Infosys’ blog on industry solutions, trends, business process transformation and global implementation in Oracle.

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February 28, 2017

B2B CPQ eCommerce Solution for Professional Service Sector

A leading Professional Service provider is evaluating their Business Model to enable eCommerce for business sales. More importantly it is being assessed during transformation phase from On Prim to Cloud. To me, it really looks like a game changer move to evolve eCommerce DNA right at the inception of platform change. It would not really matter if the eCommerce solution is implemented immediately or at a later stage. Point is that Business has cleared its intention and solution should be designed to give configuration and fulfillment experience to End Customer even if it's at a later stage. Oracle CPQ fits perfectly for their quote to order journey with its capability to accurately manage the innumerable factors that come with current B2B dealings. Blog aims to brings forward all the reasons as to how CPQ factor into all this

 

·         Uniformity across platforms eases the usage wherein end customer can start on a mobile device and finish it on a tab or a desktop. CPQ provides consistent user experience and empowers easy usage across channels

·         Attractive pricing is the key for great conversions. End customers can be grouped under various criteria and offers can be given based on preemptive planning on pain areas. Targeting the right customer at right time is the end target. CPQ offers part pricing, attribute and complex formula based pricing. Additionally end customer has the capability to compare prices of products and services selected to make the appropriate decisions.

·         Guided Selling is a strong feature that will navigate end customer through complex product offerings in a simplified way; concurrently pitching for up-sells and cross sells. These are achieved though recommendations, hiding, constraints rules based on organizational requirements and best practices to be followed as learnt from experiences. Intelligent recommendations become crucial to success.

·         Large chunk of transactions are repeat orders where end customers can review their transaction history from transaction page in CPQ.

·         Full featured shopping cart ease the usage with one click checkout and easy modification of quantity of offerings selected

·         CPQ also provides easy access to various finer details essential for a typical eCommerce flow including shipping methods and payment terms

·         Personalized branded proposals can be done as per organizational needs

·         CPQ Cloud supports integration with industry leading provider of electronic signature solutions DocuSign where documents can be electronically managed with real time updates back to CPQ.

·         Payments are also supported where in CPQ eCommerce Transactions Cloud Service can integrate with various payment dispensation players.

 

Culturing Do-It-Yourself ethos leads to higher realized margins where Oracle CPQ is offering easy and high quality buying. To add on top of it, Oracle CPQ provides eCommerce APIs to integrate with Commerce Cloud in case you want to continue with it to avail best benefit of both worlds. In a nutshell, let the Customers buy in a way they prefer - via Sales Agent, self-service or Partners and in a channel they prefer! Rapidly growing Oracle CPQ surely enables an intuitive customer experience in all dimensions!

February 26, 2017

Oracle R12 Shop Floor Footprint - Implementation Point of View

Overview

Oracle shop floor footprint can be defined as a collection of products/modules, interfaces, hardware, middleware, user interface; and their integration touch points required to support day-to-day production and inventory activities. At a high level, the ways of executing manufacturing processes and transactions in any ERP, including Oracle, are pretty similar - routing, bill of material, backflush, phantoms, work orders, etc. But we should acknowledge the fact that when it comes to designing a framework to get us to the point of recording production in Oracle, it is definitely 'not a one-size-fits-all' proposition.

In this article, I will try to provide a detailed overview of various offerings available to build a robust and efficient Oracle shop floor footprint. My intent here is to present some vital and practical pieces of information, which is generally not available in user guides or implementation manuals, to help make wise decisions while chalking out an optimal system design for an Oracle manufacturing implementation or upgrade. This blog post will provide important points/checklist for comparing solution options made available by Oracle in a few key areas in manufacturing.

The analysis shared in this post has been validated through client engagements and also leveraged in discoveries, proposals and proof of concepts. It can serve as a ready reckoner in drawing the shop floor blueprint for any client in manufacturing space using standard Oracle modules. In this post, I will cover 3 major topics that form the core of a typical Oracle R12 shop floor solution:

  • Manufacturing Execution System - for work order processing/production reporting
  • Shop Floor Process Automation - through integration using RFIDs
  • Mobile Supply Chain Applications - to facilitate point of use transactions using mobile devices

R12_Shop_floor.jpg

Representation of an Extended Oracle R12 Shop Floor Landscape

Manufacturing Execution System: 

