X

Resources and guidance for supporting employees, customers, and partners during this unprecedented health crisis.

Recent Posts

The Rising Importance of Visual Engagement During COVID-19

As the world continues to grapple with the global pandemic and social distancing guidelines, companies of all sizes are identifying innovative ways to keep their employees, customer service representatives, and end-users seamlessly connected to ensure business continuity and growth.  As a result, there’s been a rapid shift in mindset among business leaders across industries, emphasizing the need to expand remote collaboration, ensure contactless delivery of services, and reduce physical presence at local banks, offices, and stores. A vast majority of companies are looking to adopt visual engagement solutions that not only enable modern real-time digital and visual engagement with high-efficiency at low cost, but also retain that seamless omnichannel customer experience. What is Visual Engagement? Visual Engagement is a powerful real-time collaboration concept that combines video, co-browsing, screen sharing, and/or screen annotations experiences. The augmentation of visual channels to a customer experience (CX) platform enables agents to drive personalized, precise, and rapid problem resolution with end-users. Let’s explore various industry use cases that are driving the need for remote collaboration using Visual Engagement tools and how Oracle Cloud CX addresses this market demand. Industry drivers for visual engagement initiatives In the financial services sector, many banking firms are now keen to transition to processes that let them verify their customers through facial ID verification software. Once verified, banks can provide invaluable services and complete transactions for customers using video, screen sharing, and e-signature. Banks see this as an important measure to prevent health risks for both employees and customers. This enables the banks to remotely and visually assist with account registration, loan applications, wealth management, portfolio guidance, retirement plan rollovers, home or group lending plans, and funds transfers while ensuring security and compliance for all shared content.  In the retail industry, stores and online retailers are striving to maximize remote support to prospective buyers, and remote support to customers for the assessment of damaged goods or for the return of merchandise. Thankfully, these online services can be executed effectively through the combination of video and screen sharing too, enabling visual assistance and quicker inventory walk-through. The end goal? To ultimately limit the need to physically visit the stores and encourage in-home delivery or curbside pickup. In the high-tech and manufacturing industries, customers often need remote support for electronics repairs. Additionally, field technicians are frequently required to visit sites to perform complex diagnostics and repairs for high-tech machinery and large equipment. For field technicians, particularly, reducing service time at the remote site is imperative during COVID-19. The good news is that remote support for customers and field technicians can efficiently be handled by in-house agents through video. Using powerful tools like visual annotations to pinpoint problems over video and drive faster diagnostics limits exposure and reduces overall service time and cost. In the healthcare industry, demand for telehealth soared during the pandemic. Patients now frequently exercise the option to schedule video appointments with healthcare service providers and doctors, using visual engagement methods to discuss questions on prescriptions or medical reports. In the public sector, state and local agencies now actively provide residents of local municipalities with online mental health services during the pandemic to manage stress and anxiety, provide social security services, resolve home or office space concerns, and process online applications for funds from unemployment claims. Visual engagement can play a vital role in providing remote support for these critical needs. And finally, as is already widely reported in response to COVID-19, most companies are facilitating virtual employee communication and collaboration through online meetings, video, and chat without the need to aggregate at the physical workplace, and serving as an effective replacement to the physical conference room. Oracle Cloud CX empowers digital and visual engagement Oracle CX’s modern real-time digital and visual engagement solutions not only enable powerful remote collaboration with consumers but also quicker agent-to-agent and agent-to-supervisor communication. As part of Oracle CX’s omnichannel suite, these solutions provide a unified, seamless, and connected experience, and ensure that service and sales engagements are personalized and precise, helping companies navigate and adapt to the new normal.

As the world continues to grapple with the global pandemic and social distancing guidelines, companies of all sizes are identifying innovative ways to keep their employees, customer service...

The Subscription Model: The Way Forward for Every Business

The subscription economy, consisting of the recurring payment for products or services, has been around for ages and is more prevalent now than ever before. When we talk about subscription, what may come to mind is online streaming, newspapers, cable service, and our milkman. The subscription model is not limited to retail or media. It’s used to drive revenues across many different industries. If your organization uses a traditional one-off purchase model, it's time to evaluate the benefits of recurring subscription models. What makes subscription services a successful and thriving model is how it can be adopted by any business to create connections with customers. Salient features of subscription models  Smart brands appreciate the many features of subscription models, such as: Sustainability: Subscription models give the organization a steady volume of recurring revenue, which helps management plan into the future with a certain level of confidence. The sustained relationship with the customer gives organizations an edge in understanding their customers' needs and behaviors and consequently allows them to serve their customers better and form deeper bonds. Scalability: Armed with a better understanding of their customers and the ability to accurately predict customer lifetime value, organizations can upsell and cross-sell with a higher success rate. Subscription models provide organizations the right data to gauge customer interest for new offerings and new price models.  Convenience: Subscription models give customers greater control over what they use, altering their service plans as needed, and choosing the desired offerings from a wide variety of options.  Challenges subscription models face The subscription model's inherent flexibility brings with itself complex challenges that organizations should plan for while deciding on the scope and features of their offerings.  Customer experience: Customer inclination towards subscription can be partly attributed to its flexibility in browsing the various plans, selecting what fits them best, and personalizing the offerings. To continuously maintain a premium customer experience can prove a daunting task.  Revenue management: As the service offering moves from one-off transactions to recurring and consumption-based transactions, accurate billing challenges increase. Different rates for different tiers of usage, overage fees, and custom plans make tracking and billing difficult to manage with outdated billing systems or spreadsheets.  Contract management: Subscriptions can be renewed, suspended, and amended by customers at any time during the billing cycle for a particular product, service, or for the entire subscription. These changes must be incorporated in your billing and revenue recognition solutions.  Finding the right technology partner  Subscription models impact customer-facing systems, billing solutions, invoicing, and order fulfillment systems. This calls for a shift in how customer lifetime value is identified, and what parameters should be tracked to define business success. The technology systems in place to handle subscriptions must provide complete sales information to billing support by assisting in:  Customer experience: A self-service solution where the customer can easily select and start subscriptions, modify products, term, and frequency, and upgrade & after subscription easily in one place is needed. Organizations should be able to check on usage and performance of different offerings and determine the lifetime value of customer Revenue management: Complete control of your billing and revenue recognition by having an automated invoice creation mechanism and consolidated revenue recognition. The system should be capable of handling the complex pricing logistics of subscriptions. Organizations need easy access to reports on recurring and consumption billing to have better control over revenue. Contract management: Amendments, renewals, and suspension logic are enabled in the system to allow flexibility to customers. Automated renewal creation capability ensures that no revenue is lost and the sales rep’s time is not consumed in looking for working for direct renewals. The system must allow organizations to view pending contracts and review current subscriptions. Conclusion Subscriptions have seen continuous revenue growth in recent years and have stood the test of the recent COVID-19 crisis. While choosing the right subscription model, organizations must be mindful of: • The customer-centricity and experience of the offering • The financial impact of price flexibility and billing complexity • Having the right technology ecosystem in place to support creation to fulfillment flow Organizations require a partner that understands the complexity of moving from an ownership model to subscriptions. Learn more about Oracle’s subscription management solution here.

The subscription economy, consisting of the recurring payment for products or services, has been around for ages and is more prevalent now than ever before. When we talk about subscription, what may...

