab something that resonates with you or is that sort of more of a generic statement across the customer base?
KB: It’s certainly an area where we’re focusing on more.
theCUBE: It is?
KB: We also have and automation division that really focuses on automation for industries and that’s an area that, it’s kind of a manufacturing type of thing. They build panels and those sort of things. We’re definitely seeing it there as well.
theCUBE: So, okay, so I got to ask you, so when you pulled out the Gartner Magic Quadrant, and said okay, IFS is in the lead, did that, that might of helped, right? Okay, so you don’t get fired now for choosing the leader but then you started peeling the onion. You had due diligence. So what kinds of things did you look at? What kind of tires did you kick? Peers that you talked to. I’m interested in what you learned.
RH: Well I’ll touch on one key element and we can get into as many sub-elements as you like. The selection process for us took several months. I think, initially, we really paired it down to about eight packages that we were seriously considering. Then down to four and then eventually down to two. And what really, really intrigued us about IFS was the fact that they are not construction centric. So we really had a big decision to make internally, which was, do we want to just get on the bandwagon and do what everyone else in construction’s doing or do we really want to risk versus reward and go after something special. So, IFS, they are in, you name it. Manufacturing’s obviously key, aerospace, engineering, race cars, I saw today. I didn’t know that. So, that was a big selling point for us.
theCUBE: And the plan is to retire your mainframe and go into the cloud, is that right?
KB: It is, yes, yes.
theCUBE: Okay, so IBM got you in a headlock. (laughs)
RH: We’ve been friends for a long time.
KB: Yeah we have. (laughs)
theCUBE: Good company. What’s that been like? Just, sort of, the thought of going to the cloud? How are the IT folks responded to that? How’s that changed their role? Brokers versus…
RH: Well yeah, I think in construction organizations technology is important but it is not what makes the wheels turn. So, trying to bring in all of that iron and infrastructure, and build it out, and configure it, ourselves, and then maintain it for the long haul, it’s just not something that was value-added for us. In addition, if you’ve ever worked with Oracle, which is a close partner of IFS, but there’s a lot of licensing caveats and a lot of things you’ve got to worry about if you’re going to go it alone. By going with a managed cloud solution we’re sort of partnering and trusting IFS to take that on for us, so we can focus on taking care of our companies, our customers, and doing what we do best.
theCUBE: Right, so, you’re still going to be using Oracle you’re just, it won’t be as visible. We use Oracle too. We’re a Salesforce customer. (laughs) I think Oracle’s behind there. No offense.
CJ: Aah (laughs)
theCUBE: I didn’t know you guys had a CRM. (laughs)
RH: Well, but that’s an important distinction as well, right, because even you’re going to have portions of Oracle that are running your system, you’ve got to have some Oracle experts on staff. You know, if you’re going to have all of the infrastructure you got to have infrastructure folks who understand how it all ties together. So, on the surface, it could seem like a simple decision to do it in0-house or go to the cloud, far from it.
CJ: I think, certainly, one of the things that we see in a lot of different industries, but certainly in construction, the plan had always been that, you know, you bring together different solutions and you try to bolt them together. And then some of that becomes a lot more concerning. You know, some of the technology behind it. But one of things that, with the IFS Solution, is the fact that from one provider, you can do the whole life cycle. So then some of the and, have it in the managed cloud, where we take care of it for you. So then that takes away some of those technology issues and then you can focus on your core competencies.
theCUBE: So, Rod, I would agree, generally, with what you’re saying. Probably say that for most companies that the technology is not the core difference here. Obviously, it is for Google, for Amazon, for Facebook, but for, CIOs I talk to, they go people, process, technology. Technology’s the least of my problems. (laughs) Technology is going to come and go. It’s going to change. I can deal with that. It’s the people and process issues. Having said that, I’m still interested how concerned you were about peeling the onion on the cloud? What’s behind it? The security model? All that stuff, in terms of your due diligence.
RH: With any cloud-based solution there is some concern, obviously. But in working with IFS, we asked a ton of questions and they gave us a ton of answers. So the comfort level is there. The industry has been going to the cloud now for quite some time and to be brutally honest, if you’re not going there, you need to be. Or you need to strongly consider it.
CJ: And Microsoft is our partner with the cloud. We’re on, you know, use Microsoft Azure. So it’s not like, it’s one of the loudest cloud providers, so it’s not like it’s something that you have to worry about. You’ve got the backstop of Microsoft behind you as well. I think one of things that’s interesting is you talk about all your different divisions and you’re really trying to bring a lot of different companies together on one system.
CJ: And one of the things that I’ve seen with things is change management becomes really something that you really have to consider. I mean, how have you seen that part of the implementation going? Has that been an easy piece for you?
KB: It’s not been an easy piece. And that’s one of the pieces that we’re still working on. I don’t know of any organization that says that they’re really, really, good at change. But we’ve recognized that our organization is a group of entrepreneurs and we’ve encouraged people to have their own business but we’re really trying to streamline and get some consistency across the organization. That’s a little bit of a culture shift for us. So that change management piece is a piece that we’re really trying to get our arms around now and prepare the organization for that change.
theCUBE: I’m trying to get my head around your software still. You guys do change management, ITSM?
CJ: Well, you know, change management is really some of the consulting that goes along with it. And certainly IFS, and we’ve got many partners who can help our customers go through that because when you’re going through a digital transformation, you’re taking people who have been using something for 50 years, being out, especially out in the field doing those things and now you’re trying to figure out what are the right processes to put in place to get what the business needs. In some cases, they might have to do things differently. So you really have to think that through.
CJ: And how you’re going to roll those out.
theCUBE: Now is this your first IFS World Conference?
RH: It is, it is. Yes.
theCUBE: Final thoughts? Things you’ve taken away or that you’re going to bring back to your teams?
KB: Well, Boston is a favorite city of mine.
theCUBE: Oh great.
theCUBE: So I was just glad to be here just for that. But then we’ve been here just a little bit. I’ve already picked up some things on leadership. I was involved in the women’s leadership breakfast this morning. So, there’ve already been some things that I think we can take back to users and share with them. Particularly around change management and trying to get people comfortable and understanding why they’re uncomfortable with change.
theCUBE: And Rod, you’re next in the line, so I’m sure you were taking notes and pretty attentive in the sessions, and just getting started, I know.
RH: You know I have. And one of the things for me that was most, I guess, rewarding is the partner network. All of the vendors, there’s a number of things with our implementation that we’re still trying to sort out. OCR, for example, being one of them. Are we going to go there? Are we going to wait until later? Just different technologies and maybe add-ons that we may want to take advantage of. All you got to do is walk down the hallways and there are people ready to talk to you about it. So that’s been kind of intriguing.
theCUBE: Excellent. Yeah, well I said earlier, I was surprised and impressed at the sort of, size of the ecosystem and it’s great. Well, good luck to you guys, really.
KB: Thank you.
RH: Thank you.
theCUBE: I wish you the best and thanks so much for coming on theCUBE and sharing your story. Cindy, great to see you.
CJ: Always a pleasure.
theCUBE: All right.
CJ: Take care.
theCUBE: And thank you for watching everybody, we’ll back with our next guest right after this short break. You’re watching theCUBE from Boston, IFS World 2019. Be right back.
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