Cloud ERP shouldn’t be a challenge or a chore

More integrated applications and a streamlined approach mean that making the cloud switch for enterprise applications can deliver rapid ROI

It’s a fact of life that change can be tough, but we all know that the alternative to change could be much, much worse. Today, most CIOs understand they need to move away from on-premises computing to the Cloud in order to take advantage of the value, agility, and accessibility the online world offers. The chance to try things out without high risks, to internationalize, mobilise, flex licences, switch services on and off and gain an on-ramp to the latest innovations are too good to resist. But still, fears over “big bang” migrations and transformation complexity deter business leaders from making the move as quickly and broadly as they would like. The good news though is that now transitioning to the Cloud, even for core enterprise applications, can be smooth and predictable.

No more big bang
Let’s be clear from the off here: the days of lift-and-shift, big-bang upgrades are gone. Quite understandably, companies don’t like the risk, or the need for wholesale user and process adaptation, nor the long wait for value demanded by this arcane model. Switching simple productivity apps to the Cloud is relatively straightforward, but who wants to wait a year to derive value from a wholesale embrace of cloud for the systems that business operations depend on?

Previously, moving to a cloud ERP meant a twin-track waiting game that saw the on-prem system running alongside the cloud-based equivalent. This meant the legacy system was often running for 18 months to 24 months (or more), whilst the new ERP big-bang was deployed. As a result, customers were paying legacy license fees as well as the new subscription without deriving any benefit from the latter for at least 18 months. Now with technology advancements around lowcode development models and open APIs, it is possible to use a more agile model to transition to the Cloud, which enables customers to see more immediate value from a Cloud subscription in a shorter timeframe. From our experience, we have been able to implement Cloud-based applications in short, agile cycles, which has enabled customers to turn off their legacy systems in less than a year – in some cases realizing value within three to four months.

What has changed? There has been no alchemy. Instead, simply by having many more functions built into industry-specific and role-specific ERP systems, we have been able to remove the need for customisations to allow organisations to adopt standard processes. ERP was once bespoke but now configuration happens at the API level with extension kits allowing tweaks without layering on complexity.

We have also seen a fundamental change in how we go to market. Today, there is no conflict between the different services offered to customers in the journey to the Cloud. Traditionally, vendors have offered professional services, customer success teams and on-going support, but these teams often had overlapping service offerings, creating conflicts of interest. By applying rigour to the people and process sides of ERP cloud migration, this no longer occurs.

Land and expand
Instead of big bang, modern ERP is all about a phased ‘land and expand’ model. Value is extracted quickly and the organic use of more services over time unlocks yet more value on an ongoing basis. We need to take away the guesswork from migrations that have traditionally been risk-heavy projects. We can spell out exactly what we need from people who lead migrations and explain the level of commitment required, how long processes will take and what all this will cost, because we now have a template that is reliable and a plan that is well structured.

Let’s face it: software companies have been deemed as tricky to talk to in the past. Just finding the right person to answer a question was often viewed as difficult. By reducing the number of people with direct customer contact to one or two, we have made that pain go away. Pain starts to dissipate if you kill complexity. We know our customers hate complexity and, in these challenging times, the last thing they need is to make massive changes to how they operate. By automating at every turn and simplifying operational processes, we have eliminated that.

ERP cloud migrations do not have to be hard. We can quickly onboard people and drive process change enabled by pre-packaged software models that delivers real and immediate value. To win business and keep customers onside we need to deliver real value and simplify throughout with a standard level of excellent service. It starts with asking customers what success looks like for them and working back from there. We know how customers use our software in the Cloud, so there is no excuse for not coaching them to extract optimal value. Aside from meeting market or vertical regulatory needs, we do not need different processes or approaches for different sectors or parts of the world. We need to dispense with all that and focus on delivering value…fast.


Jean de Villiers is responsible for Professional Services, Product Support, University4U/Community4U - the knowledge centers for employees, partners and customers - and Customer Success, all of which covers the entire end-to-end customer journey. With a 27-year career spent in technology, management consulting, managed services and professional services, de Villiers joined Unit4 from global enterprise software company, BMC, where he led the Global Professional Services business, covering Consulting, Managed Services and Education. Prior to his 11-year tenure at BMC, de Villers worked for a number of organizations ranging from Value Added Resellers, such as Planwell Technologies, to large Managed Services Providers, such as PinkRoccade - latterly Getronics.

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