IFS Labs is an essential part of the Research and Development arm of IFS, the global enterprise applications company. With most of the team based in Colombo, the unit specializes in research, design, and development of software solutions that draw on the latest technologies and digital trends. IFS Labs plays a key role in the IFS’s product roadmap, spearheading innovative enterprise software solutions that are implemented for both local and international clients.
Following are excerpts of an interview conducted with three distinguished personalities at IFS Labs: Bas de Vos, Vice President, IFS Labs, Harshana Yapabandara, Senior Software Architect, and Bhagya Kandage, Director of Software Engineering at IFS Labs.
How important is it for IFS to pursue research and development for innovation?
Bas de Vos: For IFS, it is very important. Innovation has always been a key element of IFS’s DNA and has helped the company become a recognized leader in our focused industries: manufacturing, aerospace and defence, engineering, construction and infrastructure, energy, utilities and resources and service industries. To be a leader, we need to keep innovating and we need to make sure that we are always considering the latest trends to anticipate what our clients want from us today and in the future.
Can you share a brief background and an overview of IFS Labs in Sri Lanka?
Harshana: IFS Labs is a unit within IFS R&D. We are a close-knit group of execution-oriented individuals who share a passion for new technology that drives innovation within IFS while inspiring customers and the industry alike. Innovation is synonymous with IFS Labs and we continue to apply our thinking to invest in new technologies and product development across various industries. We do not marginalize ourselves to boundaries, instead as a team experiment with new solutions. In short, we are an innovation hub.
In your view, how does technology add value to businesses?
Bhagya: Technology is a great way of adding value to businesses. But it only adds value when the right technology is applied at the right time. At IFS Labs, our focus is on combining disruptive technologies and applying them to real-life business scenarios. We make sure that we always follow a customer-centric approach and that, through our products, we bring value to our customers to help them gain a competitive advantage.
What are the new technologies IFS Labs is trying out?
Harshana: Technology incubation is the driving force as we combine disruptive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), IoT or Robotics to create viable enterprise software solutions. Remote Assistance and Chat Bots are two examples of how IFS Labs has made use of the latest technologies to add value to our customers.
What were the most recent technology innovations done by IFS Labs?
Bhagya: In 2020, we saw that COVID-19 had an immeasurable impact on our customers’ businesses. With travel restrictions in place, it was almost impossible for our customers to continue with their day-to-day operations. We saw an opportunity to help our customers with the expertise that we gained around research into AR. Hence, we introduced ‘IFS Remote Assistance for Service and Maintenance’ which allows our customers to be anywhere instantly. Two users can collaborate and interact in real-time with telestrating, freezing images, using hand gestures, and even adding real objects into the merged reality environment – whether it’s a technician to third-line support, technician to customer, or expert to manufacturing facility. This provides opportunities for remote customer support and resolution, remote diagnosis to increase first-time fix, better utilization of resources, as well as more rapid employee training and knowledge transfer.
How does IFS Labs engage with customers?
Harshana: IFS Labs doesn’t just bring in new technology and innovations into the IFS Applications product suite without validating their use cases in the real world first. We work very closely with our customers by collaborating with them throughout the entire lifecycle of the product concept. The combination of our technical expertise and our customers’ industrial experience of how best they could leverage these disruptive technologies is how IFS Labs brings in the right technology into the market at the right time. By systematically testing new technology innovations out in the market prior to launch, we can be assured that they will definitely add value to our customers’ businesses.
How does the organization culture support innovation?
Bhagya: The organization culture fully supports innovation and encourages blue-sky thinking. We enjoy a freedom that inspires us to try out new concepts and we are blessed to have a highly skilled team that are passionate about innovation. We have established a team culture where each team member is highly supportive, accountable and driven while being open to share their knowledge and thinking among each other.
What are the future plans for IFS Labs?
Bas de Vos: IFS will continue to invest in IFS Labs. We are committed to harnessing the benefits of disruptive technology to ensure IFS solutions continue to add value to our clients and enable business transformation to stay ahead of the competitive business landscape.
- Bas de Vos, Vice President, IFS Labs
- Bhagya Kandage, Director of Software Engineering – IFS Labs
- Harshana Yapabandara, Senior Software Architect- IFS Labs
- IFS Sri Lanka Office