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

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March 29, 2017

Cross Docking - An Enabler to Quicken Turn-Around in QSR Industry

QSR Industry and the concept of quick turn around

The success of the QSR (also known as fast food industry) is driven by the timeliness with which the products are delivered, without compromising on the quality. The name itself, Quick service restaurants, suggests the fact that the delivery of products in this industry needs to be quick and the lead time involved in minimal. Organizations need to be ready to fulfill the orders in short notices which can even be a few hours. Also, given the dynamics and competition in this sector, along with the strict rules and regulations for any food products, organizations have an ever increasing pressure of quickening the delivery without any compromise in quality. Long term sustainment of growth and success are only possible if the above criteria are not neglected. Some very common QSR names like McDonalds, Starbucks etc have diligently followed these rules to become what they are today.

 

Nature of order placing in QSR industry

Most of the orders in the QSR sector which are placed to the warehouses comprise food products and preparations which are highly perishable in nature. Items like burgers, pastries, sandwiches etc which cannot be prepared and stored in the warehouse like other packaged items. These items are made to order and arrive in the warehouse only a few hours before the actual shipment needs to leave from the warehouse to fulfill the orders. Most of the QSR players have their company owned stores and hence the nature of orders is very similar for all stores. In ideal cases, these stores place their orders with the warehouse a day before the actual delivery.

The nature of the items is such that the warehouse doesn't have these items stocked in the premises beforehand and the order is passed to the manufacturing unit / supplier only after summing up the cumulative quantity of each item asked by all stores.

There are certain scenarios, especially during festive or holiday seasons when the stores place a lot of emergency orders with the warehouse where the lead time is only a few hours. These are the times when the warehouse has to ensure that there is quick turnaround of the order and needs to facilitate quick supply of the items from the vendor and then quick delivery of the same to the store.

 

Pain Points: How to Reduce Turn around

Given the nature of business for the QSR Industry, the efficiency and productivity are dependent on the fact that how quickly the turnaround is done or the turn around time reduced for the orders to the stores. However much the regular picking process is expedited, there is a fair bit of delay expected in the process of picking the items from the receiving area after they have arrived and bringing them to the shipping area. This can cause delay in the delivery deadline and business can suffer. Also, there is high labor cost and transportation cost which distribution centers want to reduce especially for these items where there is no storage and items are directly sent out for shipping.

 

Recommendation: Cross Docking

An optimum solution for this type of situation can be Cross Docking. Cross docking means skipping the receiving and temporary storage part and unloading the goods directly in the cross dock area from where they are loaded into the delivery trucks. This can serve as a good opportunity in case of QSR warehouses as the items themselves don't require storage. Hence they can be sent directly to cross dock area. Also, this will help in quick turnaround of orders from supplier till the actual store and increase the supply chain velocity.


For efficient cross docking, there are a few important points which need a special mention:

·         Physical layout of the warehouse: Cross docking will not make any sense if the distance between the receiving and the shipping area is very huge. Although in most warehouses, the layout is such that the receiving and shipping are at two ends of the warehouse. But that is more suitable to industries where storage forms a major activity in the warehouse. In case of QSR sector where storage is minimal, it would be ideal to have the receiving and shipping in close proximity to facilitate easy cross docking.

·         Carrier routing information: As mentioned earlier, the nature of orders from various stores in the QSR industry is very similar to each other. More often than not, the shipments are clubbed based on the carrier's route for the various stores. If this information is available much ahead of time, the items can be bulk picked from the cross dock area and put into the respective trucks as per the routing schedule.

·         Task management can serve as an effective enabler to avoid stock out situations and facilitate cross docking. Task management when linked to employee scheduling helps optimize staff requirements, based on sales history and other factors. This could even be linked to overall employee productivity and a number of reports could be made available to determine it. RF devices when paired with a WMS could be used effectively to avoid inventory shortfall situations for a retailer. What is needed is an inventory source of record, wireless infrastructure and a WMS with a Task Management engine.

 

There are a few impediments for the cross docking process as well. These are:

·         Inventory levels in the warehouse system: One major barrier in cross dock process is that during cross docking, the items are not actually received in the WMS system of the warehouse and hence the inventory levels are not brought up to show the entry and exit of the items from the warehouse. Since the orders are sent and pick / ship documents are created a day prior to the actual transit of items, the warehouse has to find a way to capture the information of these cross dock items arriving and leaving the warehouse for auditing and tracking purpose.

 

One way of doing this is to bolt up the warehouse inventory with dummy values via receiving screens and then bring them down through the pick screens.

The other way can be to make the cross dock location a valid receiving as well as shipping location of the warehouse. So from one screen, the inventory level in the WMS can be increased by receiving items from the cross dock location and from the other screen, the inventory can be brought down by shipping them out from the same location.

·         Merging of cross dock product with products coming out of picking belts: Though most of the items from the stores would be the highly perishable, JIT items, there can be certain items which are non JIT in nature and are stored inside the warehouse. For ex: packaged foods, liquids, lids, cups etc. These are picked and shipped via the conventional picking method and are brought to the shipping area via the conveyor belts or manually. If the warehouse is doing cross dock of some items which have arrived externally from the supplier and is also picking items from the shelves for the same order, care needs to be taken to properly pack all the items of a single shipment of a store together and nothing should get missed or mixed with other orders. Also timing of the arrival of items from the two sources becomes important in a way that the shipment doesn't get delayed.

 

A New Beginning

Cross docking has still not gained its fullest popularity in the world of distribution centers and is still a vast area to explore. Cross docking can greatly reduce the turnaround time of delivery of orders and can act as a trigger to increase the velocity of the logistics system of the QSR industry. No customer likes to hear that the dish or item they have ordered from the menu has still not arrived and will be there in a few minutes. Customer delight in terms of time and taste is the key to the success of this highly competitive QSR world and can only be achieved with the combined efforts of all participants in the supply chain. Cross dock can be once such contribution from the distribution center.


March 24, 2017

Key Emerging BSS-OSS Trends Impacting IT and Shift Towards Cloud Technologies

Telecommunication companies across the globe, up until late 90s, have largely operated as network oriented set-ups with disintegrated and at times non-existent business and operations IT support systems. Starting early 2000, there was a focused shift towards major technology investments in packaged CRM, Billing (BSS) and Order Manager (OSS) systems in telecommunication companies. These investments were necessitated largely because of expanding product lines and emergent telecom technologies. Most of these packaged BSS-OSS technologies were bought, designed and implemented on-premise.  This was a welcome move as integrated BSS-OSS-Network is extremely core to the existence of any modern day telecom operator. However, BSS-OSS implementations so far have been highly technology centric with below features in common (up until the start of this decade and prevalent still specially in developing marketplaces):

  • Complex product structures with limited/negligible differentiation between commercial and service offers.

  • Hard coupling of design and systems.

  • Extremely long C2M (concept to market) cycles.

  • Maze of entitlements, thresholds and value added services often charged as different price points. This is probably seen as a revenue enhancer strategy keeping product managers busy, however one has to be mindful of the costs involved in managing order fulfilment/ and billing issues associated with these services.

  • Service disruption/outages owing to IT (not network) - yes, disintegrated IT systems can do enough to initiate disconnection timely but fail to trigger reconnection on time. 

  • Extremely long lead time to deliver a relatively small change often because of hardly coupled upstream/downstream systems.

Telecom business and operations support systems have been evolving, systemically changing the role, architecture and overall placement of IT systems in telecommunications. In the very recent years, thanks to customer centricity, there has been a re-look into BSS-OSS design & implementations for telecommunications. It would be fair to state that conventional technology centric BSS-OSS is becoming more and more customer centric. Overall, majority of telecommunications players (at least in developed markets) are revamping their IT strategy to align with below imperatives.

  • Modular plans with a clear demarcation of a service vis-à-vis commercial offer.

  • Loose coupling of design and systems - doing just enough to link but avoid hard dependencies. Rightly thought through designs (especially during foundational releases) help in containing consequential impacts; makes it simpler and cheaper to deploy improvements/changes. In my previous project, to integrate a CRM system with external API to enhance basic customer delivery options, it actually eventuated into changes across 15+ systems across BSS-OSS (most of them consequential regression impacts).  

  • Reduced Concept to Market cycle. This has been an explicit ask not only in Telcos but across industries. Product managers do not have the liberty to wait out a year to deploy a new product offer or launch a new product category.

  • Simple plans with unlimited entitlements (all things included) - this is a very exiting trend. Unlimited voice and text is extremely common. For a single price point, we often also see unlimited internet and so on and so forth. This in itself reduces a lot of overheads associated with maintenance and fulfilment of n-combinations of offers/services. With a single price point for unlimited entitlements, there is effectively no bill shock, no usage traction needed and no billing issues.

  • Eliminate any IT specific service disruption/outages - Deploy fully integrated (easy to integrate) solutions especially for critical scenarios (customer re-location, transition etc.) mitigating the probability of such incidents.

Shift towards cloud technologies is vital to realize these imperatives. While on-premise solutions have helped in establishing the relevance of BSS-OSS systems, these solutions have also introduced high entry/exit barriers and created 'non-core' tasks/operations for a Telco to manage. For a modern day Telco, short lead time to market, agility to deliver, and managing network (not IT systems) are more critical objectives and hence the move towards cloud is becoming more pertinent. At the outset, below are some (not exhaustive) of the critical success factors for cloud:

  • Low entry barriers - just pay for licences and commence use; eliminating unnecessary lead time for planning set-ups.

  • Outsourcing non-core tasks - no need to maintain captive data centres.

  • Shorter lead times to deliver - changes can be quickly designed and implemented in truly agile manner.

  • Reduced concept to market - cloud solutions are better fit for simpler and modular products, light weight designs etc.

