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

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April 30, 2017

Reverse Logistics For A Forward Thrust To Sustainment Quotient

One of the key technology focus areas in Green Supply Chain Management that enables an organization to transition into a sustainable organization is Supply Chain Network.  Logistics Optimization also goes hand in hand with this. It is true beyond doubt that a responsive supply chain is also a responsible supply chain, it is more environmentally and socially responsible. Not only is it plausible it is also more financially viable resulting in a higher sustainment quotient as well as higher benefit factor. Logistics Optimization and Supply Chain Network can lead to reductions in empty and circuitous miles, and also increased warehouse capacity utilization. Organizations need to look at the process and operational best practices to improve upon their sustainment quotient. The higher the quotient, the greener the supply chain and hence the greener the dividend pastures as mentioned earlier.

One of the key tenets of Supply Chain Network and Logistics Optimization is Reverse Logistics. Reverse logistics is characterized by supply uncertainty as opposed to Forward Logistics. Reverse logistics is not forecast and demand driven. Organizations can't predict which products are going to be returned, their condition and when. 

Reverse Logistics relates to managing returned goods and their disposition, improving organization's ability to turn damaged goods into sellable goods after refurbishments. Due to strict norms for disposition of goods that are prevalent in the retail and distribution industry (like WEEE, RoHS) it is imperative that we focus on this from a strategic viewpoint.  Organizations that practice reverse logistics processes can significantly reduce the waste generation and increase opportunities to re-introduce returned products to market. This is desirable both economically and ecologically.

I would like to spell out encore the probabilistic function that I had mentioned in one of my previous blogs.


Probability(Returns) = XF(Decrease in demand) +YF(Incorrect forecast) + ZF(Damage in transport) +AF(Quality issues) + BF(Stores inability to sell) + CF(Incorrect promotions).

World class organizations are trying to reach out for the point of minimum inflexion for this function. Hence, although the returns are unpredictable, the probability of its occurrence can be minimized for best results. Also with effective management of reverse logistics within the supply chain, the levels of greenhouse gas emissions can also be kept under a check. Oracle Applications provide niche modules/functions that support reverse logistics processes. Some of these are:

·         Depot repair

·         Spares Management

·         OTM

 

These modules include features that address issues like surplus identification per threshold levels, enhanced routing algorithm to determine the destination of return, excess returns handling prioritization using business rules and strategies (via rules engine) per impact on inventory value. Effective implementation of these technology capabilities will result in reducing an organization's carbon footprint and addressing the business imperatives. They also help in repair management, re-manufacturing, re-assembly and reuse of salvaged components. We will discuss more on these business functions and technology capabilities in further threads, but the underlying fact remains that "Green is the color of money as Green is the vein of supply chain".

April 24, 2017

Oracle Sales Cloud Quoting Solution

 

Common supposition assumed is that once Opportunity is accomplished in Sales Journey - there will be another application which will process details and converted order would be bought back in Oracle Sales Cloud.  Nonetheless there is something between the two which is not provisioned by Out of Box Oracle Sales Cloud platform and it is Quoting process. This article brings forth my take on how Oracle Sales Cloud capabilities can be leveraged in this façade. Impacted Audience includes SMBs to big enterprises, with intent to simplify architecture; where Sales Agents do not want to switch applications to get complete view on the Opportunity and Quote.

 

Solution involves using Oracle Sales Cloud architecture and creating an extensible object for Quote which is well linked with other Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Objects. In addition Oracle Sales Cloud provides initial insight in the Sales Journey with support of entities Lead, Deal and Opportunity. In fact one of the leading eCommerce major is evaluating Oracle Sales Cloud to careful capture and plan strategies for effective conversions. There are two scenarios where quoting solution can address business requirements.

 

S.No

Scenarios

Characteristics

1

When Quoting process is simple and straightforward; this is further augmented by integration with some fulfillment system.

Ø Basic configuration with selection of direct product/product groups suffice the purpose

Ø Simple pricing necessities

Ø Simple Proposal document requirements which can be handled through BI

2

Involves complex quote management system already implemented by Business. This can be achieved by creating Quote object in Oracle Sales Cloud with external interface to Quoting tool. Solution has been provided by Infosys for one of its Sales Cloud Customer - a leading global provider of unified communications solutions where Business had complex quoting implemented on Enterprise Configurator tool.

Ø Involves complex/hierarchical product structure

Ø Complex price calculations involving discounts, manufacturing costs and competition's pricing.

Ø Proposal documents with complex conditionals spanning over multiple pages

 

 

BEST FIT SOLUTION SCENARIOS

Let's comprehend patterns when Enterprise should opt for quoting solutions within Oracle Sales Cloud

 

ØLinear Product structure: Solution will fit in for organizations not having hierarchical product structures. There is no requirement to maintain hierarchical structure of products to process for various calculations say discounts. 

ØQuicker Conversion: There are scenarios when Sales Agent are in discussion with end customer and would like to have Quote created then and there for faster conversion. Quoting Solution within Oracle Sales Cloud surely enables it.

ØBest Utilization of Oracle Sales Cloud Analytics: Of course quoting within Oracle Sales Cloud solution provides complete view using its strong analytics capabilities through Dashboards, Actual versus Quotas Report and Pipeline Analytics. Unparalleled benefit is availability of all these reports on mobile/Ipads as well. Surely it helps in following business motives.

ØEasier Managed Security Aspects: Oracle Sales Cloud provides a detailed framework with Duty Roles, Abstract Roles, Job Roles and Resource Roles which will become all the more easier in upcoming Release 12.

ØEnable Modern Selling with Omni Channel devices: Enabling quoting solution across devices is an Out of Box capability. Mobile Quoting solution could be a transforming decision.

