“My long-term aspiration and ambition for IFS is for us to dominate asset and service” – Mark Moffat

Mark Moffat, CEO at IFS spoke exclusively to CNME Editor Mark Forker about his desire for IFS to be the market incumbent in asset and service management, how its ability to be industry specific differentiates them in what is a saturated marketplace – and how its ability to help their customers redefine productivity, outperform their competition and help them overcome any problem is why the company will hit $1bn in ARR by the end of 2024.

Mark Moffat has enjoyed a storied and distinguished career to date in the global technology ecosystem.

He spent the vast majority of his career at PwC, where he was the Chief Technology Officer for their UK and EMEA consulting business, before being appointed as Chief Customer Officer at multinational enterprise software behemoth IFS, in 2022.

In January of this year, Moffat became the company’s new CEO, and is now tasked with leading the company through its next chapter of growth.

CNME was afforded the opportunity to speak to Moffat for the front cover feature of May’s magazine, and what was evident throughout the conversation was just how enthusiastic and excited Moffat is by the challenge at hand.

The company has been left on solid footing by outgoing CEO Darren Roos, and many independent analysts believe the appointment of Moffat is a shrewd one, and that he is a perfect fit for IFS, who will want to continue to build on the success it has enjoyed in recent years, in what is an ultra-competitive cloud enterprise software market.

One area that IFS is hugely focused on is advancing its AI products, and that’s where we kickstarted our discussion.

IFS has said that its product can ‘redefine productivity’ and enable their customers to ‘outperform competition’.

Moffat revealed that the early investments IFS made in AI was now beginning to yield results for the company, especially when it comes to scheduling, optimisation and functionality.

“We’ve spent a number of years developing AI-based capabilities particularly around our scheduling, optimisation functionality.  That scheduling and optimisation is used to help large field forces, and plants to be optimised for all sorts of conditional considerations. In the case of a field force its skills, capabilities, rooting, and the priority of service requests. That is all based on Machine Learning and vast computational capabilities to optimise the workforce, and we’ve done that for years, and right now it is one of our most in-demand solutions. In environments in which top-line is less easy to come by, cost containment and optimisation is something over the last few years that has been in vogue due to macro-economic conditions. We are really appealing to a CIOs expectation on behalf of a CFO to reduce costs. On average, and what I’ve seen over the last six months is deployments of our scheduling optimisation, and on average customers are taking 30% of costs out of their operations as a consequence of deploying,” said Moffat.

Moffat added that it also yielded a positive impact in carbon reduction because a lot of these processes are energy intensive, whether it be human, or in plant, so it’s a double-whammy really.

Moffat also pointed out that another reason they’ve been successful is the whole set-up of IFS is to be very deep in terms of understanding the needs of the industry-verticals they are focused on.

“We are very deliberate about looking at ways in which we can contribute value to customers on a process dimension in the industry context. We have people in our sales, pre-sales, and delivery organisation that intimately understand Oil and Gas, utilities, construction, operational, regulatory, macro-economic drivers, and competitive landscapes, so they just know their stuff. We have sold a lot on that basis in the past because we can just bring a depth of understanding to what our customers want to achieve and that some of our competitors just can’t do – and we’re relentlessly focused on keeping that industry go-to-market strength,” said Moffat.

Moffat is of the belief that when it comes to AI, generic broad-brush AI technology can only get you so far.

“Microsoft Co-Pilot can only get you so far, the real potential return for us is when you can put AI at the point of need in an end-to-end process. If you have a manufacturing scheduling process, and when you can look at it, and literally step through it, imagine if we had this extra amount of data in a manufacturing line that would help us predict maintenance routines then what can we do with that? We could then build a partnership with the OEM to allow us to access all of the data that they have available for that particular plant equipment that we could surface in the application, so we could predict a different level of predictive maintenance capability in our product. I think what we will end up doing, and this is what our roadmap suggests, is that we will provide any given industry with20-30 different use-cases that will demonstrate in the context of the process the real return on invested capital for the deployment of that technology. We can then say to a customer here’s 40 things that we think you can benefit from, and we think the most value will be in these five so come with us on this journey,” said Moffat.

Moffat also revealed that he realised recently from speaking with customers that they are using IFS as a means to go to their boards to talk about what they are doing with AI.

