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Intelligent Energy: Applications 10 Upgrade to streamline processes

Intelligent Energy: Applications 10 Upgrade to streamline processes">

Project Background

Fuel cell engineering business, Intelligent Energy, originally implemented IFS Applications 8 in 2015. In October 2017, the company was acquired by Meditor Energy, part of the Meditor Group. The acquisition heralded the start of a new chapter for Intelligent Energy and also presented the perfect opportunity to begin the process of reviewing their IFS solution to ensure the company was operating in the most effcient way, with the most up-to-date business system that would fully meet its needs. Furthermore, the Oracle database version Intelligent Energy’s current IFS solution was running on was confrmed as ‘end of life’, therefore with support unavailable, change was required. 

Intelligent Energy began to look at their spending on IFS. An extensive exercise was carried out, with the support of Cooper Software, where the company considered alternative ERP solutions as a means of potentially saving costs. The outcome however, was that IFS would continue to provide the necessary capability to help the business meet their aspiration to supply tier 1 suppliers in various industry sectors, whilst also preventing the need for a costly vendor migration. 

“When the business was restructured it gave us an opportunity to really take stock of our existing IFS solution” said Lee Coxon, IT Manager at Intelligent Energy. “The people within the business knew how to perform their tasks but were sometimes unclear as to how all processes linked together. What’s more, IFS documentation was sometimes poor and processes and workflows needed refining or in some cases created from scratch. After a thorough review 
it was clear that the time was right to begin the process of upgrading to IFS Applications 10.”

Not only would upgrading to the latest version of IFS allow Intelligent Energy to upgrade their Oracle database 
version, they would also beneft from enhanced functionality and therefore gain additional cost and business 
advantages as well as improving the performance of the user interface. What’s more, the upgrade provided the 
perfect opportunity to evaluate and change existing processes and workfows, undertake a much-needed re-design of their security model and implement new permission sets, as well as improve knowledge and engagement by 
upskilling staff across the business. 

Our Solution 

The actual upgrade process, taking Intelligent Energy from IFS Applications 8 to Applications 10, was carried out by IFS. Intelligent Energy had already been working with Cooper Software’s IFS Service Desk team for the past 3 years, with the service desk providing a central point for Intelligent Energy to raise escalated IFS queries and issues. Given Cooper Software’s insights into their business and the relationship already in place between the two companies, Cooper Software was appointed to consult on IFS functionality before and during the upgrade. 

Cooper Software began working with Intelligent Energy by undertaking a process mapping exercise delivered 
through a series of workshops, coordinated by Cooper Software’s IFS consultants. It was identifed during these 
workshops that fnance and purchasing were the processes which needed the most attention and refnement in 
advance of an upgrade. During this time, Cooper Software worked closely with Intelligent Energy to gain a full 
understanding of the current processes with the view to developing and refning them to ensure they were structured in the best possible way for the business in advance of upgrading to IFS Applications 10. 

Lee commented: “The process mapping exercise looked at all our key business processes, considered what an off the shelf process looked like to allow us to see where our processes differed and what we might be missing. This was generally a workshop driven exercise where we took each process in turn and during an interactive session, discussed what the current process was, any changes that could be implemented easily prior to the upgrade and how it can then be refned further for the future. In all, we created approximately 80 process maps and the workshops were really well received. The knowledge Cooper Software brought to this process was excellent and really enabled us to think about and plan a strong set of processes.”

Cooper Software were originally going to project manage the upgrade on behalf of Intelligent Energy, however early on into the project Intelligent Energy decided to take on the project management role themselves. Lee noted, “as we progressed through the upgrade planning it became clear that the project needed more day-to-day ownership and attention from our side of the business, therefore we took the decision to take on the project management side ourselves. At the beginning we wanted hand holding as we felt that we didn’t have the internal experience or capacity to project manage the ERP upgrade, however it was clear that outsourcing this element of the project would’ve been costly and lacked the dedicated internal focus required”.

The upgrade process began with the process workshops taking place from February 2019. The actual upgrade 
started in September 2019 and had a go live date of June 2020, which was achieved. 

Benefts of the Solution

Lee noted, “the upgrade process could not have gone any better. Since going live, we had only 60 issues raised in 
the frst month, 25 were on the frst day and all were closed off on the same day.” 
Lee attributes the success of the upgrade to the amount of testing which was carried out. “We did so much testing, probably 5 rounds for each process by following the work instructions. This took a lot of cajoling of staff across the business, but I believe if we hadn’t tested in the volume we did, the project could have turned out very differently.”

Lee also felt that taking on the project management of the upgrade internally meant the business was much closer to the project than they perhaps might have been. This is not an option for all businesses, however it meant that by taking on the role himself, he lived and breathed the project for 9 months which has hugely increased his own understanding of the solution which has been a signifcant beneft for the business.

In terms of the benefts achieved by upgrading, Lee cites two main areas. The frst major beneft was having the 
clarity of being able to re-do processes alongside permission sets, making it crystal clear who has access to what within the business. “We now have properly documented processes and work instructions that have a one-to-one 
relationship with a permission set in IFS. Now when an employee asks for access to something new, all I need to do is identify the work instruction, cross reference the permission sets and grant the required access.”

The other major beneft has been getting each department within the business to take ownership of their particular area of IFS to avoid overreliance on the IT department. “People were circumventing IFS to do certain tasks because they didn’t know how to use the system properly. Now that we have clear processes and associated documentation to allow each department to effectively do their job and appreciate how it all fits together in the wider picture, we have seen a real culture shift.”

Lee continued “IFS Lobby played a big part in helping people to see and understand their role and tasks. As it pulls everything together on a single dashboard people can no longer say they can’t fnd anything!” In terms of working with Cooper Software, “The relationship we have is great and there is a real fexibility in the way we work together. The knowledge that the Cooper Software’s IFS consultants have is excellent and the expertise and advice they have shared has been invaluable. So much so that we have implemented changes that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise and will have a positive impact on the business.”

The Cooper Software service desk continues to play a role, providing frst line support for any escalated IFS queries following the upgrade go live. “The service desk team continue to excel, resolving the majority of reported issues 
quickly. Where possible they seek IFS support though their own established relationship with IFS and having that 
network really helps in terms of resolving issues quickly and effciently. The whole Cooper Software team are so 
approachable and we know that we can contact them at any time, for quick ad-hoc support. We know that they value us as a customer and we look forward to continuing to develop our relationship as we progress with IFS Applications 10.

About the Customer

Intelligent Energy is focused on the development and manufacture of its Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell products for customers in the automotive, aerospace, generator, telecoms, materials handling and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sectors. The company is headquartered and manufactures in Loughborough in the UK, with additional offices and representation in the US, Japan, China and South Korea.