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Cloud ERP Showdown: IFS vs Microsoft Dynamics

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If you're in the market for new ERP software and you find yourself considering Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Business Central) and/or IFS Cloud ERP you've come to the right place.

This blog will compare and contrast two leading ERP solutions, IFS Cloud ERP and Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Business Central).  

Keep reading to learn about which ERP might be right for your business.

Comparison ERPs: IFS vs Dynamics 

One primary difference between Dynamics 365 and an IFS ERP is Dynamics 365 is a Microsoft product. Microsoft products and services are well known, and the company is one of the world’s largest software vendors. They’ve spent billions of dollars to create name brand recognition and develop a global presence. According to statista.com, in 2021, Microsoft Corporation spent 20.12 billion dollars on sales and marketing, the company's highest annual expenditure to date.  

While highly capable IFS is not as well known, although it has developed an industry reputation for excellence in enterprise resource planning ERP software. IFS was founded in Sweden in 1983 and launched its first product in 1985. They have taken a different approach to success by keeping most of their focus and spending on developing ERP products to serve their customers’ needs. IFS has used this product-first approach to offer specialized solutions for manufacturing and distribution and inventory management. 

We’ll take a deep dive into both Dynamics 365 and IFS to help you determine which ERP might be the best value ERP for your organization.

 

IFS Overview

IFS has well-thought-out ERP solutions. Manufacturers, utilities, construction, aerospace, and oil and gas companies have all adopted IFS software. Process and discrete manufacturers particularly like IFS’ integrated platform which provides complete traceability from the raw materials through to the finished product that’s shipped out to the customer. 

IFS offers modules for financial management, engineering, HR, manufacturing, project management, supply chain management, maintenance, human capital management, and sales and service. Companies can choose the various modules they need to support their organization current and future needs.

IFS ERP Applications support the following departments/business units:

  • Contract Management
  • Project Management
  • Engineering
  • Material Management
  • Construction
  • Installation/Commissioning
  • Human Resources
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Finance Management

IFS Cloud ERP includes tools that support BI, compliance regulations, customer/supplier collaboration, and environment management. There’s even support for the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), mobility, and augmented reality (AR). IFS offers a choice of deployment options.  You can take advantage of a cloud-deployment (IFS hosted) and subscription pricing model or you can go the traditional on-premise deployment route with a perpetual license. IFS is investing heavily in it's cloud product offering and the majority of IFS customers are heading this direction as well. IFS fully supports the use of iPaaS platforms for integrations with other business applications.

 

Microsoft Dynamics Overview

Dynamics 365 is an ERP/CRM system built on Microsoft Azure. Azure’s enhanced data security features make it a good environment for building, running, and managing applications on the cloud and on-premise.

Azure easily supports other Microsoft products like Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Access, Project, Publisher, and Visio. All you’ll pay for is compute and storage to run these Microsoft applications on the Azure cloud. 

If your company is thinking of switching to Dynamics 365 but would like to keep using other vendor software (like Salesforce, for example), Dynamics can be configured to support it.

Like IFS, Dynamics 365 offers modular solutions that allow businesses to select the functionality they need today with the option to add other capabilities down the road.  

Dynamics Business Central, however, is an all-in-one solution that integrates all the modules to provide a complete, ready-to-go solution. Dynamics Business Central is the revamped and renamed release of what was formerly known as Dynamics NAV. 

Business Central is available in two packages: 

  • Dynamic 365 Business Central Essentials offers support for Finance Management, Sales, Marketing, Inventory, Purchasing, Supply Chain Management, and Project and Warehouse Management.
  • Dynamics 365 Central Premium offers all the above, plus support for service management and manufacturing.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers a choice of deployment options: SaaS, PaaS, or traditional on-premise deployment. 

 

Key Features Comparison: Dynamics vs IFS ERP

Asset Management 

Enterprise asset management (EAM) is one of the newer features added to Microsoft Dynamics, and it was added because Microsoft had many requests from manufacturers to improve Dynamics’ asset management capabilities. Dynamics Business Central now efficiently takes into account people and machinery to generate detailed work orders. Tracking, scheduling, preventive maintenance, procurement planning, and equipment operation are now strong features of the Dynamics’ EAM. KPIs help managers evaluate asset use and adjust work processes as needed.

IFS’ EAM has been refined over three decades. It has evolved in response to business needs created by mergers, regulations, and industry demands. Tracking, scheduling, preventive maintenance, procurement planning, and equipment operation are efficiently handled; and IFS has developed specialized asset management solutions for specific needs.
These include:

  • The Fleet and Asset Management module - streamlines fleet and heavy maintenance planning
  • The IFS Asset Lifecycle Management module - supports machine-learning, augmented reality, and digital twin technology
  • The IFS Manufacturing module - supports shop-floor reporting, production order planning, material, and resource planning, and made-to-order and configure-to-order tasks. 
  • The IFS Maintenance module - features equipment tracking, maintenance scheduling, and vehicle management along with tracking tools

ERP Reporting/Analytics comparrison

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers a “wizard assistant” but customized reports are also possible, although IT support may be needed for customization. 

The latest versions of Dynamics 365 Business Central have addressed reporting issues by adding optimized filter options to access the different data sources needed for fine-tune reporting. With these filter options, many fields can be added by selecting a field from the source table or by searching for it using text input. With these improvements, customized reporting is now possible.

