The Great Migration has begun. Business and organizations of every shape and size are packing up and heading to the cloud. But in their rush, many businesses are forgetting why they decided to move to the cloud in the first place—or whether they’re getting the results they expected.
That’s a recipe for disappointment, or possibly a strategic misstep. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Make no mistake: businesses have a lot of great reasons for adopting cloud solutions. Many want move to the cloud because it will help them “optimize” and “streamline” operations. For finance organizations, this could mean closing their books faster, or simplifying audits and compliance reporting.
Some organizations like the fact that a cloud platform can provide new visibility for managers, uncovering opportunities for saving money that were “hidden” because data was stuck inside departmental or geographic silos. Others like how the cloud makes it easy to deploy mobile apps. That’s a draw for modern finance managers who constantly depend on their smartphones and tablets to get work done.
Don't forget about business “agility” and “flexibility,” which every business wants these days. Fast scaling up and down of IT resources can give you a jump on the competition in a fast-moving market or quickly transform your business model to grab new opportunities. In the oil and gas industry, for example, cloud-enabled companies can be swifter to ramp up during a recovery. And it will no doubt help them rein in costs when the downturn arrives.
These are all great reasons. But which ones make sense for your business? At IBM Global Business Services, we help companies clarify why they want to move to the cloud (which in my practice means the Oracle Cloud) and what results they want to see after they get there. It’s all part of a process we call the “Journey to Oracle Cloud.”
We typically kick off the journey with a “case for change” workshop in which we review a company’s business challenges and map them to the different improvements a cloud platform can offer, such as greater agility and scalability. Then we quantify the value of these benefits in terms that are meaningful to the business, such as cost and time savings, process efficiencies, and so forth.
If the workshops prove that the business case makes sense, then we start developing a detailed deployment plan. In my experience, most journeys don’t necessarily involve the wholesale move of an entire ERP system, but rather bite-sized, incremental migrations of specific functions. This calls for a good, clear roadmap.
But after the dust settles on your move, how do you know if you’re actually getting what you want out of your cloud platform? That’s where defining and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and creating useful reports come in. Ideally, you want to set up your KPIs in the initial phases of the journey, making sure of course that your system can report on them.
To speed the process, IBM Global Services can tap a huge database of best practices and KPIs we’ve developed for a wide range of industries, and then marry that knowledge with out-of-the-box reports available in Oracle ERP Cloud. We also leverage Oracle EPM Cloud to create more specific, role-based charts.
Such performance tracking is one of the ways you can ensure you’re getting what you want out of your cloud solution. Not only can it give you insights into day-to-day operational metrics like cash flow and margins, but also helps you meet industry audit and compliance requirements more easily and cheaply than before.
At the end of day, businesses want to get meaningful data out of their ERP so they can make smart decisions. That’s where business analytics comes into play. IBM Global Services builds on the Oracle Cloud’s business intelligence tools with advanced “cognitive” software that learns patterns from data and uses that knowledge to make suggestions. Ever seen those commercials for IBM Watson? That kind of human-like advisory power is what I’m talking about.
In a modern finance organization, cognitive ERP can help you harness not only the structured data sitting in your ERP system but all the unstructured data from virtually any source you can imagine, from emails and social media to analyst reports and market indices. In a modern procurement department, for example, a cognitive solution could factor in variables like current market prices, demand, and supplier reputation, to come up with a recommended price for any given item—a concept known as “should-be pricing.”
Those are just a few of the ways that Oracle and IBM Global Services together can help you get more out of your finance cloud. Every day I see companies leveraging the cloud in new ways to gain a strategic edge. For example, I see companies using the cloud’s native elasticity to supply the IT firepower needed to test new markets, avoiding the need for a big upfront investment in new infrastructure. If it turns out the market falls short of expectations, they can pull out cost-effectively.
I also see more and more finance organizations leveraging Oracle ERP Cloud to deploy a shared services model and manage finances across a complex, globally distributed business. The cloud is also helping companies tie together newly acquired subsidiaries, bypassing the need for costly on-premises integrations.
Clients frequently tell me the cloud helps them break down barriers between departments and functions, making financial reconciliations faster and easier. While before you may have had your general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable teams working in silos, now everybody’s on one platform, worldwide. That translates into faster close times, quicker audits, and more opportunities for re-aligning resources to serve customers better.
Whatever kind of benefits our clients are seeking, it’s all about helping them achieve the business outcomes that matter to them. That usually happens when they’re getting exactly what they want out of their cloud. And maybe even a little more.
Sarosh Khan is Associate Partner, IBM Global Business Services - Oracle SCM and ERP Cloud Leader, with more than 23 years of IT consulting experience in building and leading high performance consulting teams and managing large, complex, mission-critical programs. Mr. Khan in an expert in aligning strategic business goals with next-generation Oracle based technology solutions to support business growth, profit/revenue gains, optimum efficiencies/ customer satisfaction, and strong competitive advantage. Connect with Sarosh on LinkedIn.