5 Aces to Overcoming the Pandemic for CMOs

The global pandemic has changed nearly everything for CMOs, forcing them to scramble as consumers shift even more to online shopping. Meanwhile, CEOs are pressuring their marketing chiefs to find strategies for recovery.  At our recent CX Virtual Summit for Asia, I had an insightful conversation with Jojo Concepcion, CEO of our customer Concepcion Industrial Corporation (CIC), about the intersection of customer experience software and the need for businesses to make decisions more nimbly. CIC has been incredibly successful at striking the right balance, especially during a very challenging year. The Philippines-based appliance distributor has managed to give customers what they need when they need it while creating new business opportunities.  What’s helped CIC are the “five aces” that CMOs must establish in their companies while leveraging – with intention – critical emerging technologies to modernize their interactions.   The five aces are:  Adaptability: The world has changed, but businesses still need to keep going, whether through finding new ways to reach cash-strapped households or helping customers visualize products from the comfort and safety of their homes. Marketing organizations must become comfortable with change. Accountability: Businesses expect marketers to help deliver quantifiable business impact with the help of modern technology. As the measurement of campaigns has become more sophisticated, CMOs must embrace accountability.  Authenticity: Modern marketers need to know and use data they collect from customers to engage them in highly personalized communications across their devices, print, and broadcast media.  Action: Customers expect companies they do business with to respond quickly and at all hours. Meeting them on their terms helps foster brand relationships.   Alignment: This doesn’t just mean coordination between sales and marketing; it also means aligning the organization so that customers’ needs dictate the businesses’ activities.  Jojo and I agreed that experiences are everything – we know they’re often more important than the product or service we’re delivering. Uncertainty and not knowing how the world will evolve creates a huge opportunity for marketers to define their companies. There’s hard evidence behind the proscriptions. 83% of 260 global CEOs surveyed by management consultancy McKinsey last year said they expect marketing to be a major driver for their companies’ growth. To do so, marketing departments need to move faster, collaborate better, and focus more sharply on customers.  Yet McKinsey estimates making such changes can cut 10% to 30% of marketing costs while adding 5% to 15% to sales growth. And about 23% of CEOs say marketing isn’t delivering on the growth agenda. Often, executives pour time into a few initiatives, “then grow frustrated when the promised value doesn’t appear,” according to the study.  CIC is consolidating sales, customer service, and e-commerce systems with its back-office software to understand its customers better. That’s helping the air conditioning, and refrigeration company simplify online ordering, sell directly to consumers, and forge new business models -- such as renting cool air time “as a service,” rather than selling an appliance outright, Jojo said.  “For 90 days, we had no place to sell our products – stores were closed nationwide,” he said. “Manufacturing, distribution, and most e-commerce stopped for three months during the pandemic’s height this year. CIC adapted by emphasizing products for kitchens tailored to people staying and cooking at home and developing new ones for those who wanted a cool environment without the upfront cost”.  Vince Abejo, chief sales and marketing officer at property developer Filinvest Land, spoke during our conference about capturing data points during and after the sale of a house or condo so the company can retain buyers it sells to over time. Filinvest is holding online house tours, inspecting properties by drone aircraft, and courting prospects to ensure the pipeline stays stocked after the pandemic ends.  Not only is the company attuned to its customers’ needs, but it has also adopted its behavior to stay authentic. “Booked sales are now back to pre-Covid levels,” Abejo said. These are just a few fresh ideas that can be brought to life using the five aces and modern cloud technology. I’d love to hear directly from you about other ideas you might have, so be sure to reach out to me in the comments to let me know how I can help.  To learn more about the trends impacting marketing leadership today, visit the CMO Corner. 

The global pandemic has changed nearly everything for CMOs, forcing them to scramble as consumers shift even more to online shopping. Meanwhile, CEOs are pressuring their marketing chiefs to find...

How Northern Illinois University moved to Oracle Cloud during COVID-19

Many universities have successfully moved on-premise workloads to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. But what’s it’s like for a large institution to move their critical PeopleSoft application to the cloud, during the COVID-19 pandemic? Two Northern Illinois University (NIU) IT professionals told their story in a webinar that described their successful migration strategy, despite the shuttered campus. Although migrating enterprise applications to a cloud platform can be demanding, the implementation was successfully completed with minimal disruption, thanks to the partnership between the university and Oracle Consulting Services. Located in Dekalb, IL, NIU is a medium-sized public institution with 17,000 students, 2,100 staff, and 1,200 faculty members. NIU is also a full-suite PeopleSoft customer (Campus Solutions 9.2, HCM 9.2., Financials and Supply Chain Management 9.2, and PeopleTools 8.57), but their need to replace their Exadata servers motivated the institution to begin modernizing in 2018. NIU considered and eliminated a variety of options: refreshing with on-premises hardware or exercising the Oracle’s Cloud@Customer option would still require the institution to rely on aging local infrastructure, while a do it yourself VMWare RAC deployment option was eliminated because of the need for highly-skilled employees to build and support the project. In the end, Oracle Cloud was “the solution that offered the best of all worlds,” said Ruperto Herrera, NIU’s Manager of Database Administration and Architecture. “Choosing Oracle as our cloud vendor and partner made a lot of sense.” Their decision to move to OCI was motivated by a variety of other factors: Reducing costs: eliminating the need to replace costly hardware every few years. “By choosing Oracle Cloud, we were able to save 13% on infrastructure-related costs over a three-year period,” Herrera says. “we’re very happy [with] that number.” Improving reliability and scalability:  NIU was looking for improved performance, availability, and protection from DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks. “Being able to scale up during times of peak load, such as during student registration periods or finals was a priority for us,” Herrera says. “Bare metal gives us the flexibility to scale up [and down] in a very seamless manner, which we’ve already done a number of times without any issues.” Streamlining IT operations: by moving core administrative systems into the cloud, NIU has freed up a large amount of on-premises resources. Herrera adds that OCI’s cloud automation tools allows NIU’s IT team to simplify processes like maintenance and patching. NIU partnered with Oracle Consulting Services (OCS) for the implementation, lasted from October 2019 through May 2020. The speed and success of the implementation can be credited to the careful planning and design work undertaken by NIU and OCS, from requirement gathering to building out the architecture (and redesigning, as needed). Herrera credits OCS for putting together realistic design blueprints and cost estimates for running their workloads in the cloud; “we’re still well within those limits today,” he says. In addition, following Oracle Consulting’s lead and expertise in cloud migrations was key. “early on we were too concerned with trying to recreate the architecture we had on-premise, and it took us a little while to let go of that and trust our partner,” Herrera says, “[but] adopting best practices [will put us] a better position to manage our environment in the long run.” To hear more about the lessons NIU learned during the implementation, their cloud/SaaS plans for the future, and how the university managed the shift to remote operations, click here to access the recording. And to learn more about how higher education is changing, Access the eBook “New Realities for Higher Education” Register for “Igniting Research with Oracle High Performance Computing”

Many universities have successfully moved on-premise workloads to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. But what’s it’s like for a large institution to move their critical PeopleSoft application to the cloud,...

Is Direct-to-Consumer the Future?

