How to Deal With the Challenges of a Cloud ERP Solution

Remember curly-cord phones, carbon copies and paper time cards? Some of us do, and some of us also remember the extraordinary leap city governments made in the 1990s from manual processes to on-site ERP systems.

Wholly focused on transforming paper-based processes, these highly-customized, IT-supported ERP systems changed the way office folks worked — whether they wanted the change or not. As a result, we became a computerized workforce.

Those of us who remember the rise of the ERP system also remember the recent explosion of innovation that’s taken place outside of the office. Mobile technology has been built with the purpose of convenience, communication, flexibility, and an intent subtly refocused on user experience and streamlining processes.

The innovation of the past 10 years has transformed our computerized workforce into something both exciting and astonishing: a mobile, computerized workforce, with tools that provide information anywhere and anytime it’s needed. And though some of us have embraced these new innovations, while wistfully remembering our old paper time cards, others have never known anything different. Our youngest generation of workers has grown up with the Internet in their hands, the world as their office, and the cloud as their filing cabinet.

Though our youthful cohorts happily welcome new tech with open arms, that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Switching from a traditional ERP system to one that’s on the cloud poses a number of challenges to all cities that make this transition.

Addressing the Implementation Challenges

Based on my company’s experience helping with SaaS transitions, we have identified the four most common obstacles that arise and provided a little advice on how to deal with them:

1. Moving from a Custom Environment to Standard Processes

Enacting major changes in workflow — regardless of how beneficial they are — can breed discontent and confusion among employees. There will always be a population that resists change and fights against it.

Develop a solid change management plan to create a path for success for the employees who are reluctant to change. Focus on helping them understand the reasons behind the switch by clearly conveying the benefits, and then get them trained as quickly and effectively as possible. A solid change management plan provides a smoother road toward self-sufficiency.

Keep in mind that transitioning from a custom environment to a standard process comes with its own set of challenges and benefits, involving reworking and streamlining processes, re-examining needs and taking advantage of best practices.

2. Historical Information Decisions

Deciding how many years’ worth of data you should transfer to your new ERP solution can be a headache. Yes, the public sector has an obligation of data retention to uphold, but it’s also important to think about the cleanliness of this dated information. As the saying goes: Bad data in equals bad data out.

The standard best practice is to convert the last two years’ worth of data, but this neglects decades of material that will be needed to fulfill public information requests and to conduct historical trend analyses, budget forecasting, and employee/vendor history reports.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Keep your legacy systems available for historical data. This option may be appealing — the system is already understood and in place — but it’s costly, it presents an ongoing maintenance challenge, and it requires additional training to figure out the best way to bridge the old system with the new.
  • Export your historic data into a separate, searchable database for reporting. The cost for this option is the time it will take to develop, as well as the ongoing maintenance.
  • Leverage a third-party historical SaaS data reporting solution. The cost of this option is the cost of the environment.

It is important to evaluate the costs and benefits of these options as you plan for a new SaaS system.

3. Realigning Procurement Policies

City populations have come to expect a structured procurement process, and this expectation can present challenges as they strive to transform their policies into cloud-advantageous formats while maintaining their security and regulations.

An outdated procurement process can hinder a city’s progress and modernization efforts. It is important to closely review your RFP scoring and service-level contract criteria to determine whether your policies continue to provide an objective means of evaluating all technology options.

4. Data Security

All organizations worry about security. Media reports of data breaches have conjured up a vision of the cloud as a high-risk option, but this perception is based on fear and actually contradicted by reality. Evidence suggests that leading cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services are more secure than in-house storage.

Cloud-based ERP solutions have employed incredible security protocols that are certified by rigorous third-party compliance audits of their security, confidentiality, availability and privacy controls. Researching and understanding the facts about cloud security can help cities make informed, confident decisions about their SaaS solutions.

Cloud ERP solutions are built on a foundation of technology your employees have already embraced. A transition to the cloud is not nearly the leap our colleagues and predecessors had to make back in the days of curly-cord phones and carbon copies, but it’s a logical next step into a user-centric way of doing business.

Like all changes in technology, a commitment to education and a culture open to change will best position your organization for the future.

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