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IFS streamlines CRM in business budgeting software

Spang, one of five companies to roll out Applications 9 from IFS, says the suite better integrates CRM and offers a tailored view of business.

Spang & Co., a diversified manufacturer, initially rejected a proposal to become an early adopter of Applications...

9, the new on-premises version of IFS's business software.

Now, Brian Buddemeyer, IT director at Pittsburgh-based Spang, said he is pleased he changed his opinion about the business budgeting software.

IFS, a global software vendor based in Sweden, unveiled the latest adaptation of its enterprise applications suite at its world conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

 "Users are generally happy with it," said Buddemeyer in an interview at the conference. "The interface is a little bit cleaner than some of the older versions. The integrated CRM is a lot better than the previous product."

The external CRM product was previously available separately from the regular ERP system, he said. That was a little cumbersome, but it is all one package, with one interface, in the new suite.

Buddemeyer added that users at Spang also are pleased with the IFS Lobby, a new feature that tailors a view of the business according to a process or an employee's position.

Early adoption required a promise of support

Spang, a user of IFS primarily for financials since 2002, is one of five companies that has used IFS Applications 9 during the past year. The manufacturer of electronics components and tools for the power industry uses the software for a wide array of functions, including detecting data-entry errors on the shop floor, creating ledgers specifically for its China operations and tracking variances in department budgets.

When IFS made the offer to Spang to use the beta version of the business budgeting software, Buddemeyer said it seemed a little risky and he rejected IFS.

Buddemeyer said the offer became compelling when he learned about new features. IFS also assured him that Spang would be in tight communication with research and development and would receive its own support and priorities.

You don't migrate away from an ERP solution trivially. They have really kind of grown along with us.
Brian BuddemeyerIT director, Spang

Spang went live with the new version in November after two months of implementation. The application is almost a smorgasbord of business budgeting software. IFS said the application can be used as an ERP, enterprise asset management or service management tool -- or a combination of all three.

Spang uses it as an ERP -- primarily for finances, but also for manufacturing, CRM and project  management,  Buddemeyer said.

During a presentation at the conference, Richard S. Durham, corporate controller at Spang, said he likes the lobby, or interface that is customized specifically for his role at Spang.

"I used to have to go to a couple of different places to pull information together," Durham said. "With this lobby, I can look at one screen and see basically everything I need that is really critical to me."

Durham said it allows him to react quickly to problems before they become a major issue. For example, employees in a manufacturing plant might key in that they spent 50,000 hours on a process when it is supposed to take five hours, he said.

"It is very easy for me to see that something has been incorrectly entered," he said. "I can go back and correct it and make sure it is adjusted before it hits the financial results."

Business budgeting software offers view of general ledger

Durham said the IFS balance analysis tool is also useful for drilling into the general ledger with queries by product lines or departments, for example.

"If you have an expectation of what the budget number should be and there is a variance, you can go back easily and see what is driving it," he said. "You can track variances down to the department level when necessary."

Durham said IFS Applications 9 also aids the company's operations in China and Hong Kong, which include manufacturing, distribution and sales. The ERP allows creation of an internal ledger for Chinese operations that can be maintained separately from the general ledger.

The Chinese controller can post activities that comply with Chinese tax laws and are not reflected on the general ledger.

"An example of this would be depreciation," he said. "It allows the Chinese controller to use her own depreciation methods."

Spang will likely be using the latest ERP for the next three to four years, Buddemeyer said.

"You don't migrate away from an ERP solution trivially," he said. "They have really kind of grown along with us. The system continues to meet our needs."

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