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

Main

February 19, 2018

Chatting with Bots - More necessity than a science fiction

In the age where there are multiple applications involved in supply chain process, the knowledge about the customer orders is distributed. It has become a walk on the tight rope to keep the customer updated about the process of their order Vs cost to provide the information to the customer via customer service team or a complex BI solution. This blog opens a possibility of cost effective and light weight solution by introducing the 'Chatbot'.

The IT landscape involve multiple applications to fulfil every single order due to the nature of business, way the organization have evolved, number of business entities involved or due to the speciality of the applications. Below is the example of a manufacturing and retail organization

Pic 1 - Typical IT landscape

In this complex matrix, the traditional methods to keep the customer updated about the progress of their orders are as follows

  • Send text message or email about the status
  • Set up a customer service team to handle customer requests via call, text, email or chat

But the drawback of these conventional methods are that there is no single system which holds the moment of truth about every order. In order to avoid the customer service team juggling between applications, a complex BI reports are installed to oversee all applications resulting in even more complex IT landscape.

Alternative solution is that 'Chatbot'. According to Wikipedia, a chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Customers can chat with Chatbot to get the information about their orders. Let's see why the Chatbot solution is cool.

Implementing the Chatbot:

PIC2.png

There are 2 main functionalities of Chatbots:

  • Receive and understand what the customer is saying, and
  • Retrieve the Customer information required

 In order to receive and understanding what customer is saying via chat, Chatbot uses Natural Language processing systems. Via artificial intelligence and machine learning, Chatbot is trained to understand the customer's request better. There are numerous cloud based chatbot development platforms can be leveraged to design, build and train the Chatbots. Oracle Cloud Platform or IBM Watson are examples of such Platform as a Service (PAAS)  solutions available.         


Text Box:  
Pic 3 - Example of a chat conversation in mobile
For retrieving the information required, the Chatbot uses web services to connect with each application. For example Order management Cloud has an Order Import Web service which can be involved by using the retail order number. Similar order information web service can be created. The Chatbot will have to invoke the web service and find out the best status of all the application and publish it to the customer.

Via these NLP and web services, implementing a Chatbot solution is easier than ever.

These Chatbots are not too bulky and intrusive like traditional BI solutions. They occupy less space in server or can be easily placed in Cloud as well.

Customer Experience:

Customer Experience, in short CX, is a major focus area for the organizations. With referral customers giving more business than new customers, the organization want the customer to be handled with care. The Chatbot will give the customers an unparalleled experience just like chatting with a human.

The Chatbot can chat in different language as preferred by the customer. In addition, Chatbot can be trained to reply on text or voice commends as well.

The Chatbot can be used on computer, tab or even mobile to give customer an excellent convenience.

Capex, What Capex?

 Setting up a multi-language enabled customer service team 24 x 7 or implementing a complex BI solution is far more costly for the organization. The cost and time to implement a Chatbot is far less when compared to the traditional methods. Readymade Chatbots are available which are already designed and built to a general extend. The implementation will be limited to involve the order information web services from various application and to train the Chatbots.

capex.png

The Chatbots can also be used for expediting an order if customer requires. Chatbot can send mails to the Production team in manufacturing facility with the chat history to ensure that the order is expedited.

With the technical advancements, Chatbots are even helping patients who suffer from Alzheimer's disease and insomnia.

To summarize, Chatbots are easy, simple and light weight applications that solve the major problem of keeping the customer engaged. So if you are chatting on a web site to know the status of your order, you may be chatting with a robot already!!!

February 18, 2018

Bring the power of Excel to Oracle EBS with Web ADI

Very often we come across business users keeping an Excel sheet beside them and keying in the data into Oracle EBS. If you ask them about automating the process, most often the alternate option that they are  aware of is sharing the file in a predefined csv format to IT support and having them upload it. But what they don't like here is that, any errors will have to be shared with them by IT support and the time and effort involved in the initial upload and the error correction is significant. They feel the effort involved is not really worth it, and they are better off keying this data manually! It is very surprising to see how technology such as Web ADI (Oracle Web Applications Desktop Integrator) is not more commonly used to automate such manual data entry when you already have the data in an Excel or other documents. Most of the time customers hire temps or interns to key in this high volume data into the application.

