By guest author Shaloo Shalini and Bhavana Sharma
Inteva is a pioneer in manufacturing industry when it comes to deploying cloud computing–based solutions, primarily SaaS, within its organization and cut costs to almost a third of what they were.
In this interview with Dennis Hodges, CIO of Inteva Products, Sramana uncovers several cloud computing trends. One of them is the case of early adopters pushing cloud vendors to address integration between on-premise and cloud services. Once there is significant adoption, this may not be a scalable proposition, and eventually we expect several new players and innovation by third parties and entrepreneurs to help the cloud providers and cloud adopters work out integration.
The acquisition of Cast Iron may have given IBM some edge in integration within its own cloud and on-premise offerings, but that leaves the playing field wide open for other players and innovative solutions. Another trend we spotted is the pricing model by ERP vendors whereby they share a percentage of sales as their fees. Last, cloud-based printing solutions and easing the real customer problem of not being able to access attachments via a BlackBerry are some of the blue-sky opportunities for entrepreneurs to explore.
About Dennis Hodges
Dennis Hodges has been the chief information officer for Inteva Products, LLC since March 2008. Prior to this he was the chief information officer for Delphi Interiors and Closures. Featured as one of the Infoworld’s Top 25 CTOs list for 2010, he has also served as the global business systems director at Huntsman Corporation. He began his career at Shell Oil in 1985 and held IT and finance positions at several companies, including international assignments for Phillips Petroleum and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company. Hodges earned an MS in computer science from Stephen F. Austin State University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
About Inteva Products
Inteva Products, LLC has more than ninety years of experience and expertise with global resources supported by a team at eighteen facilities on three continents. Inteva designs, engineers, manufactures, and assembles interior systems, cockpits, latch and closure systems, and door module and window lift systems for leading OEMs around the globe. Inteva’s integration capabilities provide everything from component parts to fully integrated vehicle subsystems.
SM: Dennis, let’s start with adoption issues involved in cloud computing. In your company, how do you visualize the progress of cloud computing? Has it gone beyond the pilots and evaluation stage? Where are you terms of the industry?
DH: Yes, our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is actually in production, and it is based on a software as a service (SaaS) model.
SM: Which ERP system are you using?
DH: It is Plex online.
[Note to reader: You can read more about Inteva’s Plex use case here.]
SM: What other workloads have you put on the clouds?
DH: We had our e-mail on cloud for a while then we moved it internally, but that was purely for some other integration benefit. Our entire wide area network and all related services are basically “Network as a Service.”
SM: Do you have customer relationship management (CRM) and HR in the cloud?
DH: HR is outsourced to ADP, and if you want to call it HR in the cloud we use ADP’s GlobalView system. [GlobalView is a human resources outsourcing (HRO) service for large multinational employers. Multinational clients selecting GlobalView receive a single platform and expert service for their outsourced employer services across the globe.]
SM: What about CRM?
DH: No, we do not have any of that yet.
SM: How big is the workforce at Inteva that you have to cater to from an IT perspective?
DH: There are 2,500 employees in the company, about half of whom require the support of IT systems.
SM: Are these global and distributed teams?
SM: Do you think cloud computing is leveling the playing field for small players in terms of IT accessibility?
DH: I think so, yes. I have worked at large companies, and now I am the CIO of a billion-dollar company, which in my opinion is not large coming from my background of $50 billion–$100 billion companies. Well, the cloud is one of the playing fields for us as consumers, and I think it levels the playing field for producers as well.
SM: Yes, you are right. Vendors are finding it much easier to cater to customers because of the cloud model, no question about that.
SM: When you think about your plans of rolling out ERP on the cloud platform right now, what do you see happening in the next eighteen months in catering to your 2,500 people?
DH: Well, I think we will just roll out even more to our ERP system. We have been very satisfied with SaaS model for our ERP.
SM: What is in the cards after the ERP rollout is complete?
DH: Probably business intelligence (BI).
SM: Interesting! I have heard two different points of view, one school of thought that is bringing BI to the cloud and another that is concerned about integration of BI. What are your views on that?
DH: Well, I kind of keep the cloud out of the pitch when I do evaluations for a solution. My main goal is functionality. What I have seen so far is that there are some cloud providers for BI and they have just as good integration capability as we can do internally. Now, the other advantage I see with cloud-based business intelligence is I don’t have to have a support team to do the technical side like my ERP. I do not have any application developers on ERP; all I have are functional analysts. It has really allowed me to cut back my staff and focus on business realm technology, so to speak.
SM: Also, it sounds like you are getting business skill sets in-house; rather than having IT developers you have business analysts.
DH: Exactly, if I look at the SAP model I do not have a stable of ABAPers, FICO experts, or anything like that. I have the finance business analysts, the purchasing business analysts, and they can work across more than one module.
SM: You have evaluated a bunch of cloud providers from the point of view of functionality, and are the cloud providers are as good as the licensed providers? Could you name some cloud providers that you think are of high caliber in BI capability?
DH: Well, from what I have seen thus far it is Birst that appears to have some capabilities and strengths. We have already evaluated some and found one that works well for us. We have told them that we would want the selected vendor to talk to our ERP provider so that we would not be in the middle at all. What this means is that the passing of data across these services will strictly be from one SaaS based-provider to another cloud-based provider directly.
SM: So, you are rolling out Plex for ERP and potentially Birst for BI, and you want the two providers talk to each other and sort out integration themselves?
DH: Yes; in terms of requirements I need the cloud-based BI vendor working directly with our ERP providers, whoever our provider is. If it is Birst, then it is one of the options.
SM: In terms of functionality, can we have examples that are a priority for you in terms of getting into BI? What specific ERP analytics are you planning to bring out of the system soon?
DH: Executive management and reporting – dashboards. Those are the key requirements for us. Our ERP system is very good, and transactional planning and the business data for so many analytics is good, but as far as making it simple or graphical where it is easy to present something to the CEO or the CFO – we need those tools. Say you want to drill down net income on a month’s day basis kind of report – that is the kind of thing we are looking at.