This article is addressed to all companies that use IFS Applications. Going forward, such companies should now take into consideration how the latest version of IFS Applications – IFS Cloud fits their Digital and ERP strategy, but, as always, ERP upgrades does not only bring innovation and new functions. It also brings some risks to evaluate – especially when the new version in some areas is a revolution.
In this article, we have gathered such risks and we present how to mitigate them.
IFS Cloud – the future is here
A couple of months ago IFS announced the new version of IFS Applications called IFS Cloud. Novacura, as the independent IFS Partner, had a chance to follow the release and new experiences closely and firmly confirm – this is a big step forward. Below we summarized key benefits of IFS Applications:
- Fully managed Cloud environment - IFS provides whole hardware and network infrastructure. Takes care of all the administrative work including monitoring, updates, backups, etc. The system environment is achievable from anywhere and can be scaled dynamically to meet the required load.
- Flexible environment location –IFS Cloud can be located on-prem, in a private cloud or the full cloud offered by IFS.
- Evergreen philosophy – with IFS Cloud customers get constant access to the newest versions of the IFS system, including 2 big functional upgrades a year. Thanks to the cloud location and new platform architecture, these upgrades can be done “in the meantime”.
- New user experience – including fully configurable lobby dashboard, new reports, new mobile interfaces, and individual “look and feel” configuration including customer branding/colors.
- New open architecture – all system functionalities are now achievable for external systems via consistent API based on the “state of the art” API technology – OData RESTful API.
- New intelligent features – IFS now provided a lot of innovative AI-based capabilities such as a chatbot, dynamic scheduling optimizations (based on Machine Learning) and voice and text recognition.
IFS Cloud is the future for all IFS customers. IFS will put a lot of attention to develop it, so this is just the beginning.
We will see more Industry-aligned functionality, more user empowerment tools and a platform with open APIs. The reason for this is simple – The benefits from a move to an Evergreen situation with IFS Cloud are closely related to staying close to the Core ERP without modifications to fully take advantage of new innovative functionality being released.
What to consider before an upgrade?
As mentioned above, IFS Cloud is - no doubt - the future for all IFS Applications customers. The only question that people responsible for IFS Applications might have is:
“Is now the right time to upgrade?”
Upgrade project brings some risks and challenges. The company should re-analyze its existing processes against new features offered by the new version of the ERP system and try to utilize new possibilities. All existing modifications implemented in the current version should be identified and compared to the new functions offered by the new ERP. Some modifications then should be replaced by standard functions, some of them might be rejected (no longer used) or recreated in the new ERP version.
Since IFS Cloud is a fully new and innovative version, brings new technology and architecture,
you should allow additional time to secure stability, integration with existing systems and data migration.
Having all these issues in mind, some companies might decide to postpone the upgrade project. But the question is – is it a good decision?
In Novacura we have constant contact with >120 active IFS customers. We have also conducted dozens of successful IFS upgrade projects. Thanks to that we have identified 6 common doubts that companies might have regarding the upgrade project. Below we present them, but we also present how to reduce risks and potential barriers.
"We know that companies might have some doubts regarding upgrading IFS into IFS Cloud. But we also strongly believe that this is the right time to start preparing for it! That’s why we have prepared the following guide to help our customers make the right decision." - says Östen Westman, Sales Director at Novacura
IFS Cloud upgrade challenges and proposed solutions
1. INTEGRATION WITH THE LEGACY SYSTEMS
IFS Cloud brings a new API design - (different than used in the IFS 9 or 10 version). it offers RESTful API based on OData technology.
Although it establishes a bridge ready for future integrations, it might cause a serious problem when it comes to existing legacy systems integrated with existing IFS Applications installation. It can be a challenge to replace all integration interfaces used by legacy systems connected to the existing IFS with interfaces based on OData. Novacura brings a solution to this problem.
Instead of changing all integration interfaces in all systems, we can use an integration platform between legacy systems and IFS Cloud. That way, existing systems can use their standard communication protocols between them and the integration platform, which will “translate” it to the OData protocol and IFS Cloud API.
This integration platform can be implemented based on Novacura FLOW – our enterprise low-code platform that has dedicated connectors to IFS Cloud and multiple business systems. And Novacura FLOW can be also installed in the Cloud In the SaaS model.
