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Right now, companies in the food and beverage industry have a lot on their plate. A key question how to meet all demands and at the same time reach all your business goals? Unifying your technology platform, business strategy and operations is necessary to stay ahead of your competitors.

Companies have to keep up with increasing consumer demand for products that are healthy, ethical and environmentally friendly while at the same time meeting regulatory standards and minimizing food waste. And, of course, they still have to do the usual work of keeping margins high, preparing for emergencies, ensuring product quality, staying innovative and minimizing risk at every stage of production.

While there’s no magic button you can push to instantly transform your business into one that will thrive in this rapidly changing industry, moving your operations to the cloud and updating your business applications is the next best thing. 

Moving to the cloud allows food and beverage manufacturers and their IT departments to identify efficiencies, expect the unexpected, and leverage data analytics, machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. But cloud migration isn’t just a technical matter: it’s a holistic business transformation. Regular updates, multiple integrations and connected services can make cloud operations feel very complicated very quickly. To be successful, you must pay attention to change and people management. It takes some work, but the results are well worth it once you get your cloud operations right.

Business and IT managers believe moving to the cloud will finally free companies from demanding business systems. Costs and resources spent on operating, maintaining, and upgrading hardware and software will diminish, while new cloud-based systems will be more up-to-date, efficient and user-friendly. According to Infor, switching to the cloud can save companies up to 50% compared to on-premise solutions.

Making it vital that you have an experienced cloud partner

Most people have noticed the IT landscape has become more complex. The stream of updates, new IT services to solve specific needs and multiple integrations have produced different but equally demanding challenges for businesses and IT managers.

From now on, the cloud requires a different approach to running IT operations. For example, you’re sharing control of your IT platform with application providers, such as Microsoft and Infor, since they manage updates on their platforms. You can’t completely cancel updates, either.

And you shouldn’t if you want a relevant and secure solution. In the worst-case scenario, if you haven’t checked or tested everything properly, these updates could cost you downtime across the entire system. And, in the cloud, the performance of IT solutions affects the entire business. That’s why we recommend our customers start building the governance of the future operation before they move to the cloud. You will need completely different processes, skillsets and resources to build and operate your cloud solution to ensure your business continues and develops so you can reach your business goals.New call-to-action

Therefore, your success in the cloud doesn’t only depend on the technology you purchase. Companies should approach any IT project holistically. When you buy technology, you’re not getting change management services. Yet managing the IT changes across your organization is crucial to success.

Additionally, we see once you move to the cloud, there’s no end date for big transformation projects. Even when you reach your desired state, new trends and customers’ demands will push you to work on the next state. That’s why all IT projects are run iteratively or with an agile approach. They start with your minimum viable product and then progress step by step. Calibrating your current results is essential.

These challenges are just some reasons why at Columbus, we go beyond the traditional approach to managed services. Our services comprise application maintenance and support, updates management and business development practices adapted for the cloud age. All these business development practices make sure that your technology platform, your business strategy and operations are successful and keep developing even after you migrate to the cloud. 

Three areas comprise our Cloud Application Management Services: 

  1. Operation, maintenance and support. This includes smooth operations, reducing risks of downtime and maintaining the highest level of IT security. We monitor your system and ensure everything is operational. We provide a service desk and support. 
    The result is lower and predictable costs, better user experiences and an increased productivity. Delivering on time for food and beverage manufacturers is vital. There are significant risks to unexpected technology hiccups, including expired dates and noncompliance with perishable food regulations, leading to food waste, spoilage and shrinkage.  
  2. Updates that allow you to grow. We make sure cloud applications are updated effectively and securely. We test your company’s applications and ensure they are compatible with your customizations and any third-party solutions your company uses.  At the same time, we make sure your IT systems comply with laws and regulations regarding setup, use and security. Food and beverage regulations change regularly, so you want the latest technology solutions and updates to adjust to and meet the new regulations. The result? Better use of your company’s IT portfolio and maximum IT security.
    We also continuously monitor whether licensing and processes are aligned with your current processes and IT systems. Your company and your business systems are in constant flux; processes must keep up and licensing needs to be correct. Incorrect licensing can be costly, even for smaller outfits.
  3. Continuous innovation and development. Transformation is perpetual. So, we help our customers discover opportunities for optimization and guarantee the evolution of business value even after moving to the cloud. It’s not about buying more technologies but finding untapped opportunities in existing solutions.  
    We connect IT and business more closely by finding the best way to take full advantage of technology to achieve the desired business goals. The goal is to unify technology and business operations and adapt to changing demands and strategy. It usually requires close cooperation between key stakeholders, developing a joint vision and prioritization. 
    Then we bring in technical expertise and understanding of what’s possible with a cloud solution and industry knowledge to uncover and define areas and actions that will bring more value to the company. Once the next steps are defined, we develop a plan to lead the organization through the changes. The result is that the company’s IT systems are used more cost-effectively and become a platform that gives the business value and development opportunities regularly. Central to this for food and beverage manufacturers are the insights from analytics that can help improve efficiencies, optimize processes and make better forecasts for inventory and production decisions.   

Cloud helps management drive the entire business forward

Once you’re in the cloud, you have a much greater scope for initiating projects and exploiting the flexibility in cloud-based ecosystems. You can become more advanced in data analytics and make much cheaper investments, such as putting more into data collection, processing and storage in data lakes. This is where AI, machine learning and process automation come into play, with technology laying the groundwork for innovations in operations, strategy and business development. There are enormous possibilities depending on your business needs and the major competition parameters in your industry.

