Safe Landing: Tips for Deploying ERP in the Cloud - Image by David Reed from PixabayMigrating to Cloud-based core business applications suites may seem daunting but standardization is the key to simplification.

There are many powerful reasons to deploy ERP in the Cloud. These range from reduced hardware dependency and lower administration overhead to business flexibility and ubiquitous access. Despite broad awareness of these benefits, some organizations delay their moves. They fear business disruption, a sense that their business needs unique customizations, inertia, a ‘Not Invented Here’ culture or other factors.

However, moving ERP from an on-premises deployment to online need not be painful. The watchword here is to standardize processes wherever possible. One way to look at the approach to landing safely in the Cloud is ensuring that you perform a series of safety checks before “take-off.”

Having worked with a large number of mid-market organizations as they look to shift to the Cloud, here is a summary of what I have noted as the key flight safety checks.

Status check

The process begins with a Cloud migration assessment. Here, the original software vendor or partner checks for customization elements in the on-prem ERP deployment. They then report back on what needs reviewing to get the customer efficiently to the Cloud.

Red flags here are significant non-standard changes to existing critical business processes and anything non-standard. These will often require workarounds and heightened maintenance requirements if retained. Remember that one of the key advantages of moving to the Cloud is access to best practices and key processes gleaned from the vast experience of collaborating with customers.

Break free of the customization mindset

Challenge your organization to assess whether the customizations in question offered a false sense of uniqueness that does not really hold water. I have often heard the phrase, “That’s how we have always done things.

It is understandable if an organization has done things in a certain way for many years that change will be difficult. However, there is a growing acceptance that although an ERP system should support a business to drive competitive differentiation in its products or services, this will be rarely based on a unique process held within the ERP system. Occasionally, a customization may be merited. That said shifting to standardization, using open APIs and ‘out of the box’ tools helps to reduce maintenance overheads and complexity. It can also simplify the user experience.

Hand in hand

Moving to a Cloud ERP is a two-way process that ideally exists between the customer and a direct representative of the vendor or partner. The latter will typically be a Customer Success Manager (CSM). A CSM will provide the customer with a single point of contact to assist them with their journey. Software companies are not easy to understand from the outside. Too often, issues arise when the customer does not know who they should contact when they have queries, concerns, or a genuine problem. This can cause delays and impact success.

Streamline technical debt

Once an agreement has been reached on how to execute the migration, the decision-making quorum of customers plus CSM then engages in execution and ways to create maximum value. And once again we go back to standardization and the quest to extract customizations as far as possible. There has been a lot of discussion about the impact on business performance and productivity of technical debt, so the move to the Cloud offers an ideal opportunity to reduce that burden.

A simple way of doing this is auditing to observe what processes haven’t been used in an age and then killing them off. Very often, what is at first seen as necessities are emotional attachments. That is, they are tweaks and processes that were created by individuals and teams who then went on to be their custodians who are reluctant to cede control. But usually, these are not needed, and a generic best practice process can take its place to remove integration hassles.

Time to value is key here. If we can take out the cost of custom maintenance and potentially lengthy support turnarounds, then everybody wins.

Education is key

The change process is also all about partnering. The partner should provide business transformation services to identify where to make changes in the organization and here, education is critical. A standardized model with the advantages of the Cloud outlined at the top of this article can lead to profound changes in ease of use, accessibility, utilization and beyond. Therefore, it’s important to outline the business advantages to get people up, down and across the organization to buy into change.

Measure it if you want to improve it

To get everybody on board, you need clear return-on-investment metrics so that they can understand the value of moving to the Cloud. A major factor that has clear KPI metrics is lowering the admin load. If you can reduce the core ERP technical management team to one or two people in the case of a midsized business, that is a sizeable saving. By choosing the right partner on migration and support this is eminently achievable. However, it is crucial to achieve consensus on how you measure success. Without that framework, how do you know what you have achieved?

Ultimately, the world is moving to a Cloud-first ethos. By embracing change and partnering, every organization can benefit from running their core applications online. The Cloud is your IT destination and taking a systemic approach means you can land there safely.


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Unit4’s next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions power many of the world’s mid-market organizations, bringing together the capabilities of Financials, Procurement, Project Management, HR, and FP&A to share real-time information, and deliver greater insights to help organizations become more effective. By combining our mid-market expertise with a relentless focus on people, we’ve built flexible solutions to meet customers’ unique and changing needs. Unit4 serves more than 5,100 customers globally across a number of sectors including professional services, nonprofit and public sector, with customers including Migros Aare, Southampton City Council, Metro Vancouver, Durham Catholic District School Board, Buro Happold, Peab, North Sea Port Netherlands, Save the Children International, Global Green Growth Institute and Oxfam America. For further information visit www.unit4.com.

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Jean-de-Villiers-and-Tim-Eclair-Heath
Jean de Villiers is responsible for Professional Services, Product Support, University4U/Community4U - the knowledge centers for employees, partners and customers - and Customer Success, all of which covers the entire end-to-end customer journey. With a 27-year career spent in technology, management consulting, managed services and professional services, de Villiers joined Unit4 from global enterprise software company, BMC, where he led the Global Professional Services business, covering Consulting, Managed Services and Education. Prior to his 11-year tenure at BMC, de Villers worked for a number of organizations ranging from Value Added Resellers, such as Planwell Technologies, to large Managed Services Providers, such as PinkRoccade - latterly Getronics.

Tim Eclair-Heath, VP of Success Engineering for Unit4 is an experienced Customer Success leader with a passion for developing customer centric products which enable ongoing and expansive customer value. With a background in project, customer success and global operations management across, Retail, Supply Chain, IT Service Management and Financial industries Tim uses this experience to build high performing, cross discipline teams to build the next generation of services offerings to meet the needs of our customers fast paced, continually evolving business strategies.

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