By Gerald Poncet, Senior Director, Industry Strategy Group, Oracle. Disruption is both rapid and profound across the consumer goods industry, often resulting in dramatic and sudden changes in consumer shopping habits. The uncertainty, speed, and frequency of unpredictable events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are prompting brands to re-assess their operating environment, reduce costs, and increase agility in response to market requirements. Connecting with Consumers Directly, Digitally, is More Important Than Ever With the constantly evolving, technology-driven world of digital commerce, consumers are more mobile, have unprecedented power, and control information in the palm of their hands—leading to ever-increasing expectations. Shopping behavior is adapting, as shoppers discover new opportunities for finding what they want at a price they’re willing to pay, delivered to them at the time and place of their choosing. Consumers now expect new and better experiences—through recognition, personalization, and innovation—at every moment in the purchase cycle. Mass manufacturing and push marketing no longer suffice. The ability to seamlessly connect the digital and physical worlds to deliver personalized experiences define the companies that thrive with today’s consumer. Re-inventing Traditional Models, Offering Multiple Paths to Purchase New entrants are introducing outside-in thinking and entirely new ways to serve. Survival depends on the ability to rapidly adapt and think outside the box—as disrupters have done all along. Increasingly, products are being offered as a service through subscription models, with just-in-time delivery, informed by and optimized with sophisticated analytics and machine learning. Doing the same thing in a new way is no longer seen as true innovation. “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, brands of all kinds are looking to shore up their own DTC [direct-to-consumer] efforts as more consumers seek authentic and engaging brand relationships in increasingly digital spaces.” – Forrester Brands must now sell what today’s increasingly connected consumers can more easily find—not by running to a store and gazing at a shelf but from the convenience of their personal devices, used anywhere at any hour. The direct-to-consumer model is becoming an important alternative to traditional retail channels, providing companies with an opportunity to rewrite the playbook on how to engage customers and consumers. Direct-to-consumer, high-end home products, or companies shilling disposable products, are examples of businesses seeing a boom as consumers seek out alternatives to fill their needs and manufacturers navigate this new unpredictable reality. Recent Trends in Direct-to-Consumer 80% of consumers plan to make purchases from DTC brands by 2023 (Retail Dive) 4 in 10 global online consumers said they were already using online shopping subscriptions, and a further 36% said they were willing to do so in the next two years (Nielsen) 11% annual forecasted growth rate of DTC in the 2018-22 period (Barclays) 77% of manufacturers plan to invest in DTC during 2020 (Barclays) The global fresh and packaged food meal kit service market, which was worth an estimated $2.5B in 2017, is forecasted to grow to almost $8B by 2024 (Statista) Direct-to-Consumer in the Cloud Cloud adoption, coupled with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, blockchain, and digital assistants, can help brands by enabling fast, intuitive, self-service. Likewise, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data are producing valuable insights for those with the power to interpret and act on them. Transitioning from legacy systems—that in many cases are well past their functional life—requires that brands look for models that not only improve their current situation, but are future-proof to keep up with ever-changing demands. Next Step Brands need to quickly transition from a product-centric focus and pivot to a consumer-centric focus. They need to put the consumer at the very core of every business decision and process, which will enable them to better anticipate expectations and needs, both now and in the future—fostering lasting trust and loyalty.  Oracle provides a complete line of applications specifically designed to create frictionless, omnichannel engagement, combining planning and merchandising with supply chain capabilities.  For more information on how you can stand out from the competition—delivering rewarding experiences to consumers and modernizing the front and back office, visit Oracle CX for Retail and Consumer Goods.  

By Gerald Poncet, Senior Director, Industry Strategy Group, Oracle. Disruption is both rapid and profound across the consumer goods industry, often resulting in dramatic and sudden changes in consumer...

Learn how Oracle used APEX to quickly launch its COVID-19 therapeutic app

  Register for the webinar on October 20 at 10:00 am PT.   As the coronavirus started spreading worldwide in March of this year, a large cross-functional team at Oracle was charged with building a system, called the Therapeutic Learning System (TLS), to track the efficacy of treatments then in the early stages of development. The purpose was to help healthcare providers gather data from patients being treated and track their status as they proceeded through various regimens. Ultimately, this information would be shared with U.S. health officials to help them make better-informed decisions about coronavirus therapies. The initial deadline to build the TLS—from scratch, as no code had been written—was four calendar days. It was all conceptual at the time. We had no choice but to use Oracle Application Express (APEX), the low-code platform our company already had used to develop thousands of applications, many of them at enterprise-scale. Oracle APEX enables developers to quickly build and deploy applications with far less code than a hand-coded solution. The developers of a low code platform can be citizen developers, line of business developers, or even simply power users. Low code platforms are easier to learn and more approachable by a broader domain of people. You can enlist more people in your enterprise to help contribute solutions, all the while maintaining governance over the applications and platform. The first night, we stayed up until 2:30 a.m., collaborating with health science professionals within Oracle, crafting a data model for the information we wished to capture. Over the next three days, we developed the first set of APEX applications to register healthcare practitioners, enable them to manage their patients and treatments, and notify the patients (via email or SMS) with updates on their status. After the first demonstration on Day 4, we were afforded more time to complete the solution, and we iterated these applications over the next five days, improving the flow, revising the user interface, and developing other applications for support, system monitoring, and an executive dashboard. All in all, we created seven applications comprising more than 200 pages. While our APEX product development team was busy developing these APEX applications, other Oracle teams were preparing the necessary cloud services, performing testing, doing scalability analysis, assessing security, architecting and testing failover, and much, much more.  Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of all of those teams, we were able to go from a mere concept to a suite of applications on planetary-scale infrastructure—in just 12 days. I firmly believe that no other company besides Oracle could have pulled off this monumental effort. I also believe that our choice of Oracle APEX was essential to our success in developing such a sophisticated system in as short amount of time. At Oracle, we use our own cloud applications (SaaS) to run our enterprise. Like many companies, most lines of business have needs which aren’t completely addressed by the corporate enterprise systems, and developers often turn to APEX. There are literally thousands of Oracle APEX applications used throughout Oracle, almost exclusively developed by the respective lines of business. Oracle APEX empowers developers to easily build compelling apps with superior functionality, performance, and end user experience. Oracle APEX can be used to build a wide variety of apps for any industry - from the simplest app that "webifies" a spreadsheet, to mission-critical apps which are used daily by tens of thousands of users. Developing secure, scalable, attractive and functional applications usually requires many complex skills across the technology stack, including data management, performance, security, user experience, responsive design, and web. The goal of APEX is to provide you with all the tools you need to build deploy apps, in a secure and performant fashion, without requiring full stack development knowledge. APEX is an included feature of Oracle Database and is also available on Oracle Cloud, in Autonomous Database, Exadata Cloud Service, and Database as a Service. Oracle APEX is also available on other clouds and from other hosting providers. Oracle APEX is “cloud-ready”. Your on-premises applications today are tomorrow’s cloud applications. The development and runtime experience are virtually identical. At Oracle, there is an internal IT-managed corporate instance of APEX available for free to every employee at Oracle. Why do lines of business within Oracle turn to Oracle APEX for their internal application development needs?  Simple. They are provided access to a new service in minutes, they are provided an environment where they can load and manage data, develop and deploy applications, and monitor and manage these applications using nothing but their Web browser. APEX is easy to learn, and they are able to build functionally rich applications in far less time, and requiring far less knowledge of the complexities of full-stack Web applications. If you would like to learn more about how we’re using Oracle APEX at Oracle, including how we developed our TLS in less than two weeks, please register for the webinar on October 20. Register for webinar on October 20 at 10:00 am PT.      

  Register for the webinar on October 20 at 10:00 am PT.   As the coronavirus started spreading worldwide in March of this year, a large cross-functional team at Oracle was charged with building a...

How has the pandemic changed the trajectory of 5G?

