What Is Cloud ERP?
The term enterprise resource planning (ERP) was introduced in the 1990s to describe software that helps to manage and automate end-to-end business processes across a company – from financials to sales and manufacturing. In those early days, ERP systems were implemented on premise: on the clients’ own servers, in their own data centers. However, in the 2000s, cloud ERP was introduced – and it changed everything.
What is cloud ERP software?
Cloud ERP is enterprise resource planning software that is accessible over the Internet. As the IT backbone or “brains” of a company, cloud ERP software provides advanced functionality for all the core processes in an organization.
Hosted on a provider’s cloud computing platform, cloud ERP is typically delivered “as a service” (software-as-a-service or SaaS ERP). Customers don’t own the software, but instead lease it on an annual or monthly subscription basis. There are no upfront hardware costs – and the vendor takes care of application maintenance, upgrades and innovations, data storage, and security.
Cloud ERP vs. on-premise ERP
Cloud ERP, or SaaS ERP, is hosted on your provider’s cloud platform and managed by their IT team. On-premise ERP, on the other hand, is installed on your own hardware and servers and managed by your IT team or a partner.
Why choose a cloud-based ERP system?
Cloud ERP and its advanced features and flexibility make it an essential ingredient for success in the digital age. Historically, ERP systems have delivered tremendous value to organizations, helping them boost productivity and gain insights. But with digitalization the entire world – and the competition – has changed. On-premise ERP systems simply can’t keep up. They are difficult to adapt to permanent change. Designed for a simpler landscape, most legacy ERP systems fail to deliver the speed, flexibility, and insight that companies need to operate in new, more agile ways.
Today, customers expect faster delivery of products and services, nonstop product and service improvements, greater reliability, and lower costs. Businesses often need to look beyond their walls to ensure the best value for customers. They work virtually with a wide array of partners – for production, product distribution, sales management, service, support, and even core business processes. As a result, they need software that not only helps them handle increasingly complex internal processes, but also helps them manage business networks all over the world. This is impossible without cloud ERP.
What are the top 10 benefits of cloud ERP?
Cloud-based enterprise resource planning systems typically include integrated modules for financial management, manufacturing, supply chain management, professional services, and more. They offer a wide range of business benefits.
Here are the top 10:
- Continuous business innovation: Many businesses move to cloud ERP software to improve operations, change outdated business models and processes, and introduce new capabilities that support business best practices. Cloud ERP improves and speeds up not only finance and accounting practices, but business operations across the company – and can even extend beyond to business partners and networks.
- Lower costs: With a subscription service, there’s no upfront purchase cost for hardware or ERP software. Ongoing IT and related staff costs are also lower as upgrade and maintenance expenses are handled by the provider. Cost savings can be significant – particularly with a public cloud ERP deployment.
- Fast, flexible implementation: Ramp-up for a cloud ERP system is much quicker, as your SaaS supplier handles hardware and software installations and provides dedicated staff with data center management expertise. Like consumer mobile apps, cloud ERP business applications can be configured easily. The intuitive user interface makes learning to use the app fast and easy – speeding time to productivity and allowing businesses to seize opportunity.
- Simplicity and automation: With a modern cloud ERP, companies can consolidate standalone legacy applications, standardize and integrate all existing and new applications, and eliminate the use of disconnected systems. They can also simplify workflows, intelligently automate processes, and gain new efficiencies across the business.
- New functionality: Cloud ERP vendors deliver new functionality and application improvements to all companies that use their software through continuous upgrades, as well as several new larger releases per year. Since updates are delivered to everyone at once, you never miss an opportunity while waiting for a vendor to update your custom ERP system. Also, if customers identify similar requirements, they can push the ERP vendor for changes. As a result, the overall pace of innovation is more responsive – and a lot faster.
- Better insights: Modern cloud ERP systems have been architected to unlock Big Data so you can access information hidden within large and complex data sets. And while legacy ERP systems provide reporting tools, they do not offer the integrated, real-time analytics available through the cloud – and these are the key to better decision-making. The ability to see trends, predict changes, and automate processes improves resource usage and vastly enhances customer service.
- Support for mobile ERP: Businesses must now provide information access to employees, subcontractors, vendors, and customers – anywhere, at any time. This requires secure mobile device support. Mobile capabilities are built into SaaS ERP products rather than added on as an afterthought. Modern user interfaces (UI) with a responsive design to fit mobile screens are key for users.
