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"No matter how smart an IT company is, the IT processes are different across the industry," he said. "So all of these companies have had to customize [their ERP] systems to fit their business processes."
For on-site, traditional ERP and BI, he said, "upgrading means rebuilding all of those systems all over again." Because of the costs involved in this, smaller companies get stuck with versions five to 10 years out of date in markets that may change month-to-month or day-to-day, he explained.
With cloud-based systems, though, "customizations seamlessly migrate with updates" across the BI platform. "This is really key," he said. This means, when production, flow or processes change to meet new demands, one online update will cover the entire system.
This flexibility is a key feature for cloud services, said Mark Bernardo, general manager of automation software at GE Intelligent Platforms
"The interesting thing with cloud... is it's imminently and infinitely scalable," he said. "So I don't need to architect this magnanimous system to deal with all of the possible data sets that I may ever need to use in my manufacturing plant."
Rather, he said, "I could take an approach to say, I'm going to key up 25% of the investment right now, understanding that at any given point and time, if we need to consume more, whoever we are subscribing to will be able to expand out to meet my needs."
With this kind of flexibility, the future seems clear, he said: "I think the cloud is certainly one of those things that, just like mobile, everyone will adopt at some level." So it's a creeping inevitability that soon all small and midsize companies (at least) will employ.
Along this course, however, there is still one major stumbling block to cross: security.
Next installment: "Business Intelligence for the 21st Century (Part Two): Cybersecurity."