ØOSN enabled for Optimal Business Efficiency:  Oracle Social Network enables real time topic based association with seniors, colleagues and team members. Not only Oracle Sales Cloud allows collaboration on business records but also enables reading, sharing and annotating documents. Where else you could find this feature for a quoting solution?


QuotingSolution_OSC.jpg


This section is what actually interests any organisation - Big question of WHY? Unless there are strong merits, any solution falls flat. Let's gauge through the ones for Quoting solution within Oracle Sales Cloud:

 

ØSimplified Architecture: Solution brings with it one of the greatest reason which is lower ownership costs. Important thing is to decide solution is the right proposition where smoother and optimal solutions become end target.

ØEnhanced Agent Effectiveness: Quoting Solution within Oracle Sales Cloud will provide one click Quote access.

ØUser Experience: No more swapping between applications; consistent UI feel is a definite deal grabber. 

ØBest Exploited Analytics: Reports based on all Objects including the custom Objects provides cohesive picture with right security access to build visions for lattice analysis.

OSCQuotingSolution2.jpg

Quoting solution within Oracle Sales Cloud can be evaluated for optimal economic option. Emerging patterns can surely pave way for brighter side where Enterprises can opt for the solution based on success stories around. Thanks to yet another customer delight enablement from Oracle Sales Cloud! 

April 19, 2017

HCM War in Cloud-"Dynamic Automated solutions on mobility platforms (Part-II)

 

Welcome to last part of the series. In the first part we have discussed about availability of various HCM products under cloud technology and in this part we will discuss about a brief over customer expectation in terms of automation from HCM products.

HCM Products: - Automations & Mobility solutions

There are various HCM products available within cloud and each one has its pros & cons. Each product has its automation tool which makes them different from each other.

But, today's world has understood the importance of HR products and their solutions. Now, the organization's focus has shifted from budget to Automation. Their first and foremost priority is automated solutions which will reduce the future cost to the company.

Customer Expectations:-Automated HCM solutions

  • Integration with multiple applications:-While purchasing any HCM solutions among the various options available within cloud, clients now a days expect that it should support or that it can be integrated with the already existing software platforms, so as to create a bidirectional flow of necessary data from one application to another, without any additional cost of middleware or third party softwares. Automation/Integration tools should be available or can be developed within HCM application which can reduce further cost of integration.

For example -

  1. In the banking industry, there are multiple softwares used for various applications like Core banking solutions, Internet banking, lending solutions etc. There is always requirement for new user-id creation in each software where the employee's minimum basic information is required. HCM products once developed, contains all the user's personal as well as job information. So through automated batch solutions, these basic information can be shared with other applications so as to create bi-directional data flow which can automatically create user accounts in multiple applications as per the company policies.

  2. Similarly in many companies, there is a requirement that if the user is on pre-approved leave, the user account in highly confidential software's like CBS solution in banking should be blocked so that nobody can login with that person credentials who is on pre-approved leave. So as and when future dated leaves gets approved in HCM solutions, automated integration solutions with other software's can support accordingly.

     

  • Tools for Bulk upload & extracts: - These kind of tools are already available in various HCM solutions, but testing after upload takes times. Expectation is that- this time taken can be reduced with automated solutions other than query tools. These tools should verify at their end that the bulk data is uploaded and extracted as per the requirements.

     

  • Automatized solutions for various modules: - Here, automated tools can be used to identify issues before they arise.

  1.  Payroll & Other Modules:-Payroll is the most tedious and crucial domain of HCM applications. Automation can identify the issues which could come across once the payroll is run and processed, according to requirements and it can be sorted out without any manual intervention. Less time will be consumed for checking complete payroll. HCM automated solutions should itself authenticate the payroll results. Since all modules are, in some or another, connected to payroll, automation should be proactive in case of Core HR, absence, succession planning, talent management & all other modules. All kind of issues should be found out before any process is run and should be cleared by itself without any manual intervention.

  2. Automated solutions for Interfaces\reports:-Now a days, various BI tools and interfaces (inbound\outbound) are available with almost all HCM products which is really commendable, but these BI tools should be integrated with other existing applications within the organization .There should be two way flow which can create even financial figures\marketing charts\supply chain management etc. using HR tools. Admin can create reports without intervention of developers even at implementation stage & Automation should make it possible that these reports are flexible and can be created in any form such as presentations, RFPs etc. The dependency on vendors should reduce once implemented and front end solutions should make user's life easier & time effective which will reduce the cost for organizations as well.

  • App based HCM solution: - Since almost all applications are web based and they have the flexibility to be available on mobile, App based HCM solutions should be available at least for ESS & MSS. Notification & alerts should come once the application is downloaded on mobile/ iPad. Any reports which need to be delivered to top management can also be created at any location/time. Approvals based on mails & telephonic conversation (Concall decisions across global clients) can be stored. Any kind of rewards /re-cognition through telephone /mail can be uploaded by associate in his self-service options using the application.

  • Version upgrades & Application Migration: - Version upgrade is a tedious process. If we need to migrate from one HCM solution to another, automation should be such that it should support version upgrade in a few days instead of few months and therefore, the cost will be reduced on time & on resources. Migration between applications would not be tedious task using automation tools.

Conclusion:-HCM solutions have created a buzz for all organizations who believe that Human resources are human capital which can transform the company growth. Since, multiple applications are available within the cloud market, it will be really difficult to choose the best for all organization HR needs. Above all, organizations expect a lot more from HCM solutions which should be highly automated and compatible for all platforms including mobility solutions and there is far more to go to make any HCM application to be highly automated as per the client's needs.