Oracle Manufacturing Execution System (MES) was introduced in Release 12 (not available in 11i).  It is a revamped version of the traditional and most commonly used discrete manufacturing module - Oracle Work in Process (WIP). I have tried to list down practical advantages of some of the features offered by MES, that are not available in WIP:

  • Ability to transact multiple work orders at the same time: This comes in very handy when products are manufactured in batches with each batch comprising of multiple jobs. Operators can complete physically working on the entire batch and then process all related work orders in one go in the system, thereby saving time to access and transact each work order individually
  • Clock in, Clock out features to record actual labor effort: Users have the ability to report actual time spent directly through their MES workstation. This data can then be used to compare against routing labor to calculate variances. This can be further extended to record total time logged by an operator on any given day through Shift in, Shift out feature
  • Integrated Job Traveler and Labels: Traditionally, travelers and labels required to support manufacturing are printed separately. Subsequently, associating these documents with the actual job becomes a manual task. MES automates and streamlines the process by providing a capability of printing these documents directly through the workstation. The layout of these documents is completely configurable through XML publisher
  • Separate dashboards for operators and supervisors: Depending upon the department which they are assigned to or are responsible for, dashboards can be configured in MES to provide a single screen, user-friendly view. This can be personalized depending on the level of access/ownership/sequencing of work
  • External device integration capabilities for equipment data capture: To allow automated data collection from shop floor, MES allows device data to be directly collected into quality collection plans, either during manufacturing transactions or in a standalone mode. Such device integration is enabled through MES connectors provided by Oracle certified partners (for example, KEPServerEx connector from Kepware Technologies)

If you trying to include MES in your project scope, then here are some key implementation considerations:

  • Manufacturing Execution System is available for both, Discrete and Process Manufacturing
  • You can have both, WIP and MES installed on the same EBS instance and choose to use either one or both based on specific shop floor reporting requirements of departments/users within each site
  • MES user interface is largely HTML/OAF page based. Therefore, it is not easily rendered on a mobile device unless you deploy Oracle Smartphone Apps. Therefore, it is advisable to have shop floor computers or industry grade tablets for ease of access
  • MES license is sold separately by Oracle. It is not a part of the regular manufacturing bundle that includes WIP, and vice-versa. Contact your respective Oracle Alliances Manager for pricing details and discounts available for clients
  • It is a mandatory requirement to license MES module if you are planning to implement E-Kanban (one of Oracle's newer offerings in value chain execution track made available only in release 12.2 onward). However, please note that this is just a licensing requirement. It is not necessary to configure/implement Oracle MES to be able to use E-Kanban
  • For new sites going live on Oracle E-Business Suite, MES need not be implemented for use right from day one. It is a peripheral module, like Quality or Mobile Supply Chain Applications (MSCA), and can always be added to the existing Oracle landscape at a later stage

Distributed and Co-existent Models of MES:

In a distributed model, Oracle MES resides on a dedicated server while rest of the processes on a separate primary server. 'Near real time' integration between these two layers is achieved by means of ODIs (Oracle Data Connectors). This facilitates manufacturing reporting to continue even when the primary instance is down for planned or unplanned reasons. When the instance is up again, connection to MES server is re-established and data/transactions are automatically synced by ODIs. 

A co-existent model is used when businesses want to continue using their homegrown MES systems for recording industry specific variables/processes, but at the same time leverage the features offered by other EBS modules through integration. This model is typically deployed in scenarios where replicating such third-party MES system electro-mechanical interfaces in Oracle would call for complex customizations, heavy investment in new hardware/middleware and added maintenance.


Oracle Shop Floor Integration and Automation with RFID:

With a lot of new technology at our disposal, shop floor processes are getting more and more automated by the day. Although there is a plethora of options available, couple of solutions have always stayed on top of the list - Bar codes and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Let us understand the major differences between these two.

Attribute/Feature

Bar Code

RFID Tag

Dimensions

1D or 2D/QR (Quick Response)

3 dimensional

Physical Attributes

Printed Barcode

Physical Tag

Nature

Passive

Passive and Active (self-powered)

Volume of Information Held

Limited (1D: Low, QR: Medium)

Significant

Data Transmission

Not supported

Passive - No, Active - Yes

Data Receiver

Barcode Scanner (Static and Mobile)

RFID Reader (Static and Mobile)

Range Factor

Range of Scan Gun laser beam

Range of Near Field Communication (NFC) Device

Type of Scan

1 or 2 dimensional (Dot/Line/Block)

