Cloud Angel: Analyst Perspective on SaaS ERP for Service-based Organizations

Service-oriented organizations often find it difficult to balance infrastructure costs with software systems that enable frequent modifications. TEC examines UNIT4’s Vita Cloud Angel approach to this challenge—and lets you know whether it’s a viable option for you. Get the TEC analyst perspective in this special report on Vita Cloud Angel.

UNIT4 Vita Cloud Angel:
The TEC Analyst Perspective

Service-oriented organizations face questions on how to find a balance between having an enterprise software system that enables easy or frequent change while staying light on infrastructure costs. The following examines how one software solution, UNIT4’s Vita Cloud Angel, provides such a balance for organizations that regularly change their organizational structure, business processes, and practices.

Attending to infrastructure costs and efficient change management is important for organizations of all sizes, but especially so for companies with relatively complex and multilayer managerial structures. The larger the organization, the more complex and sophisticated the change management processes, and the more employees and subordinate processes that are involved in change.

Change implementation simplicity and speed, availability of change history, secure roll-back capabilities, minimal or no server/hardware reconfiguration and downtime, the ability to concentrate more resources on business aspects of change management—all these are essential aspects of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for rapidly changing organizations. However, this is not reflected by the reality. A modern ERP system is an extremely complex instrument for managing day-to-day activities, often consisting of hundreds or thousands of interdependent database tables, with millions of lines of code. Changing the structure of even a single table implies many modifications to related tables and corresponding code lines, and traditionally a tremendous amount of work by highly skilled staff is required to implement these changes. True, all ERP systems can handle change; however, there are big differences in how this is accomplished, and it can sometimes have severe implications in terms of cost, speed, and disruption (see How Does Your ERP System Architecture Address Change? [TEC, June 2008]).

Project-based service organizations in particular face key problems, as they are likely to be managing multiple ongoing projects, each at a different stage of progress. Their challenge is to ensure that any IT, process, procedural, or structural change is reflected and propagated properly for each project, which essentially boils down to multiple changes deriving from a single change requirement.

Also, service- and project-based organizations are particularly sensitive to interruptions in their ability to provide service at a constant level: “downtime” for these organizations can have a serious impact on both current and potential clients. For instance, service interruptions for governmental and public-service organizations can endanger public safety for a large population.

From a technical perspective, a cloud-based ERP deployment model may appear to be an attractive option for business users, as it significantly reduces the hassle of managing the ERP IT infrastructure, the updates, the upgrades, and security and scalability issues. However such organizations also need to find a response to the business change pressures they face on a day-to-day basis as a consequence of reorganizations, restructuring, a merger, an acquisition, new compliancy rules, organizational growth or, for instance, new financial management principles.

UNIT4’s Vita Cloud Angel offering is designed to address both of these pressures. It is principally targeted at medium-to-large project-based service organizations, educational and governmental organizations, not-forprofit structures, and other “human-centric” businesses that experience constant and rapid change in their structures, business processes, or practices.

As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of the Agresso Business World ERP system, Vita Cloud Angel provides the same architecture (i.e., the Vita architecture) as Agresso Business World, delivered through a subscriptionbased single-tenant deployment model.

This distinction (single-tenant versus multi-tenant) is important, since one problem posed by the multi-tenant model is that any software change you request will inevitably affect other businesses using the same application, potentially resulting in delays or perhaps even denial of the modification your company is seeking.

With these points in mind, we’ll turn now to the typical ERP requirements for frequently changing organizations, before analyzing Vita Cloud Angel in detail.

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