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

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Predictive Intelligence Takes on Greater Importance

AI-based scenario modelling is taking on a whole new level of importance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as business leaders across finance, HR, supply chain, and sales make difficult decisions for the sake of continuity, impacting employees, customers, suppliers, and partners.  The pandemic has upended “business as usual” so quickly that we lack historical data to guide our decisions. Scenario modelling can fill in those gaps, helping business leaders anticipate the future. As a CXO, you’ll want to look at your key stakeholder groups, identify their benefits and risks, and create models for the best, worst and most likely outcomes of the business decisions you could make. You can then weigh up the costs and make a final decision with confidence. Start by deciding the scope and issues you need to address immediately, while defining your key drivers – it may have been growth a week ago, but now it’s continuity, for example. Next, collect and analyse the quantitative and qualitative data you’ll need to make your key assumptions. Once you have the foundation in place, you can start developing the different scenarios. Consider what scenarios are most important or likely for your line of business, and start there. Define what the impacts of each will be on sales, cash flow and expenses, then decide what metrics you’ll use to measure each. Finally, monitor the plan constantly (or use an AI approach for smart thresholds) and consider if you’ll need more frequent reporting to respond to changing metrics. Current disruption can make accurate scenario modelling a tall order. CXOs have a huge number of stakeholders to consider, and the data they need is often scattered across different data environments. In Switzerland, we have been partnering with executives to help them become more strategic about the way they use and interpret data. Recently, we partnered with HESso, the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland to improve traceability and transparency in their finance operations with our Enterprise Resource Planning applications. Pulling together data quickly in a standardized way and allowing to access it real time is game changer for scenario planning and cash flow modelling. This also empowers the finance teams to communicate the information in a simplified way to the management allowing for faster and more strategic decision making. Similarly, SGS, the worldwide leader in testing and certification, headquartered in Geneva with operations in over 140 countries, also partnered with Oracle to do business online and to create a seamless experience for their employees and customers through technology. They recently decided to move E-Business Suite & the Oracle Integration Platform to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure which allows us them scale and connect over 34.000 while reducing cost, as well as securing the lowest risk thanks to the One Oracle approach.  To make the task easier, business leaders need to involve fewer people in the process and limit the number of scenarios they consider. In fact, model no more than four, but be sure to spend equal time on each, even if you think certain models show less likely scenarios.  Oracle is offering free access to strategic modelling capabilities through its Oracle Planning Cloud for the next year. Customers will benefit from improved agility, more accurate forecasting and decision-making, with the power to run detailed what-if scenarios for many potential scenarios. Evaluating all options ensures you’re ready for the unexpected – a constant in this ‘new normal’.   Making the most of AI Of course, scenario modelling is only one part of the solution. Unprecedented amounts of data can be a blessing and a curse without the right support. CXOs can be overwhelmed by masses of new data alongside the many data management responsibilities that come with them. Data collection, cleansing and security can drag business leaders away from prediction and strategizing. Without assistance, they can’t work at the speed required. To help carry the load, CXOs should consider what they can streamline and automate with AI. AI solutions can analyse and interpret vast quantities of data in little time, making it invaluable for scenario planning. It can also automate the many repetitive but necessary tasks associated with data management. However, it’s worth tempering expectations and being realistic with where the technology is deployed. Companies often struggle to deploy the technology at scale and have unrealistic expectations for it. The last thing you want now is to embark on a costly and ambitious moon shot that fails to meet your objectives. To make the most of your AI investment, you should both buy and build applications. You don’t need to build everything from scratch, and doing so could create compatibility issues later on. What you need is a strategic approach that delivers interrelated solutions that maximise AI’s benefits rather than rolling out a series of disparate solutions. Special attention should also be paid to data quality. It needs to be complete, cleansed and up-to-date for an AI solution to deliver accurate insights. Fortunately, AI-driven data engines can cleanse and enrich data records before they are served up for analysis, to a certain extent. Another important consideration is tuning. AI ‘maintenance’ is usually performed expensively and manually by data scientists, but it’s hardly feasible when your organisation has hundreds of AI models to maintain. Applying machine learning to this process helps automate this expensive task, keeping costs under control.   There’s no silver bullet against business disruption. However, scenario modelling and AI intelligence can help organisations weather the storm. When detailed, comprehensive models are combined with AI efficiency and human judgement, businesses will make better, more impactful decisions that help shine a way through the crisis. 

AI-based scenario modelling is taking on a whole new level of importance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as business leaders across finance, HR, supply chain, and sales make difficult decisions for the...

How Technology Adoption in Africa is Shifting Amid COVID-19

By Weyinmi Egbe Oracle Alliance & Channel Leader Technology & Cloud Systems, Africa. The new normal in Africa is expected to re-direct the priorities of governments and business. For consumers across the continent, priorities are also shifting. Before Covid-19, customers could easily walk into a store to touch, engage and experience a product, where many are now relying on online reviews and comparisons to verify their purchasing decisions. Where possible, many businesses have invested in infrastructure to facilitate remote working for their staff. We believe that over the next two years there will be a considerable shift in behaviour across business and consumer segments underpinned by the following four trends: Critical advancements to the Healthcare system Upgrading health care facilities in Africa will receive more focus now than ever before. Countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya have shown rapid and pro-active ad-hoc responses to health situations, however, contact tracing has been the major issue when it comes to managing patients’ pre and post treatments. This has exposed the need for a more optimised Identity Management Systems and the development of a citizen database to account for all citizens in the country in a timely and efficient manner. Over the next two years, we can expect that government will prioritise identity management and optimised database management systems. Faster adoption towards Digital Transformation and Automation Remote working has become the new normal. Digital transformation (DX) is an important strategy to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, a survey by International Data Corporation (IDC) across Sub-Saharan Africa suggests that 57% of organisations in the region are accelerating existing DX efforts. Digitally transformed enterprises are doing exceptionally well during these tough times. IDC’s forecast for 2018 showed about 17% of all enterprises being digitally transformed, and by 2023 about 52%. Now a lot of CIOs say that they've accelerated their digital transformation programs significantly. The catchphrase is: ‘we feel like we are living in 2025. Everything we had planned for 2024 or 2025 is happening now’. No one anticipated how much we will be compelled to rely heavily on digital engagements. Clearly organisations will now be compelled to truly consider digital transformation not as a buzz word, but for business continuity. The increased demand for digital assistants (chatbots) to drive customer engagements Financial institutions in Africa were the first to fully embrace digital assistants for customer care services and banking services. With this adoption we have seen an increase among our partners to deliver the same services to African governments as an automated way in which the government can quickly interact with citizens, answer FAQ’s and keep citizens informed 24/7. This is expected to become even more popular as a standard way for citizen engagement. While the more complex communication challenges will still need to be tackled by humans, a digital assistant may offer relief in some areas. For example, organisations may need to automate responses to most basic queries so human minds can be freed up to deal with more complex challenges. Enterprises and organisations may also need to enable more processes and transactions online and offer them in an easy-to-use medium – one that is easily accessible and intuitive.  Meanwhile, organisations are having to reconfigure how they engage with their customers, contractors, and employees – and in the case of public sector organisations and educational institutions, citizens and students, respectively. These various touchpoints include providing real-time, reliable information on health and safety guidelines; offering assistance in setting up a remote working environment; communicating up-to-date changes in policies; and enabling online self-service functions or access to relevant insights, information, and processes from within the organisation’s systems.  Increase in ‘e- commerce everything’ A post-COVID retail market will require new approaches to engaging customers and satisfying their demands with efficiency and elegance. Retailers need the transparency and flexibility to shift with the needs of their customers and business – whether those interactions are happening online, in-store or in the spaces in-between, such as buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS). As people spend more time at home, online shopping channels have become a preference for household and grocery shopping. ‘E-commerce everything’ will drive a new form of retail engagement across the continent; encouraging retailers to relook their supply chain, their offerings, and their engagements with customers.  Retailers are going to have to explore the modern solutions on offer to them to enable optimisation of the online ordering process, of forecasting and planning assortment. We can expect a shift in culture for more services to go online and stay online post COVID-19.  

By Weyinmi Egbe Oracle Alliance & Channel Leader Technology & Cloud Systems, Africa. The new normal in Africa is expected to re-direct the priorities of governments and business. For consumers across...

Digital Experience: ‘Being Digital’ is Not Enough

There’s no doubt carriers sit on a veritable treasure trove of customer data but figuring out which data is actionable to unlock value is where true ‘digitization’ starts to differentiate itself from just “being digital.” It’s the difference between just putting a digital version of a bill online or really diving into a customer’s usage in an online channel to tailor an offer that provides real value. As I wrote previously, COVID-19 has accelerated the drive to digitization to meet the demands for remote working, telemedicine, emergency services and the very human need to connect to socially distanced family and friends. Self-installs to keep technicians out of people’s homes, or expanding online bill pays have also led to a new way of thinking. In a recent TM Forum “Hard Talk” debate, we asked the audience whether telcos can deliver a valuable digital experience (DX) to consumers—on the customer’s terms, in a manner that is relevant and meaningful to the customer. We discussed whether CSPs can leverage what they’ve accomplished recently to possibly accelerate transformation to DX. By the end of the debate it was determined that more needs to be done. Digitization should really be about creating an experience that will drive customers to a digital app and to an interaction that will deliver the value of resolving an issue faster or getting a reward otherwise unavailable through non-digital channels. This means the customer experience can no longer be “stovepiped” in legacy systems that have become ’baggage’ to carriers competing against each other and against new entrants. More established players, which traditionally lacked the type of customer interaction prevalent in banking, retail and other industries, will have to increasingly work to create simplified, contextual, easy-to-understand digital experiences. This is very possible in our increasingly automated, mobile industry, but to succeed, they will need robust ecosystems and forethought about the ways in which people, processes, devices and things interconnect and affect one another. It’s no longer enough to just get the customer to download a mobile app to check data or credit. It’s important to really engage customers in a meaningful way, with a proactive DX that opens the door to cross selling and upselling, as well as reducing overall retail footprints and costs. It has to become a big enough priority that investments are made not only for cost reduction, but also to create a fantastic user experience in which customers can fulfill and manage service automatically. Over the next few years, the industry will make strides in going digital, and we are striving to help by working with customers to leverage TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture and  including open APIs in our OSS as an early step to enable an omni-channel, compelling customer experience. To learn more, watch a replay of the debate here and check out Oracle Digital Experience for Communications and our new eBook “Modernizing CSP Back Office Operations with Agility, Cost and Control.” Feel free to contact us at oraclecomms_ww@oracle.com.  

