If you sometimes worry about the pace of change in IT and the corresponding need to keep up with technological innovations, then you’re probably not on your own. Innovators invent completely new ways of doing business and you need to do your best to keep abreast of developments, particularly when it comes to the way you use IT.
If you’re a young entrepreneur then you will have been brought up in the world of computers, smartphones, tablets and apps. They are a natural part of both business and recreational activities.
If you have a problem getting your head around new ways of accessing information, such as cloud computing, it’s not very difficult to start to drill down to what is going to work for you and your business.
The irresistible rise of cloud computing
It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted to set up an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for your business to integrate and streamline all your departmental functions, you’d have had to lay out a considerable amount of capital. ERP is a business software system that allows you and your key managers and other employees to input, interpret and manage data from a central database.
Usually operating in real time, it allows instant snapshots of where manufacturing and production are, linking accounts with purchase invoices and receipts, and making business operations far more efficient and effective.
In the past you required significant amounts of hardware, such as desktop computers and servers, not to mention software upgrades that had to be implemented by an IT department: all that infrastructure didn’t come cheap.
This is where cloud technology has started to make significant inroads into the provision of ERP.
Firstly, you don’t need a large hardware infrastructure with all the capital costs associated with that. What you do is buy into an ERP system provided by a company that supplies software as a service (SaaS). You and your employees can then access the software via the cloud from anywhere and, for the most part, with any device. You don’t have to be stuck in the office; your sales team can keep right up to date with the business operations from anywhere in the world.
Cloud computing is fast, flexible and agile, helping to reduce business complexity without impinging on efficient operations.
Take a company such as Timken, global manufacturers and suppliers of steel and bearings. Their traditional ERP took five years to implement across their whole worldwide organisation, but it took just 18 months to implement a cloud-based solution that was deployed to more than 20,000 people. The speed of implementation meant that the business realised immense value far more quickly than it would otherwise have done.
The cloud is the future
Sometimes you need to run with new developments to benefit your business. For many there seems little doubt that the cloud holds the future of ERP and many other key software solutions, freeing businesses to generate value through their IT departments rather than just their previous costly role of configuring, maintaining and upgrading premises-based systems.