“Customers can’t just go buy an ‘AI’”
Every Monday morning we fire five questions at a leading C-suite figure in the business technology sector. Today we’re pleased to be joined by Darren Roos, the CEO of enterprise software vendor IFS.
Darren, What’s the Biggest Challenge for your Clients?
Enterprise tech buyers are under more and more pressure to innovate faster, grow globally, and deliver healthy margins. Yet when they look to the market for ways through, they are bombarded by vendors slinging their latest offerings associated with some of the biggest tech buzzwords of the day.
It’s no surprise then that the biggest challenge companies face is navigating this very complex enterprise technology landscape, which is a crowded and noisy space of offerings that promise to fix a myriad of business problems.
Many of our customers consider themselves to be in a catch-22: on the one hand, they need to have processes in place to deal with whatever that ‘future’ might entail, but without clear insight into what impact various future scenarios will have on their business, they’re unsure how to plan effectively – and which technologies will support this planning.
To be clear: I’m not suggesting that technologies that fall into the realm of AI, automation, data & analytics aren’t crucial to business transformation and future-readiness. They absolutely are. My company is investing considerably in developing these capabilities into our own solutions. But we know that customers can’t just go buy an ‘AI’ – they buy a solution in which AI capabilities play a role.
What I’m suggesting is that, first and foremost, enterprise solution vendors have a responsibility to help customers traverse where they are now to where they need to be. We need to help our customers cut through the noise by providing accessible, sensible technology fully integrated into our solutions – and then ensure the value these solutions will deliver is clear and quantifiable.
Our customers must navigate this landscape in the first place because they know that, if they don’t undertake the necessary changes to be ready for the future, they risk the future of their business.
Enterprise tech buyers like our customers understand that getting their business data in order will make or break them in the future. Data, and the accuracy, management and analysis of data, is firmly at the heart of each of these megatrends; while big data is hardly a new concept, it remains the driving force behind business innovation, and the adoption of new technologies such as AI will hinge on the management and analysis of huge volumes of data.
What Technology Excites You Most?
The technology that excites me the most is the kind that makes a significant impact for its users. The real benefit then comes from having solutions that are easier to deploy and easier to use, with a beautiful UX that is intuitive and dynamic. Here are a few of the technologies that excite me most:
Artificial intelligence and IoT: Gartner predicts that by 2022, more than 40 percent of new application development projects will have artificial intelligence co-developers on the team. Our Field Service Management customers are already able to leverage AI for advanced scheduling as well as the optimisation of product planning, demand planning and other areas.
Automation: Automated businesses and operational processes have already cut decision times for our customers, making their businesses more complex and fast-moving. We take this technology a step further alongside IoT and AI. We don’t just want to make systems more autonomous for our customers, but also explainable. We also believe what gets automated should also be auditable.
Augmented reality: This technology is still in its infancy but projects that require it tend to be customisable in nature. We provide our customers with access to it when creating out-of-the-box options as per their business needs. For instance, we offer AR for those who require remote support that leverages standard smartphones as devices in the field.
As exciting as the promises of these technologies are, the most cutting-edge technology is not worth a second look if it can’t be deployed and used easily, which is unfortunately so often the case.
What is your Greatest Success?
The privilege of running the global team at IFS as CEO has been a great source of pleasure, but I never remain complacent.
I’m constantly challenging myself and my team to be better, pushing us all to work harder and smarter. Life is about evolving and being the best version of yourself. I advise anyone who is just starting out in their career to earn their battle scars through hard work and perseverance. You should be willing to make sacrifices to get ahead, there’s no shortcut to success. Don’t always chase the shiny new thing. Allow yourself a chance to learn and exceed expectations before moving onto the next challenge. I went from being an individual contributor to a member of the board in nine years by not ‘rushing’ my progression.
What is your Worst Failure?
One of my early life lessons was not to relent to the pressure to get deals done just to meet quarterly sales goals. It’s far more important to be focused on the value your customer derives over the long term than to pressure them into a deal. Customer centricity and sustainable business models will always prevail in the long term, and that will win you business over and over again.
In Another Life, I’d Be…
I wanted to be a criminal attorney and studied law at university. Instead, early on in my career I started working on the sales side of a technology firm in South Africa and found that I loved the industry.