There’s no doubt carriers sit on a veritable treasure trove of customer data but figuring out which data is actionable to unlock value is where true ‘digitization’ starts to differentiate itself from...

Big Moment for Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is having its big moment globally as well as in South Africa, as the business world scrambles to keep the wheels of industry turning in an era of social distancing and remote working. According to a new research survey by World Wide Worx in partnership with Cisco, on remote working in South Africa, every large enterprise in South Africa regards digital transformation (DX) as an important strategy to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Yet, only about a third say they had fully rolled out DX prior to the pandemic. At the same time, more than half say that their DX strategy had a major impact on their transition to remote working. A survey by International Data Corporation (IDC) across Sub-Saharan Africa supports these findings: 57% of organisations in the region are accelerating existing DX efforts. And the reason is simple, says Mark Walker, IDC associate vice president of vertical industries for Middle East and Africa. “Digitally transformed enterprises are doing exceptionally well during these tough times,” he recently told a joint Oracle-IDC webinar titled Digital Transformation is No Longer Just an Option. “In our forecast for 2018, we looked at about 17% of all enterprises being digitally transformed, and by 2023 about 52%. Now a lot of CIOs say that they've accelerated their digital transformation programs significantly. The catchphrase is: ‘we feel like we are living in 2025. Everything we had planned for 2024 or 2025 is happening now’.” It is obvious to all that a spike in demand for online business channels, accelerated expansion of public cloud services and enhanced mobile data infrastructure is driving this rush to digital. Walker points to specific strategies and use cases, such as moving to opex-based services with increased adoption of hosted, managed, and software-defined services, adopting enterprise connectivity through 4G services to leverage mobility, and supporting remote workforce management and collaboration needs. However, two big questions arise, and these are critical to successful transition. The first is how to align business strategy with DX readiness. Walker recommends a region-specific DX strategy that targets business challenges and addresses strategic objectives, pointing out that CIOs in some regions have prioritised customer retention, while in others the focus has been more strongly on operational efficiency. Alignment between lines of business and the IT department is critical in any of these strategies, he says, yet few companies have close integration in this regard. “CFOs and chief operating officers and HR officers are becoming more involved, which is critical to successful digital transformation, but at the moment the IT department is still very much calling the shots: only 12% of the respondents say that IT and others collaborate closely to jointly develop the roadmap for the line of business. “In light of the COVID-19 impact, these triggers are going to change dramatically over the next two to three months as businesses realise the importance of e-commerce, of having cloud platforms and readily available data based on predictive analytics or machine learning, to drive better executive decisions, and for deployment of operational resources in a more efficient and effective manner.   “In six months time, I would expect, the roles are pretty much going to be reversed. The line of business is going to become important from an IT perspective as well as from a line of business perspective.”   Oracle’s research in progress bears out this insight. Ronnie Toerien, HCM sales development and strategy leader for Oracle Africa, says that one the company’s polls revealed three emerging trends. “The first area is the customers who had already started their digital transformation process prior to the COVID-19 situation. They are continuing the projects across the region, and this cuts across industry segments and geographies. Our system integrators and consulting firms are saying that almost all the projects are going ahead full-swing. “The second area is customers who are currently starting the digital transformation process. They're coming up with very specific areas of focus that they need to handle the current situation. For example, from a chief financial officer’s perspective, cash flow management and scenario planning to mitigate this crisis has become a top priority. “The third area is customers who have not yet started this transformation journey. They're starting to talk to us on specific areas where they see an immediate need for some sort of digital solution to help him through this particular process.” Overall, however, Toerien notes a sense of urgency in all three of these categories around accelerated engagements and discussions on how the company’s solutions can help them. The World Wide Worx study shows that the majority of companies fall into the middle category. More than half have started the DX process, but are not yet advanced. Toerien says one can pinpoint such companies’ pain points quite specifically. “For example, from a chief financial officer’s perspective, cash flow management and scenario planning to mitigate this crisis has become a top priority. Unfortunately, CFOs lack historical data that they would normally look at in a crisis like this, and that would help forecast how things might look like when we come out on the other side.  From a chief marketing officer’s perspective, a lot of CMOs need to address the right campaigns to cater specifically for their customer needs.” The second big question that arises from accelerated DX roll-out is that of data security. According to Walker, the marriage between cloud, mobility, social and big data analytics, which has been driven very strongly over the last three to four years, has resulted in a range of industry disruptors across augmented reality, robotics, cognitive AI, and the Internet of Things. Along with these glamorous-sounding categories, he adds the “dull relation”, and one that probably carries the greatest burden of responsibility: next-generation security. The recently released Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2020, a study of 750 cybersecurity and IT professionals across the globe, found that a patchwork approach to data security, misconfigured services and confusion around new cloud security models has created a crisis of confidence. So, while organisations are moving more business-critical workloads to the cloud than ever before, growing cloud consumption has created new blind spots as responsibilities in securing data are negotiated and understood. This confusion, finds the report, has left IT security teams scrambling to address a growing threat landscape. For example, no less than three quarters of these professionals viewed the public cloud as more secure than their own data centres – yet more than nine out of 10 did not believe their organisations were well prepared to secure public cloud services. This encapsulates the mixed blessing of DX in a time of crisis. Tony Buffomante, global co-leader and U.S. leader of KPMG’s Cyber Security Services, sums it up perfectly: “In response to the current challenging environment, companies have accelerated the movement of workloads, and associated sensitive data, to the cloud to support a new way of working, and to help optimise cost models. This is exposing existing vulnerabilities and creating new risks.” Digital transformation’s big moment, then, is also a moment of tremendous risk to organisations embracing it. Addressing that risk is complex, but obvious, says Buffomante. And it is not only about technology. “To be able to manage that increased threat level in this new reality,” he says, “it is essential that CISOs build security into the design of cloud migration and implementation strategies, staying in regular communication with the business.” Authored by Arthur Goldstuck. Arthur is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

Digital transformation is having its big moment globally as well as in South Africa, as the business world scrambles to keep the wheels of industry turning in an era of social distancing and...

City of Vallejo Delivers Online Citizen Services with Oracle Community Development Solution

Across the nation, cities and states are harnessing the power of the latest innovations in cloud computing, the Internet of Things, analytics and big data to create a better future for citizens. To take advantage of these innovations and deliver a better user experience, the California City of Vallejo Planning and Development Services Department selected Oracle Community Development  to implement online permit services for constituents.   Oracle's  Community Development solution is helping the city of Vallejo manage the entire planning entitlement, building permit, and code enforcement process. This includes filing applications, final inspection and enforcement action. These new online services will greatly expand the ease of doing business with Vallejo’s Planning and Development Services department, while also allowing for projects to be completed and code cases to be resolved faster and more accurately.   During the implementation of this project, the COVID-19 crisis impacted California, but that didn’t stop the city from moving forward as everyone shifted to work remotely. Initially, the project go-live was delayed to the fall, anticipating a return to in-person work. However, the pandemic brought an added incentive to make self-service permits available online, as manual processing by the city was even more difficult with employees working remotely. And the new cloud platform would allow inspectors, contractors and others to be able to continue to conduct their business with the city while working from home. The city of Vallejo adjusted rapidly, analyzing the permit types in highest demand during the crisis. They identified one frequently used trade permit, and made it available for use in June.  This specific, accelerated go-live was possible due to the iterative approach used for the implementation; a number of permits were fully configured and ready for use, and could be deployed immediately, in response to the city’s need.   “Our citizens expect more from their government than ever before. Transacting with us needs to be easy, intuitive, and connected. Public agencies must meet these evolving needs without being limited by our own systems and capacity,” said Anne Cardwell, assistant city manager,  city of Vallejo. “Oracle is a true partner for us, making it easier for our staff to install, manage, and modify these new systems while also ensuring both the systems, and the people who operate them, are future-proofed.” The city expects that the online self-service portal will result in improved financial and operational efficiencies as it increases their ability to facilitate more requests while allowing staff to focus on processing applications instead of assisting customers with routine requests at the permit counter. The remaining permit types will be made available on a phased basis, culminating in the fall. We are investing in our community development solution in order to help our customers keep pace with today’s digital expectations of constituents. Our solution is reliable, extensible, and easy-to-use, but most importantly is designed to enhance the customer’s experience, offering tools that make the journey through the permitting or service request process predictable and intuitive. Today, thousands of public sector organizations use Oracle to transform how their constituents engage with government. By providing a full Community Development platform, Oracle provides local governments with a seamless solution to serve all front-office, back-office, and permitting needs. For more information, go to oracle.com/communitydevelopment.

Across the nation, cities and states are harnessing the power of the latest innovations in cloud computing, the Internet of Things, analytics and big data to create a better future for citizens. To...

