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IFS Field Service Management software: Overview, pros, cons

IFS FSM software is meant to manage field staff and assets. Learn about its advantages and disadvantages and whether your company should put it on a vendor shortlist.

Effective field service management software has become a must for many organizations as the concept of field service is expanding and customer service becomes even more critical. IFS Field Service Management software is one product buying teams might consider.

Field service management (FSM) was once applied to situations such as when a technician has been called out to repair an engine or install cable. Today, the concept of field service is now applied to a growing number of situations as more and more workers become mobile or remote and industries such as healthcare and hospitality require software to manage workers in the field.

What is IFS Field Service Management?

IFS Field Service Management (FSM) software is meant to manage the entire service lifecycle. Organizations can use IFS FSM to manage service contracts, work orders, parts and assets, and paperwork such as contracts and warranties. It can create work schedules and give customers more insight into the work process.

However, updating the software can be cumbersome, and its configurability can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the needs of the user.

Here's a deeper dive into the advantages and disadvantages of IFS FSM.

What are IFS FSM's capabilities?

The software also has the following capabilities:

  • Mobile field service. IFS FSM is available for mobile devices, so field teams can locate parts, provide quotes and collect payments while on the job. In addition, the software's traffic data is meant to help teams reach their destinations.
  • Navigation and vehicle tracking. Users track technicians in real time so they'll know exactly when technicians will arrive.
  • Collaborative web portals. Users and third-party vendors can track needed items through IFS FSM's portals, and field technicians can check their schedules and make updates to orders. In addition, users can monitor service contracts throughout the work process.
  • Work order and spare parts management. Users can diagnose service issues and create service requests. In addition, IFS FSM automates spare parts tasks, such as selection and shipping, and alerts users about available parts. 
  • Warranty management. IFS FSM automates the warranty process.
  • Integration. Companies can integrate IFS FSM with their CRM systems from vendors such as Salesforce, SAP and Microsoft Dynamics.

What are IFS FSM's advanced features?

AI and video are also available through the software.

IFS FSM's advanced features include:

  • Field service scheduling options. IFS FSM uses Microsoft Azure to make scheduling decisions based on business data.
  • Enhanced customer engagement. Callers can use AI to take care of problems themselves, and the omnichannel customer engagement automates call handling and priority for customer calls.
  • Remote assistance. A remote expert can meet with individuals in a virtual reality environment.

What industries are a good fit for IFS FSM?

A range of industries could make use of IFS FSM's emphasis on improving field service and customer service. Here are a few:

  • Telecommunications
  • Engineering and construction
  • Health care and medical devices
  • Food service equipment
  • Industrial equipment servicing
  • High-tech
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
  • Manufacturing
  • Utilities

Strengths

Gartner included IFS FSM as a leader in its 2020 Magic Quadrant for Field Service.

"IFS is a leader, as it was in the previous Magic Quadrant," Gartner analysts Jim Robinson and Naved Rashid wrote in the "Gartner Magic Quadrant for Field Service Management" report. "This status reflects its industry strategy, broad and deep FSM functionality, large customer base and low churn."

"IFS' ability to capture user needs stems from a focus on relatively few industries, the industry experience of its teams, and its consistent collaboration with customers through its advisory boards, events and research to bolster its thought leadership," according to the Gartner Magic Quadrant FSM report.

In November, IFS acquired Clevest, a firm that specializes in field service management for utilities companies. This strengthened its field service portfolio.

Gartner praised IFS FSM's schedule optimization, an important feature for companies whose technicians complete high numbers of work orders every day and have unpredictable schedules. Some of the software's other strengths are contract and collaboration management, according to the report. These features can be important for complex service use cases.

Weaknesses

On the other hand, IFS' FSM product is difficult to learn, and upgrades can be challenging, the Gartner report noted. And despite its strengths, IFS seldom appears in Gartner clients' initial shortlists.

"This indicates a relatively low level of investment in brand awareness, resulting in a general lack of recognition, which limits the sales opportunities that ultimately fuel its budget for product enhancements," Gartner wrote.

A few IFS strengths and weaknesses

Strengths:

  • Offers depth of functionality to targeted industries;
  • Focus on collaboration with industry leaders;
  • Highly customizable;
  • Strong customer base and brand recognition for certain industries;
  • Effective scheduling optimization; and
  • Effective collaboration and contract management.

Weaknesses:

  • Lags in cloud leadership;
  • Functionality may not be as strong for industries outside main targets;
  • Customizability can be too complex for smaller companies;
  • Difficult to learn;
  • Upgrades can be challenges; and
  • Widespread lack of brand awareness, which ultimately may compromise budget for product enhancements.

Strength in the market

IFS is one of the go-to vendors for field service management, said Nicole France, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc.

IFS has a fairly high global profile despite being based in Linköping, Sweden, France said. Field service businesses in certain industries, such as manufacturing and utilities, are particularly aware of it. The company has a very strong customer base and good brand recognition in those industries.

"They've been doing it for quite a while and they've focused on continuing to evolve their offerings and improve them and expand their scope over time," she said. "They understand what companies are trying to do and how they want to manage field service, and they've designed their software to meet those needs."

However, the company hasn't led in moving to a cloud-based delivery model, France said.

"Although they do have cloud-based offerings, an awful lot of their customer base are still running on-premises systems," she said. "And that certainly is a potential point of weakness because it means that it's a lot harder to do things like get updates to the latest upgrades of the system."

ISF FSM user experience

IFS Field Service Management has helped retail corporation support vendor Spencer Technologies manage its customers' needs, though Spencer has experienced the software's disadvantages as well, said Rudy Goedhart, senior director of business intelligence at the company.

Based in Medway, Mass., Spencer Technologies handles much of the field service, project management and inventory for large multi-site retailers such as CVS and Gap.

In 2012, Spencer began shopping for a new system to replace its heavily customized legacy system with a modern approach that also offered a high degree of customizability. Spencer selected IFS FSM and went live on the system in July 2013.

"We are a relatively complex field service organization," Goedhart said. "Most service organizations offer field service either to end users or to their own clients or for their own products. For Spencer Technologies, we do all that but for about 250 different organizations, each of which has different ways they want us to do the service."

IFS FSM is very configurable, which is its biggest asset for Spencer, Goedhart said. However, that can also be its biggest disadvantage.

"[IFS FSM] has a ton of capabilities, but if you ask an IFS employee how to do a certain thing, you're probably going to get three different answers at any point of the day because it all depends on how you configure it," Goedhart said. "The problem is that there are no guidelines because there are about 50 different ways you can fine-tune it to your own business model."

And that also means its setup is very complicated, he said.

"But it's no longer as much trouble to us because we taught ourselves the system and we have a lot of internal knowledge on how to configure the system these days," Goedhart said. "We understand the technical capabilities to a point that we can implement any and all changes ourselves."

Spencer has the resources to so, but that may not be true for many organizations.

"We found that was the easiest way to get around the many ways to do it," Goedhart said. "But for simple service organizations, that would definitely be the con."

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