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April 17, 2018

Enabling CA Signed Certificate in Oracle JCS and On-Premise Weblogic

Enabling CA Signed Certificate in Oracle JCS and On-Premises WebLogic (How To Series)

Tools: KeyTool, Openssl (Optional)

Introduction

By default Oracle JCS server has self-signed certificate based SSL/TLS. For enhanced security and trust, we have to use CA signed certificates.  This document can be used for both On-premises WebLogic servers and Oracle JCS based Weblogic servers. Implementing CA signed certificate can prevent hacking attack like man-in-the-middle. Using CA signed certificates internal and external communications between services can be secured. Also environment access can be secured.

Key Features covered in Document

1) Brief about CA signed certificates and how chain of certificates are maintained.

2) How to implement chain of CA sign certificate on WebLogic admin and managed server.

Continue reading " Enabling CA Signed Certificate in Oracle JCS and On-Premise Weblogic " »

March 31, 2018

Blockchain & Finance - An Introduction for the CFO

Have you heard about blockchain? Even if you have not heard about blockchain, you would surely have heard about bitcoin.  Bitcoins are not blockchain but Bitcoins use the blockchain technology.

Why should a CFO concern about blockchain technology?

The blockchain technology is a big game changer.  It can be used to solve many business problems. While some industries are hugely impacted, others might have minor impact. Also, since the technology is evolving and maturing new impacts are getting discovered every day. Ignoring the technology could mean loss of competitive advantage, inefficient process impacting shareholder value. As the guardian of the shareholder value, it is of great importance to the CFO to understand the technology in general and impact on finance function in particular.

Before, we discuss how the blockchain impacts the finance function, let us understand what blockchain is, what its unique features are, what are its benefits.

What's the name?

The blockchain technology is also sometime referred to as DLT i.e. Distributed Ledger technology. While there are minor differences between the two, to keep things simple, we can assume both are the same.

What is blockchain / DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology)?

As the name indicates the technology uses blocks, chains, is distributed (i.e. decentralized) and ledgers (list of data). Basically DLT uses blocks to store data, the data is linked / chained to each other most likely using cryptology.  Apart from data storage / linkage, in DLT the complete data will be replicated (distributed). The data in the block chain is stored based on a 'consensus' rule and blockchain might also have smart contracts, which gets executed based on certain criteria.

Blockchain / DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) - How does it help?

Because of the above characteristics, a blockchain can help businesses

  • Speed up business processes - transactions taking days can be done in seconds.

  • Reduce costs - as it will enable direct peer-to-peer interaction without the need for intermediaries.

  • Reduces risks - as the transactions are immutable and cannot be changed ones created

  • Enforces and builds trust - all data is transparent and additions are through a consensus mechanism.

Maybe the above discussions are very technical, let me describe a finance use case for better understanding of the technology and the benefits. 

Trade Finance - Use Case - Using Oracle Cloud, Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service

Trade finance is one of the areas where the blockchain technology is already in use. Let us imagine a typical bill discounting scenario.  The scenario will have the following participants - buyer (say 'ABC Electronics'), seller (say 'LG Electronics'), and financing bank (say HSBC).  Assume we are the buyers, using Oracle Cloud applications.

ABC Electronics buys the goods from the LG, on receipt of the goods and the invoice from the LG, the details are sent (physical copies of invoice) to the HSBC bank. HSBC bank verifies the data and then releases funds to the LG based on the due date.

Note the above process

  • Might take 3-5 days, probably more

  • The participants to the process, do not have a visibility of the status - Are the goods received by the ABC Electronics, is the invoice received by the ABC Electronics, has HSBC bank got the document, has HSBC bank verified the documents.

  • The invoices might get damaged, lost, tampered with - as they move between the different parties.

How can Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service help here-

With blockchain we can now build a solution whereby

  • The business process of sending goods, receiving goods, receiving invoices, sending invoices to the buyer, verification of receipts and invoices by the buyer, sending the invoice to the bank can be captured / shared  on the blockchain

  • The transactions on consensus gets added to the block chain and cannot be tampered with (immutable)

  • Additions to the blockchain can be done by automatic process / manual process. Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service offers REST API's to automatically integrate the Oracle cloud applications with Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service.

  • New data can be added based on an agreed consensus mechanism, which can be built using Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service.

  • Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service also offers a front end application, which help the participants to view the status of the transactions (data transparency)

  • The physical invoices need not be sent to the bank, the bank can directly connect via RESTAPI offered by Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service, to verify the invoices captured by the buyer. ( eases and speeds up the process)

  • With Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service, a smart contracts can be built to automatic transfer amounts to the seller, on due verification of the invoices (process automation)

Below is the pictorial representation of how data (block) gets added to each node after each business event based on consensus between all participants and the same view is available to all participants.

With the above solution

  • The data is visible to all participants and is consistent across all participants.