State of Oklahoma Employs Digital Assistants to Help Government Telework

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Oklahoma, like every other state, had to figure out a way for its mostly office-based government employees to work from home. Oracle was there to help. Within eight days of receiving a call for help, the local team and members of Oracle’s Austin-based Cloud Solutions Hub were able to design and deploy a chatbot to help Oklahoma’s newly home-based workers get productive as quickly as possible. Office workers unfamiliar with configuring IT gear without hands-on support invariably have questions, and that can lead to bottlenecks. Before COVID-19, the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise IT desk fielded about 500 support calls a month. Overnight, that number spiked to more than 1,500 calls per day, says Jerry Moore, CIO, State of Oklahoma. To eliminate the resulting backlog of IT support calls, the Oracle Cloud Hub engineers built a chatbot that lets users ask basic questions, such as how to reset a password, how to set up a VPN, or how to download workplace applications. The chatbot was instrumental in reducing the volume of calls to the IT helpdesk and getting approximately 30,000 state employees up and running from home so they could keep providing vital constituent services. During that same period, Oracle also built a mobile app for the state’s Department of Human Services that tracks time and purchases related to COVID-19 work. “If an employee buys 12 cases of hand sanitizer, they can take a picture of the purchase and upload it to the app that tracks all activities specific to the pandemic,” Moore says. “Overall, in eight days Oracle  built and delivered two applications.” And those applications ensure that Oklahoma government workers can keep providing important services despite having to shelter in place. Find out  more about Oracle’s state and local government solutions. Learn more about Oklahoma and other public sector agencies who are leading in crisis.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Oklahoma, like every other state, had to figure out a way for its mostly office-based government employees to work from home. Oracle was there to help. Within eight days...

Meeting the Need for Increased Connectivity in These Trying Times

The ongoing efforts to keep people safe and informed have revealed how interconnected we all are, even during this time of social distancing. Data, video and voice service providers such as AT&T, China Telecom, Comcast, Oi, Shaw, SaskTel, Verizon, Vodafone and others have risen to the challenge by supporting millions of people as they log in remotely for work, telemedicine, emergency services and the all-important connections to socially distanced family and friends. As a result of efforts to modernize mission-critical operations in their back offices, many CSPs are seeing first hand that automation and process integration have helped to readily engage customers with an online experience that is real-time responsive, available 24x7 and fully functional. They are supporting requests without human intervention in these times of social distancing. It’s great to see the degree to which remote vs. in-person operations are being carried out, for example, intuitive customer self-installation processes or remote trouble shooting and resolution of technical issues that eliminate the need for physical proximity of customers and technicians.   With so many businesses and families changing their services, pricing and throughput thresholds in their efforts to work and socialize from home, the modernized back office and its connection to digital channels has taken on a greater importance. Carriers with automated and integrated OSS/BSS can offer flexible rates and tiers, as well as new products and offers for not only existing customers, but people who need crisis-based offers for commerce and mobile access to important apps and web sites. They are also accommodating B2B needs for highly configured “special orders.” The key is low-latency interactions supported through intelligent activation, fulfillment and orchestration, as well as billing and customer care for continuous availability and real-time interactions. An integrated approach to transforming CX and automating the back-office required that operators identify and automate workflows that today help them rapidly reconfigure the network and accommodate new patterns in gaming, streaming and video conferencing activity. This helps them in their pledges to boost data allowances and expand channel coverage, without raising prices and without pursuing payment in cases involving businesses or individuals hard hit by the crisis. By fulfilling and managing services automatically, at scale and with agility, and by offering compelling, experience-driven customer engagement even in these toughest of times, operators around the world are differentiating their brands, inspiring customers and driving what will be sustainable future loyalty. In these challenging times, Oracle Communications is here to help in any way we can. Feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or oraclecomms_ww@oracle.com.

The ongoing efforts to keep people safe and informed have revealed how interconnected we all are, even during this time of social distancing. Data, video and voice service providers such as AT&T, China...

The Unprecedented Ways We are Now Connecting & Communicating

As people around the world are currently homebound, networks have taken on a whole new level of importance. People now more than ever need to connect virtually, and businesses need to continue to operate and perform. Where technology in some ways distanced us before, it is now bringing us together:  Friends and families are video conferencing for virtual Get-Togethers, Happy Hours, Coffee Breaks and Game Nights. Pope Francis live streamed from his home last week, as did other churches, temples and mosques. Businesses are hosting frequent live webcasts and video calling sessions to keep work human, and schools are creating virtual classrooms to keep students up to speed. I am amazed at how communications and digital technologies are fostering the type of “distanced socializing” that can make “social distancing” more bearable, and more doable in a time where we must resist our human instinct to be physically close. And so, I thought I’d take this moment to acknowledge what Communications Service Providers such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Telefonica, as well as the small and mid-sized operators across the world are doing to help ensure communications infrastructure holds up under the surge in messaging and voice calling on mobile networks, not to mention explosions in gaming and VPNs. Operators around the world have vowed to help residential and small- and medium-sized businesses with free hot spots and in several cases are waiving late fees and service terminations. One of Europe’s hardest hit countries launched a Digital Solidarity Campaign where operators, companies and associations are signing up to offer pro bono services. In the United States, operators have made a collective pledge to “Keep Americans Connected.” They are actively moving capacity, monitoring networks and changing traffic patterns to ensure critical applications perform, especially when it comes to health care and first-responder requirements for ever-more access and data. The same is true around the globe, as Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Vodafone and Chinese operators continue to boost network performance where it is needed the most. These efforts to keep the world connected, and to empower businesses large and small, are helping us remain united and productive in what would otherwise be nearly unbearable circumstances. I’m impressed and humbled by how all the Operators and Enterprises around the world have come together and risen to the challenge in very short order. To learn about our Oracle’s commitment to our customers and partners during the COVID-19 crisis, go here or email us at oraclecomms_ww@oracle.com with any questions you have.  

As people around the world are currently homebound, networks have taken on a whole new level of importance. People now more than ever need to connect virtually, and businesses need to continue...

The Global Comms Industry Fosters Human Connections When Needed Most

Recently I wrote about the role Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are playing globally to connect people in critical ways through wide-ranging communications and digital services. There are many more examples of how industry leaders continue opening new channels—and pushing the boundaries of existing networks—for extraordinary levels of human connection when they are needed most. I am inspired to see so many examples of expanded data and premium service access being offered, at no charge, to help billions of people connect to each other and to critical information. The industry is helping us all be more productive, whether for business or educational purposes. And global, regional and smaller telcos have worked relentlessly to find solutions around challenging infrastructure limitations. While by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few examples of operators who have risen to the current challenge: United States: As outlined in the ‘Keep Americans Connected’ pledge, most operators will not terminate service to any residential or small business customers. They’ll waive late fees incurred by residential or small business customers, and open up Wi-Fi hotspots free of charge. Additionally: Verizon: With a commitment of $45 million in contributions and donations to nonprofits, Verizon is helping them remain active during the crisis. Nurses on the front lines and teachers who are keeping students engaged will join military and first responders in benefiting from up to $40 off when combining Verizon unlimited wireless and FiOS internet plans. T-Mobile: To ensure its network continues to perform for all customers, the company announced agreements with multiple spectrum holders to light up an additional 600 MHz spectrum for 60 days. This expands network capacity for customers across the country. Additionally, it will expand roaming access for Sprint customers to use the T-Mobile network and it will offer more flexible payment arrangements for customers who need more time to pay their bills. AT&T: In addition to offering bonuses to frontline employees, the operator is offering a $15 plan with 2 GB of data and unlimited talk and text, as well as an automatic 10GB per month of additional data for all phone plans. European Operators: As reported, operators are providing increased voice and data usage increases at no cost and pushing out COVID-19 information, among other meaningful measures, such as: Telecom Italia (TIM): By teaming up with Google G-Suite and collaboration platform WeSchool, TIM is responding to a call from the Ministry of Education to boost access to e-learning tools. Telefonica: At no charge, Telefonica will increase all quadplay Fusion and Movistar mobile plans by an additional 30GB per month until end of May. It will also offer more children’s programming and sporting events to TV customers’ entertainment packages, at no cost. Telefonica Group: Its Spanish business unit announced it will add 30 GB of mobile data to all Fusion and Movistar convergence customers for the next two months. Vodafone UK: NHS workers who are existing customers will be given 30 days free unlimited mobile data, affecting approximately 125,000 NHS staff. That’s in addition to a 30-day unlimited data offer to 500,000 vulnerable customers, and additional capacity that will support the growing voice and data usage in European markets. The company also is working with government agencies to help them deliver targeted text messaging. Virgin Media: Postpaid customers are being offered unlimited minutes to landlines and other mobile numbers. Additionally, Virgin Media is offering a free 10 GB data boost for the month, while removing data caps on legacy broadband products. LATAM operators: Many operators, like Claro, Oi, Tim e Vivo, opened TV channels for all customers, along with free access to news channels with information on COVID-19. Others like Seaborn and Edge Uno are offering free Internet connectivity across their respective Americas networks to non-profit/not-for-profit organizations, educational programs, state and municipal governments, and public health. TIM Brasil: In partnering with Rio de Janeiro’s city hall for data analysis, the company will enable authorities to track displacement and concentration of people in areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Telefonica Brasil: Leveraging Big Data and AI, the operator is helping authorities slow the spread of the virus in Sao Paulo state by detecting trends in aggregated cellphone data; Oi: Exemptions are being given to all corporate customers for Oi Smart Office 4.0 to offer relief during the crisis. MEA Operators: Telecom operators in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are responding to the pandemic crisis by supporting governments, businesses, individuals and households. For example: Etisalat: Granted businesses three months of free access to its online collaboration platform, Etisalat CloudTalk Meeting, in addition to providing free mobile data allowances to households without fixed Internet connectivity. It has also launched its ‘Business Edge’ platform for small and medium-sized enterprises. STC: Announced zero-rated browsing for selected educational platforms and the temporary suspension of fees for small and mid-sized enterprises that wish to suspend their services by April 30. Ooredoo: Offered data allowances for 5G customers and data top-ups for prepaid customers, doubling internet speeds for multi-play fiber customers, free access to premium content on its IPTV service, and boosting internet access speeds for all academic and educational entities for free. APAC Operators: Major Chinese carriers—China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom—worked to provide equipment and 5G services to hospitals in Wuhan, and 5G-enabled remote video diagnostic centers to help medical staff with remote, online consultations. Telstra: Business customers are getting additional data for free, and pensioners are getting unlimited standard home phone calls for free. The data will expire after 30 days but customers can apply for another 25GB of data up until end of June. SK Telecom: Free of charge, the company is providing Geovision big data-based real-time floating population analysis service to help police stop the spread of the virus. NTT Docomo Japan: With drive-through testing sites at its headquarters, removal of data caps, unlimited data, and bill payment relief, NTT is helping mitigate the effects of the epidemic. We are proud of operators’ efforts worldwide to keep people connected during these trying times. To learn about our Oracle’s commitment to customers and partners during the COVID-19 crisis, go here or email us at oraclecomms_ww@oracle.com with any questions you have.  