  • Adaptive and easy to integrate - cloud solutions are extremely adaptive; easy to integrate using APIs and micro-services. These integrations are re-usable, scalable and much easier to change/deploy.

A case in hand would be comparison of on-premise CRM vis-à-vis on-cloud CRM system in lieu of the newer imperatives. Siebel ecommunications is probably one of the largest implemented on-premise CRM system in telecommunications industry. While no one can argue on the functional depth of this CRM system, however given the new world order (new imperatives), telecommunication players probably don't need most of its functionality. A cloud CRM system, on the other hand, could easily help deliver customer service and order management functionalities for simple modular products much more effectively and efficiently. With renewed focus on light weight design, unnecessary functions and excessive data capture/information processing can be avoided. A lot of time and efforts indeed gets saved in a cloud implementation - configure over code, direct check-ins, integrate using APIs and test/validate alongside build.

There has been a conscious shift by almost all leading BSS-OSS product companies to move towards cloud. Even the heavy weight order managers and billers are now available on-cloud; in fact cloud packaged offerings are much more optimized compared to on-premise packaged offerings. This presents a fantastic opportunity for telecommunications players to use cloud technologies as a mean to align with their new imperatives, and continue focussing on what really matters the most - 'Network'.  All leading telecom and broadband operators globally are majorly measured on their network roll-out and customer reach, which ultimately are the critical factors to manage and enhance customer experience perpetually. Cloud solutions can truly become enablers for these operators. Having exclusively worked for Telcos in the last few years, I am witnessing this shift. Almost, all operators (developed marketplaces) have embarked upon cloud implementations in part or wholly.

It is also interesting to note that new operators and MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) would find it much easier to adopt cloud. Entry barriers are pretty low for new operators/MVNOs. Large enterprise operators would perhaps find it more challenging to switch to cloud primarily owing to large captive legacy on-premise systems.

While cloud shift presents an opportunity, it is not fully off the hook as yet. As cloud adopters, one needs to be aware, constantly examine and challenge cloud security, storage, licensing costs etc. to ensure sustainable long term benefits.



March 23, 2017

CPQ for Professional Services Industry

Professional Services Industry (e.g. software services, training and certification industry etc.), sales process aligns to standard Sales process of a CRM application. The products and services sold are not too complex in terms of product structure and rules around it. However, every organization has different way of pricing and providing discounts to customers. CPQ Cloud offers a solution to meet the pricing calculation needs through configuration and customization options. Professional Services sales flow also ends with project creation to track the activities based on Services sold to the customer. This can also be supported via the CPQ cloud.  

Let us look at the Lead to Quote to Project Use case for a Professional Services organization:

 


For most of the Industries, Quote to Order flow works well and hence CPQ Cloud integration with Order Management modules is readily available. However, there is no prebuilt integration between CPQ Cloud and Oracle EBS Projects. It needs to be established for this Industry specific use case.

In order to simplify this integration and determine what details will flow from CPQ Cloud to EBS Projects, we need to design the product such that all required inputs will be captured for subsequent project creation.

 

While a Service Offering is setup as a Product in CPQ, it captures attributes for Service Module, Role and against each role, details about location, rate, effort etc. Once a Service Offering is configured for a customer, it may have various modules that have several roles. Once all these details are captured against each role and activity, price can be calculated directly or Commerce process can be configured to apply pricing logic by reading other parameters like Customer rates etc. which may override manual entries or retain edits post calculations are done.

Once the quote is finalized and approved, the quote line item details for role, duration and effort can flow in specific format to EBS Projects to create project line items/activities for roles.

The solution provides the following key benefits:

Improved Quote Accuracy - A Quote may go through multiple iterations due to changes to various parameters. E.g. a role is expected at onsite for some duration, an activity duration is revised etc. CPQ Cloud automates pricing impacts to be calculated automatically for all these changes and maintains the Quote with accurate price as per planned resources for the project. Each time quote is reconfigured and submitted, it may require similar steps for pricing approval. CPQ Cloud can be configured to have approvals triggered for each change automatically.

Reduce Quote and Project data mismatch - As generally the Sales data is maintained in a separate system which may not be integrated with the project management system, it causes lot of problems due to data mismatch between what was quoted and what is planned for the project. The integration between CPQ Cloud and EBS Projects eliminates problems of data mismatch for activity durations, resource roles, rates etc.

Streamline Quote Revisions - It is a very common process to have some change request or amendment to the contract after the project has been initiated. CPQ Cloud offers Quote revision process to meet requirements for any amendments to existing project. With enhanced features like subscription ordering available now, CPQ cloud can be extended to manage change requests quote process for a project.

Here is a view of flow for amendments and change requests.

March 22, 2017

Leveraging Oracle Policy Automation integration architecture, will it make a paradigm shift?

Decision making is one of the key aspect embedded within any business process workflow cutting across all domains. Increasingly in today's world, there is a definite need for performing what-if analysis in driving right business decisions/outcomes in a shorter time aligned towards the organization revenue growth and high performance. To promote it consistently one must not only focus on reducing operational costs but also make a differentiation in the way business is executed by adopting innovative methods to perform the what-if analysis in an intelligent way to build quick, smart decision making capabilities within each of the key business process in the organization.

In this blog one such technology product Oracle Policy Automation (OPA), designed as a specialized decision making technology platform, an offering from Oracle Corporation will be looked at to see if this product makes a significant difference to the cause explained. Imagine a product which can nicely sit in your desktop and allows you to write your business rules specs using plain English (supports other languages such as German, Danish, Spanish etc.) in a Microsoft office word or excel spreadsheet, compile them together logically, construct a model to deploy them as a stand-alone or as a package in your application server where business logic evaluation is expected to happen. Sounds really interesting, right? This is Oracle Policy Automation solution framework. The cherry on the cake is that the package can act as a web service that can be well consumed for meeting integration needs in an enterprise architecture.

Flowchart: Connector: CONNECTOR 
(Cloud as well On Premise)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Fig. Oracle Policy Automation - High Level Architecture

With the same interest, let's take a look at OPA technology architecture depicted above. As evidenced from the architecture shown above, at high level OPA has below

  • Policy Modeler - simple eligibility rules can be written in native languages using Office products available in one's desktop.
  • Determinations Engine - a library performing all the business logic evaluation against the user input data received to make clear determinants.
  • Web Determinations -   runs the web surveys and interacts with Determinations Engine for making decisions.
  • Determinations Server - Used for exposing Determinations Engine in the form of a web service.

OPA architecture can be integrated with any on premise as well cloud applications, there is a cloud connector is readily available for cloud based integrations. This architecture if implemented will reap the below direct benefits

  • Business team will own the rules creation, authorization and maintenance leading to significant reduction in cost of support staff, significant improvement in accuracy and establishes consistency in evaluation of policies.
  • Enhances competitive edge in the market as this directly enhances the end customer experience and business team experience.
  • Manage the core business rules centrally establishing more control to business team
  • Brings agility, promotes reusability and reduces redundancy across the organization
  • Plug and play architecture enables easy integration with all major applications

With the understanding of OPA architecture, its components and benefits. Let's go through list of common problem statements which when exists within an organization warrants OPA or a similar policy automation solution to remain agile.

  • The experience and skill set of service personnel in the delivery organization front ending the customers towards probing, data collection for evaluation against defined policies is not sufficient. The turnaround time could be improved.
  • The organization expects customer to fill a questionnaire at front desk or during an interactive call/chat every time to seek some information to understand and process their queries.
  • The frequency towards policy evaluation for new as well existing customers, which the organization performs is quite high.
  • The organization believes that agility and transparency across the board towards customer policy compliance, evaluation and adherence can be boosted.
  • The organization process to track and audit the decisions made by customer service team is manually done and not consistent.
  • Organization is spending significant time & cost on interactions with customers
  • Organization is looking for a common automated solution across all channels to make fruitful interactions with customers
  • The policy framework and related decisions making process is complex with due factoring done towards the relevance of legislations & compliance regulations, which the organization expects to follow.
  • Lack of business support for formulating & promoting new policies exists because of managing too many pain points experienced in the current processes.
  • Business team dislikes the idea of business corporate policies or rules being owned by programmers towards implementation.

With its dual capability, OPA offering stands out as a go to product for quick deployment as well for greater yield on return on investments in the longer run.  OPA offering with its plug and play architecture allows it be used for What if analysis on policy making & amendment decisions to assess logical gaps, operational and financial impacts by testing applicable scenarios using OPA architecture modeling the rules and feeding them to get the results for verification.

OPA scores over other products or alternatives easily, a short illustration on prime factors is given below for better understanding. The key capability of OPA is that it offers an optimized, easy to use solution to build and maintain complex policies to derive critical business decisions.

Alternatives

 

OPA

 

Fig. Oracle Policy Automation vs. Alternatives - Comparison

In spite of all its compelling features OPA is not the best solution for all rule based business problems cutting across domains in public and private sector. Also OPA doesn't come for free, it has a license cost associated hence every organization should evaluate if the there is a real need for policy modeling and automation. OPA against its initial cost and time cannot be justified truly for business cases involving modeling rules unless a fitment exercise is undertaken and cost benefit analysis is made in detail and presented to stakeholders for a decision on the shift this product offers towards revenue growth or reduction in operations costs.

***Chart of Account (COA) Design Considerations***

Chart of Account (COA) structure is the heart of an ERP implementation enabling business to exercise its day to day operations. This has very influence on how an organization wants to record monetary, contingent and statistical impact of different transactions taking place across the line of businesses, report it out to external entities to fulfil regulatory and statutory requirements, leverage it internally to gain insight on performance of different departments on both top and bottom lines. In order to be able to embark efficiently on these essentially require a modern chart of account mapped to different business modalities and dimensions that does not only takes care regular requirements as said but helps facilitate automation, rein in need of creating duplicate segment value pool, one segment does not override others i.e. maintains uniqueness of purpose mapped to each segment etc. Investing enough to lay down the foundation of COA structure would be the first step to lock down a successful ERP implementation and to drive innovation for businesses throughout the life of application. Note: Combination of segments (e.g. Company, Department/Cost Centre, Account etc.) forms a Chart of Account.

