[Column] Robin Brown: Ten cloud myths busted

Cloud ERP has come of age, but the uptake is still very slow. Why are enterprises reluctant to make the switch from on-premise to the cloud?

There are many misconceptions about cloud-based ERP that may be holding you back. Let’s bust those myths and sort out fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Cloud ERP is difficult to manage

Like so many myths, the opposite in, in fact, true.

With cloud ERP, all back-end management is handled by the SaaS/PaaS provider.

The off-site technical team handles everything your in-house IT team would have done: hardware, database management, security, back-up/restoration, high availability and disaster recovery.

This leaves the IT department free to concentrate on running the business infrastructure.

Myth 2: SAP is not user-friendly

In recent years, SAP has focused on the front end, and the new generation of cloud ERP products, like Business ByDesign, is UX-friendly and sports user interfaces that are modern and intuitive, made-for-mobile and ergonomic.

SAP’s commitment to improving the user experience is evidenced by the recent acquisition of Qualtrics, a global leader in experience management (XM) software.

Simplicity with power is the key design philosophy: these systems are made to serve humans, not the other way round.

Myth 3: Cloud ERP is expensive

Multi-tenant cloud-based ERP is significantly more cost-effective than on-premise deployment because a number of customers share the hardware and software installation and maintenance/upgrade costs. With SaaS, a subscription model avoids significant upfront capital investment in the form of hardware and software acquisition costs.

Even single-tenant cloud-based ERP systems are more cost-effective than on-premise deployments because the SaaS provider is able to leverage economies of scale by having large data centers servicing multiple businesses.

Myth 4: The cloud is not secure

‘In the cloud’ means living on the internet, right?

Well, not quite. The internet is used to deliver the information, but the software and data live in highly-secured data centers that have 24/7/365 protection, provided by expert security teams, with strict policies, regular audits and penetration testing for regulatory compliance.

Most data breaches come form inside the organisation, so a proper cloud-based system is, in fact, more secure. SAP’s data centers comply with strict EU GDPR requirements.

Myth 5: Moving from on-premise to the cloud is complex

Implementing a new automation system can be daunting, and yes, it’s complex. There is so much to consider, not least of which is the possibility of business disruption. That’s why it’s important to choose the right software and a service partner with the experience to understand your business and how best to deliver value from the ERP software. At Siris, our heavyweight team sweats the details before plunging into the task of migrating. Numerous mock data loads are performed in a non-production environment, and used as the basis for testing and training. Only once the client is comfortable, will the live data migration and cut-over take place in the production environment.

Myth 6: Cloud automation will replace jobs

Yes and no – but mostly no. Automation and digitisation are changing the world, and so many mundane jobs are already being done by robots or automated systems. As AI advances, the ability for automated systems to do more of the complex, yet repetitive tasks, increases. Automation allows people to be more efficient and to do more meaningful and interesting work.

Myth 7: There is a risk of downtime

If your server goes down, whether it’s due to malware, power problems or mechanical failure, it could bring your business to a halt. SAP has 45 data centers in 25 locations around the world, with more being built all the time.

These data centers have iron-clad security, redundant power sources, redundant cooling and high-end fire protection systems. In addition, each data center is backed up to a remote location, in case of a major catastrophe (such as an earthquake or act of war).

Myth 8: Software updates may disrupt operations

At SAP, every effort is made to test software updates before they are rolled out, and clients are given advance notification of scheduled updates with details of planned changes. Updates tend to be over weekends so the risk of operational disruption is minimised.

Single-tenant customers also have flexibility to schedule their “upgrade weekend” within a certain timeframe. It’s important to note that true cloud ERP (SaaS) is designed for seamless, regular upgrades. This is achieved by keeping the core solution “vanilla” and performing complex customisation on a separate application development platform (PaaS).

Myth 9: Customisation is limited

Because every business is unique, cloud ERP products like SAP Business ByDesign cater for extensive customisation.

Simpler customisation, such as customer-specific forms and fields, can be performed directly with the ERP system, while more complex customisation can be done with SAP Cloud Platform, which integrates with the cloud ERP system.

With regular updates, cloud ERP solutions are improving all the time, and what used to be considered customisation has in many cases become part of standard configuration.

Myth 10: Limited product suites

SAP Business ByDesign has earned the moniker “suite in a box” because it can provide most of the applications that a business might need, including SCM (logistics), CRM, procurement, project management, finance and HR.

