How Important are Cloud-Based Operations for Distributors?

The industry has changed the past two years, and embracing cloud-based operations can be vital for distributors in a volatile realm.
3d rendering circuit cloud on tablet for cloud computing technology

In the distribution world, “the cloud” has become just as important as it is nebulous. And as much as the industry has changed over the past two years, distributors who adapt to volatile markets by streamlining operations via cloud-based tech are more likely to thrive during future disruptions, said Steve Levy, vice president of enterprise architecture at enterprise software company Infor.

Moving to the cloud is “the first of a series of continuous improvements,” he said.

Levy and MDM CEO Tom Gale discussed in a recent webcast key drivers for cloud-based ERP adoption and how distributor IT teams are migrating to strengthen competitive positions while lowering operational costs.

With the cloud, operations have grown more sophisticated than physical, on-site rooms that are manually checked and maintained. In terms of capacity, distributors can “really run into your wall in a server room,” Levy said.

“You really need a tremendous amount of processing to do some of these emergent technologies we’re seeing today,” he said, specifically artificial intelligence.

When companies introduce or update cloud-based practices, beefing up analytics is one way to take full advantage of what new tech has to offer by seeing customer trends in real time. “This is separate [from] reporting,” Levy says. “This is not getting data anymore. This is really getting the information that people need for their jobs.”

Cloud benefits

Levy also addressed several relevant areas of interest for distributors considering moving to — or reinforcing — cloud-based operations.

  • Security: “Security is fantastic in the cloud,” he said. “Because it is a core competency of your cloud provider. The redundancy of firewalls, the ability to detect intrusion. There are teams at both your cloud hosting environment and a software provider that are entirely focused on security so that you don’t have to [be].”
  • Mobility: “The CEO or the CIO wants to check on something. He has his ERP available in his device. That appears to be the strength there. … It’s not even the mobile device you’re going to use anymore. It’s the ability to push that information to other people’s systems. That’s what’s going to make our distributors much more sticky and much more improved partnerships.”
  • Integration and building strong cloud infrastructure: “One of the things I think that the distributors need to look for when it comes to integrations is that it’s no longer going to be a single instance. … ‘I have to touch these eight different systems.’ Yes, you do today, but hopefully it will be nine tomorrow and then 109 the day after. Because, again, we want to integrate directly into our customer systems.”

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