Streamlined ERP Implementation on the Cloud

Chryste Hofer, Deputy CIO, City of Greensboro
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Chryste Hofer, Deputy CIO, City of Greensboro

Managing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) architectures can be a daunting task in the face of constant technological advances. Organizations seek to run their business on a seamless platform ensuring the general ledger, procurement, and human resource functions are fully integrated. Once the full implementation is complete, you have only just begun. This is the point when a permanent team is deployed, that ensures the integrity of the system remains throughout its lifecycle. Anyone who has been assigned to an ERP implementation knows that they don’t want to be on an ERP project again when the organization decides to change systems. It is a disruptive change.

"The CloudSuite has allowed us to lower our total cost of ownership, deploy updates faster, and provided stellar business continuity"

As the Deputy CIO and ERP System manager for the City of Greensboro, I have made it my mission to maintain our Infor Lawson solution while keeping pace with technology changes, shifting business requirements, and new integrations. If I do my job well, our business solutions will keep pace with business needs. In 2013, I began discussions with Infor about how I could begin to contain the increasingly complex server farm, reduce long term costs, and at the same time update our product footprint to bring in new software that could meet our long term business goals. Infor stepped up to met this challenge by proposing that we move to a subscription based cloud solution hosted at Amazon Web Services (AWS). I admit that I was intimidated and skeptical to be at the forefront of government in making this change but decided to be open-minded and research the complexities of it. What I found was exciting.

Some of the key benefits we discovered in this process were encouraging.

1. Infor structures the change so that the organization can inactivate the perpetual license without losing the residual value of the investment. This is important to an organization who may still be amortizing that value in their asset portfolio.

2. We found that hosting our infrastructure in the AWS cloud was a highly secure offering coupled with the best in compliance standards including SOX, ISO 27001, FISMA and SSAE16 certifications. This also allowed us to meet our recovery point and time objectives while having regional data centers for backup and failover.

3. We were able to add new products to our offering like Global Human Resources, performance management and Enwisen on-boarding while reducing our costs by $500K over a ten year return on investment (ROI) calculation model.

I often get questions about how we calculated the ROI model; this model included the on-premise maintenance costs year over year with a standard escalation percentage and added in the cost of our infrastructure investment during that time period; the cost of the additional product we are leveraging, and cost of additional bandwidth to run a dedicated tunnel between our secured network and AWS. We also included a percentage of the employee resource dedicating time to maintain the system architecture.  

We embarked on our project in March 2014 and our ‘System Go-Live’ was in February 2015. Overall this project has been a great success. We have been using the Infor Lawson ERP system since 2001 and have completed several upgrades since then. The most recent upgrade moved our applications to the latest version, and included a DB migration as well as the shift from on-premise to Cloud. In all of the years we have worked with Infor we continue to be impressed with the overall commitment to the Client. When we have concerns, Infor Management is always open to hearing our business case and seeking a way to resolve our concerns. When you couple this client commitment to the powerful toolsets that allow us create customizations without modifications to backend code, you have a win-win. Infor continues to build tools which enhance the user experience and deliver powerful information from data. The tools we leverage the most include Application Studio, which allows us to display reports next to forms in the user interface, Microsoft add-ins, which pulls data out, manipulates it, and reloads it back into the application, and Design Studio which customizes the front end forms to get rid of fields we don’t use and combine screens. These tools allow our users to have comfortable familiar experience when conducting day to day processing.

A new tool we were able to leverage in this implementation is Ming.le™ Enterprise. Ming.le allows the users to discuss transactions in the social user interface without leaving the application. In other words, one user can tag or screen share a transaction to another user seeking that information; when a user follows the tagged transaction, you are notified when changes occur to it. This has the ability to transform the way we conduct business.

Our partnership with Infor has the City of Greensboro well positioned for the future. The CloudSuite has allowed us to lower our total cost of ownership, deploy updates faster, and provided stellar business continuity. It’s a business partnership that continues to evolve as our business demands change.

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