The Unified Port of San Diego (UPSD), a US government agency that manages port activity, has said that it sees significant benefit in adding SAP cloud applications to its core ERP estate, but isn't considering HANA because it is 'too big' for its business.

Computerworld UK spoke to Joy Hunter, senior business systems analyst at UPSD, who is currently managing a project to implement SAP's Cloud for Travel solution, which will integrate with its ERP estate (version 6.6).

Hunter explained that the agency is looking to use as many cloud-based solutions as possible because it makes sense financially and its money should go into making 'money work for the public'. Cloud for Travel will allow UPSD to no longer carry out expenses using paper receipts, but rather using images submitted through mobile-based applications.

Some 525 employees will be using the cloud app once it has been integrated with the ERP suite. Hunter said that once live, Cloud for Travel will mean that the hours put into qualifying expenses for each trip an employee takes will drop from as many as 18 to as little as three.

Prior to choosing SAP's Cloud for Travel, UPSD was actually looking at technology offered by a company called Concur. However, when SAP's cloud solution was released, Hunter decided that the integration process would be much smoother if UPSD stuck with SAP.

"When Cloud for Travel came out, we decided to go down that route because of how expensive the integration would be if we decided to go with a different product," said Hunter.

"Integration is very challenging for any systems that have to talk to each other, but at least the cloud tool and our ERP will be speaking the same language. What I like is that whenever Cloud for Travel gets an update, we get updates on the SAP side too."

She added: "I can't imagine what it would have been like if we had two systems that didn't speak the same language, because the cost of development would have been three times the cost of the product. If we bought the product for $40,000 and I had to do $150,000 development, it doesn't make sense."

Hunter said that although the cloud tool doesn't offer some of the more complex capabilities of an in-house SAP solution, such as with enhanced auditing rules, the ease of the process and the benefits derived from reduced time spent on each expensed trip makes it a good business proposition.

She said there would be definite savings by opting for Cloud for Travel.

"An implementation of putting anything into SAP is going to cost you right around $150,000 - and we bought this solution for about $40,000. Maintenance is only about $1,200 quarterly," said Hunter.

Although, when asked if UPSD was considering implementing SAP's in-memory product HANA, a solution that is looking to underpin much of SAP's future product portfolio, Hunter said that the benefits didn't outweigh the costs for the agency.

"HANA - that's too big for our company. The cost is a bit too much for us. I think it's a great product, but because we are a public trust, for us to put that expense into something like HANA, is a little above what we would do right now," she said.

However, Hunter does believe that the future for UPSD could be completely in the cloud.

"I think potentially we could look at moving 100 percent to the cloud, so that we would no longer have to service or house our own servers. But right now we are evaluating whether or not it will really cost less to do," she said.

"We are looking at everything. Our motivation with human resources and employee self-service is to move to a more user-friendly interface, and we think cloud would be a good area for that."

Hunter also said that licensing in the cloud with SAP is a simpler proposition for UPSD, when compared to on-premise.

"It's simplified in the cloud. You pay per user a little differently and I think you can break it down a little easier," she said.

"With regard to the expense, If we only need a third of an on premise module, and we are going to pay that licensing fee, then we look at it and go: can we fit it in somewhere else?"

She added: "We have done that a lot with on-premise - where can we fit it in? We are doing this instead of trying to implement something new that we are not going to utilise completely. That changes with cloud."