Link to Part 1:- http://www.infosysblogs.com/oracle/2017/03/hcm_war_in_cloud-dynamic_autom.html

User Experience Vs Customer Experience

Is User experience same as Customer experience? Well in the age of digital media and smartphone apps, it is very common to hear about both the terms frequently. At the core of it, they address one key aspect of human behavior- "perception" and an important organization function- "Customer Relationship Management". Interestingly both UX and CX are not separate ideas, they may work in conjunction as well as exclusions. However it will be rightful to mention here that in most cases CX is a subset of an overall UX.

In our day to day life, we interact with number of organizations either for additional information or for a service related issue. Our interactions are dependent on the number of communication channels the organization has exposed for interaction. For e.g. - it very common for cable TV operators, telecom providers, financial service providers to expose to the users the following channels

  1. Physical mails, paper applications- (mostly getting archaic due to associated costs and long response times, however still used in government organizations, rural areas)

  2. Website- Online Interaction

  3. Customer Service Numbers- Voice interaction

  4. Smartphone Apps- Digital interaction


For the purpose of analysis, we will take into account the digital channels through which we interact with a person organization for our queries. It's interesting to draw out key ideas which directly impact either user experience or customer experience.

Channel

Interaction Type

Common Feature to judge UX

Common Features to judge CX

Website/Online Application

Online Interaction

1.       Look and Feel

2.       Colors used

3.       Text Font/size.

4.       The volume of content in the page.

5.       Ease of loading of the website

6.       Payment Options available (Credit card, Debit Card, Net- Banking, PAYPAL etc.)

 

1.       Ease of loading of the website

2.       Number of clicks performed to browse to a particular section

3.       Online Chat facility

4.       Price Comparisons facility

5.       Search facility

6.       Click to chat facility

7.       Guided wizards to perform a task

8.       Setting up of alerts

9.       Dashboards to get multiple reports in one page

10.   Ease of payment

11.   Help Text as a hover

 

Customer Service

Voice interaction

1.       Quality of the phone line

2.       Waiting time in the queue

3.       Accent of the CSR

4.       Option of payment available

1.       Knowledge of the CSR,

2.       Ease of the IVR to guide to the right CSR,

3.       Resolution time

Smart Phone Applications

Digital/gesture based interaction

1.       Ease of downloading/installing the app,

2.       Look and feel of the app

3.       Text Font/size

4.       Response time to navigate to different sections of the app.

 

1.       Ease of navigation,

2.       Ease of uploading  documents,

3.       Click to call facility,

4.       Creating calendar events on the fly from any section of the app.

5.       Ease of navigating to similar topics/reviews/issues,

6.       Quick links to you-tube to check navigation etc.


Are there any metrics to measure UX or CX? Well Since ultimately both CX and UX lead to brand perception, let's put in perspective some common measurements which could be used.

UX Metrics

Success rate(number of visits to the digital media to perform a task)

Error rate(e.g. Crashes  per month-)

Abandonment rate (e.g.  Transaction started but was never completed)

Time to complete task

 

CX Metrics

CX is measured in overall experience (Net Promoter Score)

 Likelihood to use again (Customer Loyalty) and recommend to others

Customer satisfaction


Although CX and UX are different and unique, they must work together for a company to have success.



Mergers and Acquisitions - Oracle SaaS to the rescue!

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) are time-tested strategies adopted by companies small and large to strengthen their market position and beat competition. In this process, parents usually acquire or merge with entities that are smaller or larger than themselves or of comparable size as theirs. Companies that get acquired could operate in niche areas, possess rare skills and be winners in their business arena. For the consolidation to be successful and yield results, business objectives & strategies need to align/complement, corporate/work cultures need to harmonize and business process synergies need to be realized

After the transaction...


  • The hardest part of M&As is to make the deal work after the consolidation transaction has been completed. Very often, the success of the deal depends on how well the two companies integrate while maintaining day-to-day operations.
  • One of the studies on M&As by a global management consulting leader revealed that day-to-day business operations are severely affected at the expense of over-focus on cost cutting and other integrations

  • Successful integration in the IT arena is a key determinant of the consolidation activity's success

I came across an interesting proposal that was made for such a consolidation. The acquirer was a leader in the discrete manufacturing space serving various industry segments with annual sales of over USD 15bn and the target was a relatively much smaller/niche player with annual sales of USD 2mn in a geography in which the acquirer did not operate. Since the target company was small enough and did not have complex business processes, the acquirer (running eBS) promptly advised the target to embrace and adopt Oracle SaaS so that they could reap the benefits of alignment to globally benchmarked business processes/practices of the acquirer and still not incur the same level of cost & time that the implementation and maintenance of a typical on-premise ERP application may involve. For example - in this case, the acquired company was in a new geography that the parent did not operate in - this meant integrating operations in these countries. The merger/acquisition could also mean changes to Chart of Accounts (COA) and Oracle SaaS can come in very handy in these situations by helping achieve seamless alignment. Another key dimension was integrating Oracle ERP Cloud with on-premise eBS. Available integration options include - data extracts, spreadsheet loads, file based data import (FBDI), usage of web-services etc. Depending on the nature and criticality of the underlying business requirements, the appropriate integration method can be used

Oracle SaaS has compelling characteristics such as enhanced scalability/agility, ease of doing business and reduced cost of ownership. Supply chain operations are increasingly becoming global and extended with several associated risks. Embracing Oracle SaaS can help target companies achieve challenging business objectives that the parent might have envisioned

