Collaborative Commerce: ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite!
Series Study: IFS - Part 1 of 2
In the early 90's, ERP came of age. Everyone had to have the functionality
ERP packages promised. Since then, as Web and Internet technologies have
matured, CRM on the front end, and e-Procurement and Supply Chain Management
on the back end, these packages have come into their own.
in 2001, the catchphrase is "Collaborative Commerce," where we unite all
of the above elements into one coherent system within and between organizations.
This is the Big Kahuna, the zero latency, fully transparent, 360 degree
exposure that is the stuff systems integrators dream of. Is it here? Are
the technologies mature enough? Simple enough?
one of a series of articles on Collaborative Commerce (C-Commerce) takes
a look at the effort IFS is making in the push. This is a two-part
article: The first part focuses on details of IFS, the company and its
product, and the second part discusses TEC's analysis of their solutions
and TEC's recommendations for their use.
Industrial & Financial Systems, IFS, was founded in 1983 in Linkoping,
Sweden. In 1990, the company released the first version of its flagship
product, IFS Applications, primarily a non-GUI, ERP system. Its
initial geographic marketing niche was Europe.
1993, IFS released its first product with a graphical user interface,
and in 1994, IFS began an intense development project to transfer IFS
Applications to object-oriented technology. The first result of the effort
was the 1997 release of IFS Applications 98. IFS underwent a major
development push in 2000 to upgrade its software across the board, continuing
its focus on componentized technology and increasing its web-enablement,
while expanding its suite of products to cover territory much more broad
than ERP. The effort culminated in the release of IFS Applications
2001, released internationally in August 2000, though not available
in the U.S. until March of 2001. It next major upgrade is IFS Applications
2002, due in the coming months.
was largely unknown to the U.S. until 1995, when they began marketing
programs with the establishment of a subsidiary in Raleigh, North Carolina.
IFS has sales in 43 countries, and subsidiaries or third-party support
in 26 countries, with nine offices in the U.S. The product has been translated
into 22 languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese,
Chinese, and Russian. The company has over 3000 customers and approximately
120,000 users worldwide.
on conversations with John Bridges, the VP of Marketing for North America,
Chris Jensen of Jensen Market Relations, and Brian Johnson, former CTO
of IFS, TEC learned that IFS believes it is the fastest-growing supplier
of enterprise-class business applications worldwide, bar none. In Fiscal
Year 2000, the company enjoyed 74% growth in revenue licensing dollars
over 1999, considerably outpacing other major ERP-based rivals such as
Oracle (~50% growth), PeopleSoft (~50% growth), J.D.
Edwards (~35% growth), SAP (~30% growth), and Baan (in
negative territory) [Source: IFS]
IFS Applications 2001 represents a very focused "componentized" approach
to both its software development, and its software sales. It contains
over 60 software components, each component representing a particular
function across the broad spectrum of what IFS calls the extended enterprise,
which is a term analogous to Collaborative Commerce. They have organized
the components under eight umbrella categories, including: IFS eBusiness,
IFS Financials, IFS Front Office, IFS Distribution, IFS Manufacturing,
IFS Human Resources, IFS Maintenance, and IFS Engineering. Across these
eight umbrella categories, they have additional functionality in Portal,
Project Management, Quality Management, Document Management, and Business
from a logical point of view, IFS talks about a five-layered approach
to enterprise applications: the first layer is the data source, or database
that stores and manages the data; the second tier consists of Business
Entities that know how to store, retrieve, and modify their own data,
but contain no logic for how the data is to be used; the third tier contains
Business Activities that contain the actual business logic for workflow;
the fourth tier is the Business Process layer, which represents the link
between business practices and the corresponding system configuration,
and; at the top is the fifth layer, Presentation, containing a number
of similarly-designed and easy to navigate user interfaces.
logical organization may appear to be complicated, but the company's philosophy
is that, by encapsulating functionality within modules, by layers, with
clearly defined interfaces that other modules (and even other applications,
including those of third parties) can readily access, IFS Applications
presents unprecedented flexibility for the customer. Customers can choose
to implement as many or as few components as they need, or as their company
can absorb, avoiding the so-called "big bang" approach to enterprise application
development that is considerably out of vogue these days (in large part
due to both cost and length of implementation time). The applications
are driven by business processes, which, by the nature of encapsulation,
can be changed quite easily, driving changes both up to the presentation
layer and down toward the data layer, in short order.
