Colin Morrison is an independent IFS functional consultant with more than 15 years’ experience deploying IFS in various businesses. He specialises in HR/Human Capital Management and has broad IFS applications knowledge.
Meet Colin Morrison. He’s known in the IFS industry for his skills helping businesses get the most out of the application’s human resources module.
But away from the world of ERP consulting, the 45-year-old can be found on the ice, coaching Scottish curlers to championship glory.
Based in Paisley, Scotland, Colin left IFS UK to embark on a ‘solo’ career as an independent IFS functional consultant. Here, we chat to him about his twin passions: IFS contracting and curling.
Colin, you researched HR at Rangers Football Club when you were at university. How did that come about?
I was doing a Business and Management ‘sandwich’ degree at the University of Paisley (as it was then called), and the finance director at Rangers FC was a family friend. I just asked him if I could do my dissertation on the club’s youth policy and human resource development. And he said, ‘Yeah, on you go’. So, that was kind of cool.
I went up to the training ground a few times a week, interviewing a whole bunch of the youth players. Some of them went on to play for Scotland or in the English Premier League or lower leagues.
Were you planning a career in human resources at that point?
Yes, and no.
As part of my degree, I did a work placement at Compaq. I was being interviewed for an HR position and the interviewer asked if I’d like an SAP development role instead. I had no idea what SAP was. But I thought, yeah, I quite fancy a career in IT, and that’s literally how it all started.
I worked in SAP at Compaq for 15 months. I was offered to stay on there and work full-time, but I turned it down because I wanted to finish my degree.
What did you do after university?
I had a graduate job for a little while and then had an opportunity to work at Woodward Food Service as a business analyst on an SAP project, which meant I had to move down to Chester. I loved the experience and enjoyed living in Chester.
When was your first experience of IFS software?
In 2007 I had the chance to come back to Scotland and work for First Milk in Paisley, again as a business analyst. They were going through an ERP vendor selection process. So, when I had my interview, they said they were looking at two products: SAP, and this other product I’d never heard of called IFS.
I’d set my sights on being an SAP consultant. But not long after I joined First Milk, we went down to Birmingham for a vendor selection process.
A company came in and demonstrated SAP, and then we were given an IFS demo. And I must admit, I was really impressed with IFS and really disappointed in the SAP demo.
However, when we gave our feedback, I did say at the time that although the IFS demo was vastly superior, I thought SAP might be the better product, given where I thought the product was going.
Obviously, First Milk went with IFS, and I’ve never looked back.
What did you think about IFS back then?
I love the IFS product, and I genuinely still do. The big attraction for me has always been its ease of use, ease of navigation, ease of getting into underlying data, and being able to update it quickly and get data out of the system.
I thought, this is a good product; I don’t have to sell it. I can just say what I’m honestly thinking.
Why did you decide to join IFS UK?
Ever since I’d first seen the product, I’d wanted to work for IFS. I felt it was a natural stepping-stone to being a contractor. You can get the experience of working for the vendor and be better placed when you go freelance.
I worked at IFS UK for about four years, from 2017 to 2021. I started as a consultant and went on to become a senior HR consultant.
What did you learn at IFS?
I learned more about the HR module and about the new versions of IFS. I also learned about being a consultant, like how to behave and react in certain situations.
Everyone was very supportive at IFS, especially in the consulting side of the business. I could reach out now to almost anyone I worked with.
What inspired you to become an independent IFS consultant?
I was keen to progress my hobby as a curling coach alongside my IT career. And when I explained what I wanted to do, IFS were superb. They didn’t want me to leave, which was obviously nice, and they started looking at lots of different options.
But we all decided it was best for me to go freelance to give me a better balance timewise, and obviously financially, for IFS contracting and curling coaching.
I’ve been contracting for more than 18 months, since October 2021.
How did you get into curling?
It was through the Scouts and my dad. He got roped into curling, and then I gave it a go. It’s a team sport, played on ice, where two teams take it in turns to slide stones towards a target.
I got quite good, quite quickly. I’m naturally very competitive. I have to try to win, although it doesn’t always work out that way.
I was quite a late bloomer when I started playing; about 15 or 16 years old. I represented Scotland in Canada and Sweden, and I played at the European Curling Championships. I also played for Wales, and the only game I wouldn’t play for them was against Scotland.
But I only played at a high level for a couple of years before getting injured. After that, I coached my sister for a little while and discovered I enjoyed coaching.
Who do you coach now?
I’ve been coaching Scotland’s Team Henderson, a junior women’s team that includes Fay Henderson, Robyn Munro, Holly Wilkie-Milne and Laura Watt. The highlight was the team winning the Women’s World Junior Curling Championship in March this year.