  • Physical invoices need not be sent to the bank.

  • The correct invoice details are confirmed by all parties and cannot be tampered with (immutable). The ability is only possible due to the use of blockchain technology.

  • Smart contracts executed automatically to initiate supplier payments.

  • The time to process the payment to the seller can be done in few minutes instead of days

Are there other Use cases - Impacts on finance function?

While there is a big impact on financial services industry, crypto-currencies, the focus of this note is to discuss the impact on the finance function perspective, at a more micro level.

There are many other use cases. As the technology matures, the way it is implemented is also evolving and new use cases are getting discovered.

Oracle (in Oracle Open World 2017) while releasing the Blockchain Cloud Service solution, have listed a good set of questions which will help you determine the possible use cases for blockchain. Businesses need to check on below to discover potential use cases

  • Is my business process pre-dominantly cross departmental / cross organizational? ( think of intercompany reconciliation, interparty reconciliations)

  • Is there a trust issue among transacting parties? ( think of trade finance scenarios)

  • Does it involve intermediaries, possibly corruptible?

  • Does it require period reconciliations? ( think of intercompany reconciliation, interparty reconciliations)

  • Is there a need to improve traceability or audit trails? (think of bank confirmation letters, third party balance confirmation letters needed by auditors)

  • Do we need real time visibility of the current state of transactions? (think of publishing reports to various stakeholders)

  • Can I improve the business process by automating certain steps in it? (think of automatic payment, based on inspections by a third party).

From above, we can see numerous opportunities for improving the finance functions. Let me try to list possible use cases by critical functions of finance.

S Num

Function

Sub-Function

Possible impacts

1

Financial Management

 

Ø  Strategic Planning

Ø  Annual Planning

Ø  Rolling Forecasting (Quarterly / Monthly)

Ø  Working Capital management

Ø  Forex management

An internal, permissioned blockchain can be built to get consensus on the plan, which is transparent to all participants and immutable.

 

A permissioned blockchain can be setup to speed up the funds disbursement process for trade finance

2

Financial Reporting and Analysis

 

Ø  Statutory and External Reporting (GAAP / IFRS / VAT etc.)

Ø  Management Reporting (Scorecard, Dashboard)

Ø  Strategic Finance (Scenario Planning. M&A)

Ø  Customer and Product Profitability Analysis

Ø  Balance Sheet, P&L ,Cashflows

A permissioned blockchain can be setup for secured communication of reports which is secured, tamperproof, quick to publish.

 

3

Governance, Risk and Compliance

 

Ø  Financial Policies & Procedures (Business Rules Management)

Ø  Tax Strategies and Compliance

Ø  Tax  Accounting

Ø  Audit, Controls and SOX Compliance

Ø  Enterprise and Operational Risk Management

Ø  System Security and Controls

Secured communication of reports to government authorities.

 

A permissioned blockchain can be built to get consensus on the account balances for audit purposes.

4

Finance Transactions and Operations

 

Ø  General Accounting

Ø  Managerial Accounting

Ø  Accounts Payable

Ø  Credit and Collections

A permissioned blockchain can be built which is transparent, immutable and consensus based to capture customer promises for cash collections.

5

Financial Consolidation

 

Ø  Period end Book closure (monthly, quarterly, yearly)

Ø  Currency translation and trial balances

Ø  INTRA and INTER company transaction accounting

Ø  System of records close ( COA,  GL, Sub-ledgers)

A permissioned blockchain can be built to share and agree on intercompany balances.

 

Any pitfalls? What should you check?

There are many potential uses of this technology. As the technology matures and more Proof of concept projects get executed, new use cases are getting discovered and old use cases are also getting dropped.  As per Gartner Hype cycle, blockchain technology has passed the 'Peak of Inflated expectation' phase and is likely to enter in the 'Trough of Disillusionment' phase as POC's start failing before entering the 'Slope of entitlement' phase.

Considering the hype, there is a risk of trying to force-fit blockchain in scenarios, where simpler, cheaper, faster options might work better. While blockchain are immutable, highly secure, there are few exceptions and special attention is needed to ensure the exceptions are understood and managed. The government regulation to manage blockchain contracts also need to be evolve. There are also concerns with data transparency, which might not always be a good thing.

Conclusion

Blockchain is a big game changer.  Its impact on the finance function is inevitable. As the technology matures, the technology will help the CFO automate, speedup processes, build internal controls even with third parties outside the organization.  The CFO organization should start discussion on discovering use cases. It is likely that new ways of doing processes might be developed, in a way never imagined before.

The intention of the article is to give an introduction to blockchain, the impact on finance function and how Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service can help with build a block chain quickly.

Continue reading " Blockchain & Finance - An Introduction for the CFO " »

March 14, 2018

Patching and Upgrade Planning for Oracle Financials Cloud

Instance Patching and Upgrade is a way of life in Cloud world!