System & IT related challenges in M&As typically include ensuring integration between disparate systems, ensuring co-existence of systems and processes of varying maturity levels, evolving solutions that are globally applicable for the organization etc. Oracle SaaS can act as an effective partner in ensuring that day-to-day operations remain on track thereby keeping customers, vendors and other key stakeholders in good humor. It can also help employees remain focused on business operations, allowing senior managers to focus on other aspects necessary for the success of the consolidation

Though there are a multitude of factors that determine the success of consolidations, these interventions can help align IT objectives of entities involved and in-turn catalyze/contribute to the success of the consolidation

April 12, 2017

THE PROMISE OF EINSTEIN AI


Dreamforce event last year was almost all about Salesforce AI "Einstein" and its promise. The promise of AI solution that will:


• Will Reside inside the SFDC platform
• Will be able to analyze the huge quantities of data generated like, sales, emails, activity data, e-commerce, calendars, social strings, and connected devices (IoT) and
• Will Implement logics through machine learning and predictive analytics algorithms and
• Will offer crisp insights after analyzing huge data and provide recommendations and perform business functions across the SFDC platform.


For example Sales Cloud Einstein's feature of "Predictive Lead Scoring" will help sales folks to focus on the most promising leads. "Opportunity Insights" feature will suggest sales folks to set next priorities. This will also take into account the inputs of another Einstein feature "Automated Activity Capture".


Service Cloud Einstein will help optimize how calls are routed through the new feature called "Einstein Case Management". Machine Learning will enable cases  to be automatically assigned, escalated and classified once they are raised, and also automatically recommend the resolution based on historic data. It will also ensure that high priority cases are serviced quicker and assigned to the best equipped and available agent. The platform will automate much of the initial information gathering, mostly via chatbots, so that service agents are equipped with background information before the eventual customer interaction. Another value add feature of Service Cloud Einstein will be Case Closure Date Prediction. 


Similarly, Commerce Cloud Einstein promises Product Recommendations and Commerce Insights and Predicitive Sort for the best and next best product to be offered . Marketing Cloud Einstein will provide Predictive Scores and Audience Predictions to enable marketers for campaigns to be focussed and successful and deliver the best content available. Other Einstein features are summarily depicted below:
 


(From www.salesforce.com)

Though, the promise of Einstein is immense but Salesforce has taken a tactical and faster time to market approach for releasing features.  The focus is right now is on using the existing capabilities built through acquisitions like BeyondCore and existing Wave Analytics. The intent is to start building Apps using the existing capabilities and then add on later. By the end of year Salesforce will be releasing around 45 AI features across clouds.


And the results are showing. Last week Transamerica (insurance firm) announced its plans to adopt Einstein AI for transforming the way it manages the relationships with clients and households by:
• Providing Insights through sentiment analysis, competitor references by clients etc. Einstein will provide notifications to reach the customers at the best time for conversion
• Provide Relationship tools to consolidate clients and their households in one structure. It will provide functionality to Group multiple related businesses, households, trusts etc.
• Once consolidated it will map relationships and provide insights and correlations of their financial ecosystems

Further, this week Salesforce announced Service Cloud Einstein and Amazon connect integration.


Oracle also announced launch of "Adaptive Intelligent Apps" last year and due for release later this year. The key Apps and associated SaaS clouds are as follows:


• CX Cloud: Adaptive Intelligent Offers and Adaptive Intelligent Actions
• HCM Cloud: Adaptive Intelligent Candidate Experience
• SCM Cloud: Adaptive Intelligent Planning &Bidding
• ERP Cloud: Adaptive Intelligent Discounts


It will be very Interesting to see how much Oracle and Salesforce capture the promising AI space (Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts AI market to be $153 billion by 2020). Pricing may be feature based and it will not be surprising if its priced per use (per prediction or data analysis). In my opinion quicker release, target segment focus and pricing will eventually determine who captures larger market share in this space.


April 11, 2017

INTEGRATION ON CLOUD - A STUDY IN KRONOS (Part-3)

Welcome to the final part of this series. Here we look at some real life scenarios about how integration work with SaaS based applications. I have taken Kronos, a leading Workforce Management solution provider, as an example to help us in understanding the concepts. We also touch upon access control integrations as a scenario.

A Kronos example


IntegrationKronos_p3_a.jpg


Let us take a workforce management example in Kronos to understand how it all plays out in a real-life scenario.

In a typical workforce management implementation, the scene is not so straight forward as depicted in the figure above. The first thing that strikes is the hybrid integration architecture that is chosen here. We see a conventional flat file integration through a middleware (optional) and an API data interchange, both in the same context. How is this chosen? Let's look back at the integration considerations.

A workforce management system, which in this case is Kronos, liaises with various external entities such as HR, payroll, store planning, enterprise business intelligence (BI), and time recording devices, which are in some cases, supplied by a different vendor. Not all data are the same. Not all carry the same weight in terms of size and priority. So, picking one integration solution for the mix may not be an optimal solution. The ones that are heavy in volume and lower in priority (priority here is assumed to be urgency) can be interfaced through the traditional integration architecture (Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) or a flat file through middleware) with a minor tweak. The slight change here will be that an additional layer of security must be given to the data using encryption technologies such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) as these may be transmitted to the cloud via public internet channels.

On the other hand, data that is lighter and need to be interfaced real-time or near real-time can be transmitted through Kronos exposed XML API framework. The XML requests and responses get transmitted through secured http links between the client and the Kronos application servers. Along with every such request, a session cookie has to be sent to duly authenticate the request, thus ensuring data and access controls.

Identity management in cloud

IntegrationKronos_p3_b.jpg

Integration is not always just about business data. Identity management and access control are extremely critical integration components that needs to be dealt with utmost care. Needless to say, when dealing with cloud, security is paramount.