2. MISSING FUNCTIONALITIES
Although IFS Cloud is a big step forward in terms of offered functionality (including dedicated capabilities prepared to support particular industries), some functions are still missing in this version compared to previous IFS versions:
- Some functions within Document Management
- OEE for maintenance
Is it a critical blocker for companies that use the above functions?
It could be, but each customer must evaluate that by reviewing release notes for IFS Cloud 21R1.
Novacura offers Novacura FLOW – an independent low-code and BPM Platform that extends the ERP system and enables its potential. Novacura FLOW is often used to fix some existing ERP gaps.
3. RISK OF INSTABILITY
IFS Cloud is based on new technology. User interface yet technical API were redesigned. Will such a big change bring a list of software problems that can have a negative impact on the company?
IFS are currently implementing IFS Cloud in several projects and also in cooperation with their partner network. The number of projects will increase significantly in near future and more experience will be available for the market.
"We will monitor this development closely and share all experiences with our customers and help mitigate any early defects and minor disturbances" - says Östen Westman, Sales Director at Novacura
4. A LIMITED NUMBER OF EXPERTS EXPERIENCED IN IFS CLOUD
The new IFS Version caused an additional market demand for the IFS upgrade. On the other hand, because this is a revolutionary version, there is a very limited number of IFS experts who know IFS Cloud. It might cause the situation, where even if a company decided to do the upgrade, the whole project could be postponed because of the limited capacity of IFS Cloud experts.
As an IFS Channel Partner, we have access to IFS Cloud and we are currently certifying our consulting teams in the new solution.
Number of specialists in the Novacura Consulting Team
With the overall number of >50 specialists in our IFS Consulting division, we are ready to support any demanding upgrade project.
5. INTERDISCIPLINARY (TECHNICAL + BUSINESS) CHALLENGE
Upgrade projects need various competencies:
- technical - to migrate IFS core to a new version and potentially to the new location.
- integration - to reconfigure all integrations with legacy systems.
- business - to perform the initial analysis, map existing processes on the new capabilities offered by the new version and decide on what to do with existing modifications.
- development – to re-create all necessary ERP modifications within the new ERP version.
- organizational – to coordinate the whole project, also a business transformation and change in management.
Such a multi-competency project is a challenge – companies must usually deal with different vendors responsible for separate areas.
Novacura can offer all these competencies and take care of the whole upgrade as one multi-competency partner.
We offer services that cover the whole ERP lifecycle – from business analysis to technical configuration.
6. IFS CLOUD IS A BIG STEP
For companies that use IFS Applications 10 and move to IFS Cloud might be a relatively simple step. The functional foundations of these versions and IFS Cloud are mostly the same. But what about companies that use older versions like IFS 7.5, IFS 8 and IFS9?
There is no one and only right answer. It depends on factors such as the number and complexity of IFS modifications used by the company, numbers of integrations with external systems, or organizations' ability to use IFS Cloud new user interface.
Companies that have a complicated case should evaluate the best path forward to reach IFS Cloud. Novacura can help them prepare them to upgrade by eliminating all ERP modifications and implementing an integration platform. It is possible thanks to the Novacura Flow platform capabilities.
Is it the right time to start upgrade to IFS Cloud?
In a short answer – Yes, it's a good time to start with the upgrade.
IFS Cloud brings a lot of benefits, and this is “the future”. And according to the ambitious IFS plans, the current version is just the beginning – IFS Cloud will regularly offer new innovative capabilities, which means that companies who use this version will increase their effectiveness and competitive advantage.
Even if there are some potential challenges regarding the upgrade project, Novacura provides solutions that lower risks and make the whole “upgrade journey” convenient and predictable for its customers.
"A lot of companies are interested in upgrading IFS Applications right now. We’ve never had so many potential projects in our pipeline as we have right now. It shows that a lot of companies already made this good decision!" - summarizes Östen Westman, Sales Director at Novacura
All the people responsible for IFS systems should also take into consideration a simple fact: even if there are still some “question marks” regarding IFS Cloud right now, the preparation for the upgrade project takes 6-12 months, so it is the right time to start planning it right now!