Inspirational Leaders SAP UKI Interview: Bob Atkinson At InCloud Solutions Discusses Cloud ERP In The Mid-Market

Bob Atkinson is Managing Director at InCloud Solutions, an SAP Platinum Partner based in Reading, UK. InCloud is a leading specialist in the mid-market Cloud ERP solution, SAP Business ByDesign and was recently acquired by market-leading SAP partner, Sapphire Systems. InCloud was a runner-up in the ‘Best Socially Sustainable Project’ category for the 2021 SAP UKI Customer Success Awards for their project with Red Funnel, and was the only SAP Business ByDesign finalist across all categories.

I chatted to Bob about his career in tech, InCloud’s strengths and values, some of their recent projects and Bob’s observations on Cloud ERP in the mid-market…

SAP UKI: Tell us a little about yourself, Bob.

A Mechanical Engineer by degree, so stereotypically I’m building a racing car — a Triumph GT6 which I plan to enter into the Swinging Sixties Series next year. I have four children, all over eighteen years old, and live with my wife, Caroline, who incidentally is one of the joint founders of InCloud. Fingers crossed we’ll be moving to a little farm in South Wales with our cat, dog and hopefully will add some chickens soon.

SAP UKI: How did you come to join InCloud?

As soon as I left Uni, I started my own business in water treatment. After a few years of that, back in 1998, I landed an SME retail consultancy role with SAP and had various other sales roles there until I became a stay-at-home dad. Caroline was looking after UK pre-sales for SAP and we had four kids under the age of five, so it made sense for me to become the main carer for a while. Caroline started the company in 2012 with Liz Matraves, who was her colleague for many years on the SAP Business ByDesign consulting team and is currently InCloud’s Consulting Director. They were one of the very first partners to do SAP Business ByDesign and were incredibly successful.

I joined InCloud in 2014 when the company was around two years old. Of course, I’d been hearing all about what’s going on across the kitchen table. They asked me to help them out on the support desk, and my role eventually developed into project management, then Ops Director and eventually Managing Director. It’s a perfect role for as I have an in-depth knowledge of both SAP and InCloud Solutions.

SAP UKI: What are In Cloud’s core values?

One of the key things for me is to make sure that I’ve got loyalty from the business and in return I offer support to all aspects of their lives if they need it. Everyone asks why all our customers are so happy and I firmly believe it’s because our employees are so right for InCloud. Employee wellbeing and integrity are big focuses areas for us. We don’t need to force customer satisfaction into everybody, it’s just naturally there in all our staff.

We’re focused on helping businesses work smoother. We’re proud to have a technical team creating our own IP (Intellectual property) to achieve this for specific industries. Wherever possible, we try to repurpose our IP for other customers to keep project cost and timelines short. For example, we created a royalty management solution for a cancer research organization so they can manage all of their investors and we have reused it for the life sciences, music and gaming industries.

SAP UKI: What InCloud projects are you particularly proud of?

Well, there’s our project for Red Funnel which was a runner-up in the SAP 2021 ‘Best Socially Sustainable Project’. They provided a ‘Covid lifeline service’ for food and medication to the Isle of Wight by using SAP Business ByDesign to secure the government funding that kept them going. They are a phenomenal customer of ours — we worked together really, really well — and the project is testament to how a strong working partnership can produce even greater results.

We’re all really proud of our project with Bennaman, a young business based in Cornwall. They capture the methane from cattle farms and convert it into ‘green fuel’. Bennaman is a great example of a circular economy strategy: sourcing energy from local waste resources and distributing it locally. They’re addressing climate change and also creating rural jobs, which is fantastic.

We implemented SAP Business ByDesign to help them connect their people and processes and to fuel their growth. We’re helping them to organize everything so they can report accurately to all of their investors and manage their cash-flows correctly.

SAP UKI: What is InCloud’s vision for the next few years?

We’re ‘all in’ with Sapphire now, so their vision is our vision: to continually innovate and to be that trusted technology partner that helps our customers to keep evolving and improving.

InCloud’s a relatively flat organization, so we were worried about how to retain all of our excellent staff in the future. We wanted them to spread their wings even further, so we needed that bigger platform to give them more opportunities. Sapphire’s a great company and we’ll help them expand their Cloud capabilities. Looking at the AI (Artificial Intelligence) bots they’ve developed, and all the SAP analytics and advanced reporting that they’re capable of doing, it’s really a match made in heaven.

SAP UKI: What Cloud ERP trends are you seeing in the mid-market?

Well, data security and the responsibility for that data is getting quite critical as there’s a lot of ransomware floating out there. And what small business wants to risk being held to ransom and not able to access any of their data? SME organizations don’t always have the bandwidth to employ specifically for risk management. Just running a standard anti-virus software won’t cut it anymore.

Within SAP Cloud ERP systems, that headache just disappears. That’s certainly true for me running InCloud totally on SAP Business ByDesign….well that and MS Office of course! It’s a massive relief that I don’t have to hold data from suppliers or customers on my own premises. Consider that the data warehouses are tier three and four military-grade bunkers and totally encrypted. SAP has spent millions, if not billions, on this sort of infrastructure. I can guarantee that 95% of the companies that we deal with are not data management systems businesses and rarely consider how important it is to keep data clean and secure. Thankfully, in the SAP Cloud environments they have a major part of this responsibility covered for them!

Are you a small or midsize business based in the UK or Ireland? Find out more about Cloud ERP for SMEs.