On-site IT systems may no longer be the de facto option for firms that need to be agile. Manufacturers considering cloud computing as their next environment to host applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can follow some helpful tips to make sure their ERP implementation is successful from the beginning. Manufacturing Business Technology contributor Jim Shepherd recently detailed how these companies can approach their cloud ERP deployment.

Manufacturers should adopt ERP software that is made specifically for their respective industry. Shepherd asserted that these businesses have unique operational demands that cannot be supported by a "one-size-fits-all" ERP vendor.

"This should go without saying, but it becomes imperative when selecting a cloud-based ERP solutions provider that company leaders choose a firm that is dedicated to the manufacturing industry, rather than choosing one that only works in the space occasionally," Shepherd added. "By doing so, they are selecting a partner that understands the needs of the company from the ground up – and can implement the technology the right way the first time, saving time and hard-earned budget dollars."

It may seem like a given that a company would partner with a service provider that truly understands a certain market, but plenty of businesses do not take this approach. Instead, they often opt for the best deal, rather than the best fit. In some cases, however, it may be difficult for first-time cloud adopters to select a proper environment, given that so many vendors have entered this space in attempts to capture a larger market share. It is best for organizations to put in some serious effort to separate the pretenders from the reputable dealers.

The importance of employees
Manufacturers should also pay close attention to the needs of their end-users when it comes to cloud-based ERP solutions. Shepherd explained that ERP system are only as valuable as the people who use these tools. A vendor that offers training services is extremely helpful in educating a client's workforce on the ins and outs of a system.

ERP Cloud News contributor Kirsten Shaw also highlighted the importance of employees regarding the use of ERP tools.

"The needs of all the employees must be taken into consideration when deciding which software to use and what goals to set; you must look at how the software will fit into your current structure," Shaw wrote.

What makes the cloud so valuable?
Some manufacturers may think that an on-site ERP system will suffice for the future. However, the cloud is a much more flexible option and can truly help businesses compete in the long run. Shepherd explained that on-premise solutions are costly to maintain and often require yearly updates. Cloud environments can be updated on a daily basis and come without the fees or production delays of older methods. Manufacturers leveraging the cloud can gain insight into operations in real time, something not possible with antiquated deployments.

The cloud is also a much less hands-on solution than on-site ones. Clients no longer have to manage the system all by themselves, since these tasks are handled by the third-party vendor. This allows businesses to focus on more important areas such as expansion and customer service.

As effective as the cloud is, it is abundantly clear that the vendor is often the deciding factor of just how successful the system will be in the long run. Manufacturers and other companies should conduct extensive research before ever purchasing a system to make sure all of their industry demands and operational needs are supported from day one of the partnership.