The impact of COVID-19 on 5G pushes us to adjust our plans according to where we are today, not where we were yesterday. It’s no secret that telcos around the world did an absolutely fantastic job in keeping us all connected, productive and entertained through the crisis. Generally, their networks worked flawlessly even though this event crept up on them without any warning. But rather than flaunt the success, it seems they are going on their humble way. Why? Now, suspended in time as we are, there are choices to be made. Businesses of all types need to adapt and quickly. Change isn't optional. They are at an inflection point where they can revert back or galvanize real, meaningful change in terms of business models, services, and monetization. As an industry, we can no longer say “we need five years to exact real change or transformation.” Now is the time because people, enterprises, societies are primed for digital transformation, now. I am disappointed so many of the 5G discussions today mirror those from seven months ago. How can that be, since this event has changed the trajectory for 5G? COVID-19 has triggered an evolution in our collective thinking, with all of us more aware of the interdependencies among us as people, as communities, as nations in tackling and responding to this challenge. We have reconsidered what really matters most to us— the way we work, the way we learn, the way we connect with our friends and loved ones. For these reasons, 5G has to be touted as a revolution in telecommunications and not just because of its speed, lower latency, or broadband capabilities —although these in themselves are game changers — but rather because of the Cloud and the eSim factor. The application, distribution and multiplicity of uses for eSims will be the enabler of the IoT explosion, and the capability of 5G to manage all of this is the real revolution. The possibilities are boundless and there appears to be no shortage of ideas to exploit the 5G capabilities. For telcos, it will mean letting go of some past obstacles to forge ahead. Yes, your OSS/BSS have hamstrung you; yes, people’s mindsets weren’t ready yet. Sure, enterprises didn’t believe in new use cases. But now they do! We all need what only you can offer, and you have the brainpower to do as the scientific community is in rallying to condense 10 years of vaccine development into perhaps one year. Rather than look at 5G through a pre-crisis lens, we have to realize the use cases we thought would lead the way no longer matter as much, and the use cases we thought would trail might be the ones that lead. Our perspectives have to truly change. Consider how pre-crisis we thought voice was “dying,” and now it’s reborn as a comfort app, helping all of us to connect in a more human way during this era of physical distancing. Voice is up with call volumes increasing about 25 percent and call durations about 33 percent. As a result, operators are no longer looking to reduce their investment in fixed line, but rather to maintain and perhaps even grow it. As people work, learn, and seek entertainment at home, they grow more dependent on fixed lines, and the operators’ networks have unquestionably been reliable, secure and sustainable throughout. Even as traffic patterns have changed, networks have worked remarkably well, with traffic distribution spread much more evenly throughout the day from the evening peaks, making much more efficient use of network resources. Pre-crisis, we also thought enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) would be a fixed mobile replacement, long predicted to be an early deployment strategy for 5G. But the past few months shows this is unlikely to be the focus, in the short term at least. The major questions are “Will we return to working and learning as we did before? Will we carry on as we are now? Or, will we live a hybrid of both? I suspect the answer is the latter. We will someday go back to seeing large crowds of people, packed on trains, streaming their favorite shows, music or podcasts on their afternoon commutes from work. And drivers will once again need real-time congestion updates in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But for now, the more important use cases for 5G and IoT will have to do with other things, such as the logistics for the transport of goods during periods when manufacturers and factories are slowed or limited by employees sheltering in place. Or perhaps IoT and smart city use cases that have more to do with the delivery of healthcare services, public safety and smart utilities rather than traffic congestion management or in-car entertainment. Online medicine will also continue to grow during the pandemic, and as wearables like smart watches evolve to provide personal health information, 5G will become the medium to collect, analyze and direct pertinent information to the medical world. Will telcos step up to the plate and offer SLAs to consumers who are working from home, or who are steeped in virtual learning from home. This is a must-have in our new normal, as “the internet was down” will become the new “dog-ate-my-homework” and enterprises and consumers alike will want there to be some accountability and be willing to pay for it. For enterprises, 5G’s impact may shift more toward security and network management amid more widely dispersed workforces and complex digital ecosystems, driving the early use of edge computing to support real-time applications like augmented reality (AR) and IoT-connected sensors. Enterprises will also consider how the combination of 5G-enabled networks, collaborative platforms and applications will continue to improve not only their employees’ and customers’ lives despite disruption, but the planet as a whole. Already they see a profound impact on the measurement, monitoring and control of CO2 emissions, wildlife forest management, sea levels, weather, and drinking water. What can 5G in the context of our “new normal” truly accomplish? Other questions to ask revolve around customers’ changing locations. Borderless homes and offices are freeing certain demographics of people to move away from densely populated locations toward the suburbs and even rural areas. Should this shift change where 5G investment is concentrated, or the timing of it? 5G’s ability to improve mobile broadband and support the IoT made it an ideal investment for densely populated cities and urban settings where small cells could be deployed. But if the people and businesses telcos initially wanted to target with 5G move out to areas covered by 4G, what should they do? How will demographic shifts affect the rightful demand for universal coverage? As these questions are asked, telcos will have to reassess network configurations, as well as the spectrum and sites needed to meet consumer and enterprise connectivity demands. Similarly, enterprises will have to reassess what they’ll need from networks and also from the communications-driven tools on which they rely to keep their employees productive and service outcomes positive. And last but not least, we must all recognize that 5G networks have become as essential as water and electricity to global social and economic development. Broadband networks support public health and safety, crisis management, financial markets, supply chains, and so much more. As networks become national assets, what impact will there be on competition, regulation and net neutrality?  Also, how can we address the digital divide, particularly with the aforementioned demographic shift from cities to suburbs and rural areas so that everyone has access to the benefits of 5G technology. These are just some of the questions operators and all of us in the industry should be asking when determining how the path toward 5G should change. The answers to these questions will guide our evolution within the revolution, informing decisions about where 5G networks will be needed, and what products and services should ride on top of those networks to help people keep in touch with loved ones and to optimally work, learn and thrive in increasingly virtual settings. If 4G is any indication—not considered extraordinary until the transformation happened on top of it from the likes of Uber and YouTube—there is so much we can do with 5G during these historic and unprecedented times. There is tremendous opportunity to exact meaningful change in the areas that matter most to all of us. We are in the middle of a true telecommunications transformation, beyond the vague concept that had been discussed for years in numerous papers and endless conferences. The crisis has imposed this transformation on the industry and so far, it’s been superbly handled on the fly. But now we must accelerate the pace of this imposed transformation and reevaluate with urgency the network strategies and application strategies, across the OSS/BSS world, to reflect this rapid change toward the new digital world. If we don’t, someone else will. Please feel free comment below as I want to hear people’s thoughts and start a conversation on this. Also, be sure to watch my recent discussion at 5G Realised with CTOs Brendan O’Reilly (O2 UK), Howard Watson (BT) and Ibrahim Gedeon (Telus).  

The impact of COVID-19 on 5G pushes us to adjust our plans according to where we are today, not where we were yesterday. It’s no secret that telcos around the world did an absolutely fantastic job in...