Customers using Oracle Financials cloud are well accustomed to the frequent patching and instance upgrades.

While the patches and upgrades overall improve features, performance and usability of application with enhanced functionalities; it can also create panic amongst financials users if not planned, tested and communicated on time.

Here are some tasks to be performed before and after patching /upgrade for a seamless transition to new release.

Pre-Activities: Before the patch is applied to instance or it is upgraded, following pre-activities should be completed:

  • Review the patch/upgrade Oracle notes and mark the ones impacting your current processes-- awaited bug resolution or new functionality.
  • Connect with Oracle by raising SR in case further explanation is require for any of the above notes. This will ensure no surprises when upgraded instance is handed over to users.
  • Compare the new FBDI templates with previous version and make a note of any changes. These changes need to be incorporated to the FBDI based Inbound interfaces.
  • Prepare and add the test cases for above points
  • Get the overall test cases reviewed by the functional team
  •  Inform the outage timings to users. Outage should include time taken to complete Post activities as well.
  •  Stop all the Inbound and Outbound interfaces to/from Oracle.
  •  As a best practice, patch/upgrade needs to be applied to the non-production environment first and tested/maintained with pre-post activities. Any issue faced during testing of Non-Production instances should be resolved before its applied to PROD. Some examples of such issues are:

o    Access issues in case of custom security

o    Formatting changes (e.g. page break ) to seeded reports

o    Any other known Oracle bug

These issues can be resolved with the help of Oracle team by raising Service Requests. The resolutions should be noted to be applied to Production as a post-task.

  • In case of any changes to FBDI templates, the inbound interfaces should be updated and tested in Non-Prod instance.

Post-Activities: After receiving patching/upgrade completion notification from Oracle and before the instance is handed over to testing team or users, below listed tasks should be completed by Oracle Support team:

  • Run following processes:

o    Import User and Role Application Security Data 

o    LDAP Requests

o    Update Person Search Keywords

o    Synchronize Person Records

o    Refresh Manager Hierarchy

  • Verify if the email notification is working (Notification on the Bell Icon) by either running a BIP report or changing a test person record. If its not working then an SR needs to be raised with Oracle to set the Notification Mode to ALL on SOA server and bounce the server afterwards.
  • Release the inbound and outbound interfaces to

1.       Catch up on the data since it was stopped

2.       Process as per regular schedule

  • Publish the active hierarchies to Essbase
  • Recreate the Essbase Cubes for active chart of accounts
  • Verify that Essbase is returning all Rules sets and Allocations in EPM
  • Activate the journal entry rule set assignments
  • Depending on the requirement, update the formatting of seeded report/s. E.g. Default Format, Page Break
  • Check for and Fix any subject area related error for OTBI reports.
  • Apply the fix for issues encountered during Non-Prod testing.

While patches are applied to the instance either monthly or quarterly (as opted by the customer); upgrade frequency is lesser. The scale and impact of instance upgrade is higher; since functionality changes are major. Hence upgrade planning should start well in advance. The impact analysis of upgrade should be performed meticulously and elaborate test cases should be built.

The Infosys Oracle Cloud team works with customers as trusted Support Partner and helps planning patching & upgrade transition; along with the regular production support activities like Period Close. The team tracks new features, presents to business and helps identify lag between new features & its adoption.

The objective during patching or upgrade is to minimize the spike of support tickets from Financials users. The above mentioned pre and post activities help ensure the same and maintain a stable Production System. 

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!!!

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

Oracle Supply Chain Planning Cloud: Product Evaluation and Co-Existence Implementation Scenarios

Supply chain planning cloud R13 promises to offer end to end planning solution, however, customers are still struggling with co-existence options with on-premise execution system with nuances of planning functionalities that are critical to them. Through this blog, I will share my experiences providing key inputs on the criteria's to consider to arrive at a decision between on-premise, cloud or a co-existence of demand planning. At the outset, there are two major product evaluation considerations:

  • Arrive at a list of key product evaluation criteria's important to your customer based on its weightage
  • Evaluate the key functionalities of cloud product in the order of importance to the customer and assist in making product decision

Product Evaluation Key Criteria's

While products can be compared on multiple factors, but it is of perennial importance to first shortlist the key criteria's in the tall order of business importance. Following are some of the comparative analysis I have considered in cloud product evaluation with customers embarking on supply chain planning cloud

