Cloud applications have evolved beyond those narrowly focused on a specific line of business. You can now run enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that that support complex, end-to-end processes for multiple areas such as finance, supply chain, and manufacturing. This shift is resulting in many CIOs being called on to answer one critical question: What is our cloud strategy?
Do you have a quick answer and a clear strategy that you can articulate? Here are some ideas to help you as you structure and formulate your software deployment plans.
100% cloud won’t work for everyone
If you listen to some vendors, it seems that the cloud is the answer to everything, and it is an answer they often give before fully understanding your operations. They cite the advantages of deploying solutions quickly, receiving automatic updates, and scaling up or down according to your changing business needs, all while saving costs.
These vendors are not wrong. Cloud-based solutions can deliver all these things. However, the reality of your operations may not be that straightforward. You may want to have more control over updates. Or you might need customizations, features, or industry support that aren’t yet available in a public cloud ERP. Or you could have regulatory requirements. For example, defense companies may be obligated to keep critical solutions on premises. A government organization in Europe may not allow its data to be stored in the United States.
A two-tier approach can be a better option
There may also be some situations where a mixture of cloud and on-premises technology is appropriate to meet complex business requirements. For example, a company may choose to get a newly acquired subsidiary up and running quickly by deploying a cloud-based ERP solution, while continuing to use an on-premises solution to manage core operational processes at company headquarters.
This two-tier, or hybrid, approach may also help specific areas of the business such as HR to function more productively. For example, a company may take advantage of a specialist cloud application to enable warehouse workers to log their hours efficiently while keeping its warehouse management processes on premises.
Keep your options open
Even if a two-tier approach isn’t right for your company today, it may be in just a few years’ time. After all, it’s hard to predict what the future will bring in dynamic business markets. You may pursue new opportunities or gain a new client, necessitating a change in your current setup.
It’s important to keep your options open to stay flexible and respond to new challenges successfully. The ability to adapt your strategy to meet changing requirements is crucial. However, some vendors don’t make it easy for companies to combine or switch approaches.
Consistency is key
Some ERP vendors don’t have private cloud or on-premises options. For those that have all the deployment choices, they have entirely different solutions for cloud and on premises. It’s not only the look and feel that differ. All too often, there is no straightforward integration between solutions either. This necessitates costly and time-consuming data work to get different solutions to talk to each other.
To ensure that you don’t slow down your operations due to poor integration, you therefore need to be sure to select ERP software that works consistently from on premises through private cloud to public cloud to on-premises deployments. Solutions that provide this consistency – based on the same code line, data model, and user interface – unify the way people work across the enterprise, improving productivity and efficiency.
For example, employees need to be able to follow exactly the same steps to close an invoice, whether they are using a cloud-based solution at a subsidiary company or an on-premises solution at headquarters. And financial figures can be easily consolidated into management reports across an enterprise without the painstaking process of matching up data, column by column.
Stay agile to face the challenges ahead
Choice and consistency in your software deployment strategy are essential if you are to achieve true business agility. By giving yourself room to maneuver and choosing software that enables you to change your deployment approach when you need to, without replacing your entire ERP solution, you are in a stronger position to face new challenges effectively and maintain a competitive edge.
To learn more about achieving consistency across your cloud-based and on-premises ERP solutions, read our white paper, “SAP S/4HANA: From Two-tier ERP to the N-tier Enterprise.”