Foundation 1 V5 is their "lifecycle management tool," or environment for
designing and building the component blocks into enterprise applications.
physical view of the IFS technical environment is essentially three-tiered:
it relies primarily on an Oracle database at the first tier (although
IBM has announced coming DB2 support, and Microsoft's
SQLServer can be used in certain areas for additional functionality,
as described below). At the middle tier, the application server level,
the company relies on primarily on Apache's Tomcat freeware,
although it also supports Bea's Weblogic. At the presentation
layer, many, though not all of the components, are web-enabled. Essentially,
the company splits its web-enablement between those components which are
customer- or supplier-facing (web-enabled), and those that are used strictly
internally (client-server, or "thick client").
user interface is primarily written in Java; the business-logic supports
CORBA for database and application independence.
Breadth of Functionality
Let's take a look at just how complete a picture the IFS Applications
2001 suite draws for a customer looking for a Collaborative Commerce solution.
We'll study some of its offerings by its "umbrella" categories (for full
descriptions, please contact the company or visit their web site at: http://www.ifsworld.com)
IFS collects most of their web-enabled components under the eBusiness
umbrella. These components include:
Storefront and Web Store - Web Store is IFS' mid-market solution,
OEM'd from Intershop; Enterprise Storefront is home-grown, based
on CORBA technology, and includes on-the-fly product and pricing configuration;
quotes; order processing, and; automated email updates of order status.
Given IFS' international bearing, they naturally support multiple currencies
and recognize regional tax laws. Enterprise Storefront supports Java Beans
for additional functionality. Note: In IFS Applications 2002, only the
OEM version from Intershop will be available.
Center - Standard customer support application, although lacking such
advanced web-based features as Live Chat, Collaborative Web Browsing,
Call Me Now, Message Boards, or Chat Rooms. The company claims some of
this type of support is coming in IFS Applications 2002.
Service - All IFS applications are WAP and WML-enabled, enabling mobile
users to access their IFS components from wireless laptops, PDA's, or
cell phones, in real time.
- Essentially a webified version of Procurement features, with hooks to
their Marketplace solutions.
Portals - Provide customer, employee, and supplier with personalized,
role-based interfaces to IFS applications. Includes "portlet" technology,
whereby other information sources from within and without a company can
be "windowed" and presented on the same screen to the user. There are
over 250 pre-built portlets, and the portals support auto-refresh.
Service and Operations - Offers service organizations with the ability
to execute and invoice field service tasks, as well as manage business
relations between companies by facilitating contract agreements and pricing.
and Marketing components include Proposal Generation, Sales Configurator,
Sales & Marketing, and Marketing Encyclopedia. IFS purchased a company
called Exactium, an Israeli company, in 1999, for its rules-based
engine for sales configuration (it has since sold Exactium to Pivotal,
retaining rights to use the technology), and EMS Inc., an American
ERP and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) systems supplier, for rules-based
product configuration. They've combined those forces under the Sales Configurator
modules that cover AP/AR, General Ledger, and Fixed Assets.
modules for maintaining Inventory, doing Purchasing and Invoicing, and
handling Customer Orders
key area of focus for IFS. Contains modules that enable Demand Planning;
Constraint-based Scheduling; Costing; Shop Floor Reporting; CRP/MRP; Shop
Orders; MTO (Make To Order), CTO (Configure To Order), and Repetitive
production methods; and Master Scheduling
such areas as Payroll processing, Expense Reporting, Time and Attendance
Tracking, Project Tracking, Recruitment, and Employee Development programs.
for the monitoring and maintenance of equipment, and scheduling of repairs
for the design of Process, Instrumentation, Electricals, Plant Layout
and Piping, as well as modules for Project Management and PDM Configuration.
that fall under all these product umbrellas include Document Management,
and what IFS calls Business Performance, which is more commonly called
Business Intelligence or reporting. Document Management is essentially
a flat-file library with a layer of templates, version control and release
management, as well as OCR support. It makes documents available via the
browser. The Business Performance module consists of a homegrown Datawarehouse,
and bundles Crystal Reports from Crystal Decisions. It includes
over 300 pre-built reports. It includes Dashboard (semi-realtime)
reporting by OEM'ing ProClarity's solution (ProClarity was formerly
known as Knosys). You can have OLAP capability only if you run
the Datawarehouse on SQLServer 2000 and employ that database's built-in
OLAP and reporting capabilities.
is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will discuss TEC's analysis of IFS' solutions,
and TEC's recommendations for their use.