The new cloud-based systems provide incredibly fertile ground for continuously developing solutions and your business. Infor CloudSuite and Microsoft Dynamics 365 offer possibilities for developing automation and collecting data. With updates and continuous developments, technological capabilities and functionalities are constantly improving. This is true of best practices in core business operations like finance and industry solutions where functionality is tailored to processes.

That’s why it’s important to have a partner who can take advantage of these improvements while at the same time continuously aligning with your business’s strategies and processes after you move to the cloud. We know how to bring together business and IT management to improve and develop new operations to support strategic initiatives.

Columbus has a wide-ranging portfolio of services, from high-quality support, operations and all aspects of security, to release management, functionality exploitation, automation and data management. The latter includes everything that falls under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, all the way to streamlining and developing your company’s processes and providing knowledge to help grow the business.

Our goal is to make your business more competitive and allow you to attain and maintain a leading market position. As a customer, you get the flexibility to adapt the range of services according to your needs and how much you have already explored the possibilities offered by the cloud platform. You also get one point of contact – a dedicated Service Delivery Manager drives this process. They are responsible for calibrating your progress, managing access to resources and ensuring you get the results you need to get the expected business value from the transformation project.

Overcoming-obstacles-in-food-production

Mind the Gap: how cloud and constant updates help you avoid innovation debt

The innovation gap is well-known in the IT world and defines the discrepancy between expectations and capability for innovation. However, there is something worse — innovation debt. It happens when companies have all the technical potential to innovate but choose not to do it as their business-critical systems have many local adaptations or are too costly or risky to upgrade. When you move to the cloud, you can easily avoid innovation debt. But it’s crucial to embrace a new way of working: more agile and flexible. That’s how you benefit from continuous updates and features that open growth opportunities.

At Columbus:

  • We test all updates for our customers in advance, ensuring they are fully compatible with their business’s IT systems, solutions and any third-party solutions.
  • We always highlight how upcoming updates will impact your business’s solutions and business processes.

Cloud-based business applications are updated continuously. Microsoft currently releases 7 updates per year, while Infor releases 11. At Columbus, we decided to reduce the number of annual updates to make things simpler for businesses. For example, our starting point is carrying out two major updates and two minor ones. The result is that the latest technology and functionality are available and IT security is ensured in the best way possible, while at the same time, errors are corrected continuously and the solution is compliant with the applicable legal framework the entire time.

This stream of updates can also create problems and block important applications and services integrated on the business system side. Your company needs a professional tool for incoming connections and structured, systematic management of all business-critical systems, including integrations. Cloud services and SaaS may mean continuous improvements, but they also require a good management model. If ERP suppliers’ innovations, which come with all updates, are not integrated by the company, you can end up with innovation debt.

You must have the right partner, one who is more than just a run-of-the-mill ERP supplier. You need an advisor who knows business strategy, change management and technology who develops in cooperation with ERP, e-commerce and CRM specialists, plus with experienced data analysis experts who can get the most out of all the opportunities data and AI offer.New call-to-action

Security through testing, testing, testing

How do we create security and stability in this landscape? Well, we test, test and test again. One of the major challenges is limiting the risk associated with running new code on a business-critical system. This needs a comprehensive, automated testing system.

At Columbus, we run from 100 to 500 automated tests on all new releases for different companies before rolling them out to our customers’ systems. This is something very few companies can manage by themselves. By doing so, we minimize the risk and ensure that business continues as normal, even after updates. We also take advantage of our experience doing this work for a wide range of businesses.

Understanding the details and impact of each update

Another resource-heavy challenge is keeping up with the details of each update. What new functions have been added and which have been phased out? What changes might pose challenges? Dynamics 365 is a good example of how much work can be involved here. Twice a year, Microsoft sends out 1,500-page “Wave Release Notes” containing information on upcoming changes to Dynamics 365.

We have one significant advantage at Columbus. As a specialist and IT partner, we have the resources to interpret and decode the content quickly and to deliver all updates to our customers. Getting a full overview of the release content can be an enormous undertaking for a company’s IT department, which often has a backlog of work.

Carefully considered application management strategy

A carefully considered application management strategy is indispensable if the digital platform that all businesses rely on is to remain safe, secure, flexible and up to date. A good strategy will also ensure that the platform grows in sync with both the market and technological possibilities.

Your company can choose which services specifically are important in your current situation. Many companies opt to restrict their cloud migration to the bare minimum and to develop solutions afterward. So it’s essential to have a partner who has a big-picture perspective of the business and a holistic service portfolio.

With Cloud Operation Services, we at Columbus want to do everything we can to ensure your business’s digital platforms are stable and secure today while at the same time developing them to meet the organizational and market needs of tomorrow and the years to come.New call-to-action

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Like other industries, food & and beverage companies must initiate strategy planning and change management at the very start of bringing their business systems to the cloud. That’s the best way to avoid additional costs, effort, and business interruption. And the trick is to define value with a people mindset.
If you're a Chief Information Officer, the data says you already get it. You understand the value, rewards and competitive necessity of digital transformation — and the transition to a modern cloud-based ERP.
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