    • Product Fitment : Scoring based evaluation of product features with weightages based on fitment criterion
    • Technology Consideration: The underlying technology of product and its fitment into your customer's application ecosystems.
    • Scalability: The scalability of the product considering the ability to accommodate your customer's unique processes, ability to extend functionality as well as integrate with other disparate systems. For example, high-tech customers want to consider binning, operational yields, unique customer allocations, and custom ATP
    • Customer Base: The existing customer base of the product and well are they catering to their customer
    • ERP Ecosystem: The ecosystem of products surrounding the core ERP product as also how well matured are these surrounding systems
    • Integration with 3rd party systems: Ease of integration with 3rd party systems with respect to supply chain information such as forecast, supply commits, Inventory statements and other collaborative information with partners
    • Customization Capabilities: Ease of customization to embed additional business logic such as planning allocation, aggregation, and disaggregation, ATP allocation etc.
    • Implementation Effort: One time overall effort needed to implement the product both from product stability and product vendor responsiveness to fix issues and also future roadmap
    • Upgrades: Future enhancements and customers involved in testing and deployment
    • Consulting Community: Skilled resources availability in the market that can cost your customer for both implementation and support

Product evaluation through fitment comparison

Product features undoubtedly form the most critical basis to determine how well the product can support business processes that are most important to the business. No product is 100% fit to each business but it is important to weigh it based on criticality to business and reach to an inflection point between introducing standardization and risk of losing flexibility. The product fitment approach recommended is to list the important feature in each functional area and rate it based on pre-set weightage criteria of fitment importance.


  • High - There should be direct fitment of functional requirement in out of box without any customization
  • Medium - Not necessarily a direct fitment of functional requirement, but achievable with minor tweaks 
  • Low - There is a no direct functionality as is the requirement and Major development effort will be needed 

Following are some of the example of features that can be considered for evaluating Demantra On-Premise versus Demand planning cloud and Planning central.

  • Data Collection From non-Cloud ERP
  • Import and export of custom forecast streams
  • Accuracy of Statistical Forecast
  • Flexibility of forecast tuning
  • Configuration of custom forecast Hierarchy
  • Forecast collaboration and Approval
  • Forecast export to supply plan
  • Forecast accuracy measures and reporting
  • Exception Management
  • Causal Factor maintenance
  • Custom logic for aggregation/disaggregation
  • Manage multiple demand signals
  • Simulation capabilities
  • New product introduction

In my next blog, I would provide perspective on supply planning and scheduling capability


October 10, 2017

An account of Contract based Project Billing in Fusion PPM Cloud & its comparison with EBS Projects

1.      Introduction

One of the most major change in Oracle Fusion Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Cloud compared to Oracle E-business Suite (EBS) Projects is the shift from Project driven billing model to a Contract driven billing model.

This new contract based project billing involves the integration between Oracle Fusion Project Billing and Oracle Fusion Project Contracts. While Fusion Project Contracts takes care of the Contract terms, conditions and billing requirements, the Fusion Project Billing piece handles invoice and revenue generation & processing.

So contract now becomes mandatory in Fusion Cloud to do billing and revenue recognition. In EBS, it was optional to use Project Contracts module and agreements were used in place of contracts.


2.      Contract Structure and its components

A contract in Fusion Cloud is divided into contract header and contract lines.

2.1  Contract Header

The header contains

·         Basic contract information: Contract Number, Name, Description, Start Date, End Date, Currency, Status, Amount etc.

·         Party information: Customer and Supplier and their Contacts, Bill-to & Ship-to accounts etc.

·         Billing Information

The billing information contains bill and revenue plans which is a new concept introduced in Fusion Cloud. These are user defined and contain set of instructions on how to bill and recognize revenue for a customer.

Bill plans are associated to predefined billing methods - Amount (Event) Based Invoice, Bill Rate Invoice, Burden Schedule Invoice, Cost Reimbursable Invoice, Percent Spent Invoice and Percent Complete Invoice.

Similarly, revenue plans are associated to seeded revenue methods - Amount (Event) Based Revenue, Bill Rate Revenue, Burden Schedule Revenue, Cost Reimbursable Revenue, As Billed Revenue, As Incurred Revenue, Percent Spent Revenue and Percent Complete Revenue.

Availability of such wide range of billing and revenue methods makes the billing functionality very strong in Fusion PPM Cloud.

In EBS, the same was done using Distribution Rules - Event/Work/Cost combinations.

 

2.2 Contract Lines

Below the contract header can be one or multiple contract lines. Each contract line can      select its own bill and revenue plan combination. This makes it possible to process invoicing and revenue in different ways by using multiple lines on same contract.


2.3 Project/Task/Funding Association

The association to project/task and funding also happens at line level making it possible to implement the various scenarios like One contract- one project, one contract- multiple projects (multiple lines, one project at each line) and multiple contracts-one project.

In EBS projects, agreements were linked to projects/tasks in different ways like (One Customer-One Agreement), (Multiple Customers, One Agreement per Customer), (One customer, Multiple Agreements), (Multiple Customers, Multiple Agreements per customer).

In Fusion Cloud, funding is not mandatory for Project/Task except Percent Spent case. In EBS, baseline of funding was one of the compulsory steps before one can generate invoice or revenue.

So fusion cloud project billing offers much flexibility as compared to a more rigid project-agreement-funding relation in EBS.