Sectors that successfully employ this robust ERP system include manufacturing, professional services, wholesale and distribution, retail, construction and engineering.

The advantage of a “suite in a box” cloud ERP over a collection of disparate line of business applications is the fact that integration and data quality across core modules is guaranteed by the software vendor.

Moving ERP to the cloud enables fast, anytime, anywhere (mobile) access. It’s cost-effective, easy to maintain, flexible in terms of adding or removing business processes, and agile to scale as the company grows and changes.

Cloud computing and automation are transforming the business world as we know it. Those businesses that fail to move with the times will be left behind, as their competitors improve efficiencies, enable better customer centricity, and become more adaptable to shifting customer needs.

Cloud ERP is a certain competitive advantage for companies who want to become future-fit.

Robin Brown is the Director Siris Cloud Solutions South Africa

The Rise of the African Cloud

Africa is emerging as a lively battlefield for global cloud providers. This week, Microsoft’s Azure Africa cloud services went live, with services offered from data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The launch of Azure came just one day after Huawei announced that its African cloud region was now operational, also from South Africa.

 Last year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced that its first Africa cloud “availability zone” will become operational in the first half of 2020.

Africa has been something of a last frontier for hyperscale cloud providers. While public cloud services have long been available, Africa-based users had to connect to servers in Ireland, the United Kingdom or France to access them, with all the attendant issues around latency or data sovereignty. Relative to global levels, the African public cloud market is still small.

According to “The Rise of the African Cloud”, a new report by Xalam Analytics, less than 1% of estimated global public cloud services revenue was generated in Africa as of 2018. For indicative purposes, revenues from public cloud services are still lower than mobile operators generate on SMS.

Africa is a tricky place for cloud services. Many countries don’t have broadband speeds adequate, and affordable enough to support reliable cloud service usage.

Where cloud services are built upon a reliance on third party providers, provider distrust is deeply ingrained in many African enterprises, having been nurtured by decades of failing underlying infrastructure and promises not kept. Where the public cloud thrives on an open, decentralized Internet, many African governments profess a preference for a more centralized, monitored model – and some are prone to shutting down the Internet altogether.

So what is all the jostling about?

As is typically the case in Africa, shortcomings as above also point to considerable opportunity. Look beyond the obstacles, and the picture emerges of a unique occasion to build the foundations for Africa’s ability to enter the fourth industrial revolution.

While the cloud services sector is in its early stages of development, the impact of cloud services is already far-reaching. African banks are making investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence tools to improve the customer experience and credit risk; new “digital banks” are emerging, that are, at least in part, cloud-based.

They are using the African Cloud.

In Kenya, government-managed Huduma centers are using VMWare’s virtualized infrastructure to enhance public service delivery.

Large retail firms are using compute capabilities and AWS databases to transform how they reach a predominantly mobile and digital customer base. And scores of African cloud-native startups are leveraging the cloud to disrupt entire industry sectors.

 The African cloud may be small, but it is already here, and it is growing fast. For African markets, cloud, virtualization and the broader evolution towards serverless computing are the most disruptive technology developments since the advent of the mobile payment revolution.

The upside is considerable. By Xalam Analytics’ estimates, the African cloud market has been growing at a rate of ~30% a year over the past three years – more than 25 percentage points higher than African average GDP growth and well ahead of low single digit enterprise ICT market growth.

Likewise, Xalam Analytics projects top line revenue from cloud services to double over the 2018-23 period, to nearly $4bn. In particular, revenue from African public cloud services are projected to triple over that same period.

 Few other segments in the African ICT space are as likely to generate an incremental $2bn in top line revenue over the next five years, and at least as much in adjacent enabling ecosystem revenue.

And in true African fashion, market dynamics are not uniform. At the same time AWS and Huawei were announcing cloud services to be offered from South Africa, French cloud services provider OVH was closing its Dakar-based West Africa office, citing low service take-up.

But the broader upside is unmistakable, and the battle for the African cloud is only beginning.

See The Rise of the African Cloud – A Xalam Investor Report, March 2019.

www.xalamanalytics.com

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Canon Central and North Africa unveils innovation to meet market demand for cloud solutions

Canon Central and North Africa has announced the next generation of uniFLOW Online – 2019.1 – enabling partners of all sizes to meet the evolving cloud requirements of their customers.