Without going deep into the architecture of Web ADI, I will put Web ADI as an EBS capability that enables us to create Excel sheets that will automatically connect to EBS and perform the function that it is configured to do. When Web ADI is implemented, the Excel downloaded from EBS will have a new menu for Oracle.

Oracle_Web_ADI_Excel_Menu.jpg

In my experience so far, whenever we have demonstrated the capabilities of Web ADI, the customer response has been enthusiastic . The features that excite them the most -

  • You don't have to login to EBS or navigate/download the Excel every time. You download the Excel once; you can access it by just opening it from desktop. If EBS SSO (Single Sign On) is enabled it automatically understands who you are, if not, a pop from Excel, requests you to login.
  •  You have got all the features of Excel at your disposal - You can drag a cell, copy-paste data, use formulas to derive data, filter for certain values, have your own macros.
  •  You have the option to selectively upload only certain rows from the Excel.
  •  If the solution involves launching a concurrent program in the background, you can monitor the status from the excel itself, without having to login to EBS.
  • Business validations can be built into the Excel to show any issues to the user in the Excel itself. The user can chose to correct it or not upload the error record and proceed with others.
Validation_Error_In_Excel.jpg
  • Can work with the Excel offline. Of course, the user needs to be connected to validate or upload the data
  • The Excel can be configured for List of Values (LoV), double clicking on the Excel cell will open a HTML page that will give the capability  search for valid values and select it.
List_Of_Values.jpg
  • The excel sheet can also be configured to have drop down values.
Drop_Down.jpg
  • When a user wants a report in an Excel periodically, we can have the Web ADI configured for reporting only. The user just needs to open the Excel from desktop and refresh

Web ADI being a module within Oracle EBS, it inherits all the security framework of EBS. When the user is downloading or uploading data from Excel, they are doing it as an EBS user from a valid responsibility. User and responsibility specific restrictions can be implemented. For example, data can only be validated by a user/responsibility and uploaded by a different user/responsibility.

There are of course some areas where Web ADI is not a good option. Web ADI is only for user interface (UI) with one master-child relationship, with one header and optionally multiple child records. If we are looking for data upload with the UI having more than one master-child, it may not be fit for purpose. For example, Web ADI is good to mass update lines for a specific Purchasing Contract, but not fit for a requirement where we need to update the lines, shipments and distributions of a Purchase Order. While these features can be technically implemented, the solution may not be essentially user friendly. Moreover, Web ADI should not be seen as an alternate UI or technology for a Forms or OAF based UI, since it is not possible to dynamically enable/disable columns, show additional info/warning/error message at user key strokes at field level or move control dynamically to different fields in the Excel.

That said, here are the best opportunities where we can use Web ADI effectively

  • Where data needs to created/updated in bulk, where the data may already be there in Excel, etc.
  • Where we need the capability to work with the data offline and sync it up with server when online.
  • Where we may have to review a set of data and correct it - Web ADI can download the data that qualifies the condition into Excel. The user can make the changes and upload back.
  • Existing concurrent programs based solutions where a flat file is shared with the IT support team and the support team uploads it and shares the error records back, on which corrections are made and shared again to the support team for upload.
  • Reports that you want to refresh frequently.

Excel being Excel, most users will be comfortable with it and will not need any special training to use it. Web ADI being a technology module within EBS does not need any additional license. If you already have EBS, you can apply the required patches and start using it. If you look at it the other way, it is a module that the customer has already paid for, and not using it! Identifying the opportunities to implement the Web ADI based Excel solution can be a very good idea, that everyone on Oracle EBS should consider exploring for a better Return on Investment.

January 22, 2018

Vroom Vroom... with the Infosys Automotive Solution

Automotive Industry has been largely ahead of the innovation curve bringing in more technology to the vehicle towards the needs of the market. But all this while, they were challenged working with their own archaic systems. Good customer experience does not just mean good client facing applications but also the entire supply chain has to be customer oriented. Each of the supply chain elements need to be integrated to the get the part/vehicle at the right place at the right time.

Writing in fear of being cliché, an Automotive supply chain has its own complexities which sometimes are not as intuitive to anyone who does not live and breathe this industry. This is where Infosys Automotive Solution has been crafted and perfected over the years, to cater to such specific supply chain challenges.