3.      Important New Features

3.1 Bill Set

In Fusion Cloud, an important and new bill set feature on bill plan enables the transactions with same bill set number belonging to different bill plans to be grouped together into a single invoice. So you can send a single summarized invoice to customer.

3.2 Release Invoice Automatically

In cloud PPM, now you can release the invoice automatically by simply enabling a checkbox at the contract header level. So the invoice gets created in released status directly. In EBS, this was not a standard functionality and Automatic Invoice Release Extension would need to be written.


4.      Contract Approvals

The contract approvals can be configured for auto-approval, serial and parallel approvals using BPM work list in Fusion Cloud.

·         Auto-approval: To bypass approval and approve automatically

·         Serial Approval: To go for approval sequentially to a series of people

·         Parallel Approval: To go for approval to many people in parallel and approved when all people have approved


5.      Contract Amendments

Contract amendments is a full-fledged feature in Fusion Cloud. Retroactive contract amendments are possible using amendment effective date with transactions marked for automatic adjustments thereby reducing the manual effort. Also the amendments can follow the same approval workflow as contract.


6.      Project Invoicing

6.1 Draft Invoice Preview/Print

In Fusion Project Billing, you can preview the draft invoice and even print the same. So it can be checked in Projects before sending to receivables for final billing. There are seeded Business Intelligence Publisher (BIP) reports available to be used directly or you can create custom BIP reports also.

6.2 Taxation

Another change in invoicing is on the tax side. In EBS, tax was not calculated on project invoice. Only when auto-invoice import to AR was done, tax got calculated and appeared on AR invoice directly.

In Fusion Cloud, tax calculations can be viewed on project draft invoice itself. The tax rules are setup in Fusion Cloud Tax and tax code can be included at Contract, Contract Line, Expenditure Type and Event Type levels. The tax code can be changed at invoice line when doing invoice review if required.

The process follows the same route from draft invoice approval, release, and transfer to receivables and update from receivables after auto-invoice import.


7.      Project Revenue Recognition

7.1 Revenue Processing

On the revenue side, there is a major change in how revenue is processed in PPM cloud. In Oracle EBS, you could review and release revenue lines in projects. The draft revenue could be deleted and regenerated if it is incorrect. In Fusion Cloud, there is no review/release process now.

7.2 Accounting

On the accounting side, oracle projects auto-accounting in EBS is totally removed in Fusion Cloud. Fusion Sub-ledger accounting (SLA) is the only source of accounting rules now. For project revenue, projects SLA is used to derive the accounting while for invoices, it is derived from receivables SLA when accounting is generated for project sourced invoice in receivables.

8.      Conclusion

This is an attempt to provide an overview of the way contract-project billing takes place in Fusion Cloud PPM. It also tries to present a relative account with Oracle EBS. There are fundamental changes, process changes as well as many new features in Fusion Cloud PPM which effort to make the functionality stronger and more flexible to handle the complex contractual/billing/revenue recognition needs of customers.

 

 

October 4, 2017

To Cloud or Not to Cloud: Make the leap of faith logically!

HCM and HRIT functions are veering towards adoption of cloud applications to effectively address the trends such as mobile workforce, uptake of digital platforms and emphasis on user experience. While the decision to move to cloud seems a no brainer, the shape and velocity of this adoption requires a more involved approach. CXOs have to contend with balancing their current operations, assessing the readiness of the organizations as well as resistance to change internally when making this decision. The blog examines the dimensions in an enterprise's decision mix enabling them to choose the right path to HCM cloud solutions.

 What is the trend?

Trends-HCM-2.jpg

 The HR function and practice continues to evolve rapidly in response to the business world as well as to the societal changes from where it derives its capital from. The evolution is also getting influenced by technology.  

In organizations, the focus of HCM and HRIT functions has been on meeting operational requirements including compliance and administration while integrating with rest of the organizational business systems.

However, with the advent of millennials, trends such as mobile workforce, attitudinal changes such as increased desire for collaboration, uptake of digital platforms and emphasis on user experience have come to the fore.

These underlying trends are causing a rapid shift of HR role from transactional to tactical to strategic. This, in turn, is creating a demand for technology platforms that enable this shift. Foremost among these enablers and shapers are cloud-based HCM applications that offer sophisticated functionalities.

Is the Trend your Friend?

Moving to Cloud-based systems at first glance appears to be quite logical and an easy choice to make. Well, as many CHROs, CIOs and CTOs experience, it may not be an easy decision to make. Intrigued?

Imagine you are the CTO of a retail organization with around 30,000 employees. You will most probably have an enterprise-wide HRMS system based on a leading package such as PSFT or Oracle HRMS. To manage your needs in recruitment, temp staffing, time clocking & tracking the system landscape would include other applications. It is also quite likely that for the core functions you might have customized (bolt-ons etc) the enterprise HRMS system to meet your unique needs. With a view to getting richer functionalities and potential infrastructure cost savings, you understand that Cloud Applications may be the way to go.