3 dimensional

Scan Angle Dependent

Yes

No

Re-programmable

No

Yes

Cost Factor

Printing and stationery (label) cost

Cost of tags (reusable or one-time use)

Integration with Oracle

Indirect (through custom interfaces)

Direct (through standard middleware)

Mobile Supply Chain Applications interface

Front-end (through barcode scans while performing transactions)

Back-end (through middleware and APIs after RFID tags are read)

IoT Ready

No

Yes (through Oracle Sensor Server)

Smart Phone Compatible

Yes (through optical reader)

Yes (through NFC)

 In this article, we will be focusing only on RFID, for two reasons - Newer technology and more automation capabilities. A few key design considerations that one should take into account while pursuing RFID integration as a part of Oracle shop floor footprint are outlined below:

  • RFID integration with Oracle manufacturing and logistics modules such as Work in Process (WIP), Inventory (INV), Shipping (WSH), Warehouse Management System (WMS), etc. can be enabled through third-party middleware provided by Oracle certified vendors like Zebra or Intermec (a Honeywell company now). Having such middleware is a mandatory requirement since direct sensor based integration between Oracle EBS and RFID is no longer supported (this is confirmed by Oracle automation team)
  • Certain 'smart' printers are available in the market that can be configured in a way that labels with embedded RFID tags are printed upon work order completion transactions. Such integration is out of the box (through certified middleware), but requires special hardware such as 'smart' printers which are quite different than the regular label printers found on shop floor
  • There are APIs in WMS which can be invoked to perform Oracle transactions based on RFID scans. In these scenarios, in addition to deploying the standard middleware, some programming is also required in the interface code to avoid duplicate scans/transactions. This is true especially in an area with multiple RFID readers and tags, which is common in large facilities. The transactions supported, but not limited to, are:

    • sales order picking/shipping
    • inter-org inventory transfer
    • inter-org shipment
    • purchase order receipt/internal order receipt
    • in-transit shipment receipt
  • The above-mentioned transactions are possible with RFID integration even without WMS, through modules such as Inventory and Shipping, but it calls for a more complex middleware

Mobile Supply Chain Applications:

Note that Mobile Supply Chain Applications (MSCA) is different than Oracle Mobile Apps or Smartphone Apps. MSCA is pretty much device agnostic and can be deployed on a variety of supported hardware ranging from industry grade handheld devices to smartphones and tablets. This is not true in case of mobile apps which require an iOS or Android platform. There are 14 Oracle Mobile Apps for E-Business Suite that are currently available in a larger spectrum (such as HR, PO, MFG, PIM, etc.) while MSCA is restricted to manufacturing and logistics areas. I will be focusing only on MSCA in this post.

A lot of times, Oracle Mobile Supply Chain Applications (MSCA) and Warehouse Management System (WMS) is perceived to be one and the same. However, that is not correct. Although there are a lot of similarities between these two and the user interface is almost identical, the nature and purpose of each is widely different. To begin with, WMS is a product by itself while MSCA is an option that is available under a product or bundle in the Oracle applications price list. For example, MSCA can be optionally bought as an option with Discrete Manufacturing product bundle.

Consultants and customers are often faced with a difficult question "Should we implement MSCA or WMS?" Addressing this accurately in the early (scoping) stage of the project itself is critical because a WMS implementation is kind of set in stone. Once WMS is implemented, reverting it is a lengthy and complex process, and vice-versa. This is not the case with MSCA though because, as also quoted in the MES section of this post, MSCA is a peripheral module and can be added or disabled later. Let's compare MSCA v/s WMS on a few factors that can hopefully make the choice between the two somewhat easier.

Factor

MSCA

WMS

In-built Processing Logic

No

MSCA just provides a user interface to perform Oracle transactions from a mobile device. It does not contain any processing logic to drive transactions

Yes

WMS has a rules engine that allows users to define rules and conditions to drive and manage inventory movement and shop floor transactions

Guided Material Handling

No

MSCA is just a different way of perform transactions in lieu of regular Oracle screens. It does have the ability to provide picking and put away recommendations to operators

Yes

WMS can provide real time picking/put away recommendations based on inventory situation and honor handling requirements as set up in rules associated with tasks

Startup Time/Effort

Low


Once MSCA is licensed, its just a matter of defining menus and responsibilities based on level of access to be granted, to get it up and running


High


WMS requires an elaborate module setup to develop rules, testing and fine-tuning of the rules to deliver an efficient and effective system