1.       Supersessions: This is where the rubber hits the road. Almost every leading ERP product in the market has functionality to define supersessions but is it integrated to the entire process?? The answer will be "No".  The complexity does not end with ensuring we are selling always the oldest part of the supply chain but we are also buying the latest part in the chain. Ensuring the End of life and forecasting processes for the product chain are tied together. Even from a pricing perspective, how is the solution going to align the prices along the chain or create incentives for driving buying behavior from dealers?

2.       Referrals: Referral is a concept beyond Promising. How does one ensure we refer to the next nearest warehouse to meet the demand to ensure customer experience does not take a hit? While doing this, how do we keep the logistics cost minimal? How do we ensure we follow the milk run routes or do rate shopping real time? How do we ensure routes are combined together? While traditionally these problems are solved through transport integrations but many have solved this problem too much downstream.

3.       Fair share: When we are in a back order situation in the entire network and there are continuing supply constraints, how do we ensure that the incoming supplies are transferred and is fair shared across all distribution centers. Should it be based on FIFO, or customer priority etc.? These are problems that applications have continued to ignore putting these as execution problems.

4.       Slotting: Warehouse space is real state, how do we ensure that the fastest goods are always picked fastest. Also will the fastest always remain fastest? Or will there be seasonality, trends which we have to cater to. Slotting is ensuring that a continuous proactive process.

5.       Dealer incentives: This is an important part of the supply chain, often ignored. Supply chains are like humans, unless we build in incentives, we won't be able to drive the required behavior from the supply chain constituents.  The big question would be what should we stock at dealer inventories which are client facing and what we stock at middle level warehouses vs central warehouses. At the end of the day, inventory budget and customer service levels will drive the decisions but a dealer would only be concerned about their own profitability.

While we covered some of the nuances of the automotive spare part supply chain, there are many more such niche challenges which are unique and have been built in Infosys Automotive Supply Chain Solution. The solution not only covers the spare part supply chain but also caters to vehicle business as well. Additionally, we have solution flavor catering to Tier1 suppliers as well. To know more, reach out to us at Oracle Modern Supply Chain event at San Jose.@ OracleMSCE @Infy from 29-31st January 2018.

January 17, 2018

Untangle spaghetti Model via Order Management Cloud

There are lot of manufacturing facilities, multiple retail, different finance and procurement centres in different countries, each of these units using myriad custom applications for Supply Chain and each application talks to every application. This is the (in)famous Spaghetti model where the logic on which applications must communicate is hard coded with in each application and this is logic is not configurable. If this sounds familiar, then please read on.

During inception, the organizations chose for one or few application that suite most of their need. But as the organization expands and with mergers and acquisitions, each organization brings its own home grown application. By the time the organization is mature in expansion into a conglomerate, the IT landscape is often a spaghetti of applications.Text Box:  
Picture 1 - Current IT landscape - Spaghetti model with point to point interfaces

The resolution to this situation comes in the form of Order Management Cloud (OMC). The functionality called 'Distributed Order Orchestration' in Order management cloud helps in end to end integration between order entry and fulfilment applications. Below are few key features of OMC.

Interfacing the sales orders: The orders are captured via multiple retain channels like in-store, call centre, ecommerce web site, by engineer during after sales service, mobile application, internal ordering between different entities of the business etc. But these orders can be routed to OMC and created as a Sales order by invoking the seeded order creation web service. The incoming order payload can have different fields populated by order entry system. But as long as mandatory values are present, a sales order can be easily created.

Enriching the sales orders: The SO, so created, may need to have different warehouses where the SO is fulfilled, different booking Business unit based on the geography of the customer, different product needs to be added to the SO based on incoming attributes, can have different shipment method or priority etc. Any transformation on the SO is possible via the pre, product and post transformation rules. To the delight of the IT team, these rules can be built on a visual builder making maintainability of these rules easy

Fulfilment activities made easy: These enriched sales orders are now ready for fulfilment via OMC itself or can be interfaced to different legacy applications for different tasks. For example, manufacturing activity can be fulfilled and interfaced to MES application while a pick and ship can be routed to a WMS application. The invoicing can happen a completely different finance application. All this is possible by configuring the external routing rules and web service connectors for these application. OMC will create a payload of the SO and publish it to these connectors, record the acknowledgement and also the fulfilment of the tasks in legacy applications

