Good service delivery is critical to your IFS ERP project

Good IFS ERP service delivery strengthens and sustains your business

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system like IFS is wide-reaching and you need a strong service delivery function to underpin it.
That means getting the right people involved early in the programme that implements the ERP. Then they can own the maintenance and evolution of the platform right from go-live and on throughout the product life-cycle.

It isn’t just about fixing the defects that might come along. It’s also about enabling business growth through continuous improvement and efficient management of business processes.

Change8’s Head of Service Delivery is passionate about building service delivery models that strengthen and sustain businesses. He has formidable experience managing IT service delivery in blue-chip companies.

His thoughts on the impact of good service delivery are useful insight for business leaders at any stage in their IFS ERP journey.

Why good service delivery is critical to IFS ERP projects

1. It underpins your whole IFS ERP solution

A good service delivery function will act as the bridge between your software partner and business stakeholders. At its core, it should provide a stable platform from which the end users can perform their jobs as efficiently as possible. At its best it will enable the solution to adapt and grow alongside your business.

To achieve this, you need strong service management processes across incident management, request management, continuous improvement and, crucially for an ERP solution, release management. That level of structure is necessary to drive the business forward.

2. Service delivery protects your business from IT failures

Service delivery will play a significant role in the protection of your business from IT failures. And more importantly, it underpins your organisation with stability and systems that add real value to the overall business.

We talk about ITIL a lot because it’s the standard in the IT industry for managing systems after they’ve been made live. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a framework of different disciplines that spread across the whole of the IT function and allow you to support it. The key to implementing ITIL principles is that you take the parts of it that fit your organisation and use those parts to shape how your IT function supports the stability and growth of your business.

3. A strong service partner will help you get the most out of your ERP

If you want long-term value from your IFS ERP investment, you should be looking for a partner rather than a provider. A partner will look at the basic level of service and go further by helping you get the most out of your enterprise software in the long term. Whereas a service provider will simply shape its service around a set of criteria to meet its contractual obligations – and that’s the minimum you should expect.

A partner will build a plan to address your problems, and then feed this into a framework to continually improve the value you get from the product and to help drive the adoption of the tool. The first stage of this is stability. They might need to look at enhancing the responsiveness around your IFS support. Have you got the right level of alerting in place? And can we get earlier detection of any issues before they impact the end users? It’s also about bringing IFS and your business closer together and creating a long-term strategy plan with IFS. These are all essential for a good partner to offer.

4. Services like continuous improvement are key to long-term success

With an ERP solution that is so broad, you need to embed it fully with your operational functions and make it a success for your whole business. The only way to do that is to continually evolve it. It’s important to listen to both the internal IT function and the business stakeholders to get a 360-degree view of where those pain points are.

Every business is different depending on its industry, scale and maturity, so it’s important for your partner’s services to be as accessible and flexible as possible. Look for a partner that modularises their services into playbooks built around different aspects of service delivery. You might need a playbook that focuses on continual improvement, with sub-categories within this. And you might see problem management as distinct from continual improvement. Then there’s incident management, release management, business change management, user access management, and so on. Your partner’s playbooks should constantly adapt as they grow their knowledge of your business.

5. Your team should be confident in how IFS works – and what it can do

I often talk to people about ‘shift left’. In this context it means the transfer of knowledge from partner to client, for example into their internal application support team.

This shift left ethos is a pillar of true partnership working. It helps your internal team become more self-sufficient with the IFS solution and means your partner can help with continual improvements and longer-term strategies for realising the benefits of the IFS product. Most importantly, it’s much better for IFS end users, as they get issues and requests resolved quicker.

If your provider is continuously trying to fix problems as they appear, it’s always short-term and you never get to maximise the value in the IFS product. By upskilling your team, they’ll know how to fix those problems themselves. It builds their knowledge and helps them become more comfortable and confident in the capabilities of IFS. And when this is combined with a strong continual improvement function, you won’t get as many problems because issues will be known and can be fixed at source.

6. The right level of support when you need it

Shift-left is a philosophy and not as a one-size-fits-all solution. Don’t accept partners who just want to hand everything over to you all at once. Look for a partner who offers a modularised and customised service. If you have a small IT function, for example, you might need a fully managed service including support, release build and deployment with the service management wrap around this. But if you have a well-established team of IT application support engineers, you might want a bit of extra IFS capability and knowledge to grow your own capabilities.

It’s important your service delivery function is built around your business requirements and develops at your pace. If you’re delivering your IFS programme in stages, it might not be right to be knowledge-transferring and upskilling while the implementation is still in flight.

The best approach could be to promote stability and system adoptions alongside the internal teams, and not to start upskilling the internal support and service management functions until after programme delivery. But again, every business is unique, and you might want that knowledge transfer as you go along. The key is to establish your needs upfront and for your partner to flexible through the course of the delivery.

7. Access to release management expertise

A collaborative release management process that works for your business and your software vendor’s requirements is essential. IFS has its own release requirements, particularly around IFS Cloud, which are in place to protect the integrity of their shared database infrastructure through a controlled release mechanism.

You’ll want a partner with experience in IFS and in the IFS Cloud product. It’s important they work in lockstep with IFS to deliver to your requirements in a controlled, safe way, maintaining consistency through the non-prod and prod environments, and keeping aligned to the IFS requirements.

Release management involves packaging up your different code changes and then deploying them through each environment, linking closely with the different test phases before finally deploying to production. Depending on your business capability, you may want to align the IFS requirements with existing release processes or ask your partner to design a full release lifecycle including process and tooling and run it on your behalf.

Without good release management, the end result is uncontrolled changes that, at worst, could result in system failures and impact the users’ confidence in your new ERP product. Taking IFS as an example, you might have developers working on two separate CRIMs (customisations, reports, integrations and modifications) independent of each other. With no way of tracking the development and then consolidating these into regular release builds, the two pieces of code may eventually contend with each other in production, resulting in functional or data failures that can set your business back significantly.

8. Align service management with business change for better results

ERP deployment for a product like IFS isn’t an IT change, but a business change that’s underpinned by great product alignment. It’s also about looking at how the software integrates into your wider business processes, so they get the most out of the tool and add the most value to your organisation. And this shouldn’t finish at the end of the delivery programme.

Service management should align closely with business change in the ongoing adoption of your ERP solution. Whether you use an agile methodology to continually review and enhance your product or have a different way of managing ongoing demand, service delivery should play a key part in your approach. That could mean collating request and incident metrics and performing trend analysis to help identify focus areas for both business and the product, for example.

Whatever the preferred method, you want to get the most long-term value out of your IFS product. To achieve this, you should be continually talking to your stakeholders to get their ideas, and also their input on pain points. Plus, you should be looking at the data and the metrics, and seeing what other versions of IFS can offer.

And finally

I appreciate it’s easy to say all this and it’s more difficult to put it into practice.

There’s a host of things needed to get the most value out of the product for your business, such as collaboration, effort, compromise, being data-driven and user-focused, keeping service processes simple, and strong two-way communications.

I am convinced that effective service delivery can go a long way to achieving the value-added IFS solutions that businesses need to succeed.

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