Cloud: The Definitive Tool that Streamlines Business

Dale Polekoff, CIO, Jacob Stern & Sons, INC
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Dale Polekoff, CIO, Jacob Stern & Sons, INC

Cloud: Bridging the Gap between Customers and Business

Cloud computing is as important for the Chemical Industry as any other. The resilience and accessibility offered by cloud-based applications mean that downtime is minimized and the ability to weather disaster scenarios and recover quickly is increased. This is a big deal since production runs in the chemical industry are often carefully timed and delays due to system outages would be very costly. The cloud also offers lower capital investment in hardware which leaves critical investment dollars available for plant equipment which allows manufacturers often compete most effectively. Another key element of greater cloud utilization is flexibility. When systems are in the cloud the ability to move plant, people and operations for increased efficiency is enhanced. One of the areas seeing the greatest benefit is logistics. The growth in the ability to track and direct transportation movements through online portals has surged making most client-server, in-house applications mostly obsolete. This is also true of inventory reporting. Whether receiving telemetry from liquid tank storage or visibility of stock in third party warehousing cloud-based tools are making a critical difference.

"The growth in the ability to track and direct transportation movements through online portals has surged making most client-server, in-house applications mostly obsolete"

Our company’s move towards the cloud is best described as a gradual shift. We have waited for security tools and methods to catch-up to cloud offerings and for cloud business applications to mature sufficiently. What we are seeing is that the leading vendors of business applications to the Chemical Industry are beginning to develop sales models designed to shift customers to their cloud software. On-premises products are seeing less new features deployed and vendor investment for improved tools are often being developed solely for their cloud offering. We have seen this for both SAP and MS Dynamics AX ERP solutions. Ultimately, mid-market Chemical Industry CIOs will see their hands forced with migration of key systems to the cloud being the only viable option. CIOs do not like the vendors telling them how they need to operate but the benefits for Chemical Industry will be available nonetheless. We estimate that within the next five years 80percent of our applications will be cloud-served. The challenge for us and most CIOs is how to make the transition without disrupting the operating or losing key custom capability developed over many years. Those that can figure out a workable path will have done their business a great service. And those who do not, or cannot will likely be replaced by those that can. Together with cyber-security this is the current IT challenge of our age.

Charting Along Trending Technology

The world has changed such that transparency, visibility, and traceability of product and ingredient origination information are a rising need. This visibility often goes way beyond lot number and country of origin. It is now required to know the farm, tree, plant, and exact timing of manufacture. Further, traceability all the way through the supply chain to the shelf is becoming a must have for certain industries. The industry needs tools to make this happen more universally with less cost than is possible with the existing technology infrastructure.

Changing Roles to Elevate Technology

In my CIO role I have needed to become more assertive on business and operational matters beyond traditional IT. The business has looked to the CIO to bring a fresh analytical perspective that is a pre-requisite for IT success but can be a shortcoming in operational departments. The CIO can bring the work-smarter mindset where business as usual had prevailed. As more, and more business applications and technology infrastructure moves to the cloud the door is swinging open for the CIO to join the business. . Along these same lines, the CIO is the guide that will help businesses compete in an increasingly digital business world. More than ever, the CIO must be willing to see their ideas adopted on their business merits more than technological need. As the technology company leader the CIO must bring the business-first approach to employees that have not traditionally played well in that space. This is a challenge that will persist for the next decade as the current generation of IT professional’s age and new millennial employees take their place. The ability to hire the right talent today will set the stage for how the company is able to evolve over time. Increasingly, the CIO needs to assure the board that the company is sufficiently exploiting technological capability and innovation in face of a more competitive landscape. Another element of change for the CIO is in mitigation of risk associated with nefarious, but ubiquitous cyber activity. The CIO must answer to the board and is often in a no win situation if and when a serious incident occurs. In the face of this threat, the CIO must incorporate employee education, tight defensive standards, and strong data encryption concepts.

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