Maintenance

Almost Negligible


Once MSCA responsibilities are defined, there is hardly any maintenance required unless there are enhancement requests to modify access or personalize screens

Some Effort Required


WMS rules set up during initial implementation need some upkeep and monitoring to make sure tasks and recommendations are satisfying business needs in the long run


Target Facilities

MSCA is more suited for facilities with simpler layouts where the need is to allow transactions to happen from mobile devices while operators can decide upon material storage and picking locations visually without needing system recommendations


WMS is suited more for large and complex facilities that want to have rule based material movement, skill based task management, etc. where the size of the warehouse makes visual storage and picking/put away choices prohibitive for the operators


Best practices for implementing either MSCA or WMS are more or less the same. In addition to configuring the module itself in Oracle, it also needs some preparatory work on business side to get ready to adopt the 'mobile way' of doing day-to-day transactions.

  • Locators: Bar code your physical locators. It is recommended to barcode both, subinventory and locator together in single barcode since in almost all mobile screens these two are next to each other
  • Quantity: Avoid barcoding quantity on any report. This will ensure that operators key in the actual quantity used instead of one printed on the report, since both could be different
  • Standardization: Collaborate with external parties such as suppliers, logistics providers, etc., who are a part of your extended supply chain, for barcode compatibility and standardization
  • Mobile GUI: There are 2 options available (Java and Telnet). Determine which one works best based on user base, volume of transactions and other attributes impacting the design
  • Personalization: A lot of extra fields are available on mobile screens. Do the necessary due diligence to hide/default these through personalization to render a more user-friendly interface

Conclusion:

This blog post is largely based on my consulting experience working with various clients in manufacturing space, with nature of production ranging from simple assembly operations to high volume end-to-end manufacturing to engineer-to-order scenarios. Additionally, feedback from Oracle product teams, lessons learnt and details not already documented in standard artifacts but uncovered while investigating these topics have been incorporated. Therefore, I hope that the information shared will prove to be useful for consultants, business analysts and customers while dealing with similar situations, especially when a practical experience driven insight is desired. Please feel free to post questions either here or reach out to me at Manish_Naik@infosys.com and I will be happy to answer.

"You must not expect the customer to understand the benefits of your technologies. That's your job!" - Akio Morita (Co-Founder, Sony Corporation and Business Leader/Visionary) 

February 23, 2017

Leap in faith - EPM cloud is here to stay !

I recall, my first scuffle to cloud technologies in EPM space to sometime back in 2008. That time, any latent exposure to sensitive financial and strategic information on cloud would nip even the thought of moving away from on premise services. Besides, analysts remained in unison and maintained a view that it was really difficult to do real EPM in cloud, because one would probably be going to take feeds from lots of different databases and aggregate data to turn it into one version of the truth, and a SaaS system is not a candidate for that.

Fast forward to the present times - scales have tilted. Concerns on data security are waning and Organizations are appreciating benefits of adopting cloud technologies. It has opened flood gates for platform consolidations and this factor alone is turning to be a significant driver for graduating to cloud technologies.

However as noose is tightening on security concerns - technology and process challenges are coming to forefront. More diverse the existing EPM and ERP landscape, greater is the challenges towards transition to a complete cloud model. Thus amidst a visible Tsunami one aspect is evident that as cloud ecosystem penetrates the co-existence with on-premise is there to prevail. No wonder the initial thrust in EPM Cloud which was dominated by SaaS models is leading into  IaaS.

Furthermore, consumers of cloud adopters remain mixed and range from those making a big bang transition to those players who are experimenting cloud in distinct pockets. While the common factors driving this decision is realizations of quick wins, flexibility of usage and economic advantage; none-the-less the solution approach differs widely.

Key ingredients that players need to be on top in their EPM cloud journey are :

1. Process re-engineering - crafting FP&A or any other EPM process into cloud invariably brings a change in the manner things are dealt.  Quite often there is an urge to intertwine process improvements to such initiatives.  Often this ambitious desire turns counter-productive.  The mantra of success is to keep it simple and avoid mixing objectives.

2. Lift and shift is going to prevail especially during the transitionary phase. Thus it is imperative to make a judicious decision to carve key processes lest it injects process inefficiencies. Data migration is an equally important factor to be considered.

3. Master data harmonization - Metadata holds the key in defining any EPM application. This is more relevant in a hybrid ecosystem. Gaining a good hold on this element sets the path for a smooth migration to integrated information delivery.  Some of the other things to be considered include fulfilment of cross functional requirements.