Generating and customizing reports is easy with IFS. Files can be imported from Excel and business analytics tools can be used to create complex SQL statements. Reports generated through IFS can also be transferred into Excel as needed. IFS reporting capabilities are incredibly robust for each department within an organization and especially so for manufacturing.

Supply Chain Management

Both IFS and Dynamics Business Central automate and connect supply chain inventory with sales and purchase order management. Both provide real-time insights into the supply chain.

Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management is an optional module for operational and warehouse management. It offers predictive insights and supports IoT, AI, and mixed reality. In November 2021, Microsoft upgraded Dynamics Business Central to improve the ERP’s supply chain management ability by adding new personalization features. Order management now includes a returns and exchange management service that integrates with e-commerce solutions. It’s now possible to add non-inventory items on requisition and planning worksheets and add an item variant code to help create accurate demand forecasts. The upgrade also improves timesheet functionality by allowing workers on mobile devices to record time spent on tasks. 

IFS improves overall supply chain productivity by enhancing the visibility of process flows and optimizing productivity through an integrated warehouse management system. Like Dynamics Business Central, IFS has the capabilities of managing multiple languages, currencies, and locations on a single platform. The IFS Supply Chain module supports procurement, logistics, forecasting and provides inventory, warehouse, vendor, and sales order management. 

IFS offers a standalone warehouse management system, or, you may include this functionality as part of your ERP solution. This application handles both high-volume distribution and on-premise material management and supports multiple devices like smartphones and laptops. 

Field Service Management

Business Central Field Service Management manages and tracks service in repair shops, industrial sites, and in the field to provide proactive customer care and efficient workforce management. This module automates service schedules and personnel assignments and estimates invoicing. It fully supports inventory, warranty, and service contract management. 

IFS Field Service Management (FSM) provides tools that cover the entire service lifecycle, from dispatching workers or contractors to a location to planning and scheduling, warranty and contracts, and service parts management. Collaborative portals for improved customer or supplier communications can be enabled. Functionality supporting predictive maintenance, the Internet of Things (IoT), reverse logistics, and depot repair are embedded into IFS Field Service Management software.

IFS vs Microsoft Dynamics Business Central: both FSM solutions earn awards

Microsoft was named a Leader in the 2021 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Field Service Management and IFS is a six-time winner of this honor. 

Updates

Microsoft Business Central updates Business Central in April and October each year and offers monthly, minor updates. 

Traditionally IFS has published major software upgrades every three years. However, in March 2021, it launched the IFS Cloud, giving CIOs hosting flexibility and freeing them from many infrastructure management tasks. Updates will come through the IFS Cloud every six months, providing new functionality to keep its products updated.  

Implementation Time

ERPs implementations for IFS or Dynamics 365 Business Central may take anywhere from eight months to two years to complete. Integrating front and back-end systems and workflow processes into a shared platform is very complex. The size and complexity of the company, the number of employees that will need access, and the actual transfer of the data all factor into the cost and time needed for the implementation process.

A solution provider that specializes in IFS ERP or Dynamics 365 can create an ERP project plan that will document the timeline for the process. IFS has developed a Scope Tool that helps solution providers design, document, and visualize IFS Solutions. This tool helps clients understand the time frame needed and what is to be included in the implementation project.

IFS ERP vs Microsoft Dynamics Costs

IFS and Dynamics Business Central are sophisticated ERPs capable of supporting mid to large-size companies, the costs reflect this. Companies will need to engage a Microsoft, Dynamics 365 Business Central, or IFS solution providers to help guide them through the consultation process and to do the actual implementation/customization. The cost of an ERP will vary depending on the size of the organization, and the ERP functionality needed. 

IFS ERP solutions start around $250K.  

Implementing Dynamics 365 Business Central could cost anywhere between $30K to $500K, depending on the size/scope of the project.  

While Microsoft has a glut of partners, IFS does not. AstraCanyon is the largest North American IFS partner and specializes in IFS solutions alone.

Licensing

IFS on-premise software costs are based on a perpetual license-based model which charges an upfront fee to own the software for a fixed term plus annual maintenance.  

Cloud-based/SaaS subscriptions are based upon a per user amount with unlimited access to the entire application.  

IFS offers "Full" user licenses and “Limited Task User” (LTU) licenses. An LTU license is less expensive but only allows users to perform certain functions like time entry or expense reporting.

Figuring out the cost and licensing for Dynamics 365 is difficult. Business Central licenses vary in costs and employees are licensed as Essential, Premium, Team Member, or External Account users. There are also varying subscription costs for the modules that are chosen for the ERP.

Licensing cost varies by user role:

  • Dynamics 365 Business Central Team Members licenses ($8 per user/per month) gives users access to read and approve documents and run reports
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central Essential licenses ($70 per user/per month) gives employees access to manage financials and projects and inventory, sales orders, and purchase orders
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central Premium licenses ($100 per user/per month) allow access to the ERP’s premium features and modules. 

There is no charge for External Account users.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 vs IFS ERP Comparison Conclusion

Both Dynamics 365 Business Central and IFS ERPs offer high value and sophisticated tools to empower business success. We give IFS a slight edge over Dynamics Business Central when it comes to asset management, report capabilities, supply chain management, field service management, and license fee structuring. 

Even though both Dynamics and IFS provide excellent FSM tools, we’ll give the win to IFS FSM because of its multiple nominations for excellence in this category.

When it comes to the manufacturing, aerospace, or oil and gas industries, IFS with its specialized industry solutions gets the nod over a tough competitor in Dynamics Business Central. 

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