Thursday, 12 March 2015 18:05

Wearables have future in business, says ERP vendor


Wearable devices could be very helpful to field staff, business software vendor IFS believes, and the company is ready to support smart watches as soon as its customers are ready.

Business software vendor IFS provides enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM), and enterprise service management (ESM) applications, with a particular emphasis on engineering-oriented customers such as those in the aerospace, defence, resources, shipbuilding, utilities and industrial and process manufacturing.

The company has "a happy, positive customer base in Australia," CEO Alastair Sorbie (pictured) told iTWire.

Those customers like IFS's industry and sector-specific approach: "our reputation goes around the world," he said.

They also like the way IFS can quickly respond to changes and also provide a rapid return on investment, both of which are important for dynamic industries such as resources.

Local customers include building and infrastructure contractor Brookfield Multiplex, services provider Mermaid Marine, and Western Australia's Mid West Ports Authority.

Sorbie told iTWire that wearable devices could be very helpful to field service staff, for example to process simple transactions or to receive and acknowledge alerts. A smartphone or tablet is not very convenient when someone is up a ladder or has their hands occupied in some other way.

Other functions such as checklists could be implemented on smartwatches. Just as IFS has developed 'touch apps' for phones and tablets that allow easy and immediate information capture rather than waiting until the user is back at a computer, wearables - whether smart watches, smart glasses or some other form factor - will help connect IFS's ERP and other software to the point of use.

IFS is ready to support smartwatches whenever its customers are ready to start using them, said Sorbie.

"There's all sorts of clever stuff" that's possible, he said.

Probably closer to hand is the debut of release 9 of the IFS applications, scheduled for the company's conference in Boston this May.

"We've opened up the technology" to make it easier for partners to build add-ons, Sorbie told iTWire, as well as improving the functionality of the core product in response to customer requests.

There is an important difference between 'thought leadership' and 'arrogance,' he said, describing SAP's HANA as "lock-in technology" that is pushing organisations to look to the wider market and in many cases select IFS products.

And since IFS software is built on top of Oracle Database, the programs benefit from the performance improvements Oracle has delivered without IFS having to invest in that aspect.

Release 9 also includes 'lobbies' - a customisable user interface that allows people to see the information they really need to do their jobs, process the data more efficiently, and not be distracted by unnecessary or irrelevant information.

It has already been deployed by some early adopters, and "customers really like it" as it improves work throughput.

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Stephen Withers

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.

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