In an interview exclusive to IKEAFANS (w00t!), Jesper M., of IKEA’s IT department in Helsingborg, Sweden, discussed the new home planning software currently in development. Unlike the existing desktop-based planning software, the new IKEA Home Planner is an online planning tool based on 20-20’s Virtual Planner which will be Mac-compatible (edited 9/10/09 for clarity. S.M.). 20-20 Technologies and IKEA announced in July 2008 that their 3-D planner had been selected by IKEA to give customers the ability to design their rooms on the web, but details of the product have been hush-hush until now. (See more screenshots after the jump!)
20-20’s Virtual Planner will give IKEA customers the power to create and visualize spaces in a fully interactive 3D setting, putting them in the decorator’s seat,”
said Jean-François Grou, president/COO of 20-20 Technologies. Because the planner will be web-based, the current painfully long 9-10 month development cycle will be a thing of the past. Prices and product information can be updated on the fly to keep current with the catalog and store offerings, and errors can be corrected as they are noted. The new platform also lends itself to greater extensibility, allowing IKEA to expand the available product range allowing for future inclusion of items from other ‘rooms’. Notes Jesper, “There’s always been an intent that it should grow from just a kitchen planner to include all the IKEA range.”
In fact, this change to a new platform has spawned a fundamental change in the way IKEA develops 3D models of its products. Previously, 3D product models were recreated for each and every 3D application or usage. Now, plans are being made to make the creation of 3D models a part of the product development process. This should lead to greater consistency across 3D applications (See IKEA’s Space Maker for an example), a larger inventory of modeled products and a decrease in time to life. But don’t look for changes right away cautions Jesper, “customers will experience the benefits from this within a couple of years.”
IKEA Home Planner History
IKEA’s first planning tools allowed customers to design kitchen and office spaces (see image right: IKEA Home Planner Version 1.1) and later, a PAX planner was available for planning wardrobes. The software was often buggy and difficult to use, leading to frustrations on the part of both customers and co-workers alike. Though much improved over the earliest planning software launched almost 10 years ago, the current planner (see image right: Current IKEA Home Planner, FY10) remains challenging to master and severely limited in its flexibility. It is also not compatible with Macintosh to the fury of Mac lovers everywhere.
According to Jesper, the software wasn’t originally meant as a selling and planning tool, “ it was more a way to show what the possibilities are with the help of computer software.” It has, however, turned into one of the top 20 critical applications for IKEA.
IKEA Planner Purpose
The objective of the planner software for IKEA is to ”make the kitchen sales process more effective and less time consuming in the store”, by allowing for a way to save drawings directly to IKEAs servers. Although with the current technology, it’s
not possibleimpractical (requiring the use of two corollary systems) to convert a planner .fpf file into a sales order, the ultimate intention is to be able to “transfer these drawings into our selling systems, thus saving enormous amounts of work for the sales personnel in every store.” Not to mention making it easier on the customer!
In October, IKEA will begin beta testing in an unnamed Scandinavian country. No date has been set for the rest of the world to get a look, but you can bet we’ll be letting you know as soon as we do! Watch this space for a Q&A with Jesper tomorrow!