Whilst launching Epicor’s new cloud-first strategy in the region, Sabby Gill, EVP, gave CNME an insight into how enterprises can hope to see the benefits of ERP applications moving from on premise to the cloud, or in the case of Epicor’s software, having the choice and flexibility to manoeuvre between both platforms.
How did Epicor approach cloud development?
Cloud is now pretty much inevitable. It is going to happen whether or not you want to adopt it. One of the most important things we did was about 18 months ago when we did the rewrite from Version 9 to 10, and in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions. We made a fundamental change to rewrite a lot of the application, so it wasn’t just a move from Progress to Sequel, but we looked at the code and re-architected it with cloud in mind. We now have just one line of code; one version of the software. It doesn’t matter whether you want to deploy that on premise or on cloud, or even at a later stage if you decide you don’t want to use cloud anymore and you want to move to on premise, you have the choice and you can modify it to suit you. What that really gives us as a vendor is it makes our total cost of ownership a lot lower, because we’re not using multiple lines of code. Secondly, when you go and apply a fix, you don’t have to apply it to multiple places. It’s just so much easier. Also, back in 2013 the average ROI was 1.7, and now it’s 2.2. The reason why this number seems to keep getting better is as technology changes and more cloud deployments happen, every dollar that someone puts in is now giving a high level of return, and that’s why we’re seeing an increase now in people thinking of cloud as a real viable option.
Why has it taken so long for ERP to move to the cloud?
One reason is technology itself. You know the iPhone has only been out six years? Just think about the amount of change that technology has seen since then. The other factor is security – the biggest incumbent in this region that has stopped people from deploying cloud. As technology has changed, it has allowed us as ERP vendors to take advantage of it. Security standards now are a lot higher than they have probably ever been; the standards around data centres, the 4G network – that technology, the latency, the way they talk about the IoT and everything being measurable, that technology just simply didn’t exist before. We would never have been able to deploy cloud application if that technology wasn’t available to us.
What are the benefits enterprise can hope to realise once they move to the cloud?
The biggest one is cost: cost of infrastructure, resources, technology – all of those components that enterprises would normally have invested in – in theory, they no longer have those costs. But the important benefit is, imagine a company with a dedicated IT infrastructure team and they had resources focused on that, well now they can take those resources – not necessarily eliminate them, but refocus them on other activities that will bring in greater business benefit than looking after a box in the corner. I think that’s going to be the biggest benefit to organisations; refocusing people on new activities to drive more value.
Do you think cloud ERP provides a better user experience?
Yes, because if you think about the way people used to enter information into ERP applications, it used to be these green screens, which meant that the individual needed to learn and understand how to use the application. If you think about cloud applications, that teaching now isn’t necessary. I can’t think of anyone who has downloaded an app and then gone and watched a three-hour tutorial on how to use it. Also, think about millennials. By the year 2025, they expect 60% of the workforce to be millennials. The way in which millennials interact is through tablets, apps, social media; I’ve got a 10-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, and whether or not they will ever see a PC or any of that stuff, they still know how to work my phone better than I do. I took my laptop home and the first thing my son did was start playing with the screen, not realising that there was a keyboard attached to it, but he expected that user experience. That is the future generation. If we had to go and tell them, “here’s an ERP application”, they would sit and look at you and ask “what on earth is that?” But I think that whole mentality around ‘what is an ERP? Is it supply chain management, distribution etc.’ It’s not going to be about that in the future. No one’s going to be concerned about what the back-end applications are or how it all fits together, and I think cloud gives you more of the ‘what is it you want to do?’ and ‘is there an app out there that can help you?’ experience.
Are you planning to provide mobile interfaces?
With our most recent release (December 2015) we introduced the enterprise mobile framework, so that allows us to natively deploy applications through the cloud, but specifically across any kind of phablet device. We’ve also created a social framework which allows you to interact with other parts of the supply chain.