One wise (and unidentified) man is quoted as saying that “I won’t be impressed by technology until I can download foods from the internet.”
Maybe that day will come, but for now we can order almost everything online.
Statista estimates that retail ecommerce revenues reached 431 billion U.S. Dollars in 2020, according to Statista . The revenue is expected to rise to more than 563 billion U.S. Dollars by 2025. How can ecommerce companies manage the extraordinary growth and meet higher-than-ever customer demands?
IDC is a leading global market intelligence company. It has released a white paper, Best Together: SaaS Digital Commerce Platforms & ERP Help Organizations Move Past Legacy Limitations. This whitepaper states that the solution lies in a combination team effort and the right technology.
The IDC analysts wrote that meeting customer expectations requires team effort. This is dependent on all areas of the organization (e.g. commerce, customer service and financials, supply chain).
The analysts recommend that businesses invest in a cloud ERP and digital commerce system, such as the native Acumatica BigCommerce Connector, to ensure they grow and mature into enterprise-level companies.
Before we get into the details of this seamless solution, let’s first talk about what cloud ERP software actually is.
What is Cloud ERP?
Understanding cloud computing is key to understanding cloud ERP solutions. An Microsoft Azure article gives a clear definition.
Cloud computing simply means that computing services are delivered over the internet (or “the cloud”), including servers, storage, databases and software. This allows for faster innovation and flexible resources as well as economies of scale. Cloud services are typically only charged for what you use. This helps you to lower operating costs, scale your infrastructure more efficiently, and reduce your overheads.
Cloud ERP software, then, is software-as-a-service (SaaS) that allows users to access Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software over an internet connection. A cloud-based ERP system acts as an organizational system of record. Data from financial, distribution, CRM, etc. The ERP synchronizes data from all systems in real time. The ERP is a central repository for all business data. It integrates business processes and serves as an “unique source of truth” for employees. Users can also access the ERP from any device with a browser, and at any time.
A general rule of thumb is that if a company is still using a legacy system or multiple disconnected, poorly integrated systems to manage complex inventory, warehouses and financial obligations, it is time to move to a cloud-based ERP solution.
Cloud ERP vs Private Cloud ERP
Understanding private cloud ERP is essential to fully comprehend cloud ERP solutions. Let’s take a look at both options.
1. Cloud ERP.
As we know, cloud ERP options allow users to access their business applications via the internet. They run on shared computing resources. Cloud ERP options allow users to easily integrate with third-party apps while still providing the flexibility and scalability that businesses require in a dynamic economy. Cloud ERP vendors are responsible for security, updates, as well as upgrades. Businesses pay a monthly subscription fee depending on how many users or resources they use.
2. Private Cloud ERP.
The only difference between private and cloud ERP systems is the location of the software. The software is installed and maintained at the business’s own facilities. Only the IT department of an organization is responsible for software deployment and the maintenance and security of software and hardware. The initial costs of software licenses and hardware may be prohibitive. Remote access is possible but not always an integrated function. It may be necessary to use a third-party app and device.
Private Cloud ERP: Challenges
All ERP options have their unique challenges, but private cloud ERP challenges are something businesses, particularly small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs), should pay attention to.
Private cloud ERP solutions may be more expensive to implement and maintain, with a higher capital investment upfront. Businesses must have a full-time IT staff. Private cloud solutions can take longer to deploy, may require more hardware to accommodate additional users, and may not be mobile-friendly.
Private cloud ERP solutions often have legacy systems that are not modernly integrated. Customers suffer as a consequence.
What makes cloud ERP business sense for an online store?
We now have a better understanding of the differences and challenges in the various ERP solutions, it is time to bring ecommerce into the picture.
Ecommerce platforms are essential for putting their products/services before customers. An ecommerce portal allows online businesses to manage sales, marketing and operations.
According to IDC’s Whitepaper, whichever ecommerce platform businesses choose, it must combine seamlessly and natively with an ERP solution–preferably, a cloud ERP solution.
Analysts at IDC write that the most successful digital businesses have an overarching strategy for digital transformation and select ERP and digital commerce systems that can be tightly integrated or combined. A future-proof digital platform must use modern SaaS systems designed for the cloud.
An online store that uses cloud ERP solutions makes business sense is always a good idea.
Cloud ERP for Ecommerce: Benefits
Cloud ERP solutions are often faster to implement, have lower upfront costs and allow for real-time communication with ecommerce platforms. Businesses can also benefit from cloud ERP solutions that include an ecommerce vertical such as Acumatica’s retail-commerce edition.
1. Flexibility and adaptability.
Flexibility in the face of market fluctuations is a key indicator of a company’s success. Businesses can easily make required customizations with the right cloud ERP system, without having to hire IT staff. They can adapt their back-office processes and workflows as well as their customer-facing apps to change circumstances.
Each merchant also operates in a unique way. Each merchant operates in a unique way. The right cloud ERP solution can be configured and used without code to adapt to merchant’s unique requirements, instead of forcing them to use the ERP software.