Question-HCM-3.jpg

Then out tumbles some nagging but very pertinent concerns: does it offer the same amount of functionalities to meet my needs, will my business stakeholders be fine with what is offered, can the cloud handle the integrations, what about the customizations, what about my existing infrastructure investments...The list goes on...


 Is that all?

The initial set of problems that come to mind mostly deal with the ease of moving to Cloud. But was there a problem in your current HR applications that was constraining the HR functions to begin with? Is there a need for moving to cloud or doing anything at all? If there is a need, how pressing is it? Determination of the need is vital not only to make a business case from a technology or business standpoint, but also to prioritize the areas where you want to focus on.

EaseVsNeed-2.png

Need could be an expressedly Felt Need or an unstated Underlying Need. A Felt Need usually comes in the form of specific instance of users & stakeholders regarding the state of affairs of the application or function whereas Underlying Need is typically a desire for better functioning/functionalities or general opinion of the application or process. The stronger the Need, the higher the drive or support for the remedial action. The action proposed should deal with what specific functionalities and processes to be moved to Cloud, the sequence of adoption clearly articulating how these would address the Need dimension.

 Ease, Need and then...

One of the aspects, though known, that is underestimated, more often than not, is gauging whether the organization is ready for cloud adoption. It is important to recognize that the change management process begins even before the decision to move to cloud is made. The Adoption Readiness of key stakeholders from the HR organization as well as IT organization needs to be assessed. Readiness to adopt cloud can be considered in two parts -(a) Is there Awareness of the capabilities of Cloud Applications? (b) Do key stakeholders show sufficient Intent to move to Cloud? An analysis in these terms can help CXOs decide what actions to take to increase Adoption Readiness. If Awareness is found out to be low, then knowledge sessions on Cloud may be undertaken; in case of low Intent, workshops to understand the underlying concerns may be considered.

AdoptionReadiness-HCM-1.jpg

Understanding Adoption Readiness across groups is also important. It is quite possible that the IT stakeholders are gung-ho about the movement whereas the business stakeholders may not be mentally ready. This insight will help CXOs/ sponsors in getting an advance view of which group to work on for buy-in and in the process unearth not-so-evident issues in the Cloud Adoption journey.

 What next?

After collecting data pertaining to these dimensions in preparation for cloud adoption, it is necessary that a sum total analysis be performed. It is imperative that the interplay of these dimensions and the state of the organization be clearly understood to chart out the path, roadmap if you will, that your organization's cloud journey will undertake. A well-thought out plan based on the inputs as mentioned above, will dramatically increase the chances of a cohesive, right-paced and successful Cloud Adoption.

Continue reading " To Cloud or Not to Cloud: Make the leap of faith logically! " »

September 11, 2017

Get IFRS15, ASC606 Ready - The Easy and Quick Way

 

The accounting standard for recognizing revenue is changing.  For the new comers let me briefly describe the change.

What's the Change?

For countries using the IFRS standards, it means they now need to account revenue as per "IFRS 15- Revenue from Contracts with Customers" instead of "IAS- 18 - Revenue" standard to recognize the revenue.

For the US based companies needing to report under US GAAP, they now have to account revenue as per new "ASC 606 - Revenue from Contracts with Customers" instead of the old "ASC605 - revenue Recognition".

The old IAS 18 standards (issued by "International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)") and the ASC 605 (issued by "Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)" for the US companies) where having substantial differences. The new standards issued by the IASB, ASC i.e. IFRS15, ASC606 are now synched up.

The new standard outlines the below five logical steps for revenue recognition -

What's the big deal?

So - what the big deal? The accountants will take care - should the rest of you be worried? Accounting changes always keep happening, so what new now?

This is a big because it impacts the most important numbers on your P&L - the top-lines and the bottom lines and many other critical aspects like the taxes to be paid, the annual plans, probably the commissions, bonuses to be paid as well.

This is also big because the change is complex especially if you have bundled deals (like the telecom and hi-tech industry). Not all accounting software can do accounting as per the new standards. Apart from the accounting systems, business processes and maybe business contracts also might need modifications.

So, it is not just the finance guys / accountants - the board, CXO's, auditors, the Information technology folks, the planners, the analysts, sales teams, HR compensation teams - needs to understand the change and plan for the impacts.

Getting this wrong, has a direct impact on all key stake holders - shareholder value, employees (bonuses, commissions), government (taxes).

By when do you need to ready?

That depends on whether you are applying IFRS or US GAAP. For most of the companies the standard has to be adopted from the financial year starting in 2018.