Recently I wrote about the role Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are playing globally to connect people in critical ways through wide-ranging communications and digital services. There are...

3 Tips for Using Emotional Intelligence When #WFH Working from Home

I’ve worked as a trainer for the Oracle sales organizations in EMEA and Asia Pacific regions for four years. I’ve coached more people than I can count, ranging from entry-level sales reps to executives. Back in 1995 when Daniel Goleman, published his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, I became fascinated with the subject of emotional intelligence. Simply put, emotional intelligence (EQ) describes a new way of being smart that is at least equally important to achieving success as IQ or technical expertise. It’s become popularized over the last two decades as researchers have uncovered key findings that emotional intelligence can impact success in business and leadership more than IQ. I have been so intrigued by the field of emotional intelligence that I am a certified EQ coach.             Why is EQ important now? It’s because we all find ourselves in uncharted territory in which our daily routines have been upended. We’ve had to adjust to the public transformation of social distancing where we can’t interact on a personal level, and face-to-face interactions are very limited. Many of us are working from home, when we’re used to going to an office. We’re shifting to video conferencing instead of in-person meetings and trying to accomplish tasks by phone, email, and text when we’re used to walking down the hall to discuss projects. For people in sales and consulting roles who are used to in-person presentations, negotiations, deployment planning and status meetings, we find ourselves trying to read the room, if you will, across a computer monitor. At the same time, many of us are juggling young children who are usually in a day care setting or kids schooling at home who demand and need attention. Emotional intelligence is more important now than ever so that we can successfully navigate these unprecedented times—both professionally and personally.  Empathy is key Without getting too deep in the weeds about EQ, a critical competency is empathy. We’ve all heard the adage, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”  In other words, walking in someone else’s shoes means you put yourself in the other person’s place to understand their circumstances, experiences, challenges, thoughts, and emotions. Think about that for a moment in the frame of our current collective circumstances of stay-at-home orders, dogs barking on conference calls, and kids walking into video conferences asking for help with school work. Empathy has become so important to create a human connection and shared understanding as we adjust to our new world of social distancing. It involves three key behaviors: •    Active listening - Fully concentrating on what the speaker is saying so you understand, respond appropriately, and remember what they are saying. •    Curiosity - A genuine desire to gain knowledge and information by asking the right questions. •    Emotional connection - Creating a genuine bond by communicating your understanding. Building emotional intelligence and empathy in our new way of life A well-known clinical psychologist, Dr. Martyn Newman, reviewed more than 100 of Goleman’s research papers and developed a structure of 10 emotional competencies based on the commonality he observed across Goleman’s different studies. His thorough review of that body of research established clear links between the 10 specific emotional and social competencies and outstanding leadership and professional success. The good thing is that you can develop and improve all these competencies/skills. One of my favorite concepts from Goleman is the Triple Focus Model, and it’s one I like to teach and follow myself. At a high level, it involves these three clusters: Focusing on Yourself It’s your ability to understand and moderate your own emotions so you can keep cool under pressure, strive toward goals despite setbacks or major changes that may have occurred in the last few weeks, and stay motivated day after day in an uncertain world. If you’re feeling overly stressed or anxious on a particular day, maybe it’s best to reschedule an important call with a customer. Focusing on Others This is your ability to adapt to changes, remain resilient and optimistic, demonstrate empathy for others, communicate clearly, foster teamwork and collaboration, and persuade others. These skills are crucial to creating connections as we social distance and work remotely. Focusing on Systems It’s your understanding of the organization, an industry, or a particular system. As you work remotely, knowing how to navigate an organization can be very helpful to accomplish tasks and build rapport with key colleagues. Tips for optimizing interactions while working remotely As our work world shifts to online technologies, keep these 3 high tech tips with EQ in mind: •    Video conferences - It can be overwhelming and exhausting to be on camera for hours every day. It can also be distracting to look at ourselves on camera, as if we’re looking at a mirror. Sometimes your colleagues may not want to be on video. They would prefer an audio call, and that’s okay.   •    Texts and emails - We all know it’s difficult to read emotions in written communications like texts and emails. The situation is compounded now as people work from home and juggle many different priorities. If you don’t get a response immediately, don’t assume that someone is ignoring you. They may just be busy and not able to respond as quickly as you’d like. A trick I like to use is the send-receipt notification on emails. When I receive a response, I know my email has been received and read. Then, I can give the person the time they need to respond. •    Social media - Be mindful of what you post, how it might impact others, or whether it appears as negative. If you want to share, be sure that it’s uplifting, inspiring, or motivating. Emotional intelligence is not an innate or finite skill. You can improve your skills as you practice them. With every call, email, text, or video conference, you can build your skill set to listen more actively, ask questions with a genuine curiosity for the answer, manage your emotions, become more resilient despite bad news, set-backs, or significant changes, and demonstrate empathy as others juggle their personal situations. We’re in the midst of unprecedented times and focusing on your emotional intelligence is a great skill set to help you manage your circumstances. For more information about how Oracle Cloud Applications can help you work remotely, go to www.oracle.com/applications      

I’ve worked as a trainer for the Oracle sales organizations in EMEA and Asia Pacific regions for four years. I’ve coached more people than I can count, ranging from entry-level sales reps...

True business resilience demands fresh perspectives and putting best practice top of mind

It has been said over and over by a multitude of business systems experts. One of the greatest barriers to digital transformation is not technological. It is human resistance to change. Within an enterprise, a wholesale culture shift is needed for digitalisation to take hold and be used to its full efficiency-boosting potential. Of course, enterprises are now operating in a context of forced, unprecedented change beyond the scenarios covered in most business continuity plans. Who projected that we would one day be in a situation where essentially everything would close at the same time, crippling supply chains? Or that a company’s workforce would be mandated to stay home, with no access to on-premise systems? How unpredictable are things? In March, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) forecast that the continent’s GDP would decline 1.4% in 2020 from an originally projected 3.2%, to 1.8%. One month later, in April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a 1.6% economic contraction for Africa in 2020, the lowest level on record. Businesses need new solutions to ensure business continuity in the current economic climate, recover quickly and ensure operational resilience beyond COVID-19. The time is ripe for change, but it demands a greater embrace of new perspectives. These newer attitudes have been slowly taking root in Africa. First, there was the move from manual to automated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications. This led to the realisation over the past decade that cloud-based systems drive greater operational agility than their on-premise equivalent, allowing enterprises to operate efficiently and securely, even across borders. As an example, Bank of Kigali Plc in Rwanda has leveraged cloud-based functionality such as end-to-end process automation to reduce costs, improve scalability and innovate customer offerings. Despite such success stories, many companies continue to cling to the mindset of “I have my own customised ERP, and it works for me; I’m not giving it up.” That attitude is understandable, but current challenges prove traditional ERPs lack the flexibility to overcome them efficiently. Rigidity is simply not contemporary best practice. Even before the current crisis, Steve Cox, Oracle’s Group Vice President for ERP EPM Product Marketing, referred to the future of best practices as being one of less work, more automation and better outcomes. The wider business context has, of course, shifted, but evolving technology remains key to unlocking business benefits, such as greater speed and cost savings. Best practice is also continually being disrupted and redefined by emerging technologies. We see artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) well entrenched in Oracle Cloud applications now, producing insights from big data, automatically maintaining systems and underpinning chatbots. Becoming similarly commonplace in enhancing everyday work processes are the likes of blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR), with the first two having special advantages for supply chain management (SCM). Even with expensive IT upgrade cycles, old on-premise platforms may battle to integrate with such new solutions. By contrast, through cloud, enterprises can instantly leverage the latest best-in-class technologies, which connect seamlessly because of already considered integration capabilities. The cost of continual upgrades goes away, and it becomes easier to predict spend and calculate budgets. With continual cycles of disruption expected to become the new business “normal,” the ability to accurately predict and prepare has become the best practice for enterprises. Cloud ERP offers users the ability to effortlessly pull together data sets across a business for better insights that drive scenario planning and optimisation strategies. At the same time, an organisation’s human talent is liberated to focus on innovation instead of losing their workdays to mundane manual tasks like report generation and transaction processing. Leveraging these capabilities, and more, does not require reinventing the wheel. To make an enterprise truly resilient, and minimise unpredictable risk, starts with overcoming attitude barriers. Authored by Dr. Ibrahim Abduba, ERPM Strategy and Business Development Leader – East & West Africa at Oracle  

It has been said over and over by a multitude of business systems experts. One of the greatest barriers to digital transformation is not technological. It is human resistance to change. Within an...