4. Data integration strategy - in hybrid ecosystem transaction systems often remain in different platforms. Transition to cloud makes the pursuit of EPM integration a moving target. Data source definitions and sound integration strategy carry the biggest weight.

5. Past few years have witnessed giant leap in faith; to complement this brewing revolution last mile reporting capabilities need to augment further. This concerns bringing synergies across internal and external reporting aspects.

There is no silver lining or a panacea for success in the cloud world. All in all, there is a ground to be covered, learning's to be institutionalised across the board before we witness a mature and seamless cloud ecosystem.


February 22, 2017

Its Growing Together with PBCS/EPBCS..."Houston, we've had a problem!"

Almost there but not yet, to, Yes : To-Go!!  What is takes to make that final conclusive step, the differentiator and compounder of benefits with a journey filled with gliding warm handshakes with Oracle to nurture the capabilities inclusive of automation and Data Seeding via FDMEE for a PBCS/EPBCS Working Solution.

 

PBCS , it was and now the buzz word is EPBCS for the world of Planning and Budgeting in Cloud. With all the 4 modules well intergratable and abundance of OOTB, it was a challenging cake walk for Implementation partners like us to get to their product delivery with all the decision making during the tenure : " Should I customize it now- wait for the next patch and then enable the configuration - will the eta be aligned. Not almost like going riding at Sunshine Ranch, but like the choice a girl makes to jump into an arranged marriage or get to know the to-be spouse before tying the knot! Ah Ah...funny as the analogy sounds , shades are so similar with the how much you know about him, how much that you know will come in the package, how much will sustain, how much will be useful and how much will always get flagged as "product limitation" or "husband material". :)

 

Problems, hurdles, hiccups,show stoppers..nothing should be a reason as to why it is not happening in Cloud. Ask, you will get it and this is the success Mantra...Wherever you are stuck, be it not functioning as expected, need as additional functionality/feature/command or even a Menu, just Ask, just Report your problem to the land base . Trust me Oracle Gives, Generously. You just have to Ask! (off the record, nicely first, desperately next, Crying on a dying situation as last :) ) I see your smiles and exclamatory eyebrows as to on what authority or on what basis or on why should they? The Cloud EPBCS is customer oriented, totally committed to customer needs and if the ask is simple it takes an average of of 2 weeks and you get it. For any medium/major asks, it flows into the road map ahead. Cloud EPM is destined to grow as customer needs grow and they are aware of it. With the blend of OOTB, it will easily succumb to- 'Oh- Non -configurable, couldn't tweak to MY needs' ..Wouldn't it be a useless meal for me, if it ain't giving what nutrient i want, however rich it can be in ingredients, cooking methods and presentations!! Oracle understands this pretty well and the safe game with "safe harbors statements" but still impressing with what they have in the future!!

 

And now, i need to give supporting details to buy your confidence and i stand obliged for that.

Here you go...The major quick-win aspect of Cloud migration was the direct conversion of calculation scripts from On-premise to Business Rules on EPBCS. One famous vendor ( should i also name them???) had written a much viewed article on which of the commands that are not supported and funny that they even could find a reason as to why you aren't getting it in the EPBCS world. Then the story line takes a interesting turn when my team at Infosys just teaches Oracle SME's that serve the Oracle SR counter asking for why not get this to EPBCS. At first the starter served was an alternative set of commands that would also get the same results. But then why settle? Again it goes like. Why not that same command, I am not going to browse thru all the line of codes in my on premise and execute a replace with another bunch of commands and the same command i am referring here is the SUMRANGE function! MY favorite smarty and he made my world so easy and i couldn't resist getting him back!!

 

Check out our new approach to even daringly quote that EPM Automate is not going to get a End to end automation if it is not looking at serving me a command to even shuttle files among local and Cloud file systems.(You Got it!! Over exaggerated statement indeed! Am i going to get fired for this??) Fair enough was the over the counter response too, as to why is it needed, EPM Automate still does have commands to load straight from Local. But then, Oh sweetie, any one that has worked a little intensively on on-premise FDM would have seen the difference of the load speed from blink of the eye if its inbox vs the totally multitasking prone file import from any local machine. Totally non-compromisable me vs la-la land prone SME, and guess who won? in the next week patch upgrade to PBCS Cloud comes in the new commands for EPM Automate!!

 

Alas, Houston! We made It! ( Make it?) Indeed!

See you Soon!

