Your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is the engine room of your business, supporting everything from purchasing through to the supply chain. It’s a business-critical system and with its high status comes anxiety around the best deployment option for a new ERP platform. With a kaleidoscope of cloud options on offer, it’s hard to know which, if any, will best suit your business’ needs.
Earlier this year Deloitte research showed 56 per cent of mid-market companies are already using some form of cloud-based services. Despite the increasing understanding and uptake of cloud by mid-market businesses, the benefits and opportunities need to be weighed up for your business. The choice isn’t as simple as ‘cloud or no cloud’ – there is a kaleidoscope of options available and the best deployment decision will be closely aligned with your business goals.
Here we explore the top five considerations when evaluating which deployment option is right for your ERP system:
1. Having the freedom to customise
Just as you want to be able to customise and configure your ERP system on-premise, the same level of personalisation should be available to you as a cloud-hosted or SaaS option. You want your business systems to work the way you do – not change the way your entire organisation works to fit with your software.
The level of customisation between providers will vary so it is worth understanding not only what is possible but the impact when it comes to software upgrades and maintaining the customisations going forward. For example, working with UK communications service provider Comvergent Group, we’ve been able to create a personalised dashboard for individual users which is hosted in the cloud to handle complex and real time data (rather than employees updating siloed spreadsheets on individual computers).
2. Being in control of your data
Being in control of your own data is a key requirement for many mid-market businesses. There will always be costs involved in transferring the sizable database that supports an entire business to another platform but it should be made as simple and painless as it can be. Understanding this up-front is important. Your business circumstances are constantly changing so you don’t want to be locked into a provider simply because the cost to extract your data makes moving prohibitive.
3. Receiving the right levels of support
A good first step is to be aware of the level of support provided for both the cloud platform and the software that you’re using. Increasingly support requests are triggered by wider business issues relating to process management, staff training or the hardware devices involved. If you don’t have the business knowledge and technical capability internally to troubleshoot these kinds of issues, then you need to ensure you have a support team on hand to assist you.
4. Service levels
Following on from support, check that your cloud vendor has the appropriate infrastructure to offer the level of required response. This factor was particularly important for our customer Future Directions, a care provider for learning, physical and mental disabilities who we supported through the process of migrating away from the NHS. This was a complex task, particularly for managing and holding sensitive patient data across multiple locations.
The amount of data that a whole-of-business system generates is extensive and it’s important to check that your cloud provider can handle the volume of transactions and keep pace with the drumbeat of your business. As your company grows, this will become even more important as most FDs will want to avoid starting from scratch if the cloud provider’s functionality is too basic.
5. Back-up and recovery
Finally, should the worst happen, how well are you protected? It is pretty much a given that your system will be fully backed up as part of your cloud or SaaS package (you still should check what is in place and how this is charged).
But there are variables around the point-in-time that the data can be restored back to, right through to automatically ‘hot switching’ to a back-up system so no data is missed. What is acceptable will depend on your business model and appetite for risk – be sure you fully understand the recovery terms.
Weighing it all up
To hone in on the best deployment route for you, carefully consider your company’s size and growth, governance requirements, security needs, SLAs and tenancy options. Weigh up which deployment method best suits your business, from a technical and operational perspective and then evaluate the ROI and TCO of that option across a number of providers.
If cloud hosting is right for you, then you shouldn’t have to compromise. Putting your ERP system in the cloud should deliver the same level of customisation, support, performance and business confidence as any other option. Choosing the right implementation partner will help you bring clarity to the kaleidoscope of deployment options that best reflect your businesses setting you up for sustained success.
By Harry Mowat, UK managing director, Greentree