How to build transparency, resilience and agility into the supply chain

By Dominic Regan, EMEA Senior Director for Logistics Applications, Oracle Almost every element of the way businesses operate has been drastically altered since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. In particular, many companies across the world have had to quickly alter how they move things from A to B, leading to more scrutiny on the supply chain than ever before. This scrutiny has revealed the fragility of the modern supply chain, with many companies struggling to adapt their methods quickly enough. So how can companies ensure that their supply chain is fit for purpose whilst reducing the exposure to similar vulnerabilities in the future? Vulnerabilities can be plugged, intelligently The first step companies will need to take is to assess the current state of their supply chain – are they managing yesterday’s processes using legacy systems and technology or have they already begun the digital transformation process? And what vulnerabilities have been exposed in their own methods and practices? From there, they can then go about taking the necessary steps to address any deficiencies. One of the initial steps for many companies is likely to be putting in place the KPI’s to ensure that the relevant insight and business intelligence is available. This is a necessity in times of crisis, but also in times of normality. In fact, research suggests that 68 percent of professionals see increased business intelligence as a key advantage of emerging technology in supply chain operations. The supply chain goes blind The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus why insight and intelligence is so important when it comes to supply chain. One of the main issues many companies have faced is that they simply lack visibility - not just visibility in terms of where their products or items are, but visibility into the partners and stakeholders upon whom many supply chains are so dependent in order to work efficiently. Smart organisations – no matter their level of preparedness for the current crisis – see visibility as the key to the resilient supply chain. There are several reasons why companies have encountered this lack of visibility. Traditionally many supply chain have operated in silos, and business leaders haven’t necessarily focused on making their supply chains ‘intelligent’ with the full view of the supply chain from end-to-end. This, in effect, has left many companies almost blind to the plethora of moving parts and involved parties inherent in the modern supply chain, making it incredibly hard for them to both identify exceptions and adapt to change. Making supply chains fit for purpose The C-suite is now looking to transform their supply chain into one that is agile, resilient and intelligent. This kind of transformation will require visibility across multiple tiers of the supply chain, often at a degree of granularity that has been hitherto unknown.  Going hand in hand with this will be the implementation of new technologies. For example, the ability to monitor demand at a very granular level across multiple tiers of the supply chain enables operational planning both within the company itself as well as with trading partners. Leveraging this intelligence enables the necessary operational agility to quickly reprioritise inventory in order to meet shifting customer demand or adjust to external impacts. In practice, this means that companies will be required to integrate technologies like IoT, big data, blockchain and automation into their supply chain.  Many might have done so already, although typically this has been done on a limited basis and for specific tactical projects.  Retraced, for example, is a company that uses Oracle’s Blockchain technology to let fashion brands map their supply chain right down to the manufacturers of the raw materials. That’s a level of transparency that is well beyond what most traditional companies are capable of at the moment. [Read more here] What we can expect to see going forwards is a significant ramp-up of this adoption, driven by the desire for supply chains to be more demand-driven and agile.  Similarly we can expect the expansion of both AI and machine learning in the supply chain, leading to data-driven operations that will significantly improve production yield, product quality, lead times, equipment, and labour efficiencies.  Digital supply chains will enable businesses to detect, analyse, and respond to IoT signals, then incorporate those insights into rapidly evolving market capabilities. Balancing speed and agility is key. Staring with a smaller scale, quick implementation can help form a testbed and highlight incremental gains back to the business, instilling greater visibility at every stage.  Focusing on this rapid time to value within the business encourages other parts of the organisation to accelerate their digitisation journey. The creation of a new modern supply chain With the focus now firmly back on the both the importance, and the vulnerability, of supply chains we can expect business leaders to take radical steps to make their supply chain processes truly fit for purpose in the modern era, and to build agility and transparency into them as standard practice.

By Dominic Regan, EMEA Senior Director for Logistics Applications, Oracle Almost every element of the way businesses operate has been drastically altered since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. In...

True business resilience demands fresh perspectives and putting best practice top of mind

It has been said over and over by a multitude of business systems experts. One of the greatest barriers to digital transformation is not technological. It is human resistance to change. Within an enterprise, a wholesale culture shift is needed for digitalisation to take hold and be used to its full efficiency-boosting potential. Of course, enterprises are now operating in a context of forced, unprecedented change beyond the scenarios covered in most business continuity plans. Who projected that we would one day be in a situation where essentially everything would close at the same time, crippling supply chains? Or that a company’s workforce would be mandated to stay home, with no access to on-premise systems? How unpredictable are things? In March, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) forecast that the continent’s GDP would decline 1.4% in 2020 from an originally projected 3.2%, to 1.8%. One month later, in April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a 1.6% economic contraction for Africa in 2020, the lowest level on record. Businesses need new solutions to ensure business continuity in the current economic climate, recover quickly and ensure operational resilience beyond COVID-19. The time is ripe for change, but it demands a greater embrace of new perspectives. These newer attitudes have been slowly taking root in Africa. First, there was the move from manual to automated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications. This led to the realisation over the past decade that cloud-based systems drive greater operational agility than their on-premise equivalent, allowing enterprises to operate efficiently and securely, even across borders. As an example, Bank of Kigali Plc in Rwanda has leveraged cloud-based functionality such as end-to-end process automation to reduce costs, improve scalability and innovate customer offerings. Despite such success stories, many companies continue to cling to the mindset of “I have my own customised ERP, and it works for me; I’m not giving it up.” That attitude is understandable, but current challenges prove traditional ERPs lack the flexibility to overcome them efficiently. Rigidity is simply not contemporary best practice. Even before the current crisis, Steve Cox, Oracle’s Group Vice President for ERP EPM Product Marketing, referred to the future of best practices as being one of less work, more automation and better outcomes. The wider business context has, of course, shifted, but evolving technology remains key to unlocking business benefits, such as greater speed and cost savings. Best practice is also continually being disrupted and redefined by emerging technologies. We see artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) well entrenched in Oracle Cloud applications now, producing insights from big data, automatically maintaining systems and underpinning chatbots. Becoming similarly commonplace in enhancing everyday work processes are the likes of blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR), with the first two having special advantages for supply chain management (SCM). Even with expensive IT upgrade cycles, old on-premise platforms may battle to integrate with such new solutions. By contrast, through cloud, enterprises can instantly leverage the latest best-in-class technologies, which connect seamlessly because of already considered integration capabilities. The cost of continual upgrades goes away, and it becomes easier to predict spend and calculate budgets. With continual cycles of disruption expected to become the new business “normal,” the ability to accurately predict and prepare has become the best practice for enterprises. Cloud ERP offers users the ability to effortlessly pull together data sets across a business for better insights that drive scenario planning and optimisation strategies. At the same time, an organisation’s human talent is liberated to focus on innovation instead of losing their workdays to mundane manual tasks like report generation and transaction processing. Leveraging these capabilities, and more, does not require reinventing the wheel. To make an enterprise truly resilient, and minimise unpredictable risk, starts with overcoming attitude barriers. Authored by Dr. Ibrahim Abduba, ERPM Strategy and Business Development Leader – East & West Africa at Oracle  

It has been said over and over by a multitude of business systems experts. One of the greatest barriers to digital transformation is not technological. It is human resistance to change. Within an...

How Guided Learning Can Help Lead Your Virtual Workforce

Recently, across the world, many workers have transitioned to working from home. No more face-to-face interactions or shoulder-to-shoulder group meetings. People are working at a distance via phone calls, emails, texts, and video conferencing. As workers across the country have adapted to these recent changes, business leaders are left to speculate whether this shift will become permanent for some, if not, all of their workforce. Training Virtual Workers While real-time productive teleworking is possible given modern collaboration tools, you may also be considering implications around workforce training. How you can train workers in a remote setting—to quickly onboard new employees or contractors, have them adopt new business processes more easily, and help them to learn new software functionality quickly?  The answer may surprise you. You don’t have to train a remote workforce. Lead them with guided learning. People learn by doing. Let’s dive deeper into this thought with an example using our current social distancing work environment. If your company had rolled out new software functionality, business process or policy chance you may have been offered some form of in-person or a video-based training for handy tips and tricks. And possibly IT staff or power users were made available to meet with people in their offices to answer questions and help speed the learning curve.  Guided learning can improve worker efficiency, even during the most challenging times. If you use “guided learning” with easily digestible directions, seamlessly available in the cloud application at each step of the workflow, your workers can learn as they are doing – in the flow of work. They are guided directly through each step and also have direct links to company policy documents, training materials at their fingertips within the application. No face-to-face coaching required. The learning solution looks like part of the application. Workers simply follow the steps, tips and guides to progress through the workflow. In our hyper-connected world where people want instant   answers, guided learning modules can provide the immediacy people want, so they can quickly become proficient on the job. Cost Savings With this example in mind, consider the cost savings. You could avoid the expenses associated with in-person classes that may require people to travel or that consume large increments of time to participate in the class. At the same time, you wouldn’t lose productivity while people are out of pocket for a half-day, a full day, or multiple days.   According to an Oracle Guided Learning Benchmark Analysis, for a company with 5,000 employees, this could be a potential time and cost savings over an estimated 3,500 business days. In addition, the self-service aspect of a guided learning can reduce IT support costs with fewer repeat questions, tasks, and tickets.  According to the Oracle Guided Learning Benchmark Analysis, the same 5,000-person company could potentially save more than $300,000 annually on first-line support costs. Policy Compliance How can you enforce company policies or standardized business process flows for remote workers?   As an example, the work-from-home model has put a spotlight on the essential nature of our communications infrastructure. The country’s cellular and internet capacity has been pushed to the max as most people work from their home office. Many telecommunications companies are working overtime to ensure that critical infrastructure such as internet and cell towers are working properly to handle the surge, so calls don’t drop and video conferences run without glitches. The challenge for the telecommunications companies is the capital-intensive nature of their business. Equipment, tools, and replacement parts for cell towers, cable infrastructure, power sources, antennas, routers, and such are expensive.   In this example, a guided learning approach can extend beyond training to also help enforce company policy and compliance. For example, perhaps a field technician or a contractor for a telecom company needs replacement parts to repair a cell tower. Based on the worker’s role, job grade, or allocated inventory, the guided learning module within the inventory cloud application could provide built-in check points to ensure that the worker has authorization to check out certain equipment for that project. This can help to avoid waste, misplacement of parts, or excessive cable waste on a single job.   According to Project Management Institute’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession study, telecommunications infrastructure companies waste an average of $106 million on a $1 billion project.   Standardization for Global Companies Also, for global based companies, localizing the guided learning modules based on in-country policies and languages ensures the learning and policy is appropriate for all workers regardless of where they are working virtually. As our world rapidly shifts, business leaders have to juggle both immediate and long-term continuity strategies. The current business conditions we are experiencing are forcing companies to look at new ways to adopt policies easily and continuously streamline efficiencies through productivity.  Oracle Guided Learning provides a powerful tool that can support businesses in a state of change.   Business Benefits with Guided Learning By using Oracle Guided Learning as part of the cloud application, users can easily learn while doing, following embedded company policies, enabling cost containment as well. You can speed the learning curve for a changing workforce, onboard workers faster, make it easier to roll-out new policies to a global at home workforce, and more easily adopt new functionality as it becomes available in software applications.   To find out how Oracle’s Guided Learning for cloud applications can help your workforce learn faster and save your company time and money, click here.    