The above illustration shows the entry point architecture for a Kronos SaaS application. Cloud is accessible from almost anywhere in the world. This exposes the applications that are hosted on the cloud to hackers and eavesdroppers. Kronos or any other human capital management (HCM) system carries quite some personally identifiable information that needs to be protected. In the illustration, once can see how a cloud system authenticates an entry attempt via different channels. Cloud can be integrated with various authentication mechanisms such as Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), enabling single sign-on from the organization's network with firewalls opening up for specific URL entries. Similarly, externally accessible devices can be made to authenticate through application-specific authentication mechanisms.

Conclusion

With the cloud fever catching up with many organizations, the need is to first tackle multiple challenges. The topics discussed above are few among the many challenges. To summarize, integration models with cloud need to be carefully chosen and discussed to vet out all possible current and future scenarios.

All considerations listed here may need to be looked upon when arriving at key architectural decisions. The final architectural decisions still needs to be analyzed and fitted based on the organization's IT landscape and orientation towards cloud.

*****End of Part-3 and the series*****

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

 Link to part 2: http://www.infosysblogs.com/oracle/2017/03/integration_on_cloud_-_a_study.html

April 10, 2017

Building customizations (RICEFW) on Oracle SaaS

 

In the current IT landscape, there is a huge spike in companies adopting software-as-a-solution (SaaS) cloud applications to realize benefits like business agility, quick time to market, and cost optimization. One of the fundamental challenges that organizations face in adopting SaaS applications is exact fitment to their business needs. In most scenarios, organizations need to customize or extend the SaaS applications to meet their specific requirements. So, how do these customizations differ from the traditional on-premises application customization?

 

During on-premises Oracle applications implementation, these customizations are done through additional configurations and custom extensions built on top of the core functionality. RICEFW (Reports, Interfaces, Conversions, Enhancements, Forms and Workflows) objects represent requirements that are not currently supported within the core functionality of an Oracle Application module, and thus require additional technical development to satisfy the functional requirement of an organization. While this was achieved in on-premises world using Oracle developer tools like reports, procedural language / structured query language (PL/SQL), forms, Oracle Application Framework (OAF), and workflows, the same tool sets are not applicable for building RICEFW for Oracle SaaS applications like CX (Customer Experience) , Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Human Capital Management (HCM) on cloud. There is neither direct access to database schema nor option to alter the schema in Oracle SaaS.

 

Technologies used to build RICEFW on Oracle cloud

 

Reports

 

Following are the tools used to create analytical and transactional reports that are not available as standard reports in Oracle SaaS:

 

Available within Oracle SaaS

 

Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI): The tool is built on the power of Oracle's industry-leading business intelligence tool - Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition (OBIEE). This allows users to build powerful data visualization with real-time data that highlights data patterns and encourages data exploration instead of delivering static flat reports.

 

Smart view: With the smart view desktop tool, users can create or run OTBI analyses within MS Excel, Word, or PowerPoint and save them back into the OTBI catalog in real time.

 

BI publisher: It is a reporting solution to author, manage, and deliver all your reports and documents easier and faster than traditional reporting tools. It is pre-integrated with Oracle and works seamlessly with OBIEE, e-Business Suite, PeopleSoft Enterprise, JD Edwards Enterprise One, Oracle Hyperion Planning, and Oracle Application Express (APEX).

 

Available with Oracle PaaS

 

Business intelligence cloud service (BICS): BICS can combine data from diverse sources and quickly create rich, interactive, analytic applications and reports. Data is stored in the Oracle Database Cloud Service, which is hosted on Oracle Public Cloud.

 

Interfaces

Following are the tools to build interfaces for external systems in online and batch mode:

Available within Oracle SaaS

 

File-based data import (FBDi): This tool enables you to import data from text or XML files. Application components involved are import object, import mapping, import activity, file repository, application composer, interface tables, and SaaS application.

 

Application development framework desktop integration (ADFDi): The tool is one of the features of Oracle ADF that enables desktop integration with MS Excel spreadsheets to manage large volumes of data from web applications via Excel.

 

Available with Oracle PaaS

 

Integration cloud service (ICS): This tool is iPaaS (Integration PaaS) that includes an intuitive web-based integration designer for point and click integration between applications on cloud or on-premise.

 

Service-oriented architecture cloud service (SOA CS): SOA cloud service is iPaaS that can be used to build integrations, which require orchestration between on cloud or on-premise. Domain supported in SOA CS are SOA, Oracle Service bus (OSB), application programming interface (API) manager, SOA & B2B, and managed file transfer.

 

Conversions

Following tool is used for carrying out data conversions:

 

Available within Oracle SaaS

 

File-based data import (FBDi): It enables you to import data from text or XML files. Out-of-the-box FBDi (spreadsheet) templates are available for account payable / account receivable (AR / AP) invoices, purchase orders, customers, suppliers, commission on audit (COA) values, etc.

 

Enhancements

Following are the tools to build UI enhancements or extensions for Oracle SaaS:

 

Available with Oracle PaaS

 

Java cloud service saaS extension (JCS SX): Tailor-made WebLogic server for rapid extension deployment. Automated trust between PaaS and SaaS for user federation and user synchronization. Single sign-on solution (SSO) across SaaS and extensions on JCS SaaS extension

 

Application builder cloud service (ABCS): This tool is a cloud offering, which enables business users to rapidly create and host web applications without writing code and without having programming experience. While out-of-the-box integration with Oracle SaaS is a key value proposition, ABCS can be used independently from Oracle SaaS to create standalone applications.

