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How to Optimize ERP/CRM with Cloud and Big Data | @CloudExpo [#Cloud #BigData]

The Role of Cloud and Big Data in Optimizing Your Enterprise Automation Strategy

Trends indicate that enterprise solutions, particularly enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software are still largely hosted on-premises. A 2014 study by Gartner found that only 2% of respondents ran their core ERP systems on the cloud. More enterprises are looking to shift to the cloud, with half of those surveyed indicating the intention to move to a cloud-based platform within the next five years.

The role of big data in ERPs until now, has been largely separate. Most of the time, Big Data becomes an input for ERPs, but data from an ERP can also become inputs for big data analytics.

If your business isn't ready for a full migration to cloud-based platforms and utilization of Big Data analytics, there are a few ways you can benefit from applying these in your organization.

Enterprise Testing
Instead of having your IT team spend unnecessary hours in testing your system for potential issues and developing workarounds, automation with cloud-based ERP testing tools can reduce the need for manual and repetitive labor. ERP automation can be used to test the system, identify possible fail points, develop workarounds, run necessary updates, install patches, cleanse code, and more.

Beyond time savings, businesses can also realize other benefits from automation, such as improved accuracy, real-time reports of processes, and increased productivity. Plus, going paperless reduces waste, offering a way to "go green" for corporate social responsibility.

ERPs allow all employees in a business, regardless of department, access the same, updated information. This creates synergy between sales and marketing, to better serve customers with information about their transaction status, resulting in a higher level of customer service.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Failovers and Redundancies
It's important to have failover and redundancy systems in place, to ensure proper delivery of services to your customer without interruption. Cloud based systems are scalable, because they use a pool of servers and can provide resources on an as needed basis. This allows the IT team to focus on improving system functionality and efficiency without the need to maintain expensive equipment on-site, saving time and money.

Service outages can be costly, both in terms of the time your IT team has to spend fixing it, and the money lost from your customers while you're unable to serve them. A cloud-based system help improve the reliability of your system, to ensure your service level agreements (SLAs) are met, and the data is accessible on-demand.

For companies maintaining on-premises, distributed or hybrid cloud deployments, proper load balancing and failover mechanisms will be necessary to ensure high availability and optimal uptimes. In this regard, the cloud plays a big part again, with the availability of SaaS-based load balancing technologies that are essentially plug-and-play add-ons to web services or enterprise systems.

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Whiteway

Analytics
ERP systems generally take in data from other applications and then manage the data in terms of access and security. Businesses can benefit from integrating their ERP and big data, because without the right data, your ERP won't be as valuable. Using big data and the ERP together, you can find trends in the market, find ways to continually improve business processes, reduce dependencies, and more.

Consider a retail ERP customer. The ERP would naturally have real-time data to support supplies and inventory, which can then be used to predict demand to make sure supply is available. However, the ERP doesn't have a way to predict demand for products that haven't sold before, so it must rely on similar products with past purchase patterns, such as using sales of the Samsung Galaxy S4 to predict the S5, and sales of the S5 to predict the S6, and so forth.

What's missing with the ERP is the link to related products, such as cases and other accessories for the S6. Though one can reasonably say an increase in sales of the phone would equal an increase in sales for accessories, you can't make this assumption with a standalone ERP alone.

One thing that smart big data analysis can do is to predict things even before other obvious signs arise. For example, a corporate retail giant was able to determine a customer was pregnant before her family did. This was done simply by monitoring her purchasing patterns.

The key to success is merging the power of the real-time data from the ERP with the data mining, by integrating big data and ERP.

What Vendors Are Doing
ERP vendors know switching to the cloud can help a business in a number of ways. By increasing system reliability and thus allowing businesses to better serve their customers with high availability, cloud-based platforms can help increase profit margins. At the same time, the use of a cloud-based system also frees up IT team resources, saving money. Cloud-based solutions are particularly helpful for businesses that don't have the budget to allocate to a dedicated IT team, or to invest in purchasing and maintaining their own on-premises server equipment.

ERP vendors are constantly developing applications, either through open-source or proprietary means, to provide their customers with more options to expand their ERPs to include the functions they need to improve their operations, including: manufacturing software, accounting software, and more.

Leveraging the power of cloud computing with big data gives businesses control and flexibility necessary to keep up with the ever-changing demands of their market, regardless of industry or niche.

More Stories By Harry Trott

Harry Trott is an IT consultant from Perth, WA. He is currently working on a long term project in Bangalore, India. Harry has over 7 years of work experience on cloud and networking based projects. He is also working on a SaaS based startup which is currently in stealth mode.

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