Recently, across the world, many workers have transitioned to working from home. No more face-to-face interactions or shoulder-to-shoulder group meetings. People are working at a distance via phone...

Don’t Keep Your Customers Waiting - Provide Answers Right Now!

Tips for leveraging Knowledge Management to provide answers and guidance to your customers during a time of crisis, when resources are strained. Is your company struggling to navigate the impact COVID-19 is having on your support organization? Depending on your business, customers probably have a lot of questions, such as “Is your company still open?,” “Can I order online?,” “How long will delivery take?,” “Can I do curbside pickup?,” and “What are your safety handling procedures?” Your support organization is probably feeling overwhelmed with these incoming requests, and might be dealing with resource restraints as well. As an Oracle Knowledge Management customer, you already know how dynamic the Oracle solution is in allowing you to deliver answers to your end-users as quickly as is necessary. But, you might not know about a few key features that could help you get answers to your end-users and customers even more effectively and with fewer support resources. Let’s look at five B2C Knowledge Management features that allow customers to solve their own product issues and answer their own questions which could help reduce the overall volume of requests. 1.    Fix at Top: Using the Display Position in Knowledge Foundation, you can choose Fix at Top. This will fix the answer at the top of the list regardless of the search being done. This feature could allow you to display the most important COVID-19 related answers you want your customers to see first when entering your support pages. This can increase customer satisfaction because how quickly a customer finds answers significantly impacts the customer experience. 2.    Knowledge Inlay: The new Top Answers Inlay lets B2C customers that use Knowledge Foundation access their knowledge articles from virtually anywhere. Place the inlay on a web page to let end-users search and view articles within your web site without requiring customers to enter the customer portal. The inlay is similar to the customer portal widget that displays popular answers, except, the inlay can be placed on any web page, and it only displays the top 10 answers. Providing a good service experience on any webpage means customers won’t need to navigate away from the buying experience to answer simple questions. This can lead to a competitive advantage and increase sales by providing a good service experience on any webpage. 3.    Ask a Question: Due to stay-at-home orders, large contact centers may have fewer agents available to answer the phone. Enabling the Ask a Question feature allows you to route questions to email that can be answered more easily by remote agents at any hour of the day or night. Allowing agents to respond to customer service requests through different channels improves efficiency, productivity, and provides a better customer experience. 4.    Smart Assistant: If you enable the Ask a Question feature, don’t forget to enable Smart Assistant. This will automatically search the knowledge base for answers to customer questions, and could result in quicker responses to avoid unnecessary escalation. Smart Assistant suggests answers based on the content analysis and questions. Reducing support workload and costs through self-service tools that allow customers to solve their own product issues deflects incoming calls, reducing the overall volume of requests and costs to the contact center. 5.    Standard Response: Configure a rule that can automatically send a standard response with knowledge base answers to the customer when they email you. This gives customers the opportunity to get an answer to their question quickly. Additionally, for assistance requests submitted through the Ask a Question page, you can have a standard text response display directly to your end-user when they submit the request. If the assistance request matches the rule criteria, then the standard response displays right on the web page, making it  easier for your customers. Implementing any or all of these features could help your organization address the challenges you face in delivering accurate, timely and consistent customer service during this time. Check out this quick read on Tips for Delivering Effortless Knowledge. Additionally, click here to check out our Help Center resources for more information on the features mentioned above.    

Tips for leveraging Knowledge Management to provide answers and guidance to your customers during a time of crisis, when resources are strained. Is your company struggling to navigate the impact...

5 Critical Considerations in the Wake of COVID-19

Co-authored by Thu Nguyen, Five9 We’ve been hearing for years that digital transformation is crucial for business success. But, with COVID-19, that need has accelerated because stay-at-home mandates have forced organizations to get remote teams up and running, allowing them to engage with their customers and internal teams. How will this transition permanently impact workflows, applications and communications? How can you plan for the next emergency and help your customers feel more secure? Here are five areas where companies should focus to ensure they’re ready for the next emergency so they can continue delivering outstanding customer service. 1 - Think Connected During a crisis such as COVID-19, corporate policies change rapidly. This impacts an organization’s entire technology stack – from commerce sites to service experiences, all the way through how a company maintains its financials. For example, because travel and physical retail businesses were almost completely shut down, many companies have waived fees, allowing customers to cancel trips or return items they didn’t need. These changes not only had to be communicated to customers via websites, social media and public relations, but also internally. Employees and systems need to learn how to execute these new changes despite major operational disruptions. Maintaining a collection of siloed, best-in-class solutions may have once been an economical strategy. But, when a wide variety of business processes suddenly change, it can be difficult to achieve speed and consistency. Having an end-to-end integrated solution from the front office to the back office will ensure you can rapidly evolve in response to any changing environments. 2 - Plan for a Crisis Customer service has evolved very rapidly the past 20 years, with technology playing a critical role in a customer service strategy. Automated processes and a system that "just works" helps the human side focus on customers’ needs. However, during a crisis, processes may change. Understanding where these changes may impact automated and manual processes is critical. Invest resources into creating and maintaining technology blueprints and design documentation will allow you to quickly identify where processes need to be temporarily changed throughout your organization. It may seem costly to include infrastructure security, Computer Telephony Infrastructure (CTI) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solutions as well as Work Force Management (WFM). However, these investments become invaluable when managing a crisis. 3 - Lead with Knowledge and Engage Intelligently A well-balanced digital strategy allows customers to engage with a brand anytime, anywhere. Balancing various digital channels or channel mix during an emergency can help relieve overloaded contact centers and lessen customer and agent frustration. At the core of every customer service engagement lies proper knowledge management.  Well-curated knowledge articles are your biggest allies during an emergency response. A sophisticated knowledge strategy will ensure everyone throughout the organization, from top executives to those on the front-lines, have consistent and current information. A well-designed knowledge management system can often answer 80% of customer inquiries, eliminating large volumes of requests into service centers. Although knowledge is very effective, many customers need more personalized answers and prefer to engage directly with the company, rather than search knowledge articles. In those cases, Intelligent Advice can help lead customers to the right personalized answer. Digital Assistants are smart enough to act as an agent and an integrated digital assistant can leverage the same knowledge and back-end systems as an agent. A well devised and integrated digital assistant strategy that leverages knowledge and intelligent advice can be pivotal to your emergency service action plan.  4 - Focus on the Right Real-Time Channels Once knowledge and automation are in place, identify which channels require the most attention. This is key to an emergency action plan. This mix will vary depending on each organization’s unique service ecosystem. Base your balance on the skillset of your agents with the channels that require the most resources. Keep in mind, customers will intuitively shift to channels that require the least amount of effort, even if it's not the channel of their choice. For example, If your IVR system is telling a customer there will be a 6 hour wait, they may decide to engage via chat or a messaging channel instead. But, this risks overwhelming that channel. Act early by launching an emergency resource plan to staff the right real-time channels and turn off hard-to-resource channels to provide better experiences and help manage service request volumes. 5 - Leverage Your Partner Ecosystem Rapid response and mission critical pivots come at a benefit and price. Scaling teams to react to a crisis may not be possible if the emergency limits the ability to hire and train new staff. Have service experts available on speed dial to create the momentum needed to react swiftly. Companies, like Five9, have quickly turned up customers with their contact center platform solution. Five9 has the ability to quickly migrate contact centers to the cloud. Some companies made the transition in under 48 hours. Five9 offers a transition plan that minimizes any business continuity risks, and enables employees to stay working, connected and safe. This type of response not only helps businesses react but can even save lives during the Covid-19 crisis. Understanding customer signals all the way through the customer journey and executing on those signals through technology will allow your organization to devise a business strategy that can survive and prosper in a crisis and help your prepare for the next one. Learn more about how Oracle CX Service and Five9 can help with your digital transformation.  

Co-authored by Thu Nguyen, Five9 We’ve been hearing for years that digital transformation is crucial for business success. But, with COVID-19, that need has accelerated because stay-at-home mandates...

Work from Home Will Become The New Normal: Are You Prepared?