There are numerous essential characteristics including, but not limited to, below 5 that must be considered while designing COA structure:

Selection of business modalities/dimensions as segments of COA:

The selection of modalities as segments is not an objective matter but a very subjective in nature. While some are mandatory one irrespective of everything and anything but some are invariably vary based on types of industries, organizations and products or services offered, geographies where businesses have its operations, internal and external reporting needs, future considerations and volume of inter or intra company transactions etc. Each one of these are key drivers to design an idealistic, futuristic and holistic chart of account. For an example, manufacturing organizations may want to consider cost type as a segment to represent say fixed and variable cost in order to better assess contribution margin at the product level. They may look at a segment exposing sales destination location of a product to clearly articulate the strategy for multi-fold growth in determined geographies. In banking industry, companies may choose to introduce reference to a relationship manager/cost centre in order to measure performance at product portfolio level. In retail industry, looking at product categories instead of individual product can be the favourable option.

One segment should not override or make other ones redundant:

This is one of the vital discussion points while designing a COA structure in any ERP systems. While a thought leadership on this can offer long term benefits to organizations in account of easier maintenance, minimal master value pool for each segment, no duplication etc. On the other hand immature decisions, however, may erode the benefits eventually. A COA structure and value set for each segment should intelligently be designed in such a way that one segment does not make other one redundant, does not enforce introduction of similar type of values for a segment and most importantly they must be structured "relative" to each other. To understand it better, let's take an example of a COA structure that has 4 segments called Company, Cost Centre/Department, Natural account and Sub-Account. There are 3 companies COMP1, COMP2 and COMP3 and each company operates with its 4 own departments as Sales, IT, Purchase and Inventory. As a strategic and sustainable approach, a) one would recommend only 4 different cost centre value sets representing each of the 4 departments. These 4 can be associated with either of the 3 companies while actual transactions are taking place. On the other side as a poor design, b) organization can undoubtedly be enforced to introduce 12 different cost centre codes representing 4 departments working for 3 different companies. It is self-evident that option "a" firstly cascades the behaviour of relativity where Cost Centre is relative to a company and thereby does not lead to a redundancy and secondly avoids creation of duplicate codes for similar type of departments. This can further be well understood with postal code numbering system where it navigates through State, District and finally City. Here City is relative to a District and a District itself relative to a State for a given country. In regards to option "b", shortcomings are clearly countable as creation of duplicate codes while departments are of similar nature for each company, can't share segment values, certain to experience huge volume of cost centre values over the period of time etc.

Automation for Intra/Inter Company Transactions:

Organizations like GE who has leading business presence almost all over the world deal with huge volume of transactions b/t two or more internal business units. Transactions taking place b/t 2 business units ideally lead to inter/intra company transactions and that is where it is essential to consider a placeholder for inter/intra company segment in the COA in order to efficiently track referencing inter/intra company and enable opportunities for automation. ERPs like Oracle Application R12/Fusion Cloud offers an automation to create inter/intra company accounting entries by introducing pre-configured rules. For example, Oracle Fusion Financials automatically creates Intercompany Payable accounting entry corresponding to the Intercompany Receivable inter/intra company accounting entry by looking at the rules. Such entries have a counterparty reference in the COA code combination as in company (balancing segment) and designated inter/intra company segment.

Give meaning to each digit/character within a segment rather than just treat as code:

While a business meaning is tagged to each segment, a COA design can further be advanced by injecting an appropriate meaning to digits or characters within a segment. For example instead of just coding a company as COMP1 with no meaning to individual or set of characters, one can strongly advocate for "013060" where first 2 digits represents Country, next 2 region and last 2 State. Such logical combination may take away the need of an individual segment in a COA to signify location. This is additionally very helpful for easy reference.

Business Rules With Valid COA Code Combinations:

In regular business practice while creating different transactions, allowing only valid COA code combinations is usually the core business requirements. For example, although a COA code combination with Cash Account does not require any specific product code however the same would be needed while booking revenue. Thus, identification of such scenarios and implementing rules accordingly in the system is the key to rein in undesired code combination values.

Emerging SPM Trends and Realities

Digital Disruption - The Threats and Opportunities

The digital revolution has created a flurry of business opportunities, but has also presented a more complex and well-informed buyer. Customers today have access to a treasure trove of information which greatly influence their buying decisions. Sweet talking - though a great trait to have as a seller, won't impress much, unless there is that valuable insight about the customer and what could influence them to buy. Sales organizations are beginning to see the need to adapt to these threats to stay relevant.

The focus is on sales optimization by aligning selling to purchasing interests. This is possible only when there is relevant, reliable and readily available data. Here-in lies the opportunity for sales performance applications than can mine and churn volumes of information from varied sources to give that extra bit of perspective and trait when selling

 

Feeling the Pinch

With shrinking IT budgets, companies today are aggressively pursuing a cloud strategy. Service based models for software and applications are the new normal. This keeps the customer interested and the product vendor committed. There is also a pressing need to be modern, technologically relevant and also adhere to governance, auditing and other compliance standards.

Modern Sales Performance SaaS systems are technologically advanced, high on standards and also drive better selling while simultaneously freeing up internal IT costs by eliminating infrastructure and administration hassles and also reducing the dependence on individuals for maintenance and support

 

Get 'SMAC'ed

The four 'disrupters' of the digital world - social, mobility, analytics and cloud have shaken the SPM market like never before. SMAC has changed selling dynamics. It has had a profound effect on what and how to sell to whom. SMAC has empowered buyers with all they need to know about what they intend to buy. It is therefore so much more significant for sellers to get 'SMAC'ed to improve operations and get closer to the customer with minimal overhead and maximum reach.

Today's selling models are built upon data fed by the customers themselves. Tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices create a dynamic framework for data. Cloud-based solutions enable mobility. Data analytics reveal insights and opportunities for optimizing sales performance. 

And so, there's an escalating demand for sales performance management software with mobile and social capabilities, integrated and real time Business Intelligence (BI) through cloud deployments. This fundamental development is throwing up new players in the SPM segment who are threatening the old order and creating a niche for themselves in this market

 

Inspire and Incent

Businesses thrive on profits and every strategy is intended to drive them higher. To get the sales force to rake in those profits, it's imperative to have a sales incentive plan that inspires and rewards salespeople for profitable selling. The right behavior needs to be inculcated by making it easy for the sales reps to understand what needs to be done and then motivating them with accurate and timely monetary and non-monetary benefits.

The perspective brilliance can be achieved by automating the sales-compensation processes and providing real-time insights into actual performance. That requires a comprehensive sales performance management (SPM) solution to inspire and incentivize profitable selling.

Yes They Can!!!

The modern SPM solutions help inspire sales reps and managers alike.

Sales reps can

    • Understand what they're required to do
    • Keep a real-time tab on their progress
    • Raise and resolve disputes effectively.

Managers can

    • Set the right expectations
    • Use gamification to instill the competitive spirit and embed best practices in every rep's day
    • Measure performance across sales teams
    • Identify leaders and laggards
    • Motivate those that need a helping hand and inspire the high-performers to greater heights
And last but not the least, these fine-tuned complex calculation engines can churn out incentives with great accuracy and on time

 

Complexity - no more a wet blanket

Businesses are growing fast but are changing even faster. The changes to sales geographies, sales demographics, performance measures and compensation structures are so rapid that SPM solutions need to be nimble to adapt.

Spreadsheets can no longer keep a business operating at digital speed. They also do not address the complexities of the sales organization itself, including employee churn, promotions, territory re-alignments, unaligned quota targets, incorrect data and more. The clamor for real time integration and data migration is getting louder too.

Modern SPM applications are expected to address all these complexities without having to customize/extend them or then rely on third-parties to fill in the gaps. The more the gaps, lesser the likelihood of success. Customers are ready to go the extra distance and spend the extra bucks to replace their existing SPM applications if they are found wanting on flexibility, agility and alignment.

 

It's all about Winning

Of late, there is widespread acceptance about the benefits of sales performance management software and services among the users. The vertical flavors add to the excitement.

PM makes it easy to analyze behaviors and thereby helps in devising tailored performance plans to help both the leaders and laggards succeed. It enables real-time performance assessment and provides instant feedback. It helps managers to get the right mix of winning teams and foster healthy competition in driving up sales.

There is the tough customer to deal with and a motivated competition to beat. Since it's all about winning, the need of the hour is a comprehensive, feature-rich, flexible and aligned SPM solution. An effective SPM system is intended to plan, motivate and reward right. The better it does that, the greater are the chances of its adoption.

 

Go after SPM!!!

The sales performance management market is segmented

By geography: North America (NA), Latin America (LA), Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific (APAC);

By solution: Sales On-boarding, Sales Training, Territory Management, Quota Management, Sales Incentives, Sales Coaching, Sales Appraisals and Gamification

By deployment options: Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid and On-premise

By service type: Consulting, Implementation, Training, Support and Managed Services;

By industry: BFSI, retail, healthcare, IT and telecom, manufacturing, energy and utilities, travel and hospitality, transportation and logistics, media and entertainment, and others.