“Every CIO and CFO is under pressure to show their board the benefits of AI. has phenomenal strength for us, and the way I think about the product is we have IFS Cloud, and is literally the process we’ve been through to identify these industry use-cases in the process context, and is an expression of them. You can take a composable solution, and say I want some project management, supply chain, X, Y, and Z – and you get the AI capabilities that come with it. It’s super cool, it’s relevant and everyone can get their head wrapped around it. There are a few things that underpin that from a development perspective. There is a data foundation layer that is part of that integrates a bunch of data from different functions and systems, such as business data, structured data, unstructured data, and it ingests that in a data schemer that allows us to compute and surface data to those use-cases that I talked about. That’s the layer that allows us to ingest OEM data as an example. If we have 2-3 manufacturing customers that have one dedicated OEM, then with their agreement, and us putting the right protections in place then we can give them a service that not only says based on your own situation we can give you predictive routines. However, what we can also do is using a population of 5-10 companies we can then aggregate that to give real-time insights into how the plant is performing relative to competition, so you begin to see the real power of this,” said Moffat.

Generative AI has dominated the tech landscape since the emergence of ChatGPT and Open AI at the end of 2022.

According to Moffat, he feels Gen AI has democratised the technology for the general public.

“As I stated earlier, we’ve been investing in AI for quite some time, so that gives us a head-start. What I actually think Generative AI has done is put AI in the hands of the masses, it has democratised AI, and it has really captured the imagination of everyone, and by capturing the imagination it has captured investment dollars, albeit more from a consumer perspective. It has created a cycle of investment and innovation and it benefits us massively because a lot of that investment is bringing to bear significant quantum leaps in computational capability to give a cost-to-serve that we’ve never seen before. If you apply this to what you could describe as the more conventional AI then for us it completely accelerates the return on invested capital (ROIC) for our customers in terms of what we give today, and what we can do tomorrow in Industrial AI,” said Moffat.

Moffat insists that IFS are all about Industrial AI, and said the ongoing AI revolution was really helping IFS massively in terms of accelerating what they already have been doing.

However, he pointed out how unstructured data was a problem for many businesses.

“One of the issues we’ve been seeing, and one of the reasons we are building this data layer is the fact that a lot of our customers, and I think this is a challenge in the business environment too, is that they don’t necessarily have data in a clean enough manner to allow AI capabilities to be delivered on. You can use unstructured data, but you definitely need structured data. The way we think about it is there is no generic AI capability, and everything is industry specific from our perspective. We’ve gone through a process as a company to really look at our roadmap, and use our industry knowledge, understanding, and engagement with the broader external environment to stress test the use-cases that were deployed, and it’s made available directly in our solutions in the product,” said Moffat.

The IFS CEO also highlighted how the company was fully committed to giving his customers ‘different outcomes’ from AI technology.

“We also want to make sure that we use the fact that we’ve got a single data model in a strategic product such as IFS Cloud, that is underpinned by AI orchestration and data layers to aggregate data. That enables us to get that thread of intelligence where we can combine project, asset, and service data with other external data to give our customers completely different outcomes,” said Moffat.

IFS is recognised by many as a real leader when it comes to sustainability, and has been progressive when it comes to really implementing impactful change.

IFS is not only committed to reducing their own carbon footprint, but is working closely with their customers to ensure they  hit their sustainable objectives and targets.

“We want to create long-term sustainable value for our customers through technology and the delivery of transformation and outcomes for our customers. The ROIC, time to value, and ease of use are three things that we are super focused on delivering for our customers. It is important for us to help improve our customers industries and contribute to society whilst doing that. It’s crucial for us to capitalise on those three fundamentals, and we want to be more relevant to our customers than just delivering dollars,” said Moffat.

Moffat illustrated his unwavering commitment to sustainability following his decision to appoint a Chief Sustainability Officer to their executive board, a clear indication that they mean business when it comes to sustainability.

“It’s important for me that we get sustainability front-house to show what we stand for, and that’s why when I became CEO, I almost immediately appointed a Chief Sustainability Officer to the executive board. Sustainability now has prominence right at the top of our company, and it signals to our customers, and market how important we see sustainability. We think about ESG on three key pillars. The first one is the excellence of our business. We’re committed to lead by example, and that’s us responding to regulation in advance of what we need, so we are walking the talk effectively. The second pillar is all about supporting our customers in terms of helping them achieve their sustainability goals by using all the capabilities of our platform in order for them to be able to do that in a differentiated manner to our other competitors. The third pillar is from a broader impact perspective, and we are fully committed to making sure that we are having a positive contribution to our industry and society,” said Moffat.

Moffat also pointed to the work done by their IFS Foundation, and referenced the incredible work they do in Sri Lanka.

For the last three years, IFS have also been running their Change for Good Awards, and highlighted that a recipient of one of their awards was based in the Middle East.

“We’ve been running the awards for three years now, and it’s designed to celebrate our customers who have made a real significant impact through their sustainable practices. From a Middle East perspective, we had International Maritime Industries (IMI), a customer from Saudi Arabia win in 2023, for their outstanding dedication to the environmental protection of maritime environment stewardship,” said Moffat.