 Designed to address market demand for cloud-based capture and output solutions, uniFLOW Online 2019.1 offers partners the centralised management features to streamline integration, boost productivity and help businesses gain control of their costs.

With easier setup than ever before and enhanced flexibility, partners have a clear opportunity to improve their offering, stand out from their competitors and reduce the time needed for service calls. 

Gaining accreditation is vastly simplified, with only six hours of e-learning courses to train partners on installation, user set-up and device management.

With demands on time subsequently reduced, more resource can be focused on customer needs.  The Device Setup Utility function, which now fully supports eULM devices, provides a single tool which enables partners to quickly add or update devices simultaneously.

Additionally, an Online Setup button removes the complexity of onboarding, by connecting users directly from the device.

This enables the delivery of industry-leading device management as easily as flipping a switch. With no need for an onsite engineer, small and large enterprises alike benefit from time and resource savings.

Partners directly benefit from an industry-leading cloud solution with minimal technical or financial demands. This is made available through three different packages; basic printing, basic scanning and advanced scanning, with different payment tiers. 

Our most versatile cloud-based print and output management solution yet, uniFLOW Online 2019.1 allows customers to easily browse, print and queue documents stored in cloud services without any investment in servers or IT infrastructure.

Somesh Adukia B2B Sales and Marketing Director, Canon Central and North Africa (CCNA) said,“We’re dedicated to providing partners with robust solutions that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing landscape.With uniFLOW 2019.1, partners can deliver aversatile range of capture and output packages to support customers moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud. Our flexible user subscription-based payment model provides partners with a competitive pricing strategy and a solution which will continue to serve customers as they scale up or down.” 

Partners can drive productivity for their customers, thanks to the enhanced integration between cloud services, uniFLOW Online 2019.1 and Canon’s expanding multifunctional printer (MFP) line-up.

Compatible with a broad range of cloud services including Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, this solution gives them access to familiar tools to facilitate simple print and scanning to the cloud.

This easy to use system is designed to reduce the risk of operational error and mitigate the need for regular onsite support, giving partners more time to focus on serving customer needs.

Partners can also demonstrate the enhanced cost benefits of uniFLOW 2019.1, thanks to the greater end-to-end management of print and document processes.

Optimised for greater visibility, this update enables the delivery of valuable insights about user, department and device costs to their customers. 

Advantages for the buyer also include the regulation of employee access and usage through unique department logins, which allows businesses to better budget MFP expenses and minimise waste.

“uniFLOW 2019.1 allows partners of all sizes to deliver a customisable solution, that meets customers’ evolving needs without extensive financial, technical or maintenance requirements” concluded Sean Hunt.

www.canon-cna.com

Standard Bank South Africa moves business to the cloud with Moody’s Analytics

South Africa’s Standard Bank Group Group has selected the Moody’s Analytics CreditLens™ solution to digitize and automate its credit processes.

Built on the latest cloud-based technology, the CreditLens platform helps financial institutions digitally transform their commercial credit processes to make faster and better-informed credit decisions.

With $148 billion in assets, Standard Bank Group is the largest bank in Africa by that measure. It offers banking and financial services across 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

This extensive footprint is part of what led the bank to pursue a cloud-based platform.

“It was becoming less and less efficient to have our systems on premise across so many segments and regions, so the idea that the CreditLens platform will always be up to date with product enhancements pushed through the cloud is extremely appealing to us,” said Gordon Turnbull, Head of Credit for Business Customers at Standard Bank Group.

“It is also critical that our chosen solution gives us the flexibility to use our own in-house models for risk ratings, which the Moody’s Analytics product does.”

The bank will use the CreditLens solution to automate key components of its credit function, including data ingestion and workflow.

Using the solution’s cloud-based functionality, the bank’s vision is ultimately to provide nearly instantaneous credit decisioning from front-line staff, anywhere in the field.

“We are delighted to help Standard Bank Group transform their credit infrastructure with modern architecture and cloud technology,” said Elaine Wong, Head of Credit Assessment and Origination at Moody’s Analytics.

“As Africa’s largest bank and a standard-setter in financial innovation, Standard Bank Group is particularly poised to benefit from the flexibility and configurability of the CreditLens platform in supporting a faster, better decision process.”

www.standardbank.co.za

www.moodysanalytics.com