Coauthored by Joe Testa, OpenMethods As organizations and government agencies grapple with work from home (WFH) strategies for their employees, often customer service agents, one thing is certain: these strategies will play a significant role in the future of the customer experience. While COVID-19 has forced many organizations into a WFH strategy – and a crash course in digital transformation – some organizations were already on this journey. As we move past COVID-19, organizations must prepare some form of full or partial WFH strategy. Or, at a minimum, be prepared to respond to the inevitable next disruption. Regardless, there is no going back to the old ways of doing business. As organizations think about the long-term viability of sending their agents home to work, consider these benefits that might lead you to adopt this strategy permanently: Business Continuity & Flexibility – Many contact centers struggle with addressing real-time variances in forecasted incidents and have limited capabilities to manage the impact on their customers. WFH strategies allow organizations to think about business continuity differently. This approach, for example, can reduce time associated with commuting or provide flexibility for part-time scheduling, giving organizations the ability to respond to staffing impacts more quickly. In Case of Emergency (Or Disaster), Break Glass – As organizations rethink how they respond to a significant business impact, WFH is set to become the standard to address call center disaster recovery needs or responses to major dislocations. With disbursed or distributed workforces, organizations can better manage specific geographic locations and provide a network of agents to support when customers need it the most. Talent Acquistion and Retention – WFH is becoming more of a necessity for some organizations to attract and retain a workforce in the gig economy. We’ve seen organizations that move to a WFH model significantly reduce employee turnover and increase job satisfaction. Furthermore, organizations can often attract a more skilled set of agents by broadening recruiting, allowing for more targeted searches and more accurate profile matching. This is particularly important for retailers looking for seasonal hires. By using a “just in time” model, they avoid the cost incurred with larger lead times created by restricting geographic hiring pools around brick-and-mortar facilities. “One of the most positive impacts of a WFH strategy I’ve seen comes from my time running customer experience for one of the nation’s largest sporting goods retailers. Our only call center had previously been located in a Houston suburb and we had just rolled out our WFH program a few months before Hurricane Harvey struck. As a result, we observed absolutely no service degradation during a critical time when our customers needed us most (for Hurricane preparedness items). Not only were we there for our customers, but we were there for our associates who could continue to work and see a paycheck during a very challenging time.” With the above benefits, it’s also important for organizations to consider the strategic and tactical challenges of moving to this model. The following are some of the system and process changes to keep in mind: Compliance Automation – There will justifiably be concern over how an organization will manage quality assurance in a new WFH world. For example,when an agent works in a centralized contact center or in a brick-and-mortar facility, they manage compliance (performance, quality and policy adherence) in a specific way. In addition, an agent supervisor has the benefit of walking around, having centralized management and enforcing policies. A new WFH approach requires a novel way of thinking and a broadened sense of compliance automation as a strategic advantage. Organizations should turn to technologies that are best suited to increase process capacity and compliance by automating much of what an agent would otherwise do manually to reduce complexity, mitigate agent errors, and avoid deviation from policy and procedures. These capabilities include guided assistance, a unified agent desktop with enhanced data integration, agent usability, knowledge management and incident management. By automating manual entries and routing agents through correct workflows, organizations can enable agent compliance in a distributed environment and provide the best resolution for customer engagements. Communication Enablement – In a centralized contact center setting, there is typically an agency supervisor ready and available to assist as needed. There is also a command center resource to address any scheduling adherence in real-time and in-person. However, in a more distributed call center environment, communicating daily changes, such as store hours/closures, new protocols or time-to-ship expectations, can challenge an organization’s communication strategy. Enabling capabilities such as push notifications to all or select agents, while allowing real-time changes to prompts and messaging as a condition evolves can help address this challenge. In addition, robust workflow and scripting capabilities combined with knowledge management strategies can ensure organizations are providing agents with the most current and up-to-date information. Agent Training & Enablement – Organizations that develop a stronger usability practice that more deeply understands agent and customer journeys can reduce training time by combining usability practice with the use of world class automation and workflow capabilities. Supporting the real-time creation of intuitive and automated resolution journeys and significantly reducing the need for point and click training helps agents focus more on the customer and their needs. A WFH strategy can significantly improve your customer and employee experience. We’ve seen such benefits as: Reduced agent churn and increased agent tenure Improved employee and customer satisfaction scores by 40% Reduced operation costs by 32% When we reach the other side of the current pandemic, the world of work and customer experience will have dramatically changed. Click here to learn how Oracle CX Service and Open Methods can help you proactively transform your agent workforce and be ready for the next planned or unplanned disruption.          

Coauthored by Joe Testa, OpenMethods As organizations and government agencies grapple with work from home (WFH) strategies for their employees, often customer service agents, one thing is certain:...

How to Use Scenario Planning to Navigate a Crisis

By Marc Seewald, Vice President of Product Management, Oracle Amid COVID-19, every underlying driver of and assumption about “business as usual” is being challenged. We lack the historical data we’d normally look to in a crisis, and we also lack the trends that would help forecast what things might look like once we come out the other side. This is where scenario planning comes into play. It can help us visualize the future, plan for multiple scenarios and assess how to respond to each one. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that companies can’t place all their bets on one outcome. After the crisis passes, some things may go back to normal while others may not. You should ask yourself, “Will we return to business as usual? Or will we see fundamental changes in our business model, how we serve customers or gain market share? Will there be new opportunities that arise, and how do we best position ourselves in a post-COVID environment?” Best practices for scenario planning One of the biggest advantages of scenario planning is that it can clearly demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships about how potential scenarios could play out in terms of plans, budgets, and forecasts. Before you begin, here are a few best practices to consider: Scenario planning should be from the top down. Scenario planning should involve fewer people and be more strategic than traditional budgeting and forecasting, with key stakeholders across the enterprise working together. Focus on high-level drivers. Focus on summaries instead of line items. Critical assumptions and variables should drive the strategy. Importantly, don’t over-rely on traditional drivers. Put thought into the best drivers that will capture the essence of the new normal. Apply a full trial balance. Think across your full income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow. Overly focusing on just 2-3 key areas, such as cash or revenue in isolation, will not give you enough transparency into cause-and-effect relationships. Limit the number of scenarios. Don’t try to model every possible outcome. Instead, model no more than four. Examples might be, “fast recovery,” “moderate recovery,” “moderate recovery but disrupted supply chain,” or “slow recovery.” Spend equal time examining each scenario – even if you think 1-2 scenarios are far more likely. The value of scenario planning is to be as ready as possible when the unlikely happens. Having thoroughly evaluated all options ensures that you are best-prepared, even for unlikely scenarios. It may be tempting to just re-use your strategic long range plan (LRP) for planning in a crisis. While the LRP will be a good foundation to start from, there are some key differences. Let’s take a closer look at the six steps involved in the process of scenario planning. Define scope, issues, and time horizon: Unlike the LRP, you’ll be focusing more on the next six to 12 months. One to two years out may still be relevant, depending on your industry, but your focus will definitely shift to more immediate needs. Define key drivers: What’s important right now? For example, an agribusiness in normal times might focus mostly on commodity price as a key driver. Today, assumptions around the supply chain are likely equally as important. (More on this below.) Collect and analyze data: Scenario planning requires collecting quantitative and qualitative data to develop key assumptions. Combine information from both internal and external sources. For example, there’s currently a lot of free data available from sources like Harvard Business Review about the macro-economics of past pandemics. Develop scenarios: The number of scenarios you model will depend upon your organization’s data and patterns, but it’s important to identify which ones are most important to you. And, as noted above, keep the scenarios to a manageable number. Apply scenarios: Test the chosen scenarios by identifying what the downstream impacts will be on sales, cash flow, capex, etc. Identify metrics and KPIs you want to monitor. Consider the thresholds that would require action for each metric that you choose to monitor. Ultimately, you are creating a company-wide plan.  It must be actionable and pushed-out to all parts of the enterprise. Maintain and update: Monitor the plan regularly and consider if you need more frequent reporting so you can respond quickly to changes in metrics. Augmenting your current bottom-up forecasting may be necessary to ensure that the enterprise is tracking towards key assumptions. Defining key drivers Traditional strategic plans use key business drivers (such as market share) to model sales. In a crisis, assumptions by customer segment or industry might be more appropriate. Relevant variables for managing through crisis might include access to capital, productivity of the workforce, or impacts from government stimulus. Size and timing of government stimulus will likely impact workforce retention, capex, as well as corporate income tax strategy. Isolating the most important drivers for your business will be key to successful scenario planning. Comparing scenarios Your model should let you easily compare scenarios side-by-side. Select an approach that makes sense for your industry and your organization. For some, it might make sense to model across geographies, while for others it might be better to model across sales channels or product lines. And you can evaluate risk and perform stress testing across each scenario using a type of data modeling known as Monte Carlo simulation. This technique allows you to quickly explore a range of outcomes across multiple variables. It can be hugely valuable when there is a high degree of uncertainty in assumptions. Cash is king In a crisis, it’s critical to focus on your balance sheet. Consider impacts such as funding the business, customer payment delays, and bank covenant ratios. You can also complement top-down scenario planning with bottom-up re-forecasts. For example, if you are not already doing it, collecting a bottoms-up short-term weekly forecast on uses and sources of cash can help you validate your more strategic top-down assumptions on liquidity. All of these capabilities are available in Oracle EPM Cloud. The value of scenario planning The point of all this isn’t to obsess over possible outcomes. It’s to help prepare your organization for whatever might happen. When you have a plan for multiple outcomes, you can communicate those plans to employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders, instilling confidence in your organization and its finance leadership.   In this way, your finance team can play a critical role for C-suite leaders seeking better decision-making processes, insights, and relevant information to drive strategic choices. Learn more in my webcast with Ash Noah of AICPA.  

By Marc Seewald, Vice President of Product Management, Oracle Amid COVID-19, every underlying driver of and assumption about “business as usual” is being challenged. We lack the historical data we’d...