One of the first things Moffat did when he assumed control of IFS was announce that he was going to meet with 100 customers in 100 days.

In the early stages of his career, Moffat was an auditor and the integrity of numbers are important to him, so it should come as no surprise that’s he’s still on track after 81 days.

“In my first keynote to the company following my appointment as CEO, I pledged that I would meet 100 customers in 100 days, and we are now on Day 81, and I’m still on track. I’m not cheating either, so if I get on a call with five customers, I’m not counting those 5, it has to be a meaningful dialogue with a customer, where I meet the CEO one day, and the CFO the next, but again that’s still counted as one meeting. I got an email last week from a customer who said they love the fact that we are meeting 100 customers in 100 days, but when are you coming to see us?! It’s been such a positively received move that I may have to do 200 meetings in 200 days, but I’ll get through the 100 first,” said Moffat.

The cloud enterprise software industry is a very, very competitive marketplace, but Moffat declared he doesn’t focus on the competition, and believes that what differentiates IFS from the rest of the competition is their deep industry knowledge, and disclosed that they are chasing the functional domain of asset and service.

“I never look at what our competition is doing. If we are as customer obsessed as I know we are, and if we are listening to the needs of our customers, and we are responding from an R&D and go-to-market perspective, and we are meeting our customer needs, then we don’t need to reference ourselves to competitors. We are running our own race. However, I do of course listen to what customers tell me about what differentiates us from the rest. What our customers tell me is the industry focus we have is so important to them, we understand the context and we talk their language. The commonality of our industry focus is capital intensive industries with a big focus on asset and service. We are really lucky because we are really chasing that functional domain, but we happen to have an industry-leading ERP that supports it,” said Moffat.

Moffat also pointed out that he wants to give his customers the autonomy and flexibility to curate what they want.

“We get into a conversation with customers about delivering on an asset, or service management use-case, and then we’ve got that ERP capability to bring along with it, and we’re delivering all of that on one platform. It is one platform with one data model that allows our customers to curate exactly what they need to give them a composable solution. We are relentless in our pursuit to be the No.1 player for asset and service. We can also very naturally integrate with the landscape, and we’ve put a lot of effort into integration and all of our capabilities are AI-enabled. We live by what we deliver, and we know that is always going to result in customers taking more from us,” said Moffat.

Moffat reiterated that the long-term ambitions for IFS is to ‘dominate asset and service’.

“My long-term aspirations and ambitions for IFS is for us to dominate asset and service. I want the IFS brand to be synonymous with asset management and service management functional domains in the same way you could argue that Workday is for HDM, SAP and Oracle are for finance, and Salesforce is for CRM. That’s where we are going, and we want to dominate that functional domain,” said Moffat.

IFS Connect Series is coming to Riyadh on May 6th.

The theme this year is all about unlocking business value, and the three dimensions are productivity, predictability and agility.

“Traditionally, what we’ve done is have a global conference every other year, and the last global conference we had was in 2022. In the alternate years, we have regional connect events. However, there is such demand from our customers to get together as a community. This is the first year we’ve run the global conference, and the regional connect series in the same calendar year. It’s clear to see from the registrations for upcoming events and the numbers we had at our Connect series in Birmingham, Paris and Copenhagen that we will be running both these series every year, such is the demand. We promote a sense of community, and we recently launched our user community in France, where we encourage our customers to work together to compare and contrast and work with us as a community,” said Moffat.

The IFS global customer conference entitled ‘IFS Unleashed’ will take place in Orlando in October, and Moffat revealed some big names that will be joining him on stage.

“At our global conference we will be joined by Steve Lucas, who is the CEO of Boomi, and he will join me on the main stage to talk about how we are working together to make integration easier for customers. Every single session on stage at our Unleashed event features a customer story with a real application of an AI use-case. Customers will get a very comprehensive program on AI innovation, and for all the reasons I have said it will be very industry focused. We are also going to be very focused on what we call transformative demos, which brings to life practical model type sense on how AI is going to work with business processes. We also have a principle at IFS, which we call running to the fire. If we see something as a problem, we don’t shy away from it, we don’t blame anyone, we just go straight after it and find out how do we fix the problem. We want our customers to be successful advocates of IFS, so if  there is a problem then we run to the fire. There is no problem that can’t be overcome, every problem has a solution, and that’s our attitude,” said Moffat.

Moffat concluded a brilliant conversation by revealing some of the staggering projected numbers the company is expected to hit by the end of this year, describing them as champagne moments.

“This year we will hit $1bn of ARR, and a billion euros of ARR through 2024. This is a major, primetime, world stage validation of what the market is telling us what we are doing. We are really proud of this achievement, and we are calling them champagne moments,” concluded Moffat.

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