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Cloud ERP: The rising alternative to hosting your own

Esther Shein | Sept. 7, 2017
CIOs faced with brittle on-premises ERP systems and the desire to free up valuable IT resources are increasingly looking to the cloud as a reliable, scalable solution for their ERP needs.

Migrating meant offloading the responsibility of upgrades, maintaining infrastructure, uptime and network security. “I don’t have to offer that high-level of babysitting that these systems require,’’ he says. “We have a small staff and … keeping up with all the changes in terms of data security is becoming harder and harder.”

That sentiment is echoed by Rodney Nobles, chief information officer and chief security officer at Waukesha County Technical College, who has migrated the school’s Banner ERP system. “We no longer have to worry about our staff keeping the college’s most critical systems up and running, backups, problems or downtime.’’ While Nobles still worries about outages, it’s in “a different way. Now I have a wealth of talent at my fingertips who possess a wide range of knowledge that I do not have to keep inhouse, nor do I have the financial resources to hire.”

Wellesley College’s HR, payroll and benefits systems went live in Workday on Jan. 1, 2017, and the finance system went live on July 1. The third stage, the student module, will be migrated soon.

Between six and eight IT staff and a consultant have been involved in this “very big, once in a lifetime undertaking,” he says. So far there is “high satisfaction among faculty, staff and students.”

There haven’t been any issues with the migration; in fact, Ravishanker says users have been “pleasantly surprised by what they could do now,” such as submitting expense reports from a mobile device.


How to know whether cloud ERP is right for you

For those contemplating whether to move keep their ERP systems on-premises or move them to the cloud, the IT leaders all suggest figuring out what you’re looking to accomplish, understand your processes and listen to users.

Goals vary from organization to organization, “and far more important than technology is the notion of change management ... because no matter what you do, not everyone in the institution is going to be happy,’’ says Ravishanker. “So you have to really understand your culture and work with the people who are excited about the migration, but don’t forget about people who are worried and anxious.”

CIOs need to do their homework and take the time to really understand what the vendors offer, adds Doria. “Many of the large providers that have been strong players in the enterprise space are still not fully mature in their cloud service offers,’’ he says. “Often, there is not full-feature parity between their legacy enterprise solutions and the new implementations in the public cloud.”

Many of the capabilities promoted by sales teams are still wish-list items, he says, and some platforms may have geographic limitations, so what is available in North America might not be in Europe.


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