By Johani Marais, Channel Manager Africa, Epicor Software Corporation.
According to the IDC, CIOs in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region acknowledge the benefits of cloud infrastructure and nearly 47% of CIOs in Africa are already engaged in cloud strategy of some kind. Part of this trend of moving towards cloud computing is the adoption of SaaS- (software as a service) based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, says Johani Marais, Channel Manager Africa, Epicor Software Corporation.
In the past, organisations were hesitant to keep critical data in the cloud mainly because of the sheer value of the data, which seemed so much safer kept on-site rather than in an intangible space outside of the perceived realm of control. This is why systems such CRM, HCM and sales force automation were often cloud-based, whereas manufacturing process management data was kept out of the cloud. Now, SaaS deployments are becoming more widely used than traditional hosting options, even in larger organisations that are becoming far more likely to make use of SaaS. This can be attributed to a shift in mindset caused by advances in technology and a better understanding of how cloud-based ERP works.
The operational efficiencies it brings with it, and the way it enables the automation of business processes and improves profitability, means SaaS-based ERP is an essential tool for business success. Being able to operate across a variety of geographical locations, standardise processes and not only having access to critical data, but being able to tailor data availability to a stakeholder's role, are some of the biggest advantages offered by leading SaaS-based ERP providers. Having remote access means work can be done from any location, at any time, provided there is Internet access.
While connectivity and bandwidth remain a concern in some developing nations and those with poor Internet infrastructure, this problem is becoming less of a concern as the Internet becomes more readily available and data storage becomes more affordable.
The cost-saving benefits of SaaS ERP also lie in the lower total cost of ownership and reduction in maintenance of hardware and software that surround traditional hosting methods. SaaS ERP solutions are hosted and managed by the vendor. Maintenance and upgrades are carried out from a central point, which reduces maintenance and management costs. It also means less IT man-hours and less hardware that has to be maintained. This simplifies the IT infrastructure of the organisation, which means lower overheads and fewer headaches.World-class SaaS ERP systems are highly customisable and offer solutions to suit a plethora of industries. This is a common misconception about SaaS ERP. Choosing the right ERP system means your organisation will enjoy vast functionality, customisation abilities and ease of use, which ultimately save time and money.
Advanced SaaS ERP systems come preconfigured based on best practices to further simplify and expedite the implementation process. This translates into faster, less complex implementation projects. Because implementation is rapid and customers invest little upfront capital, but receive the benefits from the system as soon as they go live, customers achieve a faster return on their investments.
Questions around security have dogged the use of cloud infrastructure, but the way that it changes how users are able to access networks and manage their tasks is so profound that security concerns must be considered in the right context. The alternative to a cloud-based system is having an isolated on-premise system, but this is virtually impossible in an age where a varied workforce and the advent of technology like BYOD are becoming a reality for progressive organisations looking to improve efficiencies. By having the right systems and procedures in place, leading providers of SaaS ERP will embrace these new trends and technologies by offering the right provisions to allay any fears.
After having all of the facts in hand, probably the single most important consideration when selecting an SaaS ERP provider is to consider their reputation and longevity. A proven ERP provider with good infrastructure and a trusted network of clients means they invest heavily in development and their products offer all of these benefits and more. This will ensure your move to SaaS ERP is an investment that will help you to build on the success and profitability of your business.
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