Oracle Financial Accounting Hub (FAH) - A True Value Enabler

For any business organizations, recording accountings for its different transactions taking place with internal or external entities is an obvious objective. It is essential to measure the overall performance of the organization, gain insight to penetrate the new markets and to control cost expenses, fulfil the statutory and regulatory reporting requirements and so on. To efficiently support all these any modern organizations need a reliable, scalable, centralized fulfilling global and local accounting requirements, quick enough to implement a change and importantly economical solution. The answer is Financial Account Hub (FAH) and embarking on it is a first step to plant a foundation for innovation. FAH is an intuitive accounting engine that consumes business transactions' attributes interfaced from legacy systems, apply the accounting rules and mapping to eventually create accounting entries. For a better reference and understanding, it is similar to Sub-Ledger Accounting (SLA). While SLA is an accounting processor for business transactions originated from different sub-ledgers like AR, FA and AP etc within Oracle ERP, FAH is to deal with transactions originated from legacy systems and interfaced to Oracle ERP. Here are the 5 key value enablers that innately help drive organizations to inject FAH in their accounting solution footprint:

 

Centralized Accounting Solution:

In a traditional approach, consider a scenario where accounting entries are created for 10 different types of business transactions in 10 different front-office systems and finally interface it to Oracle where general ledger operation is supervised. This apparently counts some of the inefficiencies like:

a) Maintaining business accounting rules in 10 different systems

b) Requiring multiple resources with different product specific skills to implement accounting solution, change and support.

c) Lack of governance and control over accounting

d) Lost opportunity of reusing different components e.g. mappings and common accounting rules.

e) Have to invest on front-office applications for something which they don't primarily mean to do.

To overcome all these, FAH is one of the best options that offers centralized accounting engine empowers organizations cultivating a strategic roadmap to consolidate the accounting solutions lying at different places to just one at enterprise level.

 

Quicker and easier implementation:

Unlike Oracle EBS 11i and prior lower versions, both Oracle EBS and Oracle ERP Cloud offer front-end configurable capabilities to mimic business accounting rules on FAH setup components to eventually derive accounting entries for interfaced business transactions. Configurations are simply divided into logical groups likes Accounting Derivation rules, Journal Line Type rules (Dr and Cr) and optionally line/header descriptions rolling up starting from transaction, application, accounting method and finally to ledger. All these are configured corresponding to its relevant entity, event type and class model. An accounting solution for an interface can be ready in one month or so. 

 

Minimize dependencies on IT teams for maintenance:

Unlike custom accounting solution, most ongoing maintenance requests like capturing additional details to the journal line description can easily be achieved without even involving developer and a code change. Consider another scenario where there is a regulatory requirement to book asset expenditure to expense account instead of asset account for certain asset categories. Unlike in traditional back-end accounting engines where a medium size IT project may require, FAH can deliver it to business as part of the BAU processes without involving IT teams and notably in a quicker, easier and cheaper manner. In this particular case, accounting derivation rule will require a change to accommodate expense account for certain asset categories.

 

Capability to handle exceptions and complex mapping/rules:

While FAH is capable of handling most of accounting requirements with out-of-the-box configurable features, it also provides a powerful custom source concept where you can code your own accounting logic and link it to a custom source available for use in FAH. Consider a scenario where you want to derive BSV (balancing segment value) of COA based on the complex mapping and exceptions, a custom source can be defined for the same linked to a custom s/w code. FAH invokes the custom source at run time while interface processing to derive the BSV based on the logic coded in the custom s/w program.

 

Cost avoidance:

With FAH is in place for interface processing, organizations can avoid multiple licensing cost by eliminating the need of licenses for all front-office applications having its own accounting engine. It naturally avoids the salary costs needing for product SMEs with different skills set related to core legacy systems.

 Thus, FAH is categorically a strategic accounting hub be it Oracle EBS or Oracle ERP Cloud that offers agility extensively enabling modern organizations gain radical benefits of faster responsiveness to the regulatory and statutory accounting requirements, cost effectiveness, and importantly consolidation of accounting solution on a single platform.

March 20, 2017

Credit Bureau Reporting in North American Financial Services Industry

Financial Services Industry is all about risk and return. This is as valid for lenders as it is for investors.

A Lender(or) a Creditor is a person or a financial institution that have provided some financial amount to borrower(s) (customer), which may or may not be backed by a security / asset, based on the policies and business model of the lender. Lender expects to earn the interest income through these lending arrangements. A borrower could be either an Individual or an Organization.

As can be interpreted from above, the underlying framework of the 'Financial Lending' is Risk and Return.

While interest earned can be easily attributed to the 'Return' factor; it is the 'Risk' associated with a lending arrangement (and borrower, ultimately) which impacts the lending behavior of the lender.

To identify the risk associated with a borrower - performance of the borrower on past loans, borrower's payment habits and information about any specific activities which can be of concern are the aspects which a lender is interested in. These key factors about the customer help the lenders forecast / predict the future performance of borrower and assessing the risk associated with the lending arrangement with the specific borrower(s).

With the knowledge of forecasted performance, risk assessed and the risk appetite; a lender can decide what kind of borrower portfolio is manageable and sustainable, and accordingly, a lender can decide to allow or deny loan to an interested party.

The information to help perform risk assessment is invaluable & of enormous importance to finance business. It has to be accurate and a true representation of past behavior of the borrower/customer. Also, of relevance is to remove bias and subjectivity from this analysis and have the analysis done on a comprehensive dataset through Statistics, and ensure that it is standardized, objective and 'acceptable-by-everyone'. Thus, the need of a centralized credit agency managing these aspects, recognized by Government and other Financial Regulators in USA was identified. This led to establishing Credit Reporting Agencies in early 19th Century.

As per the World Bank, the official definition of Credit Bureaus1 is - "A credit bureau is one of the two main types of credit reporting institutions. It collects information from a wide variety of financial and nonfinancial entities, including microfinance institutions and credit card companies, and provides comprehensive consumer credit information with value-added services such as credit scores to private lenders. Credit bureaus are privately owned and privately operated companies. As privately owned commercial enterprises, credit bureaus tend to cater to the information requirements of commercial lenders. Though there is variation in the type and extent of information they collect, credit bureaus generally strive to collect very detailed data on individual clients. They therefore tend to cover smaller loans and often collect information from a wide variety of financial and nonfinancial entities, including retailers, credit card companies, and microfinance institutions. As a result, data collected by credit bureaus are often more comprehensive and better geared to assess and monitor the creditworthiness of individual clients"

These Credit Bureau Agencies collate the financial and personal data of individuals along with other data which could be of relevance to lenders/financing business. As in USA, there is a limit to gather the personal / private information on individuals, only the fields specifically required towards Credit Reporting are collected by these agencies. The same has been detailed out in sections below. This data is processed through pre-defined (obviously well thought off, based on best practices and regression tested) mathematical algorithm to produce an unbiased, near accurate Credit Rating of the individual (or) an Organization. This information is provided on need-basis to the lenders, for use.

This document details out the Credit Reporting process associated with the individual borrowers although at a high level, it touches upon a few aspect of Business / Commercial Entities related reporting.

Credit Bureau Agencies in the USA

·         In USA, Credit Bureau Agencies can be categorized on basis of the data class they are mastering:

o   Consumer level or

o   Business / Commercial Entities level

CreditUnion.jpg

Functions of Credit Bureau Agencies

Aggregation of Data

·         As applicable for any Forecasting Model based on statistical analysis - the broader the sample size, more accurate is the forecasted behavior. The same is applicable in Financial Lending business as well and lenders strive to get correct and accurate information and information from as many sources as possible; so as to avoid or minimize risks.

·         While the sources of data can be enormous and different efforts / costs can be involved in extracting and processing the data, the Credit Bureaus have to identify the data sources which are most trust-worthy, have data on a wide variety of consumer and have been involved in providing credit to the borrower in past. These data sources are also knows as 'Data Furnishers'. 

·         In the U.S., following are typical Data Furnishers for Credit Bureau Agencies

Information / Data Type

Data Furnishers

Description

Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Address) - Initial

Social Security Administration (SSA)

·         Typically, SSA office is the initial source of information for Credit Bureaus on individuals

·         This information is used by Credit bureaus to create a record for an individual using SSN, Name and DOB

·         However, on a stand-alone basis, this information is not of much use to Credit Bureaus as there is no financial information, payments habit here which can help prediction of future performance of an individual financially

Personal Information (Name, Date of Birth, Social Security Number, Address) - On-going

 

Financial Information (loan amount, duration credit taken for, payment behavior, missed payments etc.)

·         Creditors

·         Lenders (Registered Financial Institution)

·         Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Water) Companies

·         Renter Companies

·         Debt Collection Agencies (credit bureaus)

·         These data furnishers are the ones with whom the individuals have been in financial agreement or transaction in past or an on-going basis

·         These data furnishers provide some key information to credit Bureaus like:

o    Payment Rating and Payment History of the Customer

o    Loan/Credit Amount

o    Credit Utilization

o    Total Duration of Loan

o    Amount Paid

o    Balance on Loan

o    Delinquency (non-payment /payment misses) on account

o    Any derogatory action (like charge-off of loan, forceful repossession of asset etc.)

o    Ongoing Bankruptcy

Other Information of relevance

·         Social Security Administration (SSA)

·         Civil Courts (i.e. public records)

·         This information is used by Credit bureaus to consider changes to an individual's record in case of SSN, Name and DOB change

·         Public Access to Court Records (PACER) and Bankruptcy  courts give any information pertaining to filing of Bankruptcy by an individual to Credit Bureaus

·         These two sources can often provide information regarding Death of a consumer


Format for Data Acquisition

·         Due to the varied sources and to have a standard format for these Data Furnishers to report data; Credit Bureaus have laid down specified formats of Reporting. The formats being currently used are:

o   Metro

o   Metro 2

·         Metro 2 Credit Reporting guidelines and standards are the latest and most widely used format in which Data Furnishers provide their data to Credit Bureaus Agencies. It has been clearly defined in Credit Resource Guide and the same is updated on an annual basis to address common issues and any new updates. Use of these format(s) by the data furnishers ensures avoidance of inaccuracies in credit reporting, incorrect results and credit scores for individuals / consumers. 