You went to Sochi for the Winter Olympics in 2014. What was that like?
I went out there as a volunteer, doing statistics for the curling. I wanted to experience an Olympics and I’d never been to Russia before. It was interesting and, overall, a really positive experience.
It was bizarre arriving in Sochi, though. I thought we were in the most secure area on the entire planet because there were so many military personnel and armoured vehicles.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of IFS contracting?
The two main benefits are the flexibility and the money you can earn.
But it’s not an easy job. There can be a lot of pressure because customers, understandably, want the most out of the product. And it’s good for you as a consultant because you’ve got to think on your feet and about things you maybe haven’t thought about before.
I love the problem solving, because no two projects, customers or days are the same.
What are the other challenges?
I’ve been lucky so far because I’ve not really had a quiet period, but it could be stressful if you’re looking for work.
I was quite lucky because I’d worked for IFS, which looks good on my CV, and I was fairly well known. Some people who start contracting might find they need to establish themselves.
Also, you don’t get paid holidays etc. and you have all your own admin to do, like invoicing, cash flow, tax returns, expenses. But I personally don’t find the admin too onerous. I’ve got quite a good little system.
Do you specialise in the IFS human resources module?
Yes. The HR module has been rebranded Human Capital Management (HCM). It covers several areas. It gives you your organisation’s structure, such as where all your teams and departments are, and who reports to who.
HCM will feed into things like creating and booking annual leave. And if you’ve got employees who work shifts, they’ll get their basic hours, their overtime and the different rates of overtime. It also covers staff development like annual appraisals and training plans. Other areas include expenses and recruitment.
And although I specialise in human resources, I’ve been involved in several areas over the years, which has given me a broader understanding of how IFS works.
What’s the most interesting contract you’ve worked on?
My contract at a whisky company was interesting because it was a global project. There was the complication of different languages, as well as country, legal and company-specific requirements. I was lead HR consultant on the project but was well supported by another HR consultant at times and we worked very well together.
I’m now at a Belfast-based shipbuilder, which is both exciting and challenging as there’s a strong support structure and a real appetite to use IFS more extensively within the business.
What is it like contracting through Gtech?
I’ve known Gtech’s MD, Holly, for a long time, and the contracting process has been seamless. We’ve had lots of good conversations; everything is open and transparent. And if there’s been the odd little thing with the admin, we’ve corrected it quite quickly.
So, a positive experience. Everyone’s been helpful, and we just keep moving things forward and looking after the customers.
I like how Gtech are proactive. It’s important to have honest conversations about customers’ expectations about delivery, timings, etc.
I’ve also been working with a handful of other partners since going freelance.
Do you work remotely most of the time?
Yes, but it will vary from project to project. For a while I was travelling to Belfast, and I’ve been onsite for other projects. But at the moment, I’m mostly working from home.
I live in Paisley and have a really nice view of Ben Lomond. I’m near Glasgow Airport, the motorway and the station, so I can get around the UK or into Europe easily.
What tips do you have for anyone thinking about IFS contracting?
It sounds obvious, but make sure you actually have good knowledge of the IFS product, because your reputation is everything. If you were to go out there as a contractor and try to bluff your way through it, you will get found out. I’d never have contemplated contracting without knowing I had a pretty good grounding in the product, its functionality and what it can offer.
It’s also important to be open and honest if you want to have good relationships with the customers. And don’t be afraid to challenge the norm and challenge ways of working, even though the client might not always like it. You’re being paid not just for your knowledge of the product, but also your experience of working with other customers. However, there’s rarely a black and white answer because every client is different.
You should be prepared to accept there are potentially going to be periods when you’re not working. That’s part of the risk/reward of being independent. You’ll get paid fairly well when you’re working, but when you’re not working, you can’t earn a living. So, make sure you’ve always got a bit of a nest egg and don’t take on too much risk.
What do you think of IFS Cloud?
You can see how user-friendly it is. And for me, it’s exciting about HR, because human resources was traditionally always the part customers got as an afterthought.
But now HR, or rather HCM, is becoming more prominent in the application.
IFS are spending time, money and effort on developing the product. They’re trying to continually add new features, and they’re keen to get feedback.
So, what’s next for you?
Buying a house is on my list of things to do. I own a flat, but I want a house with a garden. And I’m gradually getting back to working full-time, which I’ve already started doing.
And, as well as curling, what are your other hobbies?
I enjoy golf, pool, travelling and poker. I also do a lot of walking, along with spending time with friends and family.
And I recently completed a Tough Mudder. We signed up for the full distance – the 15K – because you only live once, after all!