Companies were already on a forward march to cloud computing, when the global COVID-19 pandemic hit and accelerated the need for agility. This urgency to adapt to changing conditions and empower a remote workforce is accentuating the benefits of cloud solutions. Without having to worry about the physical infrastructure of hardware and security, companies can rapidly deploy new end-to-end solutions to support major shifts in business models as they respond to market pressures and seize unfolding opportunities. Cloud solutions are in high demand among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Innovation is their survival tactic.
At Infor, we liken this global upheaval to a double-edged sword. On one edge, the pandemic has caused massive disruption to companies. On the other, it has given organizations pause to think about how technology can support them in a world very different from the world before COVID. It has absolutely accelerated technology adoption in certain industries.
Key problems spots
Supply chain management is one function that has been deeply impacted. Sudden, severe shortages of goods, from facemasks to hand sanitizer and toilet paper, shined a glaring spotlight on the vulnerability of the traditional supply chain network. Commercial kitchens saw decreased demand, but the consumer market demand increased. Shifting the inventory to local grocery stores proved surprisingly difficult.
Retail, too, faced inventory challenges in attempts to accommodate buyers who turned to online purchasing. Supporting such major changes with legacy software can be problematic. Heavily modified, traditional on-premises solutions take considerable time and coding expertise to update, leaving many companies struggling to adapt.
A matter of resilience
There is also concern globally about what is happening in business as a whole. Organizations are more concerned about sustainability and resilience, and this will continue after the pandemic. Larger businesses are often better equipped to adapt, but the smaller companies may be harder hit, creating even greater disparity.
The delta between those that adapt and those that don't will keep widening as consumer spending, travel, and in-person activities return, many experts contend.
Innovation has been the economic lifesaver. Companies are using enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions to help create safe work environments. Manufacturers are using cloud ERP solutions to help accommodate component delays because of supply chain disruption. Retail stores are shifting to online models. Restaurants are turning their parking lots into outdoor, socially distanced seating. Service companies are turning to virtual offerings. And, healthcare facilities are turning chaos into plans to create long-term relationships and growth. Software helps make these types of innovative, problem-solving changes happen. Cloud deployment means such changes happen remotely and quickly.
For the world's second largest tire manufacturer, its goal in moving to the cloud was to make doing business easier by transforming it relationships and transactions with customers. Cloud solutions have helped the organization enrich its experience with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and improve day-to-day tasks for employees by doing away with low-value-added tasks. These solutions also have made data more reliable and accessible and boosted efficiency of operations through more simplified processes. The move to the cloud has helped the company meet key business objectives and requirements, developing connectivity across operations like never before, and it can remain agile and modern with easy solution updates.
The companies that leverage technology now will be well positioned to apply innovation, digital strategies, and customer-centric thinking to their recovery process. Those that don't keep pace with change will be playing catch-up - or may never rebound.
Many enterprises are planning for recovery now. We are seeing organizations moving up plans that may have been number three or number four on their priority lists. Now, they are seeing that a full enterprise-wide cloud deployment makes sense and needs to happen quickly.
Cloud solutions leave much of the heavy lifting - like servers, security, compliance, back-ups and ongoing updates - to the provider. No longer do IT teams need to devote months or years to planning upgrades or adding new functionality.
Companies are no longer saying, "Why cloud?" Now, they are looking at who can best accompany them on the journey. They are looking for who can get them up and running quickly, with the least disruption.
Consider the case of a UK company that develops advanced software for managing and analyzing energy data for 11,000 organizations and 170,000 sites. With cloud-based analytics solutions, the company now has the ability to transform inefficient and highly manual reporting, build an infrastructure for customer self-service reporting, migrate from a desktop product to a modern web-based user interface, and drive customer growth and adoption. And being on a multi-tenant cloud architecture significantly speeds the process of onboarding new customers.
Necessity dictates rapid deployment
Desire for a fast return on investment (ROI) is driving many organizations to make bold, confident leaps of faith in adopting new technologies, research shows. There's less fretting over proof-of-concept programs and laborious trial projects.
"Business leaders are saying that they've accomplished in 10 days what used to take them 10 months," says Kate Smaje, a senior partner and global co-leader of McKinsey Digital. "That kind of speed is what's unleashing a wave of innovation unlike anything we've ever seen."
At Infor, we use a 60-30-10 "agility model" for deployment to help meet this demand for rapid implementation. The model calls for 60 percent of the functionality to be adopted "out of the box" and 30 percent to be achieved through industry-specific features and extensibility. That leaves 10 percent to be the organization's true differentiators that are more personalized. By streamlining adoption this way, companies are seeing greater ease of implementation and faster time-to-value.
It's a change in mindset, as much as a change in approach. Organizations have to recognize the value of shorter cycles and modernizing their capabilities on a regular basis - rather than making big upgrades every 10 years or so. The top executives are often the first ones to realize that modifications tend to slow down future progress and should be avoided when possible.
A recent McKinsey report notes, "The financial planning process for 2021 presents an opportunity to turn hard-earned lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic into an enduring exercise in linking strategy to value."
Now, as leaders look ahead to the next year and beyond, they're asking: "How do we keep this momentum going? How do we take the best of what we've learned and put that into practice after the pandemic, and make sure it's woven into everything we do, going forward?"
Modern cloud solutions provide the direct path to agility. And, working with a solution provider that has the same vision and the same commitment to business success is a giant leap in the right direction.