·         Generally, data furnishers are supposed to generate the Metro 2 Credit Report every month accurately reflecting the activities of consumers with respect to their debt obligations and submit to Credit Bureaus.

 

Processing of Data

·         Credit Bureaus process the data through the set (internal) automated program to read the file and extract the data. Data about the specific individual from different data furnishers is compiled and ran through a standard pre-defined algorithm (proprietary to Credit Bureaus), the end result which is the generation of "Credit Score".

·         Typically, weighted average of these factors is considered for Credit Score calculation:

Captured below is a pictorial of typical factors considered in credit assessment of an individual

CreditScore.jpg

Figure 1: Factors used in Credit Score Calculation

Circulation of Credit Score and Other Credit Information

·         This resultant information computed by Credit Bureaus is available to requestors on a need basis.

·         Usually, the lenders who have been approached by consumer for a loan get a written consent from consumer for doing a 'hard inquiry' on their credit. Upon getting consumer's consent; the financing companies request this data from Credit Bureaus by passing on specific details of consumer including Name, SSN, and Address.

·         Individuals / consumers are also entitled to a free copy of their Credit Report from all Credit Bureaus (except Innovis) on an annual basis.

 

Other Aspects of Credit Bureau Reporting

This section enlists some of the other aspects related to the Credit Bureau Reporting which are of equal importance towards ensuring fair practices in Credit Bureau reporting industry and towards addressing consumer grievances.

 

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA)

The guiding principles for the Credit Bureau Agencies and the data furnishers in USA towards consumer protections, acceptable practices and general rules are laid down by different acts and laws like:

·         Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

·         Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA)

·         Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and

·         Regulation B

There are two regulatory bodies formed by government to ensure that Credit Reporting Agencies and data furnishers are adhering to the above mentioned guidelines / acts and practices. These are:

·         Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

·         Office of the Controller of the Currency (OCC)  - specific to banks

 

The key principles through which all of the agencies / theories work are:

·         Accuracy and fairness of credit reporting

·         Reporting based on reasonable procedures which are fair, objective and equitable to the consumer

·         Utmost regard to be given to the aspects of confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of consumer information

 

Consumer Rights

It is recommended for consumers to review their credit reports on a regular basis or at least once every year.

·         Individuals are entitled to receive the Credit Bureau Report from Experian, Equifax and Transunion for free on an annual basis.

·         Apart from this, individuals have access to a lot of free websites which provide Credit Score information. These websites can be a good source for individuals to keep a watch on their credit score and any credit related alerts.

In case of any issue identified in their credit reports or any clarification required, individuals have the right to approach Credit Bureaus and seek clarification or raise dispute and get the correction done.

 

Credit dispute

There are different modes through which consumer can raise a Credit Dispute in case of any issues observed:

1)      Consumer can approach the Credit bureaus for getting clarification and raising dispute to get correction done

2)      Through external systems like e-Oscar, AUD or websites showing Credit scores like CreditKarma, Creditsesame, TrueCredit etc.

 

Typically, these credit disputes take a long time (2-3 months on an average and sometimes even 6 months!) towards resolution. A detailed follow-up is involved with the data furnisher and Credit Bureaus towards this. There are many instances where a consumer has sued the data furnisher or Credit Bureau upon identification of any inaccuracy in data or incorrect reporting of Credit Scores.

These lawsuits and very tedious and can prove costly for all the parties involve, so essentially, prevention is better than cure in these cases. This implies that, regular monitoring of Credit information is a key necessity from individual's perspective, to highlight any discrepancy as early as possible and get it corrected before any further impact happens due to this.


Skip Tracing

Skip tracing refers to gathering information about whereabouts of any consumer missing from a long time. Usually, the financing companies opt for skip tracing when they are not able to establish contact with a non-paying consumer through different means like:

·         Field Visit (leading to identification that consumer can no more be found on the addresses known)

·         Correspondences (leading to Return Email)

·         Phone calls (leading to no response or wrong phone numbers)


Many financial organizations take pro-active measures to keep the consumer information (home address, work address, home phone, cell phone, work phone and other details) up-to-date in their system of records. This avoids unpleasant scenarios like:-

·         Consumer skipping without making payments leading to charge-off of the account or

·         Consumer skipping while the asset couldn't be recovered / repossessed due to non-payment


Skip tracing services are a lucrative additional stream of revenue to Credit Bureaus who are gathering consumer data from multiple sources and thus creating a huge repository on individual's information.

Upon getting a skip trace request for specific individuals, Credit Bureaus can dig their databases and provide information regarding recent most addresses, phone numbers reported for the given consumers from other data furnishers. Having this 'probable' information on consumer's whereabouts can be helpful for Financing companies to "trace" the non-paying consumer and eventually secure their loaned asset or recover dues leading to minimization of losses.

Conclusion

Consumer credit information is not only a good tool to assess the credit worthiness of an individual; however, it also plays a significant role towards finalization of interest rates and other contract terms.  The credit reporting business is equally beneficial for Credit Bureau Agencies as well as financing organizations consuming the resulting information that can accordingly treat the consumer per the Credit History details and minimize the risk associated with the financing arrangement. Usually, the financing organizations consuming this credit information are also the data furnishers. Its benefits are not just limited to the Credit Bureau Agencies but for also Consumers with good credit history. Having Credit reports available and accessible to potential lenders; benefits consumers with better credit rating to easily avail loans at lesser interest rates. This benefit may have been lost without the existence of Credit Bureau Agencies

By having robust information-extraction and information-processing systems, financing companies stand to gain a lot in terms of better credit information which can help them take correct decisions and avoid potential credit disputes. 


References

1.       World Bank Definition of Credit Reporting Bureaus - http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/gfdr/background/credit-bureau.

March 16, 2017

Package Evaluation - Additional Considerations

 

 As a packaged software product consultant one typical request that comes from client embarking on a CRM transformation is to find out the best packaged application that meets and exceeds their requirement. For one such request I immediately set out to find the product features of each application from various sources and prepared a list of product capabilities that can be used to compare and contrast. Halfway through the exercise I realized that such material is available in public domain and each product vendor display such comparisons on their website. That led me to think if there are some other criteria that are not considered because we are so 'familiar' with such package comparison requests.

I started to question why does an organization choose product X over Y. Should it only be guided by the capabilities of X and Y? Our clients take tremendous effort to implement packaged applications and expect to reap the benefits of the package over a period of time. What are the benefits? We could immediately list out how the product improves productivity, achieves cost reduction by its operation, enhances user experience; etc. But again these are all related to the product capabilities.

If we take a step back, to see the ecosystem of the packaged application we will realize that there are some more factors at play. I am attempting to list some of them here. It is not exhaustive and the reader may have some more to add based on his/her experience.

For the lack of a better word I will use the word "Ecosystem" to define these additional considerations.

Third Party Application/Marketplace

As most applications especially CRM are in SaaS model we should consider how rich is the marketplace of third party applications. More the applications in the marketplace implies that there are people and companies willing to invest resources in building bespoke applications because they firmly believe in the longevity of the said packaged application. For instance Salesforce.com has 30000+ applications in Appexchange, Oracle CX Cloud has about 585 applications in Marketplace and MS Dynamics has about 180 applications in AppSource.

For a SMB CX offerings from SugarCRM, Sage, Insightly, SFDC SMB edition, Zoho, Freshdesk the vendors themselves offer bolt on applications.

Quality & Availability of implementation Partners

To provide an unbiased view we should list the number of such vendors available and the ease with which such partners are available. A paucity of quality vendors implies either the packaged application has a bad track record of successful implementations owing to factors such as complexity, product vendor support or just plain monopoly of the product vendor. Either ways it means the client implementing the said package is at the mercy of a few partners for implementation and support. Though a small/medium enterprise may be tempted to go purely based on cost and go with a smaller application provider the enterprise may find it difficult to find system partners to maintain/enhance it.

Cost of Partner Resources

This is a direct fallout of the previous criteria as fewer partners imply higher cost.

Qualified Resources

If the client were to manage the packaged application in-house then would it be easy to get qualified resources. If resources are in short supply then the cost of maintenance goes up adding to TCO. The client is then at the mercy of a few qualified resources and their exit could jeopardize the stability of the application and business operations.

It is relatively easier to get qualified resources for CX applications from large vendors like SFDC, Oracle, SAP or MS compared to vendors like Sugar, Sage, Zoho;etc.

 

So, in summary the criteria for evaluation of packaged software applications should not be restricted only to the application capabilities but also the accompanying ecosystem.
Do you feel are there more factors to be considered?

March 15, 2017

HCM War in Cloud-"Dynamic Automated solutions on mobility platforms -A Clear winner"

 

 "Modern HR" understands the importance of computing, specifically "Cloud Computing". HR leaders across the world have realized that, this is an opportunity for innovation of the new HR trends.

Growing businesses always have a tendency to pick HCM solutions which will suite  to their HR needs and as the business grows, it demands a wider range of capabilities with minimal support, deployment time & cost.

There is a term "Over choice" which means that it is very difficult to choose one  when faced with multiple choices. This phrase compliments with the current situation in HCM offerings, as a tug of war is already going on between Workday, Oracle, SAP & other players within Cloud.

Criteria for selection of HCM products has undergone a paradigm shift since the last decade. Earlier, budgetary requirements was the key factor while selecting any HCM solution ,but now business focus has shifted to automation, specifically "Dynamic Automated solutions integrated with Artificial Intelligence on mobility platforms."

Modern executives believe that customer satisfaction depends upon the employee's satisfaction and to bring employee satisfaction, modern flexible & best HR practices are required. Over the years, the perception about human resources has changed. The Modern Industrialist uses the term Human capital\Investments instead of Human resources.

Conceptually, an employee is considered as a liability to the company which should be acquired at lowest perks, but the modern HR professional believes in a different theory. They believe that an employee is an investment to the company who can transform the company productivity in a more profitable way with his vision and enhanced skills.

