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Managed cloud ERP services keep businesses afloat in crisis

In this Q&A, Ryan Etinson of Syntax discusses why companies that use a managed cloud services provider for their ERP systems don't have to worry about system stability.

The current business climate has created uncertainty for ERP projects. However, companies that rely on a managed cloud services provider may have an advantage.

In this Q&A, Ryan Etinson, CEO Americas of Syntax, describes why managed cloud services providers can provide stability in the face of disruption and how they're helping companies adjust to such an unprecedented time.

Syntax, based in Montreal, is a pioneer in managed services for ERP systems. The company began as an implementation and services provider for on-premises JD Edwards ERP systems in the 1990s, and then began providing managed cloud services for JD Edwards. In recent years, Syntax has added managed cloud ERP services for Oracle E-Business Suite and SAP ERP systems. The company runs private hosted cloud and public cloud deployments for customers around the world.

What are companies thinking about with hosted and cloud managed ERP systems during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ryan EtinsonRyan Etinson

Ryan Etinson: There are a few things that we're seeing. One, there's an appreciation that, of all the things companies have to worry about now, they don't have to worry about the stability of their ERP system because these are still running and performing. Our employees are working from home all over the world and are still able to provide mission-critical services for companies to make sure they are operating without any glitches, which is the last thing [companies] need to be worrying about now.

Are there differences in how the crisis is affecting different companies?

Etinson: Yes, we're seeing that every company is being affected differently. We have companies that are hotel chains or airlines as customers, but we also have food distributors. So, for some of our customers, business has trickled down to almost zero -- or at zero if they were completely shut down. We have customers who are operating in manufacturing who are at 50% capacity. And then others whose businesses have gone through the roof and they're struggling with demand and supply chain and being able to service their customers.

How do you treat these differences?

Etinson: We have to treat and triage all of these customers differently as to how we deal with them. For example, to assist in the work-from-home situation that we're all in, we've offered to give our customers free desktop-as-a-service configurations through the AWS public cloud. This is for companies that have employee workstations in the office but now have to work from home. Employees can now access their systems and continue working.

What are some other specific problems that companies are dealing with?

Etinson: Companies still need their systems up and running. Even if they aren't conducting business today because they've been shut down, they still need to be operational. For example, the hotel chains may have empty hotels right now, but they're still receiving bookings for the future, so they can't have their systems completely shut down. So we're looking at customer workloads now, and if there are reduced workloads because there's a reduction in the amount of transactions going through their systems, we are flexing as needed to be able to give them some relief on cash and payments.

Is the ability of managed cloud services providers to work remotely a big advantage?

Etinson: It's very rare that we need to enter one of our data centers. We still have access to them as needed, but most of the work we do is remotely accessing those servers. So you don't have to be physically next to the servers to get something done. If you look at the public cloud, nobody's accessing AWS's server banks, so everything we're doing on those servers is remote and whether we're doing it from an office or home, we're still able to operate.

How is the crisis affecting ERP projects -- deployments or upgrades -- that customers are considering or working on?

Etinson: This is not the first cycle we've seen where there's an economic downturn -- you can look back at 2008 or 2000 before that. And we're seeing that some companies are accelerating their internal projects because they are having excess capacity, particularly in personnel. Because there's a slowdown, they may have more availability for projects, so there's an increased pressure on our professional services organization as companies are looking to accelerate their timelines and their go-lives.

What's the biggest characteristic of providing managed cloud services during the crisis?

Etinson: We're trying not to be a distraction to our customer; we have constant contact with customers to see what we can do and if there's any changes that we can make to systems as they go through difficult times. But ultimately we're trying to remain in the background, making sure that everything's performing; we're not trying to push any of our customers. We're pushing off anything that might disrupt their services in any way; we're just trying to take a back seat and making sure they are able to operate.

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