Carl Dubler, senior director of Product Marketing for SAP S/4HANA, joined SAP nearly 12 years ago and is responsible for bringing some of the first products ever built on SAP HANA to market, including the platform’s very first cloud product.

The is the second in a six-part “Cloud Coach” series focused on addressing the questions, concerns, and thoughts of a business considering ERP. Ashley Ford, digital marketing and communications lead for Digital Core and Intelligent ERP at SAP, will interview a variety of ERP subject matter experts – our “Cloud Coaches.”

Because of his experience of taking existing products based on other databases and converting them to run on SAP HANA, Dubler has gained a unique perspective on what we’re asking our customers that are on other systems to do when it comes to moving to cloud ERP.

Q: Could you give an overview of the different ERP deployment options?

A: There’s the traditional way of deploying ERP, which is on premise. On the other end of the spectrum is cloud ERP. Cloud-based ERP solutions are run on the vendor’s infrastructure, purchased with a subscription, and controlled and maintained by the vendor, including periodic updates. On premise is controlled and maintained entirely by the customer. You also have options in the middle. A hybrid approach is ideal for businesses that need more flexibility — for example, you could run what is essentially on-premise ERP but with cloud infrastructure (IaaS).

The most important thing to know about ERP with SAP S/4HANA is that the customer has the complete and consistent choice on how they deploy. By complete, I mean that the solution can be run on-premise or in the cloud. And by consistent, I mean that it looks the same, uses the same data model, and uses the same code line. This consistency means as companies are bought, sold, or as things change, you will not have to deal with different data models or different user experience throughout your organization.

What is your tried-and-true advice for businesses that are trying to decide which deployment option is best for them?

The three biggest factors a business should take into consideration when thinking of moving forward with ERP in the cloud are scope, customization, and control.

Scope simply means “does the software do what I want it to do?” Cloud is designed to run standardized business processes based on best practices. It is designed to be up-and-running quickly and provide the fastest time to value. So you have to ask if the cloud software does exactly what you need it to do, such as does it support the industry you’re in, does it support the language and regionalization needs that you have, and does it support the business processes you do?

The second factor is customization. Can you run standard processes or do you need to make customizations? Digging deeper, do you have a lot of legacy customizations that you still need to use?

And the final consideration is control. This goes beyond what may come to mind when you first think of the word control. How much do you need to be in control of the deployment? For example, with maintenance, do you want to set the maintenance schedule? Do you want to determine when updates happen? One of the reasons to go to cloud is because you do not want to worry about tasks like those.

What is your perspective on ERP in the private cloud versus the public cloud?

You can be just as secure in the public cloud as you could be in a private cloud. I don’t think security is a differentiator anymore between these options, because all of the deployment options have great security.

It really comes down to what kind of customizations you need to do and what kind of control you want. That should be what makes the decision on private cloud ERP versus public cloud ERP. They typically have the same physical security and software security, so there is very little difference anymore from a security standpoint. A customer should feel confident going either way.

What is your final advice for businesses weighing their deployment options?

Why wait? Start leveraging the available planning tools now, so that when it’s time to move you’re ready to go.

My last encouragement to any organization would be to start working on this now, to start using the planning tools that SAP has that are available today and free to use. Even if you don’t know exactly when you’re going to be deploying, you can do things now very inexpensively to get your users and IT department ready. For example, running a demo system: Demo systems are able to be set up in just hours and allow your users a firsthand experience to use the software and give you feedback.

This is not like ERP deployments back in the day, where you took two years with a steering committee to create a blueprint that you then took many years to implement. We have to go faster now. Business challenges are rising faster and they need to be addressed more quickly.

Learn more about enterprise resource planning solutions from SAP.