 

Forms

Following tools are used to enable customizations on existing screens:

 

Available within SaaS

 

Page composer:  The tool is available to administrators to customize the page based on the select layer. Key activities which can be done are: show / hide a field, change the display name for a field on a page, make a field read-only, reorder tabs on a page, show / hide tabs on a page, and reset all the customizations.

 

Application composer:  This tool helps to customize and extend the whole application. Customize objects by adding new fields or creating a new object, create a foreign key relationship between objects, modify existing pages using the object created or modified or create new pages , generate custom business logic using triggers, workflows, and validation rules, and secure the created custom objects.

 

Workflows

Following tool is used to enable workflows:

 

Available within SaaS

 

Business process management (BPM) workflows: This tool can configure seeded workflow tasks, but cannot create a new workflow task.



April 8, 2017

How 'impactful' are your Talents for future....

 

It was interesting to watch the panel discussion about 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' at WEF, Davos earlier this year. Ever since, this new phrase 'Fourth Revolution' has been making headlines across all print, visual and social media. While it may sound 'sky is falling' right now, the phrase 'digital refugee' (referring to people losing jobs due to Automation and Artificial Intelligence) is quite intriguing.

Watching and reading all this, there is a clear and alarming sense of urgency to plan and shape-up for future. Experts in Organizational Dynamics point out that this drive to transform the entire mind-set of the organization from grass root levels, could be a major change management exercise. So, the big question is how do Enterprises plan to build or shape-up their workforce for future skill needs? How do they bring down this plan to individual level and measure it to succeed ? What is the time on-hand to make this enormous shift..?

 

Today's approach is just not enough !

Clearly, today most Enterprises might be in a 'Talent Steady' state - the change in skills required to run business are more or less defined and repeatable. Today, Enterprises' track 'Talents' under the name of 'skills', 'competency' etc.. associating skill taxonomy and skill-level to these parameters. Subsequently, workforce is tagged to a defined skill set and measured for the skill-level which they demonstrate at assigned work. This is measuring 'Talent' just in one dimension - 'completeness'.

Come tomorrow, Enterprises need to plan a massive renaissance to acquire new skills. Lets call this 'Talent Shift' state - where Enterprises have to focus on rigorously de-skilling and up-skilling workforce for future while the current work is being attended to. This is more an organic change, a transformation from within. In a more metaphorical sense, in future, Enterprises need to realize that employees are no more Employees but 'Talents'. This is akin to the proverbial joke about the 'heart surgery' carried out while the 'heart' is still beating! Hence, time is of the essence in future. Measuring Talent for 'completeness' alone is not enough. Talent needs to be associated with 'Impact' going forward and the impact created by each individual's Talent needs to be measured.

Being an 'impactful' Talent is the key 

Going forward, this 'impact' needs to be measured under 'Behavioral Skills' for every individual - at onboarding and subsequent performance evaluations - as this is associated with talent behavior pattern. I call this, 'Talent Quotient', which will be a key data-metric for measurement at individual level.

Once this is done, workforce needs to be grouped under following categories:

Original Thinkers

As the name suggests, these talents are unique, path-breaking and innovative. These individuals create and co-create useful stuff for an organization - solutions, view-points and deliverables etc... In summary, they are responsible for the intellectual asset building for an Enterprise.

Catalysts

These people are the leaders and adapt to change quickly. While adapting themselves to change, they influence others, enable them and deliver results thus working as 'Catalysts'.

Followers

Obviously, this category covers the foot soldiers who 'do' things. They follow the 'Catalysts' and work under their leadership and guidance.


Lets see the distribution of this 'Talent Quotient' across various category of companies to illustrate the utility of this metric 'Talent Quotient'.

A product company, which plans to undergo a 'Talent Shift' state, needs to have 50% - 60% of Talents categorized with 'Talent Quotient' as Original Thinkers and Catalysts. This is because asset creation is an important imperative for a product company and talents have to be shaped up accordingly.

Likewise, a Company primarily running on Services side and plans for a 'Talent Shift' state, might need Talents with 35% - 40% under 'Original Thinkers and Catalysts. This is because of the adherence to processes / SOPs and the extent of leg work in a Service industry.

Similarly, we can derive more examples and data metrics for various industry segments or stream of work (Consulting, Administration, Operations etc,,). To reemphasize the hypothesis, the speed at which an Enterprise moves to future state is completely dependent on this mix. Unless, Enterprises measure 'Talent Quotient' of their workforce, the so called 'Talent Shift' is not a smooth journey.

How does this 'Talent Quotient' impact a Talent Management cycle

Enterprises need to plan carefully to manifest this metric in the current Talent Management processes.

While, the individual treatment varies from Enterprise to Enterprise based on the nature of business and philosophy of Talent Management practices, following is an illustration of how this metric 'Talent Quotient' impacts the Talent Management cycle.

Onboard

Develop

Evaluate

Reward

Retain

Impacts the skill taxonomy

Impacts the Learning Development plans of workforce

The KPI 'Talent Quotient' needs to be measured under Behavior Skills

Create different CnB packages based on the 'Talent Quotient'.

Create retention plans and clusters based on 'Talent Quotient'.

Impacts the hiring slots and budgets

Changes the Personal Development Plan of the individuals

Determine a continuous mechanism to assess this metric

Determine the Reward mechanism to reward on 'Potential' along with Reward on 'Delivered Results'.

 

 

Summary

With changing times and advent of AI & Automation at work, the future workplace is going to see lot of changes. Enterprises need to undergo a big 'Talent Shift' from their current state. They need to figure out new mechanism to identify and track 'talents' that speed up the process of this 'Talent Shift'. Tracking the 'Talent Quotient' of individuals with their workforce will help Enterprises to make this transformation much faster within. You know, Upcoming newer times need renewed approach!