Provide complete visibility to customer: As a customer may be curious to know the details of his / her order, OMC can be configured to send a status back at specific intervals. For example, when SO is created in OMC, manufacturing is complete, SO is picked, SO is shipped etc. From IT point of view, this is (again, as you guessed) configurable. The web service connector can be configured for each of the order entry application and OMC will fire the status message to these connectors

Below diagram explains the order orchestration process flow

 

Picture 2 - How Order Orchestration works in Order Management Cloud

Varied business process: The business process may include progressing the sales order via a series of automated and manual steps. For example the SO will have to be automatically reserved, while the customer service team needs to check and update the SO with the customer before the item can be shipped out. Such different processes can be configured via order orchestration in OMC. The SO will be automatically reserved while it will wait for user inputs once the call to customer is made outside the system.

Changing customer needs: In this competitive world, being flexible to changing customer needs is paramount. But at the same time be cost effective. Order management cloud provides functionalities to control the customer change, cost each change and react to each of these changes in a different way suited for the business. The change order functionality can be easily leveraged

Picture 3 - Order orchestration via Order management Cloud

Gone are those days where IT application is just as transaction recording system. IT application is one of the main enabler and enhancer for each business. Order Management, being the revenue making and customer facing module, is truly more flexible to ensure that sales team can be more agile and proactive. So untangle the spaghetti model and route all orders to OMC and dive the fulfilment via simple transformation rules.

Order Management Cloud is implemented as the order routing application in an optical retail chain, operating globally, offering optician services, along with eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids. There are 8000+ stores ordering items via 15+ retail applications and these orders are fulfilled via 10+ different specialised custom applications. With volumes of order line crossing 1 million a month, there is no room for error. While the implementation is still underway, benefits are reaped already by bringing all the routing logic centrally to Order Management cloud.

 

Sathya Narayanan.S

Lead Consultant

Infosys Limited

January 12, 2018

Configuring DAC

This blog covers how to configure DAC 10g, 11g - setting up the server and client, importing the repository to DAC, Configuring the Informatica service and database, Scheduling the load and Running a sample load.

After going through this blog user shall be able to Configure DAC and Run/Schedule loads.

Setting up the server -

To start up the DAC server please perform the below steps -

1. Start server by clicking on 'standaloneServerSetupPrompt.bat' under <DACInstallHome>/Oracle Business Intelligence Data Warehouse Administration Console 11g\dac


2. Select 'Enter repository connection information' by entering 1


3. Choose your connection type - 'Oracle< Thin>' in this case


4. Enter the service name -

5. Give the Database Host details -

6. Give the port name -

7. You can give the DB Driver and DB URL if needed

8. You can change the Table Owner name details -

9. You can change the Key -

10. Save the changes -

11. Now test the repository connection

12. Connection was successfully established

13. Exit

14. Click on 'Startserver.bat' under under< DACInstallHome>/Oracle Business Intelligence Data Warehouse Administration Console 11g\dac to start the server

15. Status will be changed to Green or Orange from Red

Setting up the client -

1. Start DAC client by clicking on 'startclient.bat' under <DACInstallHome>/Oracle Business Intelligence Data Warehouse Administration Console 11g\dac

2. Click on Configure

3. Select 'Create Connection' and click on Next

4. Give Name, Service Name, Host details, Port name and click on Authentication File

5. Choose 'Create Authentication File' and click OK

6. Give the name and save it

7. Generate the authentication key by giving the DAC details

8. Click on 'Test Connection' to validate the connection


8. Then click on 'Apply' and then 'Finish'

9. Now, login with the created connection and by giving Username/Password. Select Authentication Type as DAC

10. DAC client is started

Importing the Repository -

1. Click on Tools à DAC repository management à Import

2. Locate the Container, select the 'Truncate the repository tables' & 'Enable bulk mode' options and click OK

3. Give the captcha and click Yes

4. This would take some time depending on the size of the container, the process should be completed popping the below message

5. Select Tools à DAC Server management à Repository Configuration

6. Give the host, port details of DAC server and save it.

Configuring Informatica -

1. After logging into the DAC client click on Setup tab

2. Then click on 'Informatica Servers'

3. Now click on New to create a new Informatica connection

4. Fill-up all the details of Informatica repository