- Access to new technologies: Intelligent technologies are being built into modern SaaS ERP solutions to improve productivity. These technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT), which allows devices such as machines or sensors to feed data back to applications through the cloud for up-to-date status information.
- Deeper security: With ERP cloud systems, security, data backups, and disaster recovery are handled by full-time, professional security experts. Cloud vendors typically have the best data security available; security breaches in large and midsize companies occur primarily with on-premise systems. Because cloud ERP systems are more complete, connected, and collaborative, they avoid vulnerability at points of integration and reduce risks associated with a multi-vendor landscape.
- Scalability: As growth can be hard to forecast, scalability is important. With a SaaS ERP solution, you can simply add additional computing power or data storage capacity if you experience rapid growth, rather than incurring a large capital expense.
The importance of cloud ERP for midmarket companies
ERP is central to every area of a midsize business. A good cloud ERP system will intelligently automate processes, provide insights using AI and machine learning, help companies innovate business models, and so much more.
In addition to these benefits, there are three main reasons why so many midsize companies are turning to cloud-based ERP:
- Improved agility: Agility is particularly important to midsize companies with growth potential. These companies are often specialists in their industries, working in verticals such as professional services. They have deep customer relationships. To grow rapidly, they need to seize opportunities – adding new locations, introducing new products and services, making acquisitions, or responding to competitor failures.
An old system that is not flexible and easily expandable will constrain growth because it can’t provide information needed for decisions quickly enough. If a company relies on independent reporting systems – many of which use workarounds and Excel spreadsheets to overcome lack of integration – it’s difficult for departments to share information and work together to meet common, time-sensitive goals.
- Visibility into cash flow: In midsize companies, top management tends to be very cost conscious. The lifeblood of medium businesses is cash flow – and improving profit margin is often a top priority. Building balance sheet reserves – and fueling growth – requires a careful eye on working capital, operating expenses, and investments. And none of this can be done in a silo. Cloud ERP integrates accounting processes with business operations, both internal and external – so absolutely everything can be accounted for with accuracy.
While all midsize companies have some type of accounting system, many of these systems fail to deliver immediate cash flow and vital profitability information. They often don’t meet the current needs of the business or integrate with other systems.
- Ease of application integration: Midsize businesses have typically been quick to adopt point solutions for specific operational needs – such as call center software or field service systems – but slow to change their backbone ERP. However, adding these “bolt-on” solutions has added great expense and complexity because these tools don’t easily connect to the ERP system. Now, modern cloud ERP is changing all of that – causing more and more growing companies to reevaluate their ERP choice. Increasingly, companies are opting for the easy integration, scalability, and agility that comes with cloud ERP.
Is SaaS ERP secure?
With all the news about data breaches and viruses, it is valid to ask if cloud ERP is secure. No system is impossible to break into; however, the degree of security that your system has depends on how it was deployed and who manages it.
Here are some key points to consider:
- Data theft: This is one of the hottest topics in the news where large companies have had their data files stolen and their customers’ private information compromised. Digging into the details of the data breaches, however, it’s more common to find that the data was stored on the company’s premises, not in the cloud.
- Data loss: Losing whole files is a terrible thing, but it can happen with natural disasters, when data is inadvertently erased, or when a system crashes. The only thing that can restore your data is having it backed up regularly and often. With cloud ERP, the infrastructure providers have off-site backups done regularly and redundantly. When you have a loss of data, it can be easily restored to get the system back up and running quickly.
- Security: Having the right level of security is of utmost importance. Midsize businesses typically have a limited IT staff and that staff typically takes care of the infrastructure, system updates, and user issues. Very few midsize businesses have a full-time IT security staff. With a reputable cloud ERP provider, midsize companies automatically have full-time professional security experts on call 24×7 to make sure all security updates and procedures are maintained.
Given the above, cloud ERP presents a more secure option than on-premise deployment for midsize businesses.
Get started with a cloud-based ERP system
Cloud ERP is a proven, mature solution being used today by thousands of companies around the world (probably by many of your competitors).
Businesses that choose cloud ERP can fast track their transformation efforts by having immediate, ongoing access to the tools that can drive change and the flexibility and power to leverage them as opportunities arise.
For growing companies, the transition to cloud is an inevitable step in taking their businesses to the next level. The rewards of faster processes, better information, and rapid ROI can be verified by analyst reports (from Gartner, Aberdeen, Forrester, and others) and through customer success stories in industries like yours.