Timely, organizations have started realizing that HR is an integral part of the organization. Its role is not restricted to only recruitment, payroll & compensation. Higher Management are directly interacting with HR Leads. They are now taking all possible measures to enhance employee satisfaction & morale. They have understood that organization growth is directly proportional to employee growth. If an employee's career is properly planned in terms of promotion, perks, bonuses, etc. and if the organization is supporting the employee during tough times in his/her personal life, then the employee will also show his /her loyalty towards the organization for a much longer term and this employee friendly atmosphere will always attract the industry's best talents.

 

  Technology Involvement in HR practices:-

Earlier when the HR practice was completely manual, employee records were maintained manually from recruitment to retirement and this included all modules whether recruitment, payroll etc. 

With the era of computers, automation was introduced and various IT products have since then, been introduced in the market. With the origination of various software languages, there were softwares introduced in the market based on Pascal, FoxPro, COBOL, etc.  As languages like   C, C++ & Java were introduced, applications based on these were also launched for the calculation of payroll & taxes in HR applications.

Organizations had to purchase various softwares for each module which included payroll, compensation, benefits, absence etc. As technology advanced, single-stop solutions for all modules were made available & they were named as HCM products/applications & if we follow the latest trends, cloud based applications are the demand of the new era market.

If you consider only the cloud based HCM applications, even then, there are multiple vendors' available within cloud. Today, Oracle fusion, SAP & Workday are the dominating cloud based applications.

 

Human Capital applications: - Practical selection

HCM is a term associated with the human resource of any organization. Actually it defines recruiting , managing and retaining an organization's resources which is its associates\executives. The prime activity of an HR personnel in an organization is to identify the skilled matched resource who can adjust   in the organization and can be retained for a longer term for company growth and profitability. There are various activities involved for HR processes which include recruitment, talent management, Core HR, performance management, absence management and workforce management, terminal benefits which include PF/pension & above all payroll. Nowadays, there are various Cloud /Non cloud based HCM applications available in the market, but to select among them for a small & mid  size industries are  always being a tough decision.

Let us consider the issues which the very  small,small & mid sized industries  have to face while selecting any HCM application.

 Small Scale Industries Core issues:-

Conceptually there are wider options available in software market for HCM solutions, But small businesses still face a various challenges:-

1.Usually   attrition rate is quite high in Small organizations as people prefers to be recruited in Higher level organization.

  • 2.Their Budgetary requirements on HCM solutions  are always on lower side and there main focus is on Profitability.

  • So keeping in view of these issues mentioned above, even SME's should think of an HCM application as an investment for retaining best talent and should choose such applications which can be best suited within their budget ,legacy and organization requirements .

    Steps or Procedures for Selecting HCM solution:-

    HR software's can also  help small organizations to sort out their issues by automation over manual tasks of record management ,payroll, employee data etc which will not even help HR executives but also help the business  leaders to make a right decision .In the current-market, most solutions are moving toward mobility & automation based solutions.

     Various steps & procedures for selecting any HCM product based on their need is listed below:-

    • A strategic Planned approach for selecting any vendor & HCM product which should consider

      Organization infrastructure, budget requirements as well.

    • A research should be done on various cloud or non-cloud applications, the kind of automation required for mobility solutions, Interface with other technologies developed/available in the organization in keeping view what the actual organization requirements are.

    In the next post, we shall explore the various market dominating HCM solutions.


























  • Inception of Oracle Sales Cloud in Telecom

     

    Telecom has always been one of the most dynamic and rapidly evolving industry. Recent competition and entrance of new players has brought a phase of consolidation in Indian telecom sector.

    This will also lead to consolidation of existing IT systems along with need of new technology road map to enable sales and service. It will require quick rollout of new technology solutions along with strong integration capabilities with legacy systems.

     

    Leveraging cloud solutions in telecom have been a challenge due to complex telecom regulations and rapidly changing product structures. This has been further complicated by needs to keep up with competition and customer expectations. In order to understand the changing expectations and repeat business, sales team needs to align early with existing customers. In this regard, Oracle Sales Cloud has come up with communication industry solution. Oracle communication offering is in addition to existing Oracle Sales Cloud functionality.

     

    Oracle Sales Cloud (R-12) for communication offers following features


    1. Customized layouts: Customized layouts have been provided for opportunity and account entities for contract renewal process. This is for B2B customers in communication industry.


    2. Preconfigured integrations: Oracle Sales Cloud integration have been provided with Siebel CRM and Oracle Self-Service E-Billing. Following sales activities for contract renewals are provided in integration

           

    ◦ Quotes can be created in Siebel Full Application window deployed from Oracle Sales Cloud.

    ◦ Opportunities can be auto-created in Oracles Sales Cloud where contracts are about to expire within specified time limits in Siebel CRM.

    ◦ Complete 360 degree view of existing contracts, sales and service activities analysis along with details of usage and billing data in Oracle Sales Cloud.

    ◦ Automated update of opportunity in Oracle Sales Cloud when corresponding quotes are modified in Siebel.

    ◦ Sharing addresses among accounts and contacts.


    3. Contextual dashboards for salespeople: Custom dashboards can be displayed. These dashboards display business sales performance indicators and analytical details on communications contract renewals, new contracts, on-hold deals, actual versus quota, and bundled products.


    4. View of customer billing and financial profiles: Billing profile captures the bill run characteristics that are required to invoice the customer for products and services and financial profile captures information required to perform a credit check on the customer.



    Enhanced communication offering of Oracle Sales Cloud (R-12) is a good ready-made cloud solution. This should help telecom industry to introduce cloud solution with their existing on premise solutions like Siebel and Oracle self-service E-billing. This initial offering will lead to immediate benefits like subscription based access, increased flexibility for sales people along with long term benefits like repeated business and reduced operational expenses.


    Background processing in Oracle Sales Cloud, is it possible?


    In today's world of complex business processes and systems, it is a common scenario for an application to initiate a complex processing routine based on user action and allow user to move on to another operation without waiting for output from the processing routine.

    This approach provides better user experience where real-time output of a complex process is not-relevant for user journey / process flow; especially when the processing time is considerably high.

    In a recent implementation, we had similar scenario where an external webservice was supposed to be invoked from Oracle Sales Cloud based on a user action (On click of Save button - Groovy script), however real-time output of the webservice was not necessary for further user actions. The external webservice needed 60+ seconds to respond.

    With the inherent nature of Oracle Sales Cloud, any transaction / operation initiated by user action on UI completes in the UI transaction context itself and control is give back to the user only after the transaction is complete.

    This limitation of Oracle Sales cloud meant user has to wait on UI for 60+ seconds to get the control back (webservice call needed 60+ seconds to respond). As you would agree this was not a good user experience and understandably business was not happy with it.


    So what would be the solution for this issue?

    Discussions with Oracle support covered the following options:

    • Explore possibility of asynchronous webservice. However Oracle Sales Cloud didn't support any way to invoke asynchronous webservice.
    • Change the webservice implementation to improve the response time. However this was not feasible as this was existing webservice on Customer side being used by other applications.
    • Change the business process. However the webservice still needed to be invoked on user action and the wait time issue couldn't be avoided. 


    Finally we came up with a work around that was agreed by Oracle Support as well.


    The approach:

    The code to execute external webservice call was part of a Groovy script that was supposed to be executed after "Before Insert" trigger script (covering real-time operation) on click of Save button on UI.

    We needed to way to execute Groovy script (for the webservice call) outside UI context, though the trigger point is from UI.

    Object Workflow was leveraged to achieve this.

    Object Workflow is an OOB feature provided by Oracle Sales Cloud , that can execute an action when Workflow condition is satisfied.

    The Workflow actions can include preliminary operations such as

    • Field Updates
    • Email Notification
    • Task Creation
    • Outbound message (Allows sending object field values to an End point)
    • Business Process Flow

    Workflow in itself does Not support complex operation such as executing a Groovy script, however the Update Field action helped achieve this.


    Application Composer changes:

    1. Groovy script to execute the webservice call was on a custom object "Quote". New fields "Invoke_WF"and "Invoke_BS" added to Quote object.
    2. Groovy script code added on Before Insert trigger of Quote Object to set "Invoke_WF" = 'Invoke' (after the script that was supposed to be executed real-time).  
    3. Object Workflow created on Quote object with condition as Invoke_WF = 'Invoke' (When a record is created) and with Field Updates action to set "Invoke_BS" to value 'InvokeBS'
    4. Field trigger added on Quote object "Invoke_BS" field to execute Groovy script to invoke external webservice when field value is 'InvokeBS'.


    Sequence of events with the workaround:


    1. Click of Save button on Quote object executes "Before Insert" trigger to perform the real-time operations and then set the Invoke_WF field. This ends the UI transaction and returns control to user instantaneously.
    2. In the background, Object Workflow is executed satisfying the condition for Invoke_WF field value.
    3. Workflow action updates field Invoke_BS.
    4. Field trigger on Invoke_BS field on Quote object executes the Groovy script that calls external webservice and processes the response. Since workflow executes in background mode, so does this Groovy script.


    Below diagram briefly explains the sequence of steps.


    Thus this approach helped meeting the business requirement overcoming product limitation. What more, this also opened up an opportunity to extend the workaround to other scenarios where complex Groovy script needs to be executed in background on Oracle Sales Cloud.


    e.g. This approach was also leveraged to meet another complex business requirement that involved updates for 100+ child Quote records through script based on a user action. Oracle Sales cloud limitation of 60 seconds time out for scripts, restricted the ability to process more than 20 Quote records in a single transaction. However background processing approach helped breaking the transaction in smaller chunks that could be processed in parallel avoiding the time out.


