Small, but feisty IFS takes aim at large rivals

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Darren Roos
Darren Roos

Global software company IFS has refocused its activities to a point where it’s outstripping the growth rate of rival ERP suppliers by a factor of three.

Led by South African-born Darren Roos, the company is positioning itself as the easier, quicker and more customer-friendly choice for ERP installations.

Displaying a feisty attitude at the IFS World Conference in Boston this week, Roos told the audience that he had deliberately reshaped IFS since becoming its CEO 18 months ago. With some enhancements to its software suites and a rethink of its implementation and support strategies, it’s now winning market share from larger, less agile rivals like SAP and Oracle, he said.

IFS develops enterprise software for customers that manufacture and distribute goods, maintain assets, or manage service-focused operations. Typical users say that installing its software delivers a 413% return on investment over five years, 18% productivity increase per employee, and 14% faster delivery of goods and products.

“Our competitors are increasingly abstract and very broad and we are doubling down on building real depth from a technology perspective,” Roos said. “Customers say the same thing over and over – they want a faster time to value. They want to know how fast they can go live, and how fast they can realise the benefits. They want the ownership of it to be easy and they want users to be able to navigate the screens really easily. They want it at a lower total cost of ownership than in the past, and that’s what we at IFS are focused on.”

Trust and choice were `incredibly important for IFS, but many of the legacy vendors didn’t see trust or freedom of choice as important, Roos said. Instead, they pushed their customers onto the latest versions of their technologies even if there wasn’t functional parity or data stewardship.

“Customers are being pushed off their long-standing reliable databases to other solutions that are maybe not as robust and reliable, and at IFS, we don’t stand for that. Customers have choices. There’s a viable alternative. We can run your mission-critical workplace and do it reliably and consistently wherever you are in the world.”

Roos said the larger rivals are also pushing customers to move into the cloud, even if clients wanted to keep the software running on their own premises, because it suited the vendors more to offer cloud-based solutions. IFS gave customers the choice, and so far, most didn’t want to move entirely to the cloud, he added.

The fighting talk and caustic comments from Roos are based on experience, as he previously held high-ranking positions at SAP and Software AG. Since joining IFS, he and a new management team - also largely drawn from rival players - have given the business fresh impetus.

IFS has focused on making sure it has the deep industry expertise to serve its chosen sectors, and isn’t trying to be all things to everybody, he said. It has also changed its distribution model so it doesn’t compete with integration companies, and 400 partner companies are now training hundreds of new consultants every quarter to help customers reengineer their systems and processes. In the coming year, that pace of training will be stepped up dramatically.

IFS Community

Roos has also overhauled IFS’ support services, which previously saw customers supported by a local crew in each country. But not all the local crews understood all the versions or all the industries, so the company has broken that up and created a global support service.

This will now be augmented by a new initiative announced at the IFS World Conference, called IFS Community, as a platform where customers can engage with IFS experts online and with other customers from around the world to exchange knowledge and best practices.

Roos also moved the core systems that run IFS itself onto IFS software, even though it doesn’t play in the sectors its officially targeting. That gave it valuable experience in data migration and the customisation of its applications.

“These are lessons we have captured and included in our technology to help our customers going forward,” he said.

Finally, Roos has led a South African-style overhaul of the company’s demographic make-up, and today, a third of its global employees are women, a third are from minority groups and more than a third are under 30.

“We have focused a lot on changing IFS. It wasn’t a business that was ready for the future,” he said.

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