The importance of software-as-a-service (SaaS) has become more prominent thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for people to work from anywhere, and access their business software solutions from anywhere.
The challenge is how to plan SaaS implementation and cloud migration strategies within a short space of time while ensuring business continuity during and after.
A selection of experts came together for a TechCentral roundtable discussion to hash out issues such as how organisations can take advantage of the benefits of cloud and SaaS, and how to deal with challenges such as which solutions offer easier access to applications, security and performance, and are cost-effective, low risked and scalable?
Director and partner at Deloitte Africa ERP Kevin Govender says that the consulting firm has been on a huge transformation drive, and decided to put its entire solutions, applications and business capability into one product. It has also standardised everything across the 14 African countries in which it operates.
The consulting firm has moved into SaaS, which brings with it many benefits, including standardisation. It also means a move from capital spending to operational expenses, which can be scaled up or down as needed, as there is no requirement to purchase infrastructure, says Govender.
Among its clients, it is also seeing a shift to the cloud, although this varies from industry to industry and also depends on geographical location. Mines, for example, may find more benefit from remaining on premises, especially if they are operating in rural areas where broadband is not easily available. “The reality is, it’s not all or the other. I think we’ve now moved into a world where we’re hybrid.”
Annalyn Rejji, Ernst & Young Africa digital technology infrastructure leader, agrees, saying that before a decision is made, there is first a need to define stakeholders, and explain the benefits, which makes the conversation much more relevant. She adds that it is now a case of when, not why.
However, she says, IT will drive cloud from a value-driven perspective, while business looks at it from a commercial point of view, and there needs to be more synergy between the two.
When it comes to advising customers, Rejji says the approach is to look at the customer’s landscape, their architecture, as well as the budget and then remember, especially with cloud, it’s more long-term value than a short-term gain anyway.
3Sixty Health chief technology officer Tshepo Motshegoa says his company adopted a cloud strategy in 2017 and moved its call centre and core administration system over. This allowed it to have its entire staff complement work from home. “Right now, I have all my call centre agents sitting at home and taking calls. That would have been impossible before.”
As a result of the success of moving these functions over, 3Sixty is migrating all its other systems, including SAP, into the cloud. This, Motshegoa says, will allow the company to continue working remotely, even when lockdown is over.
Motshegoa adds that the executives have bought into this strategy because they have seen bottom-line cost savings. These savings have mostly come in the form of less physical space, which means less buildings and rental leases.
Bidorbuy chief technology officer James Ostrowick says that, having already migrated many applications, such as e-mail, to the cloud meant that moving to an offsite situation could take place very quickly. “We’re still only running at about 50% capacity in the office. I go in two or three days a week at the most and the rest of the time, even our call centre guys are working from home via voice over IP, so it’s made it a little bit easier.”
In Bidorbuy’s production environment, Ostrowick adds that it is currently moving to Amazon Web Services, and the company will likely end up with a hybrid approach. This is because, currently, migrating everything to the cloud is going to be expensive due to some of its development operations, and the fact that its server system is only two-and-a-half years old. “It just makes sense to kind of sweat those assets a bit before we decide to move into the cloud.”
The Railway Safety Regulator counts among its clients private and public entities such as Transnet and the Blue Train. As a result, senior manager of information systems Lesedi Modibane says it needs to be able to use data meaningfully to make better decisions. “We’re looking at things like predictive analytics, so we can anticipate issues and ensure that we can log these before they happen.”
The key aspect, he says, is to understand where a company’s business model is going, and whether it is in the right place. This is key because companies don’t need to adopt every single technology that comes out. “It has to be aligned to your business model, where you are going, and the business case.”
Key for the regulator is turnaround times, which is why it moved its national information management system into the cloud. This system is used by most of the operators for permits and to report for clearances, among other aspects. As a result of this migration, other functions such as human resources also want to move, says Modibane.
In addition, he says, the regulator is looking at doing audits and inspections using drones, which will provide it with a data repository that is conducive to doing analytics on the fly. “It’s a continuous journey. We evaluate it based on the needs.”
Cyril Baloyi, head of Gauteng’s e-government department, says this department is the only one in the country that is mandated to digitalise, transform, modernise and re-industrialise the province. As such, it is doing everything possible to embrace cloud computing.
Currently, it is working with a hybrid model but is examining costs and has determined that it can save 37% of the R60-million/year it spends on hosting. As a result, it is working with the State IT Agency to determine if it can use the Sita Cloud Foundation. “In the long run, we are looking at a 70% to 30% ratio, in terms of moving 70% into the cloud.”
Anthony Olivier, the global chief information security officer for Imperial Logistics, says the company has grown through acquisition, which means it has not really developed a standard baseline for technology. “We have a patchwork all over the globe.”
The industry operates on slim margins, and Imperial cannot continue to operate the way it has. As a result, the company is implementing a data-driven strategy, in which cloud is very much a part, adds Olivier.
Although early in the journey, it is already reaping the benefits in terms of business analytics gleaned from the way trucks travel across the country, the load, the size of the truck, and other aspects, says Olivier.
MultiChoice chief group enterprise architect Peter Robb says his company operates on a federated business model, which makes its IT quite complex. There is also a lot of shared IT, and some businesses are more mature than others. These aspects need to be considered when looking to move to the cloud.
As Bidorbuy’s Ostrowick says, the trick is to do your research first. “Understand why you’re doing it, and what benefits it’s going to give you and don’t just jump into it because it’s the right thing to do.”
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