Omni Channel - Get the basics right!

 

'Omni Channel' by definition involves delivering a seamless customer experience across channels. It is a customer centric experience. It enables a customer to use channels simultaneously and switch between channels during the course of a transaction. The definition of Omni-channel has been around for a few years now, but implementing it is easier said than done. In this blog, I will try and articulate the basic setup that a Telecom Service provider needs to have to deliver an Omni Channel experience.

Two main challenge areas:


Strategy:  If the Telco follows a channel focused approach with no master Omni-channel strategy, each channel will determine its own tactics, leading to potential conflicts. Eg: The retail channel may launch an offer for a price x while the online channel may launch a similar offer with price y. The channel with the lower priced offer will end up cannibalizing the sales of the other channel.

Technology: There are various kind of silos in a Telco's ecosystem. In most cases, the Telco has different stacks to fulfill their different product lines. There can be further bi-furcation based on the types of customers (consumer, enterprise, wholesale). This is a big barrier to an Omni channel delivery as the communication across channels is essentially broken on some or the other parameter.

The below diagram illustrates an approach to Omni-channel delivery:

 
 

While the layers in the diagram are self-explanatory, I would like to focus on the technology abstraction layer. This layer is needed in order to make the channels agnostic of the technical complexities that lie within the multi-stack ecosystem. The various components to be abstracted are
• Customer 360 : Channels should get a 360 view of the customer across stacks and should be able to view the relevant transactions.
• Product and offer catalog: Products and offers should be consistently available across the channels, irrespective of which stack fulfils them. Bundling should be enabled and driven by business requirements and not based on the constraints of the fulfilling stack.
• Transaction context: The context of the transaction being currently performed by the customer needs to be maintained in a common container and be available across channels. This will enable the customer to initiate a transaction from one channel and continue it on another.
• Rules and recommendations: Rules such as next best offer, customer churn management need to be available in a common repository so that they could be applied across channels.
• Channel Processing: The abstraction layer should be able to determine the treatment of the transaction based on its origination channel and route it to the right stack.
• Order management: The order may need to be broken up and be routed to various downstream stacks based on where it can be fulfilled. Order statuses would further need to be consolidated. 

In my next blog on this topic, I will substantiate the above approach with a use case. Till then, please share your thoughts on any other approaches to achieve an Omni-Channel experience in a fragmented Telco environment.



April 5, 2017

Omnichannel: The new buzzword in CX

 

In the field of Customer Relationship Management, having various channels to reach out to the customer and providing a seamless CX has become more significant than ever is deciding the success of an organization. As part of the various CX projects that we do, 'Omnichannel' is becoming a buzz word and nearly everyone seems to be talking about it but majority of the folks seem to confuse between the two.

To most of us, Omnichannel would mean providing various channels to the customer to interact with the organization. For e.g. IVR, mobile, web, Agents, physical stores, virtual stores, webmail, snailmail etc. These essentially are just channels that a company is providing for the customer and would fit the definition of 'Multi-Channel' (having multiple channels to interact with the customer) rather than Omnichannel. Without going into a textbook definition of Omnichannel, I feel it goes much beyond the channel and looks to integrate all the channels available to a consumer so that he/she can seamlessly move from one channel to another without compromising the experience or the ability.

To illustrate the ideas behind the two, consider a customer who is trying to buy a smartphone through a marketplace. Suppose he/she goes onto the marketplace website and browses through a list of smartphones, selects one, adds the selection to the cart and tries to checkout. However, at the time of checkout he wants to get warranty details of the smartphone confirmed with a call center agent. So, he dials the customer care number, authenticates himself, the CSR agent gets a pop up on his Call center application with all the customer details and the interaction can begin. But, the CSR agent does not have details of what the customer's activity was on the website since both the website and call center are operating in silos. This would be an example of Multi-channel where the customer will have to start the entire transaction again, i.e. tell the CSR about the phone he intends to buy, provide details about the phone: configuration, price etc. that he is looking for.

Now, suppose in the same transaction above, both the website and the Call center application are in sync with each other and the customer activity on the website can be tracked and fed to the CSR guy. In this case, when the customer calls, the CSR already knows that a few minutes back, the customer was on the website, trying to buy a phone with all the specifications and stopped just short of making a payment. And instead of asking the customer as to what help is required, the CSR can start with 'Sir, I see that you were trying to buy a phone, is there something related to the purchase that I can help you with'. In this scenario, the customer moved on from one channel to another seamlessly without losing the experience or the details about the transactions and was able to continue on a different channel from where he left of on the initial channel.

So, even though the words omnichannel and multichannel tend to get used interchangeably but there is a lot of difference in between the two. Also, both achieve different objectives, require different thought processes and different strategies to implement. For e.g. Multichannel strategy looks at more customer acquisition by providing various avenues for the customer to connect, Omnichannel strives to retain customers by providing a seamless experience of interaction between the customer and the product by promoting a healthy interaction between the two. To use cliché terms, one looks at customer enablement while the other targets customer delight.

One of the major factors in the environment which has changed the way customers interact with the product is the advent of Smartphones. They have enabled customers to have every information that they need at the tip of their fingers, without effort thereby nearly eliminating information asymmetry. This in turn has necessitated a change in the way companies sell products to their customers i.e. moving over from Multi channel to Omnichannel marketing. Things like 'Showrooming' and 'webrooming' have changed the way a customer shops and in turn have necessitated a change in the way a company sells its products to the consumer. Showrooming is nothing but the behavior of a shopper where he visits a physical store to check a product before making a purchase online. This is very prominent in case of personal products (shoes, clothing etc.) where a customer wants a touch and feel of the product before making a purchase decision. Companies believing in Omnichannel are tapping into this behavior to enable the customer to close the deal in the store itself or providing avenues to ensure that a customer can move over to another channel (online in this case) without any loss of experience. To illustrate, one way to do this is to provide Wi-Fi in-store and make all promotions, product details available to the customer in store, using QR codes to seamlessly direct customers from one channel to another. A mall that I frequently visit has done this beautifully by providing free Wi-Fi and pushing all the offers, promotions directly to the mall visitor's smartphone.