2. 2. Improved security
Cloud-based ERP software can be hosted in data centers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. They have the resources that SMBs might not have, including top-notch security. A cloud hosting service offers many benefits:
- Physical access to the equipment can be controlled.
- Environmental protection.
- Protection against unforeseen disasters.
- Network intrusion detection and prevention.
- Regular maintenance of your system.
3. Business growth can be sustained
Businesses expect their business management software to grow along with them as they grow. However, this is not always possible. It is difficult for legacy solutions to keep up with technological innovations that are constantly changing.
Cloud-based solutions receive regular updates and upgrades. These updates allow ecommerce businesses remain competitive and provide the opportunity for continued growth.
4. Compatible with many tools
No matter what business offers or what services it sells, integration with key business applications is essential. Acumatica has the technology partner to help a business expand Acumatica’s platform.
BigCommerce allows Acumatica businesses to process orders, manage inventory and set prices. It also facilitates inbound logistics.
Steps to Cloud ERP Implementation
Connecting an ERP cloud solution to an ecommerce platform may sound like a smart decision. There are few steps you need to follow when choosing or implementing a cloud ERP system. While cloud ERP providers might differ in the number of steps and the names of the steps, the end result is the exact same: ecommerce success.
Ecommerce businesses need to take the time and research all options. While it may take time to compare and contrast the various cloud ERP systems available today, rushing this step could result in making a bad decision.
A checklist such as Acumatica’s Business Management System Evaluator Checklist is a great way to evaluate and research options. It allows businesses to compare features and benefits between vendors based upon five categories: Productivity (functionality), Technology (value), and risk.
This checklist, or any similar one, will help businesses to find the right cloud ERP system.
The second step is to install the software. To complete the installation, you will need to first gather an internal team. This team often includes an Executive Sponsor, a Project Leader (or Project Manager), a technical Lead and Subject Matter Experts.
This step requires you to identify your requirements. Acumatica customers classify requirements as necessary, desirable, not an urgent need, and nice-to-have. This results in a list with features and functions that is affordable and fits the project’s timeline.
Migration of data from an old system to a new one is complex. However, a checklist can make it easier and more manageable. Acumatica’s data migration checklist is an example.
- Verify that all customer contact information is current and accurate
- Correct or remove redundant data (discontinued vendors and contacts not longer associated with the company).
- Correct or out-of date company data (old part numbers and discontinued products) should be removed
- Set up your Acumatica database
- Your legacy ERP data can be mapped to Acumatica’s new fields
- Transfer the data to your new system
- To verify that all data from the past has been transferred and is still accessible, test the new system
- Verify that new data can be added (new product information or inventory item location, customer information).
It is important to test and approve any new product before it is sold to customers. While cloud ERP vendors may have their own procedures and methods for creating a test plan to test the system, most test plans will be able to test every requirement.
These are some guidelines that may be followed during testing:
- Scope: The purpose of the test
- Requirement: The specific requirement that is being tested
- Configuration: System configurations required to conduct the test
- Step-by-step procedure to perform the test
- Test Data: An SME can provide this if needed. The test data should be representative of real-world situations
- Expected Results: The results that are expected to be produced when the system performs according to specifications
- Pass or fail: This determines whether the test was passed.
- Comment: Additional observations, system behavior and partial successes
Training is an essential step. Users and system administrators who aren’t properly trained from the start may not fully grasp the benefits of the cloud ERP system.
A cloud ERP vendor should offer training assistance, as well as all the documentation and training courses required for a complete training experience.
The deployment is also known as “go-live” and is when the cloud ERP vendor will be available to push the go-live button.
This step involves making the decision about when you want to go live. This usually happens on the day or days that have the lowest impact on the business. Businesses will then need to decide whether they want the new system activated and deactivated simultaneously. Or if they prefer to proceed in a gradual manner.
Whatever activation method you choose, the final result will be a business that uses a mobile cloud ERP system. But there’s more.
After the excitement of a successful launch, there will always be questions or additional assistance. This could include the need to integrate with custom and third-party applications. As the business refines their business processes, and continues to require support, the cloud ERP provider should always be available.
Ecommerce businesses are enjoying a boom economy, and they expect even more growth in the future. These businesses need to be efficient, flexible and adaptable in order to reap the full benefits of an economy like this. This is possible when they choose the right cloud ERP solution, which natively integrates with their ecommerce platform.
Analysts at IDC write that “Already at an unprecedented high, the rate for change in the global economic system is expected to continue increasing over the next decade.” B2B and B2C merchants require modern, tightly integrated front-office and back office applications to adapt to these changes and remain competitive. These tightly integrated applications offer resilience so merchants can overcome obstacles with agility, rather than waiting for their systems catch up.
Combining the forces of BigCommerce with Acumatica will provide much-needed automation for ecommerce businesses. This will help them streamline their business processes, compete in a growing domestic market, and ultimately succeed in today’s marketplace.