Ten years ago, concerns over security, access to data, and reliability of wide-area networks created barriers to accepting cloud solutions for core business functions. Over time, wide-area computing has become a reality of doing business and companies have come to realize that large cloud providers can secure data much more reliably than smaller companies whose core competency isn’t IT.
Five years ago, cloud technology became mainstream and slowly became an acceptable option for manufacturers to consider for their business systems. ERP functionality, however, that was fit for a complex manufacturing business wasn’t yet available.
Today, I believe manufacturers are ready to go to the cloud and solutions are rapidly becoming ready for manufacturers. NetSuite for example has clearly defined manufacturing as a key focus vertical and has delivered robust functionality around Bills of Materials, Routings, Forecasting, and Demand Planning to meet the needs of manufacturing companies. Manufacturing focused functionality will continue to play a large role in their upcoming releases.
Why should manufacturers go to the cloud?
Manufacturing, like most other business, can be highly competitive and successfully growing the business means out-performing the competition. Technology, specifically, cloud-based systems, can provide the infrastructure to enable differentiation. I believe three of the differentiating technologies are mobility, self-service and social media—all of which can be enhanced by enterprise cloud applications.
- Mobility. True mobility means updating data real-time and accessing information instantly from wherever users are and from whatever device they happen to be using. Mobile computing provides the ability to empower remote teams to provide better client service, to work more efficiently, and to keep the head office up to date on their activities. Enterprise cloud systems are by nature already accessible via the web and by smart devices. The typical barriers to mobile deployment such as security concerns, data accessibility challenges, and complex integrations are addressed natively within the cloud architecture.
- Self-Service. Research shows that in today’s business climate, people prefer to use their desktop or mobile technology to answer their own questions, rather than dial out to a support desk, possibly wait on hold, and then explain to someone else what information they need. Because cloud applications are not hosted behind a corporate firewall, but rather securely available on a public network, many best-in-class cloud application providers like Salesforce and NetSuite have security structures, license models, and out-of-the-box screen configurations to allow manufacturers to easily deploy robust self-service environments. Most traditional on-premise ERP applications provide nice applications that make pre-selected data elements available on the web in a self-service portal environment; however, cloud architecture provides the flexibility of ultimately being able to expose any business logic or data elements to your clients.
- Social Media. Last week I re-tweeted a blog post talking about why a salesperson has to think and work like a marketer. This post suggested that above and beyond traditional methods of selling and marketing, building a salesperson’s brand in the market was essential to competing effectively for prospects’ attention. Companies should be thinking about how they can arm their sales teams with the insights, ideas, and value-creating messages that they need to participate effectively in the world of social media. Cloud-based solutions, in conjunction with app partners whose software is built into enterprise applications, provide a whole world of creative ways to gain insights into your marketplace and providing the functionality necessary to participate back out to the world of social media.
I believe that manufacturers who invest today in enterprise cloud technologies, will be the most effective at deploying mobile, self-service, and social media technologies effectively and will ultimately be best positioned to win the business of tomorrow.
To learn more about Salesforce and NetSuite for manufacturers, visit the Manufacturing Solutions section of our website.