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ERP vendor IFS has expanded its field service management capabilities with the acquisition of Clevest Solutions Inc.
Clevest, in Vancouver, B.C., provides field service technology specifically for the utilities industry. Notable features include mobile field service management, GIS location, smart meter reading and automated vehicle location services.
The company claims around 300 global customers, mostly in North America, with many coming from the utilities industry, such as gas and electric companies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
IFS, based in Linkoping, Sweden, is a niche ERP vendor focused on five industry segments: aerospace and defense; manufacturing; telecom, energy and utilities; engineering and construction; and services. IFS has also invested in applications peripheral to core ERP systems, including field service management and enterprise asset management (EAM), integrating the functionality into a cloud-based platform.
Industry-specific field service management
IFS found Clevest's industry-specific field service management capabilities appealing and strategic, according to Darren Roos, IFS CEO.
"We've recognized increasingly that doing [field service management] as a horizontal application is less appealing for customers because they want to see demonstrable industry capability, especially around servitization," he said. "Clevest brings us this deep industry expertise, specifically around energy and utilities, that they've built up in 15-odd years. We get the customer base of around 300, but also all of the experience that they have in delivering these service-related solutions to those specific industry customers."
IFS will be able to plug Clevest's capabilities into its ERP and EAM systems, Roos said.
"Clevest offers a load of field-related service elements that we can then plug into the IFS back office," Roos said. "The latest generation of the IFS cloud services is an all-in-one suite, which provides the ability to get asset management or service capabilities on the same platform as the core ERP."
Last year, IFS broadened its field service management portfolio with the acquisition of Astea International Inc., but that technology is more broadly based, whereas IFS customers are looking for applications with deep industry focus, according to Roos. Astea is also based on older technology that is being folded into the IFS core systems.
"Astea is a more broad field service and [at the time of acquisition] we needed more field service expertise and customers," he said. "But from a technology perspective, the plan was always to sunset the Astea technology and consolidate those customers onto the IFS core platform over time. Clevest is a bit different because there are elements of the technology that we will retain going forward as extensions to the IFS core."
Bringing in modern field service management
The deal, which likely didn't cost much, brings IFS a modern field service management presence that Astea lacks, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, an enterprise applications analysis firm in Montreal.
"It's a modern product and very focused on utilities and smart metering, where Salesforce and IFS had to be seriously tweaked in order to satisfy these customers," Jakovljevic said. "Astea brought IFS a good presence in Japan high-tech manufacturing, but not necessarily any vertical expertise per se."
IFS will be able to help Clevest grow its customer base, he said.
"Clevest, which is truly cloud and mobile, did not have much presence outside Canada and the U.S., and IFS can help with its muscles and global presence," Jakovljevic said. "The brand might go away in favor of IFS, but the technology will certainly not be ditched and replaced by IFS soon."
Clevest's IoT capabilities will be a way for utilities and energy companies to introduce more automation once they are integrated with IFS' core ERP and EAM platform, said Isaac Gould, research analyst at Nucleus Research in Boston, Mass.
"Once Clevest's systems for things like smart meters and smart networks are integrated with IFS' EAM platform, those connections can easily drive a lot of automation," Gould said. "This enables companies to do preventative maintenance because your smart meters can autonomously notify your field service management solutions to say that they need to send [technicians] out. This can lead to a big productivity boost and improved service levels, so the utilities industry will definitely see that as a plus."
The IFS industry-specific approach should help it compete in the field service management market, he said.
"Oracle has their own EAM application, Salesforce does their own service management, but those are meant to appeal to a pretty wide range of industries, whereas IFS is very focused on energy, oil and gas, utilities and some select manufacturing," Gould said. "We're seeing more ERP systems with built-in EAM and field service management capabilities, but for enterprises that generate billions of dollars in revenue every year, like energy and utilities, that's not really going to cut it, so they go for the best-of-breed approach."