IFS: it's not your father's ERP

IFS is preparing to release a new version of its ERP product. IFS version 8 is currently being tested by half a dozen customers in an early adopter program, and is due for general release in May.

IFS has carved out a successful niche in the ERP market by specialising in engineering and project management. CEO Alastair Sorbie told iTWire that this has enabled the company to deliver deeper functionality and better usability, while allowing faster and more reliable implementation.

IFS Alastair Sorbie

The implementation advantage comes from removing the need for add-on products, minimising configuration, and the delivery of a highly componentised product.

The company's focus on the right industries has largely freed it from the general economic cycle, Mr Sorbie said. As its customers follow trends around the world such as mining, water extraction and other major projects, "these markets are not going to stop growing".

IFS reacted quickly to the transfer of manufacturing from developed countries to places such as China, and realised that the focus of ERP would no longer be to minimise manufacturing costs but to handle projects efficiently. Adopting a project perspective (and allowing projects to be rolled up within the system) made the software attractive to companies involved in infrastructure projects as well as those in the maritime and defence industries.

This change of focus occurred around eight years ago, Mr Sorbie said, and "was the right move."

What's new in version 8? Please read on.


IFS has over 2000 customers (with 600,000 users between them) worldwide, including big names such as Babcock International and BAE Systems. Rob Stummer, IFS managing director for Australia and New Zealand, told iTWire the company had signed six new Australian customers in the last six months - four in Perth (all in the mining services and construction sectors, where the company is enjoying "a domino effect in the market") and two in Melbourne (one is involved in paper recycling, but it isn't Visy, which was already an IFS customer).

He also noted that a lot of customers are particularly attracted by the IFS mobile client. "It's almost mandatory in our space," said Mr Sorbie - if you are refitting an aircraft carrier, you need to be able to access the system wherever you are, as it isn't practical to walk over to a PC every time you need to access or enter some information.

Version 8 includes many enhancements, said Mr Sorbie, but he highlighted the new 'intelligent' touch-controlled apps, along with new-generation technology for heavier mobile clients such as notebooks.

IFS is now on its third generation of mobile support, he said, observing that devices have changed a lot in a few years and their adoption is increasingly broad. Consequently, the company has to be adaptable and continue to refresh the mobility features to suit customer needs and preferences.

The IFS R&D centre is located in Sri Lanka, which probably isn't the first country that comes to mind when you think about software development. Mr Sorbie explained that "we went in there just at the right time" before the civil war, and IFS is now one of the leading IT companies in Sri Lanka, and attracts the cream of IT graduates.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.