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Ever been mesmerized by watching hundreds of packaged items moving along a conveyor belt on TV? You can envision their journey from the conveyor belt to a refrigerated truck to a store to a consumer’s home.
Now imagine those same items flowing along the same assembly line – into dumpster after dumpster after dumpster.
That’s what happened to a food product manufacturer when its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system was down. A costly crisis that could have been averted.
Businesses find that migrating their ERP to the Cloud is becoming essential for security, efficiency, customer service and growth. A successfully managed ERP in the Cloud is comprised of three areas: the scalable Cloud platform itself, support for your applications and processes that tie-in to your business needs.
The one area of managed ERP in the Cloud that should get the most attention is business processes, according to Stefan Lowrie, Senior Director, Cloud Service Delivery at Enavate. It takes a team that focuses on implementing upgrades and enhancements, as well as automating the ERP so it runs at maximum efficiency.
“That team really takes the business need and feeds it back into the ERP to make sure you’re getting the most from your implementation,” he said.
When all three components are not well thought out is when problems occur with your ERP in the Cloud strategy.
The food product manufacturer learned the hard way what happens when you don’t have a cohesive approach to deploying ERP in the Cloud.
The manufacturer had a very large facility, where products were created, packaged, labeled and moved down conveyor belts to a shipping area. From there, the product was packed in crates, parsed out to be shipped and then placed into refrigerated trucks and out the door.
Refrigerated products have to move in a timely manner. When that didn’t happen, it brought about a major breakdown in the company’s distribution pathway, as the ERP ran everything from the quantity of product made to where it was going.
“With that ERP unavailable, that product had nowhere to go,” Lowrie said.
When the ERP went down, employees “literally rolled a dumpster to the end of the production line-as long as the ERP was unavailable and they had no way to direct their shipments. The product was flying off the assembly line and into the dumpster,” he said. “That company rotated dumpsters throughout the assembly line and filled them up as long as the ERP platform was down.”
The manufacturer had great ERP and infrastructure partners. However, the company itself was the glue or broker between the two partners. “The partners were great, but they were invested in their piece of the deployment. They weren’t invested in the success of the customer with all partners,” Lowrie said.
To avoid a situation similar to what happened with the food manufacturer, Lowrie pointed out some things to keep in mind:
Sometimes, the business impact is more than just a financial one. For organizations, such as a medical supplies manufacturer, problems with your ERP can bring about serious issues beyond just customer goodwill and revenue.
“It can have a real-world impact on people that need medical equipment,” said Chris Lavelle, Cloud Strategy Leader at Enavate. “Customers can’t get equipment because it can’t get shipped.”
A medical supplies manufacturer had gone through an ERP upgrade process with their partner and migrated their environment into an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model on Microsoft Azure. The only hitch: The partner lacked Cloud experience – no expertise, no past performance or resources.
“They were a good ERP partner, but lacked detailed Cloud knowledge,” he said.
“At the end of the upgrade, their ERP environment was not running correctly. The environment would often have production and other performance issues, leaving the company unable to ship their products because of challenges with the environment and the ERP system,” Lavelle said.
The company ultimately brought on a management consultant and Enavate to address the situation. It turned out using a traditional ERP deployment approach – placing the ERP inside the Cloud as IaaS – didn’t consider some key performance and configuration aspects.
Lavelle said the Enavate team reviewed the environment from end to end, from a platform supporting ERP perspective and found configuration details and resource types and environments that were not correct.
In short, Enavate had to “stabilize the existing environment, so that they could run their business,” he said. That involved reconfiguring, redeploying and in some cases, re-architecting various aspects: key application workloads, revamping how to handle security and other things.
With that brought significant unplanned costs. They wound up paying for the management consultant, the technical evaluation and the work involved with re-deploying key systems, as well as addressing any scheduled maintenance windows and other things.
“By not engaging a partner with both ERP experience and past performance – as well as an equally important Cloud past performance, they found themselves in a situation that had significant impact to them,” he said.
Enavate’s team wound up redeploying the environment to adjust its approach to security, ultimately helping the organization achieve PCI (payment card industry) compliance.
Lavelle said team members also helped “build a much more robust secure and flexible development environment, so they could continually develop against that environment and have a very agile coding ability as they continue to enhance what they want to do with the business.”
Today, the client is in a better place, even though it not only cost more to get to that point, it took longer to get there, Lavelle said.
The biggest lesson this medical supply company learned was the importance of having the right partner for its ERP migration project.
“As you move your ERP to the Cloud whatever Cloud platform you have, whether it’s D365 (Microsoft Dynamics 365) or Azure’s Infrastructure as a Service, it’s critical that your partner has both ERP and Cloud experience, not just one or the other. Without it, you end up with a solution that doesn’t have all the key aspects addressed creating performance issues or availability issues,” Lavelle said.
The “do it right the first time cliché applies here. “Take the time to go through the full planning of your ERP environment in the Cloud,” he said. Examine the environment the ERP is running on (e.g., the Azure Infrastructure as a Service environment), the ERP environment, any enhancements, ongoing support, as well as security and compliance requirements.
Also, consider your end-user strategy: How your people are accessing the environment and how to maintain compliance and security in the Cloud. Finally, make sure your partner is versed in both ERP and Cloud.
“If you have a partner that has only one half of the equation, make sure, at minimum you find another partner with the other half that has worked with that partner in the past, so they know how to work together well,” he said. “The better solution is finding a partner that can do both, has experience and past performance in doing both so you can sidestep the challenges this particular customer had.”
Want to learn more about these real life stories and best practices for managed ERP in the Cloud? Check out the video, “Become the Wizard for Your Business: Managed ERP in the Cloud.” And no matter where you are in your Cloud journey, if you could benefit from personalized advice, connect with our team of experts who can help guide your technology transformation path.
Roselle Cronan is Content Marketing Lead at Enavate. She uses her writing and editing skills to share Enavate’s “Why”: Transform businesses and the lives they touch. Inspired and empowered, Roselle challenges herself to position Enavate as THE partner for ERP and Cloud implementations. Outside of work, Roselle supports the Alabama Crimson Tide, reads a lot, enjoys live music and takes part in Tampa’s Gasparilla parade (aka Mardi Gras with pirates). She lives in Riverview, Florida, with her cat, Cleo.