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

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March 15, 2011

How to measure ROI for SOA projects? A Tollway Approach

Guest post by
Prasad Jayakumar, Technical Lead, Oracle Practice, Enterprise Solutions, Infosys Technologies Ltd.


Early morning I was hitting I-94W to meet my client in Milwaukee.  I wish I had my I-PASS; toll varied from 25 cents to little more than a dollar.  I was wondering "Why not the government builds the infrastructure out of tax collected and let us free?"  Immediately I realized my ignorance.  My discussion topic with client was "How to measure ROI for SOA Projects?"  It was a meeting to see if we can present benefit of SOA in a tangible way to business.  I was wondering if the toll way could answer the question.


Please note: All values are notional. Click on image to enlarge.


The whole idea of SOA ROI by toll way approach is based on Throughput Accounting

Throughput (T) = Daily transactions priced at some notional $ value

Investment (I) = SOA Infrastructure Setup

Operating Expense (OE) = Development Cost + Maintenance Cost

Return on Investment = (T-OE) / I

There could be a day where IT paybacks some business unit (Service Provider), of course getting from other business unit (Service Requester).  What else could motivate business better than dollars?  I am not sure if business would be interested on asset/service reuse [it is presumed to be IT thing] unless we position it differently.  Tollway approach can go beyond measuring ROI if embraced by business and IT.

March 10, 2011

Hybrid Cloud and Weblogic WAN Clustering

I was reading up on clouds and their drawbacks and one issue that kept repeating was customers loosing control of their applications and data to the cloud service providers. One of the key themes of Cloud computing is to scale the computing infrastructure on the go as well as pay for only what you use. So i was wondering if it is possible for customers to use the cloud only for scaling their existing computing infrastructure without moving their entire application to the cloud. As i read more on this problem, I stumbled on a new concept (new for me :-)) called the "Hybrid cloud".

The whole concept of the "Hybrid cloud" is that the Enterprise maintains some instances of the server running the application on-premise while the scalable instances are available on the cloud on virtual machines.

The obvious benefits of the above approach are similar to the benefits of a full fledged cloud implementation-
1. Pay for what you consume
2. Get scalability - both upwards and downwards without huge investment in infrastructure.

But in addition to these points, the key benefits of the Hybrid cloud are -
1. Maintain control on your existing application and data. No need for expensive re-engineering or moving the entire application to the cloud.
2. Reduce dependence on cloud service provider as both application and data continue to exist within the Enterprise.

But the Hybrid Cloud solution does come with its share of challenges.

1. Security - Transactions are still being processed outside the Enterprise, so adequate care has to be taken to address security concerns
2. Management- Because the cloud provider may not know much about the application that the enterprise is hosting, application management will require close co-ordination as well as more enterprise access for the cloud instances to resolve issues.
3. Responsibilities - because the application is owned and managed by the Enterprise with the cloud provider only providing the infrastructure, clear identification of responsibilities for issue resolution need to be arrived at.
4. SLAs need to be clearly articulated

From a technology perspective Oracle Weblogic Server - WAN clustering seems to be an ideal fit for the Hybrid cluster. This technology supports clustering and asynchronous session replication across 1000s of miles. It is a robust solution and already widely used in the Industry. Instead of using this technology to build a cluster between two data centers of the enterprise, this same technology can be used to cluster the enterprise data center with cloud instances.

The key application of the Hybrid cloud according to me will be for seasonal applications e.g. Travel booking web sites, Retail web sites, University websites are some of the applications which require peak computing power only during some specific times of the year. The Hybrid cloud allows these Enerprises to maintain control on their applications as well as allow them to scale during these peak times.




Social CRM in Insurance: A fly by..

Social CRM has been one of the top trends that have been witnessed in the CRM space in recent times. As per a study by Gartner Research, by 2013 the total investment in Social CRM space would exponentially increase to around 1 billion dollars, about 8% of the total CRM spending. In Social CRM the customer sits in center of the CRM processes and is an active influencer in business decisions. The customer and organization constantly interact and collaborate in order improve the customer experience. In return, the customer becomes an advocate of the organization highlighting the work done by the company. Social CRM is not just about bringing the customer in the center of the processes but it requires a change in the strategic outlook of the organization.

Social CRM can help insurance sector to leverage from this upcoming trend. For example:

  • Allowing today's social media aware customer to interact directly with insurance companies without the presence of any middle layers or agents. This is possible using the concept of online communities

  • Increase the brand visibility by using the communities of "like minded" people

  • By monitoring the online communities of other brands/carriers, insurance companies can target new potential clients Insurance companies can increase customer's awareness and help them by providing tips on how to avoid certain dangers that can lead to claims being turned down

As many sectors are embracing for this change, Insurance sector can also reap huge benefits by moving in to the era of Social CRM. The massive amounts of data that will be collected using social media channels can be analyzed and used in different processes of insurance industry.

But as we talk on role of social media in insurance sector, one must realize that Social CRM as a concept in insurance sector is still in a nascent stage and definitely seems to be carrying a huge latent potential that can be used in different dimensions of business processes. Only time would tell that how fast and efficiently insurance sector gauges on to this trend.

March 9, 2011

The Power Of Oracle Life Sciences Data Hub (LSH)

Guest post by
Nobendu Roy, Senior Project Manager, Oracle Practice, Enterprise Solutions, Infosys Technologies Ltd.


We know that LSH is a clinical data integration platform, but it can also be used as a computing environment that gives tremendous power and flexibility to a PLSQL programmer to extend the functionalities.

