Decision factors like cost, upkeep, and internal IT demands are rightfully crucial when selecting an ERP. But at the end of the day, one of the most crucial elements of any SaaS solution is how well the platform works, both broadly and for your company’s specific needs. In today’s business environment, that usually means universal data accessibility.

Companies are becoming increasingly decentralized every day. Remote employees, global offices, and device diversification are stretching the limits of what many businesses can keep connected. According to The New York Times, as of 2017, approximately 43% of American employees said they spend at least some time working remotely, a significant shift from just a few years before. At the same time, this current era of hyperconnectivity demands increasing seamlessness across teams and departments, regardless of how scattered physical resources may be.

SaaS users also report higher rates of real-time, cross-departmental collaboration, as well as the ability to share and integrate data across the enterprise.

Such flexibility and scalability are at the core of Microsoft’s cloud ERP solution set. The browser-based interface in Dynamics 365 allows for real-time connectivity from anywhere in the world—and from almost any device. And compounding that capability with the full power of the Microsoft application family provides even more value. Incorporating business intelligence tools from Power BI, for example, can help turn data-heavy financial ledgers into easily shared dashboards. Integration with Office 365 seamlessly ties the ERP to your primary business applications.

Consider the following checkpoints when evaluating whether a cloud-based ERP provider has the right safety network in place:

  1. Using a cloud-based ERP doesn’t mean every data point has to live in the cloud. You should always have the option to leave mission-critical data on-premise if the consequences of not being able to access that data would be catastrophic.
  2. Data residency regulations should be easily met through the vendor’s vast network of data centers—even in unique markets. That’s why Microsoft has more data centers than any other provider in the world.
  3. Privacy laws are changing rapidly. Your provider should be able to provide expert guidance and technical compliance to regulations like GDPR in both your platform and cloud infrastructure.
  4. What other companies are using this cloud solution? Will you be among the world’s most respected and secure companies as clients? Or are you evaluating an option that no one else seems to trust?

Your company’s security and your customers’ security should always be paramount when considering any major platform change. The right vendor should specifically detail how its ERP solution accounts for key issues and updates, as well as exactly how data is accessed and encrypted.

Part of the data puzzle, however, is how that ERP is implemented from the get-go. Outlining and then implementing a clear set of business objectives is the first step to migrating to a cloud-based model. Here’s how you can get started.

A smarter path to implementation

Once you’ve selected a new platform for your company, ERP implementations shouldn’t be taken lightly—platforms that touch every corner of a business demand a requisite smart amount of planning. Regardless of whether you’re choosing your company’s first cloud ERP or just switching to a new primary solution, both processes should start with the same step: Clearly defining what you want your ERP to accomplish.

For many CTOs and IT leaders, this can be the most difficult stage. For starters, reaching consensus across departments on an ERP’s desired functionality takes the kind of communication and planning that takes immense and sometimes tense communication and planning. Mapping out exactly how that functionality comes to life is critical. This may require a specialist, in conjunction with your IT team, to properly connect all the various pieces of your ERP to the secondary platforms, or other pieces of technology that you currently use.

To help solve these problems, focus on the largest gaps between the functionality of your new system and the surrounding technologies you currently use. Then decide whether they need to be addressed with platform customizations, internal process changes, or additional technology. This is crucial. Selecting platform customizations for specific teams— and weighing them against the advantages of aligning to industry best practices—can have long-term functionality implications.

It can be tempting to solve every issue with customization. But doing so can make your platform more difficult to routinely update and maintain. While they may be necessary in the end, customizations should only be adopted after determining that your ERP’s per-industry best practices simply can’t apply to your business—and only after a firm understanding of their potential consequences.

Having a dedicated group of stakeholders offers not just a mixture of knowledge, but also a sense of ownership over the project itself. And bringing in external specialists can provide critical expertise in implementing your new ERP platform.

With the right project map and collection of talents in place, it’s time to kick off. But such a business-critical decision begs for a commitment to continual testing and optimization. A cloud migration is an opportunity to move away from a monolithic, on-premise approach and toward a constantly evolving system. Exercising a SaaS model’s inherent flexibility and refining its immense capabilities to your unique business needs is critical to recognizing the platform’s full impact on your business.

It’s time to make a change

ERPs are the lifeblood of most major businesses. Good platforms track everything from inventory to monthly close, which is why replacing or upgrading them should be approached with the appropriate amount of respect. When the stakes are high, being cautious is the smart approach.

Cloud-based ERPs are already the new normal, and with so many businesses running outdated systems, the next five years are likely to bring dramatic market change. Not only are SaaS solutions more capable and efficient than on-premises ones, but their level of built-in vendor support and security protections provide a safer, more scalable environment for your company to grow into.

At HSO, we implement Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations platform that provides the integrated tools and support essential to helping secure overall business viability into the future. And regardless of where you are in your journey to the cloud, our experts can help build a migration strategy that aligns to your specific business challenges.

To learn more, download our presentation, Running Your Business in the Microsoft Cloud – The Value of Dynamics 365 for Finance & Operations.