Cloud ERP Digest
What the Heck is an ERP?
Despite what it may sound like, an ERP is not something that you exhale after a large and satisfying meal. In fact, ERP is an acronym that stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. Never say “erp” or people may laugh at you, or at least wonder why you are suddenly speaking in a foreign language.
Welcome to the wonderful world of modern business acronyms! I will be using a few choice ones throughout this piece, so grab a spoon and dig in.
An ERP is an integrated suite of software packages (or modules) designed to work seamlessly together and help you run your business. A well-designed ERP gives businesses the ability to share and analyze data more effectively, reduce overhead, increase productivity, and ultimately maximize Return on Investment (ROI); which, let’s face it, is something every business needs to do. The Cloud part means that services are stored in the service provider’s data centers and are accessible to your business users via the internet. (We’ll get more deeply into The Cloud in a bit.)
An ERP might include, for example, software modules for accounting, HR, procurement, inventory management, e-commerce, order management, fulfillment, CRM – Customer Relationship Management – and FP&A – Financial Planning & Analysis. One of the great things about ERP providers is that you can select different modules from among their offerings to design a (more or less) customized solution. You get to select from the provider’s menu a meal designed to feed your business just what it needs to stay agile and fit. This approach keeps costs down while still satisfying business needs.
Speaking of agile, mobile access to your Cloud ERP via laptop, tablet, and smartphone applications enables your team to work anywhere, to be more productive, and to provide today’s tech savvy users with the type of access and flexibility they have come to expect.
Some of the most prominent ERP companies in the market are names you may already know: Netsuite & Oracle (who merged in 2016), Microsoft Dynamics, and SAP. (SAP apparently stands for Systems, Applications and Products, but nobody really cares. All you need to know is that SAP is a very large company that has been around a long time and, Oracle, offers an astounding array of products.) A few up-and-coming Cloud ERP companies include Acumatica, Sage X3, Deskera, and Odoo. If you are considering moving your resource planning to the Cloud, I encourage you to sample as many offerings as you can comfortably stomach.
A Word About Salesforce
Keep in mind that although Salesforce is a popular and well-known CRM, it is not designed to function as an ERP. However, if your business is a Salesforce shop seeking an integrated ERP solution, Kenandy is a Cloud ERP provider built on the Salesforce platform and may be just the thing to smooth the ruffled feathers of your Salesforce-enamored team.
To gain a deeper understanding of Cloud ERP, let’s take step back and peek inside the internet’s kitchen.
The Cloud - What Is It Really?
Long, long ago, in a the ancient depths of computing history – think 1980’s – if a business was advanced enough to have a computer network, it was most likely created using a behemoth machine known as a mainframe along with a bunch of monitor and keyboard duos called terminals, often referred to as dumb terminals because really, all they did was access data that was stored on the mainframe. There was no Graphical User Interface (GUI), no mouse, and no ability to point and click. Users actually had to follow command keystrokes (oh the horror!) to accomplish tasks.
Once the PC revolution gained some steam, servers replaced the mainframes and users increasingly had more computing power, programs, and features available to them on megabyte hard drives or on floppy disks. Not long after, some smart, creative people on university campuses created networks that eventually became the World Wide Web and the Information Age was born.
Why the history lesson? Because cloud computing is, in a way, a re-creation of the old mainframe/terminal network, only the terminals—our PCs—are no longer quite so dumb. How about that? Everything old is new again! In the Cloud, data lives in a data warehouse, which can be located in a single location or spread out globally across many data centers. Data centers are able to maximize and share resources among a multitude of companies, thereby creating economies of scale. Technically this is known as a Public Cloud, although most folks will just call it The Cloud.
A Private Cloud, which some large companies, governments, and institutions use, is essentially the same thing. It is just that those organizations know exactly where their data is stored and they have direct control over it, much like the mainframes of yore.
A Toast to Your Computing Health
Today, instead of having to maintain your personal servers on-premise, and consequently spend sleepless nights fretting over how to mitigate the risks and potential downtime caused by natural disasters, failing hardware, and outdated backup solutions—or data loss and security breaches due to disgruntled or incompetent personnel—or worse, evil hackers boring a hole through your flimsy firewalls and stealing valuable data and infecting your network with the latest virus, now you can choose to simply outsource all those headaches to a trusted Cloud service provider and get a decent night’s rest!
One of the great things about these Cloud companies is that they can provide the resources and expertise many that businesses require without the upfront expense of hardware & software, and the personnel needed to maintain and improve an on-premise ERP. Once you make the decision to buy into the cloud computing model, you only need to worry about the annual costs, the cost of future expansions, and the Service Level Agreement (SLA) of the provider in case they screw up. Oh, and of course you need to be willing to give up direct control over your data and your security, and be prepared to make a long-term commitment to your chosen provider because switching to a new ERP can be time-consuming and very costly.
Still, considering the many benefits of a Cloud ERP solution, including lower initial investment costs and the ability to scale up quickly, the decision to move to the Cloud has proven to be an excellent choice for businesses both small and large.
Thank you for joining me at this Cloud ERP potluck. I hope that it has whet your appetite for more.