 

February 21, 2017

Oracle Engagement Cloud - Is this the next big step from Oracle

 

Oracle Engagement Cloud - Is it a glorified Sales Cloud or an Amalgamated Cloud housing Sales and Service Cloud features meant to provide true 360 degree view and simplify overall architecture?

 

One of my Enterprise customer with global footprint enquired last week whether it is wise to transform its CRM functions from Siebel onto Oracle's Engagement Cloud or his organization would be better off by having Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle Service Cloud as a combination offerings to sunset Siebel. This is where I explained that it is not a zero sum decision but involves close consideration of the business objectives.

 

To drive home the discussion, I asked him to pen down Key business objectives of CX / CRM transformation his leadership has for this On-Premise (Siebel CRM) to On-Cloud (Oracle CX stack). It wasn't a surprising list as his 7 pointer had all those aspects covered which most enterprise organizations are discussing for the last 5 odd years.

 

 

 


 



Engagement Cloud has all (yes - 100%) features of Oracle Sales Cloud but basic features of Oracle Service Cloud. Objective 1, 2, 3 are met by adopting either of the two approaches (Engagement Cloud Vs Oracle Sales Cloud +Oracle Service Cloud). Decision points boils down to


1.      What is the independent roadmap of the three Clouds à would one cloud (e.g. OSC or OSvC) cease to exist after 3-4 years resulting in another migration / transformation project?

2.      Are end customers of the organization truly urging to have state of the art features like co-browsing, self-service etc. in near term

3.      Performance: Is application performance truly a worrisome factor in current platform resulting in low user adoption of CRM platform

4.      Total Cost of Ownership: What is the license cost for the two options (EC at one end and OSC+OSvC at the other end)

5.      Is Sales sub-organization and Service sub-organization culturally working as single unit to gain 360 view of both the functions


 My 2 cents for this enterprise customer which is a high volume call center managing service function for non-banking financial company (NBFC) à Go for Oracle Sales Cloud + Oracle Service Cloud combination offering as


  • While the roadmap of all three clouds is promising, Engagement Cloud is not rich in core Service features in its current avatar. Today's customers expect chat, co-browsing and CTI enabled offerings where Oracle Service Cloud has an edge 

  • Performance of EC would be relatively slower as higher degree of customization would be involved to achieve some nice OSvC features like Queue management for Incidents

  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) would be more or less in the same ballpark considering

    • License cost would be tad high by having two clouds (OSC + OSvC) than one (EC)  --- Plus for EC

    • 15-18 months down the line migration of Service Cloud and Sales Cloud data into Engagement Cloud -- Plus for EC

    • Cost of agents managing service requests would go down as OSvC rich service functions (self-service, co-browse, knowledge management) -- Plus for OSC + OSvC

    • More delighted customers would potentially result in future cross-sell and up-sell opportunities -- Plus for OSC + OSvC

  • Achieve 360 view through BICS (BI Cloud Services)


 What would have you advised to a customer in this situation?



February 17, 2017

A Guide for PAAS Solutions on Oracle Sales Cloud

 

Introduction:

Technology innovation is driving competition in almost every industry today. Due to this it has become essential to provide clients customized solution which help in simplifying their business processes. Moreover to keep pace with the changing times the shift has been towards cloud computing which provides access to a large number of applications through the internet, hence being available anywhere & anytime. Oracle Sales Cloud is one such application which helps in simplifying your sales and customer experience process to bring in more agility to the business processes.

Oracle Sales Cloud's Customization tool (Application Composer and Page Composer) enables us to customize the CRM offering for specific client. With the help of these tools, we can customize UI elements, modify dashboard and springboard, customize data model, and create interfaces to be connected to other systems in enterprise.

Usually the best practice to be followed here is to use Oracle Sales Cloud extensibility framework to achieve any given Business Use Case, however there may be cases where they tend to be suboptimal in addressing the business case. This is where PAAS comes into picture, which adds to the existing benefits of Service infrastructure and brings about the required innovation in cloud services.




PAAS Architecture:

         


 



Oracle Platform as service is composed of several platforms which can work together and enable us to form cloud solution for different use cases. Listing down the few such cloud PAAS offerings:


  • Java Cloud Services:The Platform as a Service solutions begin with Java Cloud Service (JC) which is a Web logic Server hosted on cloud. Through this service ADF application can be deployed. Oracle also offers some web based tools to monitor performance and logs for debugging. We don't have access to command line shell.
  • Database Cloud:Oracle Database Cloud is same familiar oracle database now in cloud. All the features of Oracle Database on premise will be available on cloud as well. Java Cloud Services and DB Cloud, enable us to start building apps faster. Performance, statistics and customization on Oracle DB can be done using Oracle Application Express. It is very user friendly tools for database customization as per customization.
  • Oracle Developer Cloud:Oracle Developer Cloud provides development tool for building application on cloud. It provides Version Control and deployment of application on Oracle Java Cloud Service.


