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IFS rides component strategy

The Swedish firm hit U.S. shores only two years ago but is already taking on and winning deals against its rivals.

The Germans and the Dutch are getting a little competition from the Swedes for the hearts and IT dollars of corporate America.

Industrial & Financial Systems (IFS) in Linkoping, Sweden, hit U.S. shores two years ago but is already taking on and winning deals against SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and Baan.

IFS isn't exactly new at the game either. Founded in 1983, the firm has been competing against most of the players in Europe. And it landed IFS in the unique position of being one of the fastest growing enterprise resource planning vendors in the world. IFS, whose stock is traded under the symbol IFS on the Stockholm exchange, posted $63 million in sales for the first half of 1998, a leap of 109 percent from sales the same period last year.

"IFS is now building a bona fide track record that could ultimately push the company higher into the top ranks of ERP players," stated a recent report by AMR Research in Boston.

And helping to push IFS to that position is its advanced component architecture. While other vendors are trying to break up their products and reconstruct them in components, IFS has all but completed the task. A component architecture lets each feature act as an independent piece of software while still maintaining integration with the rest of the system.

"[IFS's] Applications98 suite is developed around a very good component architecture that is today realizing a number of the benefits ascribed to but not often realized by components," AMR said in its report. "The applications can be purchased separately and can easily be packaged for vertical or horizontal markets. The architecture also supports incremental deployment and coexistence of differing component revisions. This can be translated into the potential for creative implementation approaches and simplified upgrading of applications, something that is dear to the hearts of many IS managers."

IFS is currently rolling out Applications99, the newest version of its business automation system. What makes the system somewhat unique is that the firm has added nine new modules and features to the system for the new version that users can pick and chose to use, a Chinese menu system of upgrades. So users can chose to upgrade the sales configuration functionality but leave the old order entry system in place.

The architecture also helps to connect IFS products to competitor's products or to other software systems. As IFS goes after sales to divisions of larger companies this is an important asset.

"We have to be able to and our customers have to be able to handle anything," said Michael Hallen, president of IFS's research and development division.