  • For "IFRS15" applying companies
    • The financial year starting "on or after January 1, 2018"

  • For "Public business entities" and "not-for-profit entities that are conduit bond obligators applying US GAAP" -
    • The financial year starting "on or after December 16, 2017"

  • For the other "US GAAP" companies
    • The financial year starting "on or after December 16, 2018"


Are you late in the game? Probably yes, but....

This is where Oracle - Infosys can help you.

The Oracle Revenue Management Cloud Service (RMCS) is tailor made to meet the IFRS15 / ASC606 requirements including the transition requirements. The product has been successfully implemented across industries and is a proven solution for IFRS15 / ASC606 needs.

The "IFRS15 / ASC 606 solution" of Infosys is a complete solution to get IFRS15 / ASC 606 ready - quickly and perfectly. The Infosys solution encompasses program/project management, change management, implementation of RMCS, implementation of Financial Accounting Hub Reporting Cloud, building integration with various middleware. The Infosys solution  creates a robust process with tight integration ensuring automated reconciliation and no revenue leakage / discrepancies.

Considering the need to ready on time, the solution will prioritize requirements, so the MUST-HAVE requirements are developed, tested and ready on time.

Below is the overview of the Infosys Solution

How do we make a difference? How quickly can you be ready?

Infosys has been working on numerous IFRS15 / ASC 606 implementations using Oracle RMCS. While a typical IFRS implementation is done in 6-12 months implementation time depending on the number of integrations, use cases, we are able to cut the implementation time by at least 25% by levering the accelerators repository comprising of

  • Pre-built Use Cases

  • Key Decision Documents

  • Pre-Configured Instances

  • Data conversion templates

  • Configuration templates

  • Key learnings from other project

Apart from the normal implementation, we also offer a rapid implementation which can be completed in 3 month time-frame. A typically rapid implementation assumes not more than 2 integrations, conversions using FBDI templates, 30-40 use cases and 5 custom reports developments. The typical rapid implementation plan would be as below

Sample List of use cases for telecom:

S.No.

Description of the Use Case

1

Billing & Satisfaction: Single Handsets plus Plan

2

Billing & Satisfaction: Contract Termination

3

Billing & Satisfaction: Multiple Handsets Plus Plan

4

Billing & Satisfaction: Multiple Products and Plan

5

Billing & Satisfaction: Contract Modification

6

Billing & Satisfaction: Contract Add on

7

Downward Modification

8

Loyalty points - Termination

9

Family share - Multiple Lines

10

Loyalty points - Redemption

 

Sample List of Issues:

Below is the sample list of problem areas

  1. How to determine the SSP (standalone selling prices)

  2. Significant financing components on the contracts

  3. Managing impacts on cost - both direct and indirect

  4. Managing Discounts

  5. Managing Variable considerations


Get Started now, this is your last chance...

If you have still not started on the IFRS15 / ASC606 journey - you need to start now. With Oracle RMCS and Infosys experience in implementing the same, you now have the chance to be ready on time.

 

Meet our experts at @ Booth 1602, Oracle Open World 2017, to see a demo of the solution.

 

 


Continue reading " Get IFRS15, ASC606 Ready - The Easy and Quick Way " »

August 27, 2017

Modeling Centralized Procurement in Oracle Cloud Applications

Modeling Centralized Procurement in Oracle Cloud Applications

Benefits of centralizing procurement activity in a large or diverse organization are well known. It helps in achieving significant cost reduction and policy compliance. In this article, we will focus on understanding the key concepts for modeling centralized procurement in Oracle Cloud applications.

In Oracle Cloud, a business unit does not need to perform all business functions. The business unit model allows you to assign only relevant business functions to a business unit, while some other functions can be outsourced to a different business unit. Examples of business functions are Materials Management, Requisitioning, Procurement, Payables Invoicing etc. Note that not all functions can be outsourced; Procurement is a business function that can be. A business unit that has a procurement business function assigned is called as procurement business unit.

Many of us have the impression that procurement business units create purchase orders like requisitioning business units create requisitions. Well, this is just partly true and does not reflect the true essence of this model. In Cloud Procurement, purchase orders are created in context of legal entities. It is true that a purchase order is managed by the procurement business unit but it is issued on behalf of a particular legal entity (which is typically derived from the requisitioning business unit). Suppliers see the name of the legal entity as the buying organization and not the name of the procurement business unit. In fact, Procurement business unit name is not even included in the printed purchase order PDF. Secondly, all the accounting impact that a purchase order has, is absorbed by the ledger of the requisitioning business unit. Procurement business unit does not even need to have a ledger setup done.

Confused?? .... You might be thinking, what a procurement business unit is and what it does? Well, we need to understand the idea of Procurement business function the way Oracle has conceptualized it. Let me explain. In Oracle Cloud, Procurement business function encompasses following activities:

Supplier relationship management: A supplier is a global entity, but supplier sites are created in context of Procurement business units. A single supplier site, can be leveraged by different business units through site assignments. Also note that Approved Suppliers List (ASL) entries are created and maintained at procurement business unit level.