However it's important to note here that not all offerings are required to build PAAS solution. With the help of Java Cloud Services alone, ADF application can be built to post or retrieve data from Oracle Sales Cloud.


PAAS Patterns:

Let us look at the different PAAS patterns that can be utilized.

       



  • Custom Application using ADF\OSC Objects: Leveraging the Oracle Sales Cloud extensibility Framework Application Composers (UI extensibility, Custom fields/objects, groovy scripts and custom subject area), Page Composer to customize Oracle Sales Cloud. Oracle sales Cloud functionality can be enhanced by building custom Java application using PaaS platform (JCS/DBCS). Custom UI using ADF, data binding using Oracle Sales Cloud web services (Soap\Rest) and custom objects using Oracle Cloud Services can be done as part of custom PAAS application.


  • Custom Mobile Application can be built using DB Cloud and Rest Services as well as JCS Bridge.


  • Integration with third Party (On Premise\Cloud) Application: Oracle Sales Cloud can consume Soap based Web Service and the same can be invoked from UI. If there is case where target system supports Rest based services then we can build custom Java Application on PAAS as a bridge.


  • Oracle BI Cloud to build custom Reports using Data from multiple applications (CRM\ERP): Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) is Oracle Cloud offering with advanced Analytical Capability. It supports both desktop and mobile capabilities. Oracle BI Cloud Service is built around OBIEE 11g.  Oracle provides thin client repository editor which enables us to quickly built application around data collated from multiple sources.


  • Oracle Doc Cloud to sync content from various sources (CRM\CPQ, Mobile and Custom Java Application): Document on the go is the business requirement of today. Oracle Doc cloud empower with sharing and collaboration capability. With sharing we need robust security as well which oracle cloud provides. It provides support for cloud as well as on-premises Doc integration. Oracle Doc Cloud provide API support for Rest\Soap to enable external application to integrate with Oracle Doc Cloud.



Custom Application using ADF\OSC Objects


To understand the PAAS usage in OSC better let's look at a detailed USE Case.

Use Case: In a partner driven organization there is a requirement to have an interface for Partner Registration to enable a partner to register. To achieve this we need to follow a set of guidelines.

  • User Interface for custom application
  • Identify Data Elements for custom application
  • Identify Services to render data from Oracle Sales Cloud in Custom Application
  • Identify Services to push data to Oracle Sales Cloud.
  • Technology used: ADF, Rest\Soap API   

     

Solution Approach:

For this Use case there is a requirement to display list of countries which are enabled in Oracle Sales Cloud (OSC) however we don't want to create duplicate data for geography as it would lead to maintenance problem. In order to achieve this we followed below solution after discussion with oracle.

  • Extract Data from Oracle Sales Cloud
  • OOTB no Web Service is available in Oracle Sales Cloud which will expose geography data.
  • Maintain Data in Oracle Sales Cloud for Geography by using custom Object. This Custom Object will maintain hierarchy of Country\State.
  • Custom object data can be extracted using Soap Web Services. Use the same to display data
  • Data Picker in PAAS Page.


Next, dynamic constrained data picker in PAAS Page needs to be created, wherein the Data in picker is going to come from OSC. We want to restrict the list of Distributors to only show those based on state selected for Partner. State is maintained as related object in Oracle Sales Cloud. Oracle Sales Cloud Soap Web Service provides the feature to query on Parent object using nested query. Refer to Oracle Sales Cloud documentation for nested query criteria to filter entities based on address.


Finally Partner Registration Approval Process needs to be enabled. OSC has Partner Approval BPM however as soon as Partner is created from PAAS, page approval should not be triggered. When Partner is created Email should go to the Partner asking him for confirmation that he wants to go ahead with approval process. Once Partner confirms then only approval process should be triggered. To achieve this we need to:

  • Use Oracle Rest Service to Register Partner with approval trigger flag marked as N.
  • As soon as Email is confirmed call Oracle Rest Partner Service with approval trigger Flag marked as Y. As soon as this request is received then Partner BPM approval process will be triggered.

