By Vibhuti Dubey, Senior Vice President and Head of SAP Practice, Infosys
The acceptance of the cloud as a central pillar of IT strategy is now well established. The tremendous benefits it offers for systems infrastructure – reduced costs, enhanced scalability, flexibility, availability, resilience, and security – are clear, and there is a large-scale adoption across most organizations. Things are now progressing beyond infrastructure. Advanced technologies which are driving business transformation, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), internet of things (IoT), and advanced analytics, are more readily available in the cloud. In several cases, these technologies are only available in the cloud. Cloud has become a key enabler for business innovation.
Therefore, cloud has made the transition from being part of IT strategy to becoming an essential component of new business strategies.
Taking Enterprise Applications to the Cloud
Enterprise applications typically enable core business functions of an organization and are mission critical. They cover a wide breadth of functionalities and are commonly referred to by acronyms such as ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SCM (Supply Chain Management), and HCM (Human Capital Management). Any digital journey must consider these core applications because they enable the most important business transactions as well as store all the foundational data. Enterprises are concerned about the stability and security of these applications and seek a robust and resilient infrastructure. Traditionally, these applications have been hosted “on-premise”, meaning the computing, networking, and data storage systems were housed in organizations’ own data centers.
As these data centers rapidly become cloud-bound, moving these applications to the cloud has become a new imperative, driven by the twin objectives of reducing cost and adopting advanced technologies such as AI/ML, IoT, Blockchain, and Analytics. A new class of cloud-based enterprise apps has emerged, leveraging the cloud and new technology innovations, which promises to be the foundation for digital transformation. However, moving core business applications to the cloud is not a simple task.
The core applications encapsulate complex processes, workflows, and organization structures which are very hard to replicate. Hence, in the beginning, cloud adoption was seen in specific user-centric business applications like e-mail and office applications. Gradually, cloud applications aimed at specific business functions such as sales and marketing, human capital management, and procurement gained traction. We also saw the adoption of cloud-based ERPs by small and medium enterprises. Today, we are increasingly seeing large enterprise applications being adopted on the cloud. These were traditionally on premise, but they have all come out with products on the cloud. SAP S/4 HANA Cloud and Oracle Fusion Cloud are great examples.
Building a Viable Roadmap
While the benefits of adopting enterprise cloud applications are amply clear, the roadmap to adopting these has a huge bearing on the success of the implementation. The strong roadmap keeps business priorities at the center. Consider questions such as ‘what are the main business drivers for considering a change in the current enterprise applications’? While current issues or opportunities are important, creating an enterprise architecture that is future-ready is critical.
There are full-suite applications as well as “best-of-breed” applications that are best suited for individual functions that need to be evaluated. It is difficult to implement all the end-state applications in one go, in such cases, planning out the sequence of adoption of cloud applications becomes critical.
Cloud Conversion, Greenfield, or Brownfield?
Before getting deep into cloud implementation, enterprises need to decide on the approach. Should they do just a “conversion” where they retain all aspects of their current application and only do a technical movement to the new cloud application? Or will a fresh ‘greenfield’ implementation for the entire scope make more sense? Maybe a middle path is better suited: there is a full spectrum of hybrid or ‘brownfield’ choices where you can retain a certain part of the current application logic and data while moving to the new cloud application.
For organizations that do not have an existing full-fledged enterprise application suite or have an outdated enterprise application, a greenfield implementation is the only choice. Other scenarios where a greenfield implementation makes sense include an organization that is building a new business or undergoing a major business transformation. The existing enterprise application solution may be unsuitable, too complex, or inefficient for the organization’s purpose. Or the organization could have gone through significant structural changes (restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, or divestments) resulting in multiple and disparate applications.
In all these cases, greenfield implementation will help move the enterprise to a harmonized and efficient enterprise platform with the most modern applications as well as infrastructure. This will help set up a much more agile and flexible platform for continuous business innovation and growth, leveraging the latest digital technologies.
Irrespective of the approach, however, it is important that organizations focus on the end goal. That is to design organizational infrastructure that leverages all benefits of the cloud and enables the adoption of new and innovative technologies that can define the future of the organization and place it on the path to success.