Supplier Qualification management: Initiatives, Assessments, Questionnaires are created at procurement business unit level.

Sourcing: All negotiations are created in context of procurement business unit; and a single negotiation can carry item requirements from multiple requisitioning business units.

Pricing and Policy Determination: Blanket and Contract purchase agreements that define your purchase prices and terms and conditions, are created in context of Procurement business units. These agreements are rolled out to requisitioning business units through Business Unit access control.

Procurement Catalogs Management: Catalogs, smart forms, punch-outs are all setup at procurement business unit level and rolled out to requisitioning business units or to specific users through content zones.

Purchase Order Management: Buyers that manage the purchase orders are setup as procurement agents at the procurement business unit level. Purchase order header carries an attribute for Procurement Business unit, however the ownership and the liability lies with the Legal Entity.

None of these activities have any accounting impact. And all of these can be centralized, meaning that a centralized department can offer all these as services to the different business units of the organization. Moreover if you notice, all of these are strategic business activities on which organizations want their buyers to focus on more aggressively apart from the routine activities such as following up with suppliers for delayed shipments and invoice mismatches.

For centralizing procurement, it is advisable to setup a separate (or dedicated) business unit and assign it only procurement business function. And then create the service provider relationships with the requisitioning business units which will be able to utilize the services of the centralized procurement business unit. It is like plug and play setup; when a new business unit gets configured (for requisitioning) we just need to setup the service provider relationship and then roll out specific agreements or other catalog content as needed.

Before closing this article, I will like to emphasize on the fact that a business unit which only has procurement business function does not need any accounting setup (chart of accounts, ledger etc.). This means that, for customers who are implementing only sourcing or supplier qualification, there is no need to do any accounting setup at all.

I hope this article proves useful for you to understand the 'Oracle Cloud' concept of centralized Procurement. Thanks!!

Continue reading " Modeling Centralized Procurement in Oracle Cloud Applications " »

July 7, 2017

Achieving Smart Sourcing using Oracle Procurement Cloud

Rapid globalization has led to organizations looking for different strategic avenues in terms of sourcing from suppliers in order to remain profitable and relevant with changing times. Supplier Qualification and Sourcing are two of the most critical aspects of the Procurement processes which will enable the organization to work collaboratively with suppliers and reduce costs on operational front. This article intends to highlight how Oracle Procurement Cloud can help organizations achieve Sourcing Excellence giving them competitive advantage to empower their business growth.

Continue reading " Achieving Smart Sourcing using Oracle Procurement Cloud " »

April 19, 2017

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

Continue reading " Mergers and Acquisitions - Oracle SaaS to the rescue! " »

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:

Continue reading " Building customizations (RICEFW) on Oracle SaaS " »

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!

March 22, 2017

***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.

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 1, 2017

Key Productivity Tools you need in your Incentive Compensation Application-Part 1 of 2

Many a time while choosing an Incentive Compensation application, companies tend to focus on core capabilities like crediting, incentive calculation and reporting capabilities. Less attention is paid towards productivity tools that are required by administrators to run the application smoothly and efficiently. In the absence of such tools, even the best equipped applications fail to "Go-Live".

In a series of blogs on this topic, I will attempt to list and describe the set of productivity tools that sales and incentive compensation administrators should be looking for when they are shopping for their incentive compensation application.

Let's start by looking at a standard flow of the incentive compensation processes and then focus on the productivity tools that are required at different stages. Not all stages will be discussed in these blogs as every stage may not require productivity tools. Below process flow uses terminology from Oracle Sales Cloud-Incentive Compensation although other products will have similar flows.


IC process.png

 













Import Participants- This process step may encapsulate tasks like creating salesreps and sales managers in the application along with updating their attributes. Below productivity tools may be relevant here

-Ability to import/create salesreps from an external file/tool. Typically the field level information in this task includes salesrep name, manager details etc.

-Ability to update salesrep attribute information using an external file/tool. Salesrep attributes are typically fields like country, home currency, role etc. Note: Where multiple currencies are involved, it is also useful to have the ability to import currency exchange rates through an external file.

 

Configure Crediting Rules- Crediting rules define who receives how much credit for a business transaction. Multiple criteria maybe be used along with defining some sort of a hierarchical structure to enable 'rollup' of credit to managers if required. If the number of salesreps in your organization are high, these may lead to a high number rules to create and manage. Adding to that, if multiple criteria are involved, the number of clicks required in the applications to do this activity increase exponentially. Hence a productivity tool that enables below becomes very important

-Ability to mass create and maintain credit rules through an external file or tool.

 

In subsequent blogs, we will look at productivity tools that can be used in other steps of the Incentive Compensation process. 

February 17, 2017

A Guide for PAAS Solutions on Oracle Sales Cloud

 

Introduction:

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

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

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




PAAS Architecture: