Think back a couple of decades. If you were a facsimile machine salesman, and had the chance to evaluate enterprise email as it begun to take off, would you have leapt at the opportunity?
Or would you have stuck to what was comfortable, and risk getting relegated to the sidelines in the wake of the communications revolution that was to follow?
I've zeroed in on the fax-email dynamic quite intentionally. Just as enterprise email servers and messaging software have relegated fax machines to the sidelines, so too have they begun to be replaced by cloud-based, SaaS enterprise mail, such as those from Microsoft and Google.
Having been a technology writer for the better part of a decade, I see a couple of trends in enterprise-class messaging that I think may be relevant indicators that describe the relationship between on-premise and Cloud ERP.
Two growth areas for Messaging SaaS
There have been two broad groups of organizations that have embraced cloud enterprise mail.
The first group are major companies like GalxoSmithKline, who have found it more cost effective to convert their mail, calendaring, and contacts functions to a subscription service via the cloud with Microsoft Office 365, rather than to maintaining the hardware and software needed to do these in-house.
It also frees up their IT people to focus on more high-impact IT projects, rather than to patch, update, and otherwise manage a global deployment of enterprise mail.
Says Alastair Robertson, VP of Information Workplace at GSK : "Moving to Online Services will enable us to reduce our IT operational costs by roughly 30% of what we're currently spending. The ability to introduce a variable cost subscription model for these collaborative technologies allows us to more rapidly scale or divest our investment as necessary."
The second group is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises that could not or did not want to part with the funds and resources needed to set up on-premise enterprise-class messaging.
That all changed with the cloud – in what represents a major evolution for SMBs, enterprise-class messaging became something that even start-ups could count on, along with Internet connectivity, power, and other utilities that are taken for granted in many parts of the world.
Where Cloud Messaging goes, Cloud ERP might follow
The two categories of Cloud Messaging adopters also, somewhat coincidentally, represent two major markets for Cloud ERP. Similar patterns can be discerned here.
Cloud ERP in the Enterprise
For instance, there is the large enterprise that has grown weary of being locked in by a costly ERP vendor with a pricey maintenance package, and where innovation has taken place at a pace somewhat slower than other enterprise solutions. And then there is the growing SME that is availing itself to cost-competitive ERP SaaS for the first time.
At this time, we should acknowledge that it's not easy for a major company with an existing ERP system to move to a cloud-based one. It's a challenging decision and process, but with planning and preparation, and the right partner, this is entirely doable.
Cloud ERP software in the SMB market
The SME has fewer constraints. Often, they can be quite eager to embrace the ERP Cloud to optimize for growth, and leave behind the need to juggle spreadsheets.
For these smaller companies new to ERP, SaaS and the ERP Cloud are highly viable and affordable alternatives to on-premise ERP.
In fact, in a survey conducted in 2011 with over 300 SMEs each posting less than $500 million in annual revenue, Aberdeen Research found that 77% of the SMEs interviewed have already implemented an ERP solution.
A significant number of these SMEs reported adopting an ERP solution due to the expectation of strong growth despite the uncertain economy, with almost four in 10 adding that they were doing so due to lower cost options, like the SaaS and the ERP cloud.