How we pivoted to support the elderly when they were most vulnerable

By Hector Alexander, Co-Founder and COO at Yokeru How AI calls can support the most vulnerable Lockdown changed everything. The restrictions placed on vulnerable people in response to Covid-19 has hurried the integration of technology and care. When we started Yokeru a year ago, the world was a different place - and the adoption of tech into care services was, while still happening, slow and steady. Now it's blisteringly fast. We launched Yokeru to support vulnerable individuals, and in March this year we saw the disruptive impact strict societal changes would have on the most vulnerable. It became immediately apparent that AI calls would be part of the solution. It's true; great technology can enable human connection; it shouldn't to replace humans altogether. So why then was our shielded mother only communicated with via letters? And why was she responsible for reaching out - often too overwhelmed council services - if she needed support? We needed to find a better way that was both fast to implement and, even better, used existing communication infrastructure. We thought creatively about how best to connect digitally excluded people, without visiting them at home. It was at this point that we began to appreciate that we would need to partner with the right people. We needed the best expertise and support; fast. This little detail would end up making a big difference. Supporting the digitally excluded It became more important than ever to maintain connections to the most vulnerable people in our communities. It was vital to coordinate relief efforts despite reduced physical interaction, and notwithstanding local authorities limited time and resource availability. The result was an AI-powered call centre that makes AI calls. These AI calls helped local authorities identify potentially at-risk people during the outbreak – those that required medicine, groceries, or were struggling with loneliness, for example. The small gesture of checking in on people - understanding their needs, anxieties and fears, and making them feel connected to the resources that could help - has made a big difference during the lockdown. However, as a small start-up, we needed expertise and the ability to scale-up fast. Oracle helped to make this happen. With our implementation of Oracle Digital Assistant and Oracle Autonomous Database, we rapidly developed a system that has been rolled out in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, monitoring 9,000 vulnerable people. The platform freed-up 100 working days for staff to focus on those identified with the most need. The most significant factor in successfully helping Hammersmith and Fulham was the speed in which Oracle enabled us to get up and running. The most vulnerable in our society didn't have time to wait for a lengthy, complicated implementation of cloud technology. They needed help immediately, and together we made it happen. The great human connector In these trying times, it's more important than ever to support one another and care for the most vulnerable among us. Through the partnership with Oracle, we have been able to create a lifeline for so many digitally excluded people. Although this year has proved the most difficult for many, the need for connection will always be there. Moving forward, as we continue to utilise technology as the great human connector we should remember that it is often the little things – a short phone call, for example – that can make the most significant impact.

By Hector Alexander, Co-Founder and COO at Yokeru How AI calls can support the most vulnerable Lockdown changed everything. The restrictions placed on vulnerable people in response to Covid-19 has...

Tips for Building a Resilient Supply Chain

Recent political and social upheavals have spotlighted the fragilities of supply networks and magnified some of the instabilities. Here are some strategies to help enterprises build a more resilient supply chain to navigate through uncertainty. As a recent Accenture study reveals , 94% of Fortune 1000 companies are experiencing supply chain disruptions because of Covid-19 and 75% of the companies have experienced a negative impact on their business. Discussing our upcoming webinar on how to achieve higher supply chain efficiency through disruptive technology, Francesco Cuccia, Strategy & Consulting SCM, Accenture Switzerland, confirmed "This is not a typical risk event. The scale of the impact eclipses anything most supply chain leaders will have anticipated. The speed of the escalation requires continuous end-to-end assessment, optimization and monitoring. Companies need to respond rapidly and confidently to shape and execute a short-term tactical plan that will mitigate the risks to human health and protect the functioning of global supply chains. In doing so, strong data and analytics capabilities are crucial in understanding complexity, anticipating potential disruption, and quickly developing a response.” Build a resilient and agile supply chain Companies are focusing on adaptability, speed, risk reduction, and sustainability whilst adopting more flexible sourcing and distribution strategies as regionalization has become a trend. A good example is Oracle, which has migrated part of its multi-billion-dollar manufacturing operations from China to Texas. Organizations will need to realign operations and supply chains to thrive in this new reality. They will need to securely support remote workers, for instance, and learn to engage with customers in new – often virtual – ways. Omnichannel ordering and fulfillment will help provide alternate pathways to work through unforeseen bottlenecks. Emerging technologies and methods will underpin the new era of resiliency. What-if business scenario modeling in the cloud will help companies choose from available courses of action amid an ever-changing market landscape, factoring in variables like costs, risk, and growth. New technologies such as blockchain can connect people across supply networks, locking in the trust companies require to negotiate risk-laden trading environments. Plan (and execute) continuously Aligning plans with customer demand will continue to make sense, but to stay nimble in the face of rapid change, companies will need to update forecasts and strategies almost continuously. This will call for a deeper level of insight and collaboration among trading partners and suppliers – as well as among company planners themselves. Drawing from a single set of enterprise data in the cloud, companies now have the ability to continuously plan, forecast, close the books, and adjust course with unprecedented speed and precision. Planners are harnessing new technologies to meet potential disruptions head-on. With AI, machine learning, and predictive intelligence, companies can intelligently anticipate and plan for what comes next. Predictions from machine learning can help guide the planning process, providing recommendations and “guided resolutions” for optimizing supply chains. Oracle’s Planning Advisor relies on predictive and cognitive technologies to take the guesswork out of planning decisions and save planners the burden of manually culling data and spotting patterns. These and other advanced technologies like digital assistants are making humans smarter and the planning and decision-making process faster and more efficient. Innovate (and scale) faster It is now crucial to bring new products to market faster, and we are seeing companies innovating and flexing in record time. Car manufacturers are pivoting to build ventilators. Pharmaceuticals are quickly shifting research programs to find COVID-19 vaccines. And retailers are finding ways to virtually engage and sell to customers. Accelerating innovation requires an integrated view of the product lifecycle, from ideation to commercialization. The days when companies ran product development and supply-chain planning as separate functions are coming to an end. The cloud helps companies innovate faster by providing ongoing access to fresh capabilities. In order to build brand loyalty and enable consumers to make conscious choices, Retraced is using the Oracle Blockchain Platform to verify the authenticity and responsible sourcing for CANO handmade Mexican huaraches. Oracle Transportation Management and Oracle Warehouse Management help Mazda Motor Logistics map its entire supply chain. Thommen-Furler AG specializes in chemical and lubricant distribution, environmental technology, and the disposal and recycling of industrial waste. Today, the company relies on Oracle solutions for all business processes, from procurement to warehouse management, planning and sales to logistics and finance. This means that they have been able to increase efficiency and customer centricity. Mazda Motor logistics are able to measure KPIs for their European distribution center and their regional warehouses by combining Oracle Transportation Management with Oracle Business Intelligence. This allows them to compare the performance of their warehouses in the same way, with the same KPIs. Gain total visibility (and trust) Agility requires rapid access to all the information and insights in order to make the right choices in the most complex operating environments. Access to a unified data model across business functions helps enormously in this effort, providing planners with the multi-tiered visibility that’s key to deciding where to source materials, make products, and deliver goods. The single source of truth also gives companies confidence in their what-if scenarios so they can plan for multiple outcomes. Global operating visibility enables trading partners to work together with less friction and build trusting relationships. New blockchain-based applications, such as Oracle Intelligent Track and Trace, takes visibility a step further, allowing companies to monitor the flow of goods and services between enterprises down to individual lots or items. The technology can be integrated with every link in the supply chain to cement trust and speed transactions between business partners as well as consumers who increasingly demand full traceability of the products they buy. Build in sustainability Every supply chain has its environmental and social consequences. From the carbon emissions of transportation networks, to the industrial waste from factories, to the ethics practiced by suppliers, all the issues surrounding sustainability do not go away during times of global disruption. Indeed, sustainable supply chain practices are even more relevant in a world where resources may be harder to come by. The best strategy is to embed principles of sustainability in your supply chain, using them to guide decisions ranging from product design and factory floor configuration to sourcing and logistics. Companies like U.S. food processor LiDestri is doing just that, leveraging cloud-planning solutions to cut food waste in half and trace ingredients from the field to the individual jar. It’s proving what more companies are discovering: that sustainability and a healthy bottom line are perfectly compatible – even in the toughest of times. Learn more about customers who have moved their supply chain operations to the cloud.

Recent political and social upheavals have spotlighted the fragilities of supply networks and magnified some of the instabilities. Here are some strategies to help enterprises build a more resilient...

How I Fell in Love with My Cable Company in the Time of COVID-19

I have a confession. I’ve fallen in love with my cable company. Over the last six months, I’ve become increasingly dependent on my internet connection. It’s become absolutely fundamental to my work-from-home, social-distanced existence. Without my WiFi, I couldn’t work, given that my office is now in my home. And if I couldn’t work, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills and buy food. Without my WiFi, I couldn’t watch all of those shows and documentaries everyone is talking about around the proverbial Zoom water cooler every Monday morning (although did we all really need to watch Tiger King?). Like any good love story, though, our relationship had a moment of doubt. When my cable company sent me a letter and an email to say that my modem would be proactively disabled on July 16, I panicked. To replace the old modem, they would send a new one that I would self-install. I began checking my mail daily for the package. As the days ticked by and I hadn’t received my modem, I started to worry. Let the affair begin As July 16 came and went, I couldn’t wait any longer. I reached out to their service team across every digital channel I could think of. I went to the website and engaged with the virtual assistant and scrolled through their knowledge base. I only found general information that wasn’t specific to my case. So, unwilling to pick up the phone (because who really wants to use the phone?), I went to the social sphere and direct messaged them on Twitter. And wouldn’t you know it, within minutes, I had a response. The rep confirmed that my package had been shipped on July 2, and they had emailed me with the tracking number. Something was obviously amiss, but I couldn’t go back and forth endlessly knowing that impending doom was near because my modem was going to be disabled and my virtual world would come crashing down any moment. Understanding the urgency of the situation, the cable company’s Twitter rep suggested they send a field technician to install the new modem free of charge that very afternoon. BINGO! I was given a one-hour service window. As the appointment time approached, I received a text message with a link to track my technician. The app showed an estimate of how long it would be until the technician arrived. It also had a map so I could watch in real-time as he got closer to my home. It was genius. Lo and behold, the technician arrived at the top of my one-hour service window, armed and ready with my new modem in hand. Bet you didn’t see that plot twist coming. Within 20 minutes of his arrival, I was back up and running with my new trusty modem. No downtime…no waiting…no disconnection from the outside world. I could watch Tiger King on repeat, if I wanted. Instead, I celebrated that night by streaming Hamilton for the third time. What are you streaming now? Learn more about Oracle Field Service.

I have a confession. I’ve fallen in love with my cable company. Over the last six months, I’ve become increasingly dependent on my internet connection. It’s become absolutely fundamental to...

How Institutions are Building Resiliency in Higher Ed’s "New Normal"

People often say that the higher education industry is change-resistant, whether that be in terms of business operations, teaching models, or the adoption of new technologies. But what happens when a sudden, major event like the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates a dramatic alternation? How did schools carry out the large-scale shift to virtual operations – not in the technology and tools they use, but their workforce culture? How are schools managing these changes now, and how are they planning for the fall semester and beyond? We explored these questions in our August 2020 webinar, Building Resiliency in Higher Ed’s New Normal, where Nicole Engelbert, Oracle’s VP of Higher Education Development, spoke with leaders from three Oracle Cloud schools: Jo Ellen DiNucci, Boise State University’s AVP of Finance and Administration; Cheryl Gochis, CHRO of Baylor University; and Ellen Law, Rutgers University’s AVP of OIT Enterprise Application Services. Surveying the webinar’s attendees, we found that most schools were somewhat equipped to manage a crisis on the scale of COVID-19. 53% felt their institutions were “prepared enough to get there in an orderly way,” while 32% found they experienced some shortcomings, and “learned a lot about where they need to focus in the future.” Only 11% of respondents felt their institutions were “exceptionally well-prepared” to handle the impact of the pandemic. But throughout the webinar, a common thread emerged: the determination of each institution to increase their resilience and agility to meet their staff and students’ needs. A modern cloud platform played a key role in helping these institutions move to virtual operations.  In fact, Baylor was in the middle of their Ignite (their Oracle Cloud HR and ERP) implementation this spring – and succeeded in hitting their targeted go-live date of June 1. Having to migrate their staff to remote working operations proved tricky, as their previous systems lacked easily accessible and accurate data. “The amount of steps it took us just to access normal data that was correct was incredible,” says Cheryl Gochis of Baylor. “When we were working to pull some of those things together, I think it motivated my team [and showed them] we need Ignite more than we’d ever needed Ignite before. They were ready to do whatever it took to get to go-live.” One of the most interesting takeaways was how these schools’ cloud implementations had prepared them for many of the challenges stemming from COVID-19: collaborating across multiple departments, managing large-scale communications, and perhaps most of all, acclimating to the rapid pace of change. “Our campus, after being live [on Oracle Cloud ERP] for four years, is now used to constant quarterly improvements,” Jo Ellen DiNucci of BSU says. “We’ve refocused our culture from upgrading every ten years to quarterly enhancements. [Our university is] not so married to their business processes; they trust that we’re going to [give them] something better than what they have today. It really facilitated adaptation that probably wouldn’t have existed for us four years ago.” Nonetheless, these leaders stressed their transition to virtual operations would not have been nearly as successful without investment in their staff and their cross-departmental relationships. Thanks to the Ignite implementation, Gochis says that “luckily finance, IT, and HR had locked arms for a long time before [the pandemic], and we’d developed relationships where we could give each other very straight feedback and help each other understand the different contexts we were in. and that was a great benefit.” To hear more from these schools about their communications strategies, their plans to support a remote workforce in the future, and how Baylor’s Ignite project included a fun tie-in to NBC’s The Office, click here to access the recording.

People often say that the higher education industry is change-resistant, whether that be in terms of business operations, teaching models, or the adoption of new technologies. But what happens when a...

How I Fell in Love with My Cable Company in the Time of COVID-19

I have a confession. I’ve fallen in love with my cable company. Over the last six months, I’ve become increasingly dependent on my internet connection. It’s become absolutely fundamental to my work-from-home, social-distanced existence. Without my WiFi, I couldn’t work, given that my office is now in my home. And if I couldn’t work, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills and buy food. Without my WiFi, I couldn’t watch all of those shows and documentaries everyone is talking about around the proverbial Zoom water cooler every Monday morning (although did we all really need to watch Tiger King?). Like any good love story, though, our relationship had a moment of doubt. When my cable company sent me a letter and an email to say that my modem would be proactively disabled on July 16, I panicked. To replace the old modem, they would send a new one that I would self-install. I began checking my mail daily for the package. As the days ticked by and I hadn’t received my modem, I started to worry. Let the affair begin As July 16 came and went, I couldn’t wait any longer. I reached out to their service team across every digital channel I could think of. I went to the website and engaged with the virtual assistant and scrolled through their knowledge base. I only found general information that wasn’t specific to my case. So, unwilling to pick up the phone (because who really wants to use the phone?), I went to the social sphere and direct messaged them on Twitter. And wouldn’t you know it, within minutes, I had a response. The rep confirmed that my package had been shipped on July 2, and they had emailed me with the tracking number. Something was obviously amiss, but I couldn’t go back and forth endlessly knowing that impending doom was near because my modem was going to be disabled and my virtual world would come crashing down any moment. Understanding the urgency of the situation, the cable company’s Twitter rep suggested they send a field technician to install the new modem free of charge that very afternoon. BINGO! I was given a one-hour service window. As the appointment time approached, I received a text message with a link to track my technician. The app showed an estimate of how long it would be until the technician arrived. It also had a map so I could watch in real-time as he got closer to my home. It was genius. Lo and behold, the technician arrived at the top of my one-hour service window, armed and ready with my new modem in hand. Bet you didn’t see that plot twist coming. Within 20 minutes of his arrival, I was back up and running with my new trusty modem. No downtime…no waiting…no disconnection from the outside world. I could watch Tiger King on repeat, if I wanted. Instead, I celebrated that night by streaming Hamilton for the third time. What are you streaming now? Learn more about Oracle Field Service.

I have a confession. I’ve fallen in love with my cable company. Over the last six months, I’ve become increasingly dependent on my internet connection. It’s become absolutely fundamental to...

How Scenario Modeling Can Help You Weather a Crisis

Originally published on CFO SA on 27 July Conversations with MTN and Oracle reveal how scenario modeling can help companies achieve success during a crisis. On Thursday 22 July, CFO South Africa and Oracle partnered on a webinar in which Wayne Heather Oracle executive director of enterprise performance management (EPM) product marketing, and Johan Pretorius, MTN general manager of EPM, explained how scenario modeling helped their respective companies achieve success during times of crisis. Wayne shared what Oracle has been seeing in different industries and how the company has been helping some of its customers during these strange times.  “Disruptive events are not new,” he said. “They’ve come around in many shapes, including the recession and 9/11. What we’ve found is that EPM really becomes front and centre in finance organisations during these times to help them remodel their business and be agile.” What makes Covid-19 different? Oracle started by looking at Covid-19 and what makes it different from other disruptions, highlighting a few key things:  High uncertainty High unemployment rates Largest stimulus packages in history He also pointed out that none of the previous disruptions has had such a big impact on every industry at the same time. “No one knows what the other side is going to look like or when we will get there.” Resilience + agility = survival Because of the uncertainty, Wayne said that how you model though this crisis, how you survive, how you conserve cash, and how you plan and reimagine the business to come out the other side is very important.  He explained that resilience and agility is very important when planning the future of your business. “According to a McKinsey report that has taken a look at many previous crises and what companies have done, it shows that resilient companies use the crisis as an opportunity to go forward. So if you’re agile or resilient within your finance office, you can probably understand your revenues and your cost impacts.”  Once you have this understanding, you can add more resources to those revenue-generating operations within your business and start cutting costs in other places.  Focus areas during the crisis Back to the present, Oracle asked its clients what they were focusing on during the crisis:  More or less 75 percent are in the process of forecasting for multiple scenarios. Reimagining their businesses by developing KPIs that specifically address the issues driven by the Covid-19 economic downturn. Changing their long-term forecast assessment strategies to short-term rolling forecasts to change what they’re doing and to conserve cash.  Performing range-based forecasts rather than point-based forecasts.  Managing uncertainty In order to manage the uncertainty around the impact of Covid-19, companies have to try and model for different outcomes based on the things that they don’t know, like: How long will the pandemic last? Will we run out of cash?  Are debtors withholding payments? What shape will the recovery take? What is the impact on the supply chain?  How are customers’ behaviours changing? “Being able to model those different scenarios and using simulations to help you iterate through hundreds of different variations of those models is something that our customers are looking at,” Wayne said.  Industry cases Wayne then highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on a few different industries: Due to its capital intensive nature, companies in the oil and gas industry are looking at alternate funding options. There’s been a massive volatility in the oil market because people aren’t traveling as much and there’s an overstock of oil. Some companies in this industry are considering divestitures.  The healthcare industry has seen a massive uptake in Covid-19 claims around medical aid. It has also been adversely affected by the unemployment, which has resulted in a decline in memberships. Companies in this industry are suffering revenue impact, but are also getting an increasing demand on Covid-19 patients and claims.  The travel and transport industry is going through massive turmoil at the moment because people are working from home and aren’t flying anymore. People say that the travel industry will only get back to normal in 2023 and unemployment in the industry is massive.  Companies in the retail and distribution industry are being forced to change their business sales models as a people are moving to online shopping. A lot of stores are closing as their sales channels move online.  The real estate industry is dealing with massive rental defaults, which goes back to retail stores closing and not paying rent. In the higher education industry, a lot of universities are not going to be offering physical classes until 2021, so they’ve moved their whole business to online. There’s a lot of incidental revenue around their campuses that they will be losing.  Moving to short-term scenario modeling Before Covid-19, Oracle customers would typically do long-range planning by looking at corporate initiatives, M&A activities and treasury initiatives. “Once they’ve set that high-level long-range plan, they push that down into the financial operational plan, which would typically be on an annually forecast basis,” Wayne said.  However, this behaviour has changed since Covid-19, as companies are modeling in a shorter term instead. “They are modeling different scenarios for different entities or units within their business, be it different geographies or departments, and then quickly try to consolidate those to push it back into the planning and reporting cycle.”  How is crisis planning different?  Instead of modeling traditional marketplace assumptions, companies are focusing on revenue and the things that can impact that revenue, like supply chains, government stimulus, and tax credits.  “The frequency of strategic modeling in times of crisis has also increased from yearly to monthly, weekly and sometimes daily,” Wayne said. “That gets pushed into the planning really quickly to understand what is realistic from a change perspective within the business, because it’s not good setting high-level strategies if you can’t push that down and get feedback from the group in terms of what’s possible and what’s not.”  He added that, having that tightly integrated back office where strategic finance and planning is integrated, has delivered massive value to Oracle’s customers. Surviving 2020 After introducing the MTN brand, Johan explained how the company’s CEO and CFO worked on a new strategy for MTN that focused on growth called BRIGHT.  “After a period of decentralised leadership, the core reasserted its importance as the group started to leverage its reach and size,” he said. “For finance this also served as a reawakening as the subscription of cloud solutions offered by Oracle forced the rethink of the business processes and their impact.” MTN compiled and rolled out a standardised chart of accounts that linked the group and its operations, as well as the financial and management reporting processes. Direct links between the business planning processes enabled MTN to rethink and reimagine the disclosures, reporting and information presented and used for decision making.  Operating in a high risk environment According to Johan, the secret of operating in a high risk environment is balancing the high risks with an appropriate reward. “Emerging markets with high growth rates are not easy to do business in, however, they present the opportunity to establish first mover advantage and to leverage learnings from other regions. Standardisation is critical in this process.” He explained that in the past, 80 percent of time was spent on compiling reports. However, using standardised template processes and definitions, the analyses and exception handling came back into focus. “Starting with reporting also highlighted the data deficiencies, process enhancements required and bottlenecks. We were able to consistently measure and report on risks.”  Reacting to Covid-19 With the new standardising initiatives well underway during 2018 and 2019, 2020 rolled around and no amount of planning and prudence could prepare finance and reporting teams for what happened next. “Covid-19 presented a whole new realm of possibilities when it comes to unforeseen business impact,” Johan said. “Unlike financial or political crises, it has an inherently human impact. While government and business reactions have differed across the globe. The underlying human fear is the same.”  Like all corporates, MTN’s knee jerk reaction was to conserve capital and cut expenses. “This wasn’t only limited to financial prudence,” Johan said. “As employees, we received bucket loads of sanitisers and had been asked to work from home. However, in isolation, these measures are not enough.” Johan explains that a strong strategy should underpin your roadmap out of a crisis. “Because our own bases were covered early, MTN was able to raise our heads and see the external needs early in the pandemic.” MTN’s strength during the crisis was its ability to respond to the human desire for connection in a time of isolation.  

Originally published on CFO SA on 27 July Conversations with MTN and Oracle reveal how scenario modeling can help companies achieve success during a crisis. On Thursday 22 July, CFO South Africa and...

