Companies adopt cloud-based initiatives with the goal of creating a strategic platform to deliver increased profitability and customer value. As an application delivery mechanism, the cloud offers significant cost advantages. It can also pose some unique integration challenges. Whether cloud-to-cloud or on-premise-to-cloud, integration has a high impact on the overall success of any cloud-related initiative.
Integrating ERP and cloud applications improves efficiency and responsiveness. For example, integrating ERP and a cloud-based CRM like Salesforce.com enables employees to provide better customer service by putting the right information in front of them at the right time.
But in the rush to the cloud, companies all too often select and implement cloud-based applications without addressing integration ahead of time. Because integration is critical to the success of any cloud-based project, it should be part of the project plan from the start.
Companies need to recognize that integrating ERP and cloud applications requires a clear business vision and a sound plan. When technical parameters take precedence, business outcomes are often an afterthought. In fact, business benefits – like improved response time, improved data recovery, improved system congruence, more efficient order processing, and cost reduction – should be the starting point of any ERP-cloud application integration project.
Integrating ERP with cloud applications can be a resource intensive undertaking – but done properly, the long-term benefits far outweigh the up-front costs. That’s why it’s critical to get stakeholder buy-in in the initial phase, get business users and IT owners on the same page, and develop a detailed project plan for the integration.
Key considerations for a cloud-based integration plan:
- Set integration goals ahead of time
- Engage business and IT stakeholders
- Outline both business benefits and IT benefits desired
- Clearly define reference data; build a well-defined data architecture
- Determine data accuracy and timeliness
- Review security parameters and compliance requirements
- Select a technology to provide the most reliable, robust, and efficient communication
- Understand how integration may change roles, ownership and access
- Plan to communicate effectively with all stakeholders
ERP is complex by its very nature, with many potential stumbling blocks on the path to integration. Still, cloud integration is a simpler systems integration challenge than it used to be. Tool kits and repeatable adapters make integration much more stable and repeatable.
Organizations looking to integrate ERP and cloud applications like CRM should consider engaging an experienced partner that can guide the integration plan, manage stakeholder expectations and ensure that the integration produces the desired return on investment.