I can take an example of safety analysis and reporting which are a part of any safety package: Argus, Phase Forward Emperica, ARISg etc. If a client has LSH and doesn't want to invest on a safety system then will that prevent the client from performing pharmacovigilance analysis? The answer is a big "NO" because LSH can be configured to address drug risk analysis and signal detection. The power of LSH lies in its set of load set adaptors which can easily be leveraged to load and transform the necessary data sets in its data repository. Moreover OBIEE also comes bundled with LSH and hence it is easy for a PLSQL programmer to develop the programs to generate the risk analysis and signal detection graphs and reports in OBIEE. It is all in the hands of a PLSQL programmer.

I intend to publish a series on the power of LSH based on the inputs provided by the readers and the discussion that shapes up over a period of time.

March 8, 2011

Challenges Faced in Global ERP Implementations -Like Crossing A Sea?

In today's world, many of ERP Implementations are large involving multiple regions, countries and businesses around the world.I am talking about large multinational corporations which have foot prints around the world either directly or through subsidiaries. Some of these corporations also have grown bigger through mergers and acquisitions.

Another characteristic is some may have many sub divisions which act as separate companies under single parent company.Many of my Oracle implementations have always been global implementations. Sharing some of the challenges faced in the order of severity.

1. Global business modeling: - Bringing them in single business model is never easy. Though the project is by the IT organization (implementation of Oracle) but it some times goes into BPR mode involving all the business leads in all regions/divisions to align business process

2. ERP landscape and strategy decisions: - These are tough decisions involve which legacy system to be retained or retired. For example a newly acquired business is not willing to change their system since they have already implemented another ERP System.

3. Continuing to above point, Single or Multiple oracle instances is always a big question.

4. Managing master data across multiple regions. I have seen establishing this as one of most difficult process.

5. There are external factors impacting schedules and budgets. There is new acquisition or new business/region in scope when the global modeling and design is over.

6. Diversity - Each region could be different by business and volume of business. For example North America region might have large order volume where as Asia order volume is less though majority of sourcing and manufacturing is done from Asia.

7. Just adding to above point the number of people involved can be different by region n business process. One region - it could be one person managing entire purchasing process

8. Regional Requirements: There are additional requirements and global business process will not fit because regulatory issues at some regions

9. Requirement complexities ,  the requirements also get complex which an overlap and map across multiple business functions and modules

10. Coordination and communication across all the regions is always difficult because of the locations, time zones. Adding to the above are cultural issues and language barriers

Well the list goes on. Also want to mention challenges (risks) project management angle.

a. Planning for long term with huge budget and the benefits are not immediate
b. Hitting unexpected economic situations, such as economic slow downs. If this hits during middle of the implementation. Risk of abandon/holding the project will be putting money and effort in the drain
c. Getting the resources engaged to work

So well you all read the pains, some of this pains were reduced from implementation level through below.

1. Having global design team (central) which will gather requirements from each region and own the solution design
2. Mapping regional requirements to create common global process and design.
3. The regional team or rollout team will be responsible for tailoring global design and roll out to meet regional requirements and deviations needed
4. Once Single or multi instance (it is whole separate discussion) decision is made, identifying business process which map across multiple instances.
5. Same goes with if some of the regions or businesses decide to retain existing ERP/legacy applications. Laying down business flows across systems and identify data exchange interfaces as applicable
6. Coordination is another topic which needs separate discussion. With global conference and screen sharing tools definitely help the discussions. Some amount of traveling is always needed. Setting common time for discussions is something needs to be worked depending on the flexibility by the teams. I worked late nights and early morning to fit other time zones
7. Handling complex business scenarios across cross tracks/business has been done multiple times by us by having cross track discussions and doing handover/take over process. These cross track flows will be taken till the end by having cross flow testing scenarios and requirement traceability tools so that they are not missed.

Though I have mentioned some challenges and how these were met. Every implementation is different and it has its own challenges apart from the above. 

It might look like crossing a sea which reminds me of inspirational quote from Holy Bible "Thus says the LORD, Who makes a way through the sea And a path through the mighty waters"

March 7, 2011

Supply Chain Best Practices: Reduced TCO via Best Of Breed or ERP WMS

It has been debated over and over again if Best of Breed WMS is more suited to lower the Total Cost of Ownership as compared to an ERP based WMS. But a settlement has not been reached yet. Organizations with logistics management as their core competency may choose to favor best of breed software whereas a traditional sales company or retailer may choose to look in the other direction.

ERP-based WMS solutions are gradually making inroads into this terrain but they are myopic in terms of classical warehouse operations including receiving, put-away, inventory control, picking and loading. Warehouse operations entail much more and beyond these set of identified functions like labor management, slotting management, advanced wave planning, and last mile delivery. These operations are generally not solutioned for or supported by ERP WMS solutions. And if the need arises to have these capabilities built in, the same would have to achieved via expensive customizations with multiple integration touch points.

It has been said a general rule of thumb that a WMS solution typically has a life span of approximately ten years. ERP upgrades are generally more expensive because of the interdependencies between modules and re-application/reporting of customizations. This too gives a lean towards the best of breed WMS software.

A traditional ERP boasts of the following features:

  • Lower Integration cost: upfront as well as over a period of time
  • Functionalities that is good enough for simpler operations
  • Less Vendor risk due to larger company size

Parallely Best of Breed WMS boasts of the following features:

  • Superior and best in class functionality
  • Focused on supply chain operations
  • Complete Logistics suite supported
  • Vertical Industry experience

Both claim to lower the total cost of ownership. The search of truth is on and the right answer lies with the SMART organizations that know what they really need.

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