After publishing major upgrades of its IFS Applications suite every three years since 2012, enterprise software vendor IFS is switching to a six-month refresh cycle that will ensure that customers always have access to its latest features.\n\u201cIt is really the last big launch we will ever do,\u201d said CEO Darren Roos, a former SAP cloud executive who has led IFS since 2018. \u201cFrom now on it\u2019s IFS Cloud.\u201d\n\n[ Comparison shopping? See "The best ERP systems:10 enterprise resource planning systems compared," with evaluations and user reviews. | Learn why companies are increasingly moving to cloud ERP and how to spot the 10 early warning signs of ERP disaster. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletter. ]\n\nLaunched March 10, IFS Cloud is a suite of ERP applications with significant extensions for field service management (FSM) and enterprise asset management (EAM), all based on the same data model. IFS offers tailored versions for vertical markets, including manufacturing, aerospace, defense, telecommunications, energy, utilities, engineering, construction, and service industries.\nFor Vinnie Mirchandani, CEO of analyst firm Deal Architect, that vertical approach is something that sets IFS apart from the competition.\n\u201cThey are not afraid to cover complex industries. A lot of the other vendors pretend to be verticalized, but when you peel the onion, all they are doing is some professional services support, or some service sector support, or just sell you financials and HR. There really isn\u2019t much industry functionality,\u201d he said.\nThe browser-based IFS Cloud applications share a consistent user interface that adapts its display and interaction method to the device they are running on, and the role of the user. That might mean presenting the best next action in a rich interface to office-based users, while enabling field-service workers to complete tasks with a minimum of taps on their mobile device.\n\u201cHaving the right functionality is so important,\u201d Roos said.\nModular ERP in the cloud\nIFS is aiming its new ERP suite at businesses with annual revenue of over $500 million; for smaller companies, said Roos, there is probably a lighter, simpler solution that would be a better fit for them.\nMickey North Rizza, IDC\u2019s program vice president for enterprise applications and digital commerce, summed up the target market for IFS Cloud as being \u201canyone who wants to move from a monolithic application or legacy apps to a more modern, modular application.\u201d\nIFS Cloud\u2019s modular nature means customers can deploy the parts they want, when they want, where they want. To achieve that modularity, IFS is using containers and Kubernetes.\nThat\u2019s something other ERP vendors are doing too, according to IDC\u2019s Rizza. \u201cSAP is in the middle of doing it. Oracle is already there. Unit4 has redone their entire platform. Sage and Epicor are moving in that direction. Workday is already there. Infor has a cloud suite and is moving towards that, but it\u2019s not completely there,\u201d she said.\nYour place or theirs\nThe containerization of IFS Cloud enables CIOs to deploy the suite in IFS\u2019s cloud, their own preferred cloud, or on premises, ensuring they can meet regulatory requirements for data residency and security. Wherever it\u2019s running, IFS will manage the installation and keep it up to date.\n\u201cFor the vast majority of our customers we run it, we manage it on Azure. It\u2019s like any other cloud application you might imagine,\u201d Roos said.\nWith infrastructure management for applications such as IFS Cloud becoming an option, not a necessity for CIOs, Roos sees CIOs\u2019 role moving away from managing in-house development teams, databases, and networks and more towards coordinating the interoperability and integration of cloud services. \u201cFor any modern CIO today, it\u2019s an orchestration role,\u201d he said.\nAs such, CIOs\u2019 teams will be composed not of coders but of security staff and business analysts managing the applications from a configuration perspective, Roos said.\nPick and mix\nWith the various elements of IFS Cloud available in containers, CIOs can also choose which functions they need, and whether to deploy what IFS offers or to integrate something from another vendor.\u00a0\nThat ability to pick and mix is significant, according to Mirchandani, because CIOs can get the benefits of individual IFS components without having to sign up for a three-year ERP deployment.\n\u201cDuring the pandemic, a lot of big projects got stopped. Nobody can do a three-year implementation now,\u201d he said. \u201cBut IFS is better at chopping it up and offering you just the field service part or the asset management part, which maybe works better.\u201d\nDuring the pandemic, that modularity paid off for IFS in other ways too. When customers called for a lightweight augmented- or mixed-reality tool to help technicians collaborate with distant colleagues, IFS was able to integrate a package from Help Lightning in a matter of weeks, said Roos.\n\u201cIf the application wasn\u2019t as modular as it is, and we didn\u2019t have the API capability that we do, we couldn\u2019t do that,\u201d he said. \u201cBut because we have the architecture we have, and this use of APIs, we can make significant advancements very quickly, leveraging other technologies that are out there.\u201d\nFor Mirchandani, such augmented reality tools offer a great way for enterprises to deploy older and more experienced workers who may be reluctant to return to the field before they are fully vaccinated: They can work as remote advisers to younger staff still learning the ropes.\nOne of the first enterprises to migrate to IFS Cloud will be Cimcorp, a Finnish manufacturer of industrial robotics. Corporate IT director Pekka Nurmi said the company has been running Version 9 of IFS Applications since around 2016. When he heard what IFS was working on, he decided to leapfrog Version 10 (which had been released in 2018) to go straight to the cloud.\nNurmi has a small IT team of 18, five of whom work IFS and two other major business applications that link to it, a product data management (PDM) platform, and a tax management tool for some of its subsidiaries.\nIFS is doing all the migration work, which he expects to be complete by October, he said.\nThe new version will mean a shift in skills needed in-house, Nurmi said. \u201cThe new skill sets that we need relate to compliance, security and business enablement topics,\u201d he said, noting that although his team are more than capable of running IFS in house, server maintenance and other such traditional IT tasks are no longer a differentiating factor for companies like Cimcorp.