The Power of Cloud Enables Businesses to Thrive in Any Situation

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the market, and with it, consumer expectations. Luckily, cloud technology can unlock business agility and greater value for customers – especially during these uncertain times. Oracle, as a cloud-enabled business, realised early on that cloud technology has the power to enable better business continuity. By using cloud applications, we could quickly adapt to the changing market and move to remote working within hours - ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our employees in the process. With the need for accelerated Digital Transformation, many businesses are following this trend and moving more business-critical workloads to the cloud. Growing cloud consumption has created new blind spots as responsibilities in securing data are negotiated and understood. This confusion has left IT security teams scrambling to address a growing threat landscape, specifically in relation to sensitive data. Niral Patel, Managing Director of Oracle South Africa, sat down with Aki Anastasiou to discuss “What’s Next” for the technology industry, Oracle and its customers. Watch the full video interview on What’s Next, listen to the podcast on Spotify, SoundCloud or Apple Podcast.

There is no denying that the COVID-19pandemic has changed the market, and with it, consumer expectations. Luckily, cloud technology can unlock business agility and greater value for customers –...

Oracle Enhances Oracle Digital Assistant with Multilingual Capabilities

New conversational AI capabilities enable customers to interact via channel of their of choice across the enterprise By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant, Oracle   Call them chatbots, virtual assistants, or simply bots. Whatever the name, AI-powered conversational interfaces are becoming mainstream staples for consumers and enterprise alike. In fact, leading analyst firm Gartner believes that “by 2022, 70 percent of white collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis.”1 When Oracle unveiled its chatbot platform at OpenWorld 2016, it helped set the pace for automation in the enterprise. Automation is a means for increasing scale and efficiency and accelerating efforts to digital – and considering that recent global events and challenges have forced a restructuring of how we work, AI and digital assistants are fundamental to that transformation. Oracle Digital Assistant has been solving the needs of the enterprise since 2016, and analyst firm Omdia recently noted, “By offering full integration with its software as a service (SaaS) applications, Oracle made it exponentially easier for end users to command and control the capabilities of these applications.”2 Today we are announcing a new set of updates to enhance the multilingual capabilities of Oracle Digital Assistant. These features are helping customers such as Loyola University of Chicago and communications startup Yokeru provide their users with the information they need through the channel of their choice. The new features include: New Deep Learning Models: Customers can leverage the power of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure’s native GPU and CPU architecture to improve the ability to distinguish nuances in customer queries, such as: Similar vs. Unrelated phrases: “Can I get some flatbread?” vs. “Can I get some flowers?” Additional context within long sentences: “I have a large party later this afternoon, and I have several guests coming over. I’d like to order some large pizzas.” Closely related sentences: “I want to cancel my order” vs. “Why was my order cancelled?” Distinguishing names that sound like locations: “When will Devon Arlington come to Stratford-upon-Avon?” or “Find Paris Hilton from the Paris office”  Distinguishing number vs. currency: “Lunch with 3 for 60 bucks” Colloquial terms: “I have a budget for 20M bucks” (colloquial usage) Currency formats: “Please add a tip for 2,50 €” (different currency formats) Versatile Data Shapes: Customers can use both large as well as small datasets to train their skills without concern that an imbalance would impact the NLU performance. Custom Domain Vocabulary: Customers can expand the assistants understanding to their own custom domain vocabulary. Data Manufacturing Pipeline: Data is critical to achieving high accuracy in deep learning models. The data manufacturing pipeline provides a cohesive set of tools providing all stakeholders, from technical to line-of-business, the ability to generate, refine, curate, and evaluate conversational data. Combining human sourced intelligence with advanced machine learning delivers better, more nuanced results that only humans can offer. Native Multilingual: With Native Multilingual NLU, customers can add training data in different languages, eliminating the need for external translation services to understand users who do not speak English – and customers can provide multilingual outputs directly using resource bundles. Key Phrase word clouds and Multilingual retrainer: Digital Assistant now features intent and key phrase clouds to help business analysts quickly understand common themes of engagements. The business analyst can quickly drill down into the details of a specific phrase. Since its introduction, Oracle Digital Assistant has offered valuable features and capabilities, including: Digital assistants for FAQs: When considering B2C call centers and B2E help desk, it’s easy to see how a bot can field common incoming questions and requests, providing customers the satisfaction of an instant response 24/7, while offloading staffing resources to work on other tasks. Automated bot-to-agent transfer: Oracle Digital Assistant offers prebuilt integration to Oracle Service Cloud, offering a seamless experience for customers during handoff to a live agent, while providing agents historical information about the recent customer engagement. Enterprise assistant skills: From cloud applications such as Oracle Cloud ERP, Oracle Cloud HCM, and Oracle Cloud CX to on-premises applications like PeopleSoft and JD Edwards, Oracle teams have developed prebuilt assistant skills and templates to meet customer demand. Popular conversational channels: With support for well-known smart speakers to popular text-based channels including SMS, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger – plus collaboration tools like Slack and Teams – Oracle Digital Assistant is ready. Oracle Voice: Oracle invested in its own AI-powered voice capabilities bringing together an end-to-end, secure, and private solution (GDPR, PII), while providing a customizable framework to support terminology that is unique to different industries and businesses.  One digital assistant: Oracle Digital Assistant can unify all assistant skills into one digital assistant, making it easy for users to interact with multiple systems from one conversation. Conversations are contextual and personalized to individual users and roles. Chatbots and conversational AI are quickly becoming integral tools for enterprise communication and information sharing, in addition to automating traditionally manual tasks. With the new updates to Oracle Digital Assistant, we are delivering the innovative features users are seeking – such as multilingual capabilities – to further weave digital assistants into the fabric of the enterprise. As a result, customers are able to offer automation across their entire organization, using a highly secure AI-powered voice assistant that stores their business’ sensitive data in Oracle’s second generation cloud infrastructure.    Customer Quotes Loyola University of Chicago “With more than 17,000 students demanding more timely, more modern engagement, we established a five year plan to advance the Loyola Digital Experience (LDE) strategy. The Transformational Theme of LDE includes leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and deployment of ‘LUie,’ an AI digital assistant running on the Oracle Digital Assistant with automation and integration from IntraSee,” said Susan M. Malisch, VP & CIO, Loyola University of Chicago. “LUie currently provides hundreds of answers to common questions. Early results have been great with initial accuracy rates of 86%. Feedback has been encouraging with 91% positive comments and we are now looking to broaden LUie to handle even more questions for more audiences. We’re excited about LUie’s future potential.” Yokeru “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, millions self-isolated to protect their health and the wellbeing of the community – but for many, the extended period of self-isolation resulted in negative impacts on mental and physical health. In response, Yokeru developed an AI-enabled call centre to contact and identify vulnerable members of the community using the phone line,” said Monty Alexander, CEO, Yokeru. “Through Oracle Digital Assistant and Oracle Autonomous Database, we were able to rapidly develop this system to enable the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to monitor 9,000 Shielded households – resulting in the elimination of over 100 working days of traditional call centre time. The flexibility of Oracle's software on the underlying Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is incredible, and we’re looking forward to understanding how we can develop this technology to support our community in the future.”  State of Oklahoma “In eight days Oracle built and delivered two applications,” said Jerry Moore, CIO, State of Oklahoma. “Not only was this an impressive feat, but showed Oracle’s commitment to helping us and our communities run more smoothly in this difficult time.” To learn more, check out What's New in the Oracle Digital Assistant documentation. 1Smarter with Gartner, “Chatbots Will Appeal to Modern Workers,” 31 July 2019, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/chatbots-will-appeal-to-modern-workers/ 2Omdia, “Analyst Commentary: Oracle Digital Assistant democratizing Oracle apps,” Mark Beccue, Q3 2020, https://tractica.omdia.com/research/analyst-commentary-oracle-digital-assistant-democratizing-oracle-apps/

New conversational AI capabilities enable customers to interact via channel of their of choice across the enterprise By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant, Oracle   Call them...