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PolyPipe: Harnessing new functionality by upgrading IFS

PolyPipe: Harnessing new functionality by upgrading IFS">

Polypipe has been an IFS customer since 2007 and since that time has been running IFS Applications 7, service pack 2. The installation of IFS replaced numerous legacy systems and led to improved efficiency across their UK sites. The introduction of IFS allowed for the automation of a range of labour intensive and therefore, costly, manual processes. IFS provided Polypipe with a single integrated system, improving visibility of information across the group and giving the company the capability to respond with greater agility to internal and external market requirements.

However, 10 years on from their implementation, Polypipe was beginning to develop some problems with its IFS system. The company was on a hardware platform that was reaching its end of life and as a result, they were starting to experience performance issues. The business was restricted by the Oracle database version and application they were currently using.

Polypipe knew that the solution was to upgrade their version of IFS. However, due to the version (IFS 7, service pack 2) and the hardware platform they were on, the ability to upgrade was difficult. What’s more, the company were currently on a heavily modified version – 45 in total.

“The main goal for the business was to move everything over to Applications 9 and leverage the new functionality while keeping our existing processes. The upgrade was not about process re-engineering, this would be looked at post upgrade. Our key objective with the upgrade was to update the hardware platform and improve system issues which have been caused by data volume.”

Mike McKay, Group IS Director, Polypipe

While a re-implementation of IFS might have been the best option, as it meant starting from a clean slate, this was not possible due to the time it would take to complete and the lack of internal resource and expertise. An upgrade to IFS Applications 9 was identified as the best solution. The key goal for Polypipe was to upgrade to Applications 9 and Oracle 12c database, replicate current business processes, leverage the new functionality available in Applications 9 (e.g. Lobby’s, Streams and the new CRM solution), but within a zero modification environment. Polypipe wanted to improve the user interface while at the same time, enhance super-user knowledge and overall engagement with the solution. All this was to be achieved with minimal disruption to both users and customers.

Trusted Consultancy Expertise

IFS was appointed to carry out the technical work around the upgrade. During an upgrade a lot of responsibility falls on the customer and Polypipe did not have all of the necessary skill set in-house to be able to carry out all aspects of the project. Having worked with Cooper Software for a number of years - Polypipe had a number of peripheral systems in their warehouse which Cooper Software installed, for example, the ACQUIRE warehouse management solution, which needed to be uplifted and integrated as part of the upgrade to Applications 9 - Cooper Software were chosen by Polypipe to provide consultancy services on their upgrade project, taking advantage of Cooper Software’s deep IFS knowledge and expertise.

Commenting on this, Mike McKay noted, “Despite us having very capable IFS staff in-house, they lacked some functional skills required for the project. Bringing Cooper Software in to the project, ensured we had the correct level of knowledge, expertise and availability of resource required to help drive the project through.” 

Project Scoping and Developing the Upgrade Plan

Cooper Software carried out a comprehensive scoping exercise, defining what needed to be achieved to carry out the upgrade. From this a coherent plan was developed and followed without issue by everyone critical to the project. Cooper Software also delivered a series of workshops which considered the existing processes and associated applications within Polypipe’s IFS environment and considered how these could be addressed in order to take out the modifications, to achieve Polypipe’s aim of having a zero modification environment. Following the process review and based on Cooper Software’s recommendations, a degree of re-implementation was carried out in some areas as processes had been changed through the removal of some of the modifications from Applications 7.

In the end, only 2 modifications existed, which from starting point of 45, was an excellent result. Polypipe also took the embedded CRM solution available with Applications 9. Polypipe wanted to give their 70 field sales staff a tablet based mobile solution that would allow seamless and secure integration with the on premise IFS CRM solution. To achieve this, Cooper Software developed a Mobile CRM Solution which provided a single point of reference for viewing and updating key data from the enterprise CRM system. For Polypipe’s field agents, this functionality removed the need to manually capture any updates and then feedback to the back office team, or wait until they were back on premise or able to connect to the enterprise CRM. Furthermore, with the ability to work offline, users could access the CRM data wherever they were in the country, , a particular challenge given the geographic spread of Polypipe’s customers and the uncertainty of network coverage this brings.

Polypipe’s upgrade took place over 12-months, with a target Go-live date of January 2018. Prior to going live, Polypipe had to test 3 iterations of their new solution, which required input from all areas of the business, before moving to user training. Mike McKay summed up the importance of testing when he said: “A key aspect of the project is to make sure you have actual users doing the testing. We struggled to get people away from their day-to-day tasks to do the depth of testing that is required. This was a key challenge and it was vital to ensure that testing is carried out at a deep enough level to identify and iron out any issues in advance of go-live.”

The upgrade was carried out over the Christmas break in 2017 as approximately 10 days of downtime was required and this was the only time that this could be achieved.

“Working with Cooper Software has been straightforward. We have had two project managers dedicated to our solution which has given us peace of mind and the knowledge and expertise we required to support us throughout our upgrade to IFS Applications 9. From their initial scoping exercise to developing the project plan, the input from Cooper Software has been invaluable.”

Mike McKay, Group IS Director, Polypipe