Webrooming is nothing but the reverse of Showrooming where a customer browses the internet before heading over to a physical store to make a purchase. Here also, Omnichannel strategy would play a key role in keeping the customer acquisition costs less and ensuring that the customer touch points through various channels enable the customer in taking decisions resulting in increase in topline for the company.

Coming to implementation and where we as SI can help our customers, the key things we should always keep in mind are the main objective/need behind a customer's push towards a multichannel or an  Omnichannel strategy, figuring out the dynamics that impact the vertical in which the customer operates, the environment and the tools available to achieve the desired outcomes.

April 4, 2017

Can Oracle CPQ will replace ETO (Engineer-To-Order) Solution?

 



The Organization Sales Lifecycle can be divided into 3 micro-processes: "Lead to Opportunity," "Opportunity to Order," and "Order to Invoice". Data flows in real-time after integration of these 3 micro processes. An opportunity is generated, completed configuration, and pricing is authorized, For the Outbound data to flow from Oracle Sales Cloud flows directly into Oracle CPQ Cloud further integration is required. After this an ERP system (Oracle EBS) can get relevant opportunities, Processes the order-creation cycle, and create an invoice.




A sales opportunity can be implemented into a quote and later into an order in less time using Oracle ICS (Oracle Integration Cloud Service). Data will be made in sync between Oracle CPQ Cloud, Oracle Sales Cloud and Oracle EBS in real-time after the integration complete.


There is growing demand for configure to order, engineer to order features to transform a major portion of client business while retaining current business capabilities.We can use single set of main product data between Oracle EBS and Oracle CPQ Cloud thru integration.


Oracle CPQ alone cannot support engineer-to-order process due to below challenges in ETO solutions. But below blog gives some steps to overcome these challenges.


Challenges of an Engineer-To-Order (ETO) product:


Each approach to getting a product designed and manufactured brings along its own set of challenges;


Implement some of the common issues associated with an engineered to order approach by using below steps.


A high level of end customer participation is required in design and manufacturing of the product for an engineered-to-order method. A complex product becomes reality when multiple parties' works with a good process and good design approach. If Process and Design breaks which leads to manufacturing phase.


With engineered-to-order method production knowledge and specs are constantly flows between the ETO solution provider and the end customer. Product knowledge (design specifications, requirement files, engineering changes,) is often runs back and forth many times between the ETO Solution Provider and the end customer, either party can become confused if the exchange of product knowledge is poorly managed. For example, it might be challenge to answer questions like how much and what inventory should be lined up for production.


Because engineered-to-order products are customized, they are often manufactured from difficult to source parts, costly parts and highly engineered components. It is time consuming, laborious and costly causing issues before and during production runs to acquire required product components.


ETO solution providers often face challenges when managing engineering modifications because finalizing engineering specs can often require several reviews. Hence it is important to define how engineering modifications will be handled in a contract, which includes determining what types of modifications will be considered or rejected and what you will charge for engineering modifications. By establishing the base rules upfront, you can ensure both parties are happy and understand cost impact as updates come through.


Below are the ways to tackle ETO challenges and create a strong foundation for success.


It is important to manage and store product data and even though challenges can arise with the engineered-to-order method. Benefits can be achieved by documentation during design and manufacturing stages. As major customization to be done for products during Engineer-To-Order method, we need to maintain information of all the product knowledge.


Create efficiency in processes by these steps, ensure you have plan for gathering and managing documents from the beginning of the project to end of project. Without collecting documents risk is high and hit organizational problems. Hence initiate early to scale up with greater efficiency and lesser errors.


It is also important to ensure you are in fact building what the customer ordered. Be certain that all customer demands have been both documented and approved throughout the production process. To show customer requirements are being met include this information in a design and manufacturing plan. Keep in mind too that the product needs to meet not only the requirements of the customer, but also should fulfill the appropriate quality and compliance requirements. An ETO solution provider can publish final product document of end customer specifications with the product when engineered-to-order project is complete.





ETO or PLM Solution should provide a way for manufacturers to manage product data electronically, including part numbers, BOMs and engineering changes. If we build the software as cloud-based then it is easy to get started. The system should also be designed to support product data collaboration between multiple parties.


The benefits gained from a BOM and change management system easily outweigh the expensive product problems that can arise during the design and manufacturing stages. ETO Solution will capture, manage, and reuse corporate intellectual property to automate engineering processes for manufacturers. This will simplify business processes and increase the predictability of costs, margins, and on-time delivery.


Oracle CPQ features needs to be extended to support Engineer-To-Order features as stated above to create SINGLE robust solution.


References:

http://www.infosysblogs.com/oracle/2017/01/oracle_bigmachine_cpq_one_solu.html

https://docs.oracle.com/cloud/latest/intcs_gs/ICSUC/GUID-A32F7ADF-FC14-4E58-872A-DFB56CA0A4F6.htm#ICSUC-GUID-A32F7ADF-FC14-4E58-872A-DFB56CA0A4F6

https://www.oracle.com/applications/primavera/solutions/engineer-to-order/index.html

https://cloud.oracle.com/cpq-cloud

















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