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IFS Has Designs on Designing for the User
With a nod to Apple's iPhone, the enterprise application vendor reconfigures the user interface for its business software.
Posted Aug 11, 2008
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In an effort to give enterprise applications the clean visuals and intuitive feel of Apple's iPhone, IFS has announced its newest edition of Aurora, a redesigned interface for the company's suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and CRM applications. The eagerly anticipated interface for the midmarket-targeted suite of IFS products is currently in beta testing and will be expanded to an early-adoption group by September.

Additionally, IFS announced this week the integration of Microsoft .Net technologies with its CRM product. Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research, says that he’s seen a lot of software vendors going down the .Net path, adding that embracing Microsoft technologies can represent a step toward a services-oriented architecture (SOA).

IFS executives say that the company differentiates itself from other midmarket-oriented vendors by targeting industries with complex business processes, including manufacturing and asset-intensive industries such as:

  • utilities and telecommunications;
  • process industries;
  • service and facility management;
  • aerospace and defense;
  • industrial manufacturing;
  • high-tech and medical devices; and
  • automotive.

Jorge DeFreitas, the company’s commercial manager for CRM, says that one of IFS’s key strengths lies in integration and making the IFS product a one-stop shop to access all back-end information.

“[IFS was] probably the first vendor that compartmentalized the product in that sort of manner: You can put pieces together and it all works well. That’s basically the goal of SOA, to compartmentalize the product,” says Predrag Jakovljevic, principal analyst with Technology Evaluation Centers. “For that reason, they have been technologically ahead of the big guys in the market whether it’s a mere coincidence or from their vision. [IFS’s] differentiation is now that they are in the third generation of an SOA-based product.”

Both Wang and Jakovljevic say they have a favorable view of IFS's new Aurora interface. “It’s really an interesting attempt,” Jakovljevic says, citing in particular the marriage of Microsoft technology with an Apple-inspired interface. Aurora also offers a fast and comprehensive enterprise-level search that not only sorts through databases, but documents and unstructured data, as well. Another feature of interest is what the company calls a "sticky note" element that allows users to post notes of importance on activity pages to be viewed enterprisewide.

With the new interface, IFS CRM provides what DeFreitas calls a “configurable user experience.” Users can drag-and-drop elements on the screen, minimizing items they don’t need and expanding the ones they want. The interface allows a user to see more than one screen simultaneously, and DeFreitas says the feature will be especially helpful to users handling maintenance calls. The redesigned interface also requires fewer clicks for each action; the less time spent clicking and drilling down within fields means increased agent productivity, according to IFS executives.

“We will continue to listen to what our customers are asking for with more interest toward mobility and data workflow,” DeFreitas says of the company’s roadmap. “[IFS] will remain flexible in a sense that no matter what product you use, or [what] back-office applications, we will be able to very easily configure or integrate with any system.”

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