There is no question that “The Cloud” will be the future deployment method of choice for enterprise applications, including ERP. It is already available today for those willing to take to The Cloud, which some early adopters have started doing. The real question is when will the majority of companies deploy their ERP to The Cloud?
The first obstacle to migration is the confusion among many over what The Cloud actually is. Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, asks “What the hell is Cloud Computing” in an infamous YouTube video rant that has gone viral. A quick review of The Cloud on Google reveals many differing definitions for Cloud Computing. I guess you could say the definition of The Cloud to many, is, uh, still a bit cloudy!
Basically Cloud Computing allows users to have ubiquitous on-demand network access to software applications over the web where the actual software and data reside “somewhere out there”, in “The Cloud”. In layman’s terms, logon to an application using your web browser and don’t worry about where the stuff is. Most of America now uses Facebook. Facebook is an example of a Cloud-based application. The Facebook software and all of the Facebook data (e.g. your photos you uploaded from your digital camera, iPhone, or computer) reside “somewhere out there” in The Cloud. You don’t need to worry about data storage, or what version of Facebook you are running, or what underlying software and database is needed to support it, or what the operating system is, or what kind of horsepower the server has. That’s all someone else’s problem. You just log in from a browser. That is the beauty of The Cloud! No IT department to support it, just register and start using it.
The Cloud has already become a popular trend in software deployment for some applications. Certainly CRM has moved there (see salesforce.com), along with Google’s Gmail, consumer-based applications, and social media. One of the next big frontiers in The Cloud is Cloud-Based ERP.
So what about Cloud-based ERP?
Modern ERP systems are actually made for The Cloud. Personalization features, custom configuration options, customizable screens, personal menus, customizable portals, better ad-hoc reporting and Business Intelligence, flexible end-user data import and export capabilities, and built-in workflow and tools all reduce the need for custom programming, typically done on a traditional on-premise ERP application. Most modern ERP systems are also web-based, running from zero footprint client browsers. Couple this with Security and Internet bandwidth improvements, world-wide connectivity and availability, and the stage has been set. Cloud-based ERP systems are not somewhere in the future. They are here today.
Visibility’s solution can be deployed either in The Cloud or locally across an intranet as a traditional on-premise ERP. More and more of our prospects are asking about The Cloud, and some early adopters have already moved there with our application. But most still remain on-premise. My expectation is that acceptance to Cloud-based ERP will accelerate as The Cloud itself becomes more prevalent as an enterprise application deployment option. This represents a major platform shift and change to how manufacturers and IT folks approach enterprise application selection and deployment.
The movement to The Cloud for ERP will likely be a gradual one. And it may even be done in phases for larger organizations. We’ve had prospects ask if they could move to The Cloud down the road, or if they could start their implementation in The Cloud and then take it back in house. For us, providing flexibility is the key here. The Cloud decision need not be permanent either way. Would your organization consider Cloud-based ERP today? What are the concerns, and what will keep you away from The Cloud?
In the future, ERP will be in the Clouds. That is clear. The only question now seems to be the rate of migration.