Conclusion:

Oracle PAAS provides us more power, agility, and advanced features to customize CRM as per client needs. In order to utilize feature of Oracle PAAS we need additional time, additional expenses and more technical expertise. We should look at benefit it will bring to business before exploring the option of PAAS Solution for OSC extensibility.




February 16, 2017

Oracle Service Cloud - One Product for Multiple Service Needs in Multiple Industries

'The world is becoming smaller' is the catch phrase which I get to hear nowadays pretty often. What does it mean? Of course, the world has not shrunk but the communication channels have expanded in their mode and reach thereby bringing people together and closer to give them a feel that no matter where you are, smart channels of communication will keep you connected to your family, work and needed SERVICES. In line with this boom in communication channels the expectations from the Customer Service industry has increased manifolds with the connected customer demanding service ANYWHERE and on ANY CHANNEL.

With customer service being an indispensable element of any and every industry, be it Retail, Manufacturing, Certification Service, Education or Utilities, it has become increasingly central for organizations to embrace this change in customer expectation or rather the success MANTRA of 'Connected Service'. With Oracle's SaaS based service product Oracle Service Cloud, the espousal of this mantra becomes easier and cheaper. This one product addresses multi fold needs of providing Smart, Connected, Automated and intelligent service EVRYEWHERE, EVERYE TIME and on EVERY DEVICE.

            As most of us would be aware, there are other CRM products available in the market which offer similar service management capabilities but Oracle Service Cloud while caters to all service management functions/ capabilities, is highly extensible and offers seamless integration with downstream systems like Siebel, ERP, SCM etc.

Let us take a look at how Oracle Service Cloud can help transform the customer service experience in different industry verticals with its breadth of modern service competences:-

  1. Retail - With concepts like Omni channel customer interaction, go social and mobile first being the latest leanings in the retail service sector and the fact that the retail service agents should be equipped with all necessary knowledge to take up the instant queries of the customers on call/ in retail office/ on chat, the retail sector needs a solution which can be the One-Stop-Shop for all these necessities. Oracle Service Cloud offers answers to all these needs with

    1. Omni channel solution to capture queries, new purchase request, feedback and complaints coming in from channels like - Contact telephony, Email, Fax, Social, self- service thereby helping cover all possible customer touch points for effective selling and servicing.

    2. Enhanced social capabilities like - social monitoring which allows agents to monitor and respond to customers sentiments posted on the wall, smart sense feature to detect the manner of the posts and accordingly take the required action, social knowledge features wherein customers share ideas/answers, rate the content of the knowledgebase on social channels.

    3. Mobile experience. Oracle Service Cloud's self- service portal is a fully device and browser agnostic portal which can be accessed on any smart phone. With its responsive design, it caters to all the on-the-go needs of a customer like - initiating a new request, updating the old request, initiating a chat with the available agent, accessing the organization's knowledgebase for self- resolution of queries, providing a feedback for the closed requests etc.

An illustration of a retail specific use case is as shown below


  1. Education - In line with the era of smart ecosystem, this industry is also now moving from paper based education system to BYOD/ Online form of education where the student services are being modernized with solutions which can give instant query resolution, offer a summary of the assessments, help students collaborate and chat with the teacher forum, as the need be. Oracle Service Cloud helps enhance this online experience with  

    1. A branded self- service portal for students to browse through the available courses, FAQs for admission process/ key dates, ability to initiate an online enquiry, Collaborate with peers/ seniors for interactive discussions, initiate a chat with the Teacher forum and much more. Apart from these, Oracle Service Cloud self- service portal allows to create many more widgets providing different information pieces like Academic Summary, Fees Summary, Upcoming events etc.

    2. A profile based access to the agent desktop for the institution admins/ teachers to use for resolving the student queries, creating new knowledge content - course information, fees information etc., help the students with their chat requests, collaborate amongst peers with community feature. Apart from these features, even the Oracle Service Cloud agent desktop could be used for monitoring various student discussions in social channels and effectively responding to them.  

  2. Manufacturing / Hi- Tech - Based on my experience, 2 of the factors which could greatly impact this industry could be (i) Internet of Things (IoT) (ii) Workforce Management. With largely on- the field asset set-up, automation of fault finding, service tracking and automation of field events could possibly have a positive impact on the revenue viz- a- viz customer satisfaction. The image below shows an indicative automation of fault finding process for an industrial manufacturing enterprise.