    Hope this approach would be helpful for Oracle Sales Cloud implementations involving similar scenarios. Happy to help in case any queries. 


    Siebel Transformation - Moving to Business Agility


    Business agility is ability of a product to quickly respond to change. Once a leader in CRM space, Siebel has been losing against cloud based CRM products owing to lack of agility.

    What is stopping Siebel from being an agile application? One reason is that even for a minor configuration changes, Siebel needs downtime, which has been a pain point for Siebel developer and business users.

     

    The upcoming release of Siebel IP2017 showcases impressive and most awaited features, such as Agile, Mobility, Cloud-ready, IoT, Machine Learning, AI-driven business and Autonomous CRM.

    Of these features, in my blog, I would like to focus Siebel Composer for development in agile mode, Workspace for real-time deployment and In-built Test Automation for testing in automated mode.

    Siebel Roadmap IP2017 - Business Agility

    IP17_raodmap_size.jpg

    1. Siebel Composer  

     

    Siebel Composer is a Web Based IDE, Visual, Guided for Siebel customization. It support run-time configuration. It simplifies application development via a WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) visual interface.

     'Composer' terminology is not new, we have been hearing it for last two years. It was introduced in IP15.5, but prior releases have presented developer-preview, and after two years in innovating and maturing, it will be production-ready in IP 2017.

    To facilitate on-the fly change, configuration metadata has been moved from a file-based store (SRF) to the Siebel CRM database. Now the configuration changes for repository object supported by Composer will be published directly to server database, so no more SRF compilation required, and hence zero-downtime mission has been accomplished.

    Composer feature enables developer to configure Siebel from anywhere via a browser, which is in-synch with the latest cloud based application development.

    Composer_image.png

    2. Workspace: Parallel Development

    Workspace manages the parallel, isolated, multi-release development and complete governance of Siebel CRM. Workspace is key building block for web composer.

    Workspace_Image.png

    At present Siebel Tools is based on check-in/check-out, object locking process for Siebel configuration, which limits two developers to work on same repository object at a time. With introduction of Workspace, check-in/check-out, local database setup, DB extract, DB initialization all this time consuming process will become a history. This enables quick on-boarding of developer and parallel development

    WS_flowDiagram.png

    Developers work in isolation, in their private sandbox for editing, compiling configuration changes, testing and delivering to parent workspace. Only user with workspace administrator rights can deliver the changes to MAIN workspace.

     

    3. In-built Automated Testing Suite

    Agile development requires regression test automation. Therefore there is a huge dependency on third party application testing suite to manage test cases and test plans.

    In upcoming release IP2017, Siebel CRM is integrated with an end-to-end automation framework testing tool, and Oracle claims it will reduce 70% effort in testing as compared to third party testing tool integration.

    Test_Integration.png


    The upcoming improvements in Siebel inspire confidence for the customers to continue leveraging their existing Siebel investments and use the rich/deep CRM capabilities in Siebel.

    March 14, 2017

    ERP Cloud - "Temps S'il vous plaît"

     

    Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them or pay a higher price.

     

    Often we see Organizations reluctant to adopt Cloud as the next Generation Solution to the ERP world. "TIME PLEASE" -

    • We need more time to really to make this decision and also our organization strategy towards the same.

    • We don't want to be Guinea pig and experiments and observations to be done on us

    • It is all about starting everything from scratch. Rather I would upgrade to the latest version

    • We are very bad at change.

    I really recollect my Young days of playing games and sports, when intermediate breaks and halts were on demand and often a choice taken by individuals. But more into my Teens, the more the maturity, one understands that breaks and intervals are predefined and one never has the choice. There is no "TIME PLEASE" requests. Furthermore time given is a reason to just lose the game and the advantage.  In the same way corporate ERP decision and strategies are more often formed with the following key considerations

    • Industry Drivers

    • Adoption rates

    • Security

    • Cost Optimization options.

    ERP Cloud as a Product has also matured with its very unique Offerings and growing availability of functionalities, advance Technology options, matured market coverage for localizations and very enhanced security.

    Cloud is being discussed about everywhere. More than 60% of the Business Finance is looking at increasing their Spend on cloud computing. While Customers are accepting that the challenges on ERP Cloud are not about technology, but the traditional problems that business faces every day. Challenges around data migration, business adoption and integrations remain, but cloud applications make user adoption easier. Users are adopting solutions and more accustomed to their daily problem and issues management and resolutions to the same.

    What's unique about the cloud offerings and what makes it very successful

    Available Anywhere

    Being the Nature to be on Cloud makes the application and data available anywhere. 

    Reduced Resources

    Lesser Networking, Hardware and also multiple options of Servers and managed softwares makes this very unique Offering.

    Security Richness

    Right People, Right Tools and Transparency in keeping Data Secured and Safe makes data sensitivity rich on Cloud.

    Higher Scalability

    Go with the minimum and then you have the option to scale up making the rest of the product stream available on demand makes a unique proposition to adopt cloud.

    Support from Cloud

    Since the product's nature is very much to be available anywhere, the onsite offshore model would probably become more of an offshoring / near shoring model and make resources available for support from any part of the world.

    As per Nucleus Research  - the Cost of ownership of traditional on premise ERP applications was 2.1 times more than ERP Cloud. While analyzing at the key ERP cost drivers -- hardware, software, consulting, implementation and education over a 3-year period -- assessed that initial costs for ERP on premise were 2.4 times greater than ERP cloud. After implementation, maintenance costs were the key differentiator, with average yearly costs for ERP cloud averaging 1.8 times less than ERP on premise. -  Source www. Oracle.com

    "Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    All of these without a compromise on Transaction Visibility and dynamic Reporting capabilities across Organization's finance, procurement, supply chain, manufacturing and projects with add-on features of mobility, analytics and social collaboration.  Depicted below is a Total TCO for an Organization adopting Oracle ERP Cloud

    Cost Parameters

    Non Oracle ERP

    Oracle ERP

    ERP Cloud

    Initial Hardware

    880 K

    285 K

    0

    Software Licenses

    1.85 M

    1.75 M

    0.44 M

    Consulting

    2.25 M

    1.6 M

    1.48 M

    Implementation and Deployment

    2.48 M

    1.5 M

    650 K

    Annual Maintenance

    1.12 M

    800 K

    350 K

    Upgrades and new Version adoption

    1.5 M

    1.2 M

    450 K

    Training

    550 K

    530 K

    275 K

    Source : Information from Nuclues Research

    A comparison of the Product Maturity reveals the true benefits and enhanced functionalities that ERP cloud provides

    It is very evident that Oracle ERP Cloud has the key advantage with all functionalities of an on premise product being made available on cloud. Organizations can expand themselves into new markets with multi legal entity, multi-GAAP, and multicurrency capabilities, delivering multidimensional reporting from a one source of truth with shared reference and master data. Eliminating the difficulty of intercompany tax and payment transactions with a standardized architecture and Compliance to local regulations and reporting requirements using delivered Out of the box, country specific localizations. All these with ERP cloud as the product of choice.

    Agility in business modeling -- processing of over 150+ million transactions and adhering to the processing requirements of even the complex enterprise--is key to business model to succeed. Simplification, with a detailed drill down from the metrics, Dynamic Spread sheet Integrations to solve the last minute hurdles creating a barrier to the month end close, Modernization with Social Collaboration, tracking Project cost and revenue, enforcing Control's extensive rules, data standardization and enhanced strong Governance and risk compliance tools, the multi-dimensional reporting capabilities providing impacts from detailed insights ERP Cloud is a winning solution to today's modern CFO.

    In today's finance world teams can easily account for 85 percent of their time on data collection and data validation, reports development, by maintaining and updating spreadsheets. Very often the actual and true, value-added work of analytics and decision making doesn't start before the end of the week-- woth a very less time focused on to develop real insights and make decisions.

    Do you really want to be as you are and claim "TIME PLEASE" or move towards the next generation ERP? The choice is your' s. Better not be Late than being on Time. Decide, Adopt and Implement the modernized ERP solution.

    Finally as quoted by Rabindranath Tagore - "Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky."

    Let us adopt, deploy and operate on ERP cloud and be part of the team advantage.



    March 9, 2017

    INTEGRATION ON CLOUD - A STUDY IN KRONOS (Part-2)

    Welcome back! In the first part, we talked about some of the Integration options that are available to us to interface on­-premise applications with SaaS based solutions. In this part, let us look little deeper into the architecture and call out some of the key integration considerations. Also, I have put together a matrix, which gives a guideline on choosing the type of integration based on various considerations.

    Integration considerations

    Now that we have already seen the various integration options available, let us look further and list down some key considerations to keep in mind before zeroing on one. From an architecture standpoint, there are various points to ponder over before committing to a design pattern. Making some informed architectural decisions goes a long way in the success of the program. So, here are some fundamental questions that we should answer before selecting an integration framework for the new cloud application?

    Volume - How big is the data that is being exchanged between clouds or between cloud and on-premise?

    Speed - Closely knitted with the volume consideration, is speed. How quick can the data transfer be? What are the bandwidth limitations if communicating with a SaaS application? How does data volumes impact speed?

    Data transfer and transformation requirements - As it is always with integration design, the type of data transfer plays a role in the final integration architecture. Few data transfers need to be synchronous and the others, asynchronous. Knowing what data need to be transferred in what way will be a handy input in the final architecture. The same can be said about transformation requirements. The chosen architecture should allow enough leverage to plug in transformational logic to convert source formats to destination formats.

    Integration options - What integration technique suits the application best? Does the application support API or Web services or any available tools? Does it need special cloud connectors to interchange data?

    Security - Is the data being transmitted secure enough? What are the risks of eavesdropping while the data moves through a public internet connection on its way up to the cloud? What kind of encryption (e.g.: PGP) techniques suits the data?

    Maintenance - As always, how easy it is to maintain the integration solution? Is it a widely accepted technique? Are the support costs too heavy? How easy it is to find relevant expertise?

    We have 2 parameters at hand now: Integration options and Integration considerations. We saw them in silos, but to deduce an architecture decision from these 2 parameters we need to look both of them together. Here, I have tried to put together a matrix that can serve as a quick guideline while choosing the right integration technique. Please note that the below view is only based on my past project experiences. This may change based on overall system landscape and organizational guidelines.

    Now, how does this all really span out in real world? After all, we all know things are not as straight forward as it is written on the books! Let's look at some real life examples and conclude this series in Part-3. Stay tuned!

                                                                                           *****End of Part-2*****

    Link to part 1: http://www.infosysblogs.com/oracle/2017/02/integration_on_cloud_a_study_i.html

    Link to part 3: http://www.infosysblogs.com/oracle/2017/04/integration_on_cloud_-_a_krono.html

    March 8, 2017

    Customer handbook for Service Modernization journey



    Why modernize?
    If you are still thinking why make any change to my Customer Support experience, here are some tidbits to chew upon -

    "Businesses are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service. That's up $20 billion since 2013, just four years ago!"

    "By 2018, 50% of agent interactions will be influenced by real-time analytics."

    "By 2019, requests for customer support through consumer messaging apps will exceed requests for customer support through social media"

    "By 2020, AI will disrupt the jobs of 1,000,000 phone-based customer support agents."  

    Millennials are becoming the increasing majority of Customer base as compared to the baby boomers, who tend to overlook the traditional channels for their problem resolution. Smart enterprises should look to tap into this enormous potential by modernizing the way they service their Customers. The primary channels to communicate to your Customers should move on from the traditional to the modern experiences provide through LiveChat, Video Chat, Co Browsing, Live Messaging, Virtual Assistants, AI, Chat bots among other things.
    Gone are the days when the Agent had to connect to a multitude of Legacy systems to answer a simple query from the Customer, it is time to usher in the age of Agents using a single application with a 360 degree view to anything and everything they would need to provide the Customer with a WOW experience. Agent Productivity also becomes a key driver for Enterprises as they look to trim down on their workforce by embracing the advancements in the Service applications available in the market. Smart tools and analytics, guided assistance, knowledge base, keyboard shortcuts, AI will drive the Support Agents in achieving lower Time to Ticket Resolution (TTR).

    Products in the market
    Who is at the fore front of driving this modernization experience in the market? The answer is in the Usual Suspects like Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and the newbies in Zendesk. The following sections gives you a quick sneak peek on what each of the Product lines has to offer.

    Compare and Consider


    Oracle Service Cloud (RightNow)

    Oracle Service Cloud, formerly known as RightNow, is an acquired Product (Oct 2011) from Oracle which helps Organizations deliver a unique Omni Channel Customer Experience across multiple channels like Contact Centers, Web and Social networks. The primary features of this Cloud based application entails the following:
    Cross Channel Contact Center to provide your Support agents with a highly configurable Agent Desktop for Case management, with tools like guided resolution, 360 degree Customer view to ease the case to resolution journey.
    Knowledge Management which helps the Support Agents as well as the End Customers to arrive at the most relevant answer for their issues. It is also enabled with SmartAssistant Wizard, Enterprise Content search and integrated analytics.
    Customer Self Service Portal for Customers to login and track their issues from creation to closure and also to utilize the Self-help features that are provided. Customers can 'Ask a Question', 'Engage in LiveChat' or use the 'Guided Assistance Widgets' to their advantage.
    Policy Automation to create contextualized and personalized service using dynamic interviews.

    In addition to this Oracle Service Cloud also supports Case Management via Social Channels and also is enabled on both SOAP and REST WebServices to support a seamless integration with external applications as the need be.

    Salesforce Service Cloud

    Salesforce are the pioneers and leaders on the CRM platform on Cloud Services with support across all the different stages of Customer Experience. Salesforce Service Cloud helps Customers modernize their Service applications with a variety of Customer Service features, including the latest Salesforce Lightning and Einstein (Artificial Intelligence). The product comes with the features list out below:
    Service Console for Agents to manage all the incoming Cases while providing a unified Agent Experience. The Console is supported over desktop and mobile and helps in delivering a smart, fast personalized service to the Customer regardless of the channel they reach out on.
    Knowledge to deliver Customer Self-Service or to enable the Agents to find the right answer to the issue they are servicing. Enables to seamlessly mange knowledge articles and can be enabled on external sites or accessed from any mobile device.
    Social Customer Service to enable Agents to monitor and respond to Customer issues on the Social channels.
    LiveAgent to provide Customers personalized, real-time help over Chat
    Mobile with the SalesForce1 mobile app to access Case details on the go and also provide Customers with Self-Service options. SOS for apps provides Video Chat and screen sharing.
    Communities to allow Customers to help themselves and each other. Collaboration among Employee and Customer groups aids in coming up with the best problem resolutions.
    In addition to this Salesforce Service Cloud also supports Live Messaging across multiple messaging apps, Chat Bots and also is enabled on both SOAP and REST WebServices to support a seamless integration with external applications as the need be.

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
     
    Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service unifies the way people experience your business--across self-service, peer-to-peer service, and assisted service. The available features are listed below:
    Omni-channel Engagement for the Agents to serve the Customers on their preferred Channels.
    Self-service for Customers to help themselves and collaborate with an online community.
    Unified Experience to equip the Agents to service the Customer from a single User interface.
    Knowledge Base to help the Agents as well as the Customers with the best insights into the issues.
    Digital Intelligence to provide predictive and proactive customer service via the Analytics capabilities.
    MSD 365 is enabled on both SOAP and REST WebServices to support a seamless integration with external applications as the need be.

    Zendesk
     
    Zendesk Inc. is an American company that builds software for better Customer relationships. It provides services in below mentioned areas:
    Support is a system for tracking, prioritizing and solving Customer tickets by providing the Agent with a single view to all of the Customer information.
    Help Center is self-service tool, allowing companies to set up knowledge bases, online communities, and self-service portals for customers.
    Chat to connect with Customers on real time, Talk to connect with Customers on a call center solution and Message to engage Customers on their favorite messaging apps like Facebook and Twitter.
    Explore provides analytics to measure and understand the entire customer experience
    Zendesk is enabled on both SOAP and REST WebServices to support a seamless integration with external applications as the need be.

    A much greater deep dive into a feature-by-feature comparison between the different Products would be available in the next part of this paper, so look out for it!!


    Customer 360 - is it so hard to achieve?

    Customer 360 is a very old buzzword. In most of our transformation programs, one of the business objectives is to achieve C360. Given that C360 was one of the selling points for CRM, one would assume that this objective was met when most enterprises implemented their initial CRM solutions.  That, however, does not seem to be the case.

    Let us look at an example of a fragmented customer experience due to missing C360. I have been a loyal customer of Telco X(name intentionally masked) for years. I have their post-paid voice, data plan etc. Yet, I get cold-calls every now and then from a call center of Telco X offering me some plan. They seem to have no context of my existing relationship, the products that I currently hold or my usage of their services for effective cross/up-sell. To me, this kind of random cold-calling seems to be a terrible waste of resources. Not to mention the bad customer experience. So why is this Telco unable to create a proper 360 view of my profile and target their messages appropriately?


    One of the potential reasons is that the Telco may have fragmented IT solutions. We frequently come across large Telcos that have different solution stacks based on products and/or customer types. (eg: Mobile stack, fixed line stack, enterprise complex product stack etc). This results in various issues as follows:


    • Duplicate customers across stacks
    • No single source of truth to view a comprehensive customer profile and service details
    • Customer care agents have to open multiple systems to answer customer queries/check status/resolve issues


    It is normally a very costly and complex proposition for a Telco to transform into a truly 'single' solution stack that manages all types of customers and fulfills all products and services. Given the typical budget constraints, we are suggesting some lighter mechanisms to our clients as follows:


    • Work towards a bare-minimum CRM and billing consolidation that allows a C360 without having to transform all the downstream fulfillment processes
    • Create a 'Unified agent desktop' type of view with a UI based consolidation across systems using light weight solution options (eg: Infosys AssistEdge) that visually presents a C360 without having to perform actual system integrations.
    • Create back-end data aggregation processes (eg: via use of ETL and Data warehouse) to pull and patch data from multiple systems to create a C360 particularly for usage in batch processes such as marketing campaigns.
    Given a chance, I would certainly recommend these options to Telco X who seem to be intent on calling me despite having told them multiple times that I already have their services.


    Creating a C360 to deliver an improved customer experience need not be an exceedingly costly or difficult affair. It is a matter of identifying the solution that best meets the current business objectives and implementing the same. What do you think?

    March 7, 2017

    Blockchain in Ecommerce


    There are already different Blockchain networks that are offering a variety of services but primarily centered on financial services industry. There are a few in areas of crowd sourcing, patient records, music industry and contract management. This blog is an attempt to show how Blockchain can be used in Ecommerce and be a viable model for the Ecommerce marketplace.


    The word Blockchain has come into being after the world heard the term 'Bitcoin'. Blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin. Blockchain is a distributed ledger of transactions where nodes (computers on a network) store all transactions and it is practically impossible to falsify transactions that are already distributed across all the nodes. We will not go into the underlying technology of Blockchain but the underlying principle of Blockchain is secure pseudo-anonymous transactions without an intermediary.


    The ecommerce marketplace is where individuals can register and buy products directly from the product sellers. The buyer, seller and marketplace are on Blockchain network. The Ecommerce marketplace vendor gets paid for the 'Proof of Work' it does in generating a block.


    Below is an illustration of a scenario where a buyer buys product from seller and makes payment.


     


    Rounded Rectangle: Block NRounded Rectangle: Block N+TxRounded Rectangle: Block N+ Tx+Ty