The Global Comms Industry Fosters Human Connections When Needed Most

Recently I wrote about the role Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are playing globally to connect people in critical ways through wide-ranging communications and digital services. There are many more examples of how industry leaders continue opening new channels—and pushing the boundaries of existing networks—for extraordinary levels of human connection when they are needed most. I am inspired to see so many examples of expanded data and premium service access being offered, at no charge, to help billions of people connect to each other and to critical information. The industry is helping us all be more productive, whether for business or educational purposes. And global, regional and smaller telcos have worked relentlessly to find solutions around challenging infrastructure limitations. While by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few examples of operators who have risen to the current challenge: United States: As outlined in the ‘Keep Americans Connected’ pledge, most operators will not terminate service to any residential or small business customers. They’ll waive late fees incurred by residential or small business customers, and open up Wi-Fi hotspots free of charge. Additionally: Verizon: With a commitment of $45 million in contributions and donations to nonprofits, Verizon is helping them remain active during the crisis. Nurses on the front lines and teachers who are keeping students engaged will join military and first responders in benefiting from up to $40 off when combining Verizon unlimited wireless and FiOS internet plans. T-Mobile: To ensure its network continues to perform for all customers, the company announced agreements with multiple spectrum holders to light up an additional 600 MHz spectrum for 60 days. This expands network capacity for customers across the country. Additionally, it will expand roaming access for Sprint customers to use the T-Mobile network and it will offer more flexible payment arrangements for customers who need more time to pay their bills. AT&T: In addition to offering bonuses to frontline employees, the operator is offering a $15 plan with 2 GB of data and unlimited talk and text, as well as an automatic 10GB per month of additional data for all phone plans. European Operators: As reported, operators are providing increased voice and data usage increases at no cost and pushing out COVID-19 information, among other meaningful measures, such as: Telecom Italia (TIM): By teaming up with Google G-Suite and collaboration platform WeSchool, TIM is responding to a call from the Ministry of Education to boost access to e-learning tools. Telefonica: At no charge, Telefonica will increase all quadplay Fusion and Movistar mobile plans by an additional 30GB per month until end of May. It will also offer more children’s programming and sporting events to TV customers’ entertainment packages, at no cost. Telefonica Group: Its Spanish business unit announced it will add 30 GB of mobile data to all Fusion and Movistar convergence customers for the next two months. Vodafone UK: NHS workers who are existing customers will be given 30 days free unlimited mobile data, affecting approximately 125,000 NHS staff. That’s in addition to a 30-day unlimited data offer to 500,000 vulnerable customers, and additional capacity that will support the growing voice and data usage in European markets. The company also is working with government agencies to help them deliver targeted text messaging. Virgin Media: Postpaid customers are being offered unlimited minutes to landlines and other mobile numbers. Additionally, Virgin Media is offering a free 10 GB data boost for the month, while removing data caps on legacy broadband products. LATAM operators: Many operators, like Claro, Oi, Tim e Vivo, opened TV channels for all customers, along with free access to news channels with information on COVID-19. Others like Seaborn and Edge Uno are offering free Internet connectivity across their respective Americas networks to non-profit/not-for-profit organizations, educational programs, state and municipal governments, and public health. TIM Brasil: In partnering with Rio de Janeiro’s city hall for data analysis, the company will enable authorities to track displacement and concentration of people in areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Telefonica Brasil: Leveraging Big Data and AI, the operator is helping authorities slow the spread of the virus in Sao Paulo state by detecting trends in aggregated cellphone data; Oi: Exemptions are being given to all corporate customers for Oi Smart Office 4.0 to offer relief during the crisis. MEA Operators: Telecom operators in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are responding to the pandemic crisis by supporting governments, businesses, individuals and households. For example: Etisalat: Granted businesses three months of free access to its online collaboration platform, Etisalat CloudTalk Meeting, in addition to providing free mobile data allowances to households without fixed Internet connectivity. It has also launched its ‘Business Edge’ platform for small and medium-sized enterprises. STC: Announced zero-rated browsing for selected educational platforms and the temporary suspension of fees for small and mid-sized enterprises that wish to suspend their services by April 30. Ooredoo: Offered data allowances for 5G customers and data top-ups for prepaid customers, doubling internet speeds for multi-play fiber customers, free access to premium content on its IPTV service, and boosting internet access speeds for all academic and educational entities for free. APAC Operators: Major Chinese carriers—China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom—worked to provide equipment and 5G services to hospitals in Wuhan, and 5G-enabled remote video diagnostic centers to help medical staff with remote, online consultations. Telstra: Business customers are getting additional data for free, and pensioners are getting unlimited standard home phone calls for free. The data will expire after 30 days but customers can apply for another 25GB of data up until end of June. SK Telecom: Free of charge, the company is providing Geovision big data-based real-time floating population analysis service to help police stop the spread of the virus. NTT Docomo Japan: With drive-through testing sites at its headquarters, removal of data caps, unlimited data, and bill payment relief, NTT is helping mitigate the effects of the epidemic. We are proud of operators’ efforts worldwide to keep people connected during these trying times. To learn about our Oracle’s commitment to customers and partners during the COVID-19 crisis, go here or email us at oraclecomms_ww@oracle.com with any questions you have.  

Recently I wrote about the role Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are playing globally to connect people in critical ways through wide-ranging communications and digital services. There are...

Zoom Taps Oracle to Keep Schools Teaching, Businesses Running, Friends and Family Connected

By Barb Darrow, Oracle It’s no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended the way people everywhere work, eat, and socialize. Stay-at-home mandates and suspension of large public gatherings have changed everything. But Zoom, with Oracle as a new cloud partner, has made it much easier for people to continue taking part in common daily activities—from attending business meetings and school classes to  practicing yoga – and yes, cocktailing – in the face of this threat, where social distancing is key. In some venues, Zoom is even being used to try civil and criminal cases. In April, Zoom’s daily tally of meeting participants mushroomed to 300 million, up 50% from 200 million the previous month. One reason for that growth spurt was that the company, founded in 2011 with a focus on business users, was scaling up to support educators and students with a free tier of its service.  As the pandemic spread, Zoom also decided to eliminate the 40-minute limit for K-12 schools. All of that meant the San Jose-based company needed to boost its cloud capacity to support the additional flood of videoconferences. And that’s why it got in touch with Oracle, which was quickly on board in this effort. Oracle’s engineering team worked quickly, deploying Zoom on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and ensuring Zoom had enough cloud capacity to serve the hundreds of thousands of new users flocking to its service. And when that flood turned into millions of additional students, teachers, and others, Zoom was able to easily scale up its capacity further to meet that need. Helping Zoom meet the soaring demand also demonstrates the robustness and reliability of Oracle’s second-generation cloud, which was built to handle the tough demands of video communications and other broadcasting applications smoothly.  While Zoom’s services were already proven in business settings when COVID-19 hit, it was clear that its easy-to-use video communications could also make life easier for non-business users, including parents now pulling double and triple duty as teachers, coaches, and nurses -- all while maintaining their professional lives. Far flung family members can also visit each other using Zoom while following recommended social distancing guidelines.  In the process, the company’s name has morphed into both a noun and a verb. Phrases like “Do you want to Zoom?” have entered the vernacular both in work and social settings. Zoom has even facilitated wakes and weddings.  Given all this, it’s safe to say that Zoom’s high-quality video communications service is helping hundreds of millions of people -- many of whom are confined to their homes -- feel a little less alone, a little more connected to one another. And, Oracle with its modern Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, is thrilled to help make that happen.

By Barb Darrow, Oracle It’s no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has completely upended the way people everywhere work, eat, and socialize. Stay-at-home mandates and suspension of large...

The Role of Digital Assistants in a Time of Remote Work

  By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, if you are in the human resources or IT/operations division of your organization, you are likely being pushed to the forefront during this extraordinary time. Your division may be actively leading efforts to communicate with your workforce or users as they adjust to a new environment such as remote work, while also complying with ever-shifting policies and guidelines. Given the significant upheaval in the way organizations have to operate these days, there are some common questions that many IT and HR leads are trying to address, including: How can our organization scale and make it as easy as possible for our ecosystem as everyone learns to cope with the new normal? How can we best provide access to policies, guidelines, FAQs, transactions, and data when information is so dynamic? How can we deliver information in real-time without employing more resources? While the more complex communication challenges will still need to be tackled by humans, a digital assistant may offer relief in some areas. For example, organizations may need to automate responses to most basic queries so human minds can be freed up to deal those more complex challenges. Enterprises and organizations may also need to enable more processes and transactions online and offer them in an easy-to-use medium – one that is easily accessible and intuitive.  Meanwhile, organizations are having to reconfigure how they engage with their customers, contractors, and employees – and in the case of public sector organizations and educational institutions, citizens and students, respectively. These various touchpoints include providing real-time, reliable information on health and safety guidelines; offering assistance in setting up a remote working environment; communicating up-to-date changes in policies; and enabling online self-service functions or access to relevant insights, information, and processes from within the organization’s systems.  Before COVID-19, AI-based chatbots or digital assistants were already changing the way we interact with our ecosystem – customers, employees, partners, citizens, and students. Enterprises had started to use digital assistants to provide 24x7 assistance to their stakeholders with self-service assistants for customer support; employee self-service across HR, ERP, CRM, and business intelligence systems; and vendors and partners for ERP self-service for quotes and invoice management.   A digital assistant can provide a consistent channel of communication and engagement in natural language text or voice, so users don’t have to learn an enterprise’s systems to interact or access information they need. Other benefits delivered by digital assistants include: Providing a 24x7 virtual assistant that is always there for stakeholders Offering users access to information on channels of choice like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Messenger, and more Streamlining employee queries, since there’s no waiting in line for the next available representative or help desk agent Freeing up employees to focus on the more complex challenges and queries that only human minds can solve Providing a natural way to access information and transactions across different backend systems, which promotes adoption of and adherence to processes and policies Proactively notifying users of changes in data so they can remain informed  Eliminating data searches, since a digital assistant powered by AI can be adapted to dynamic data changes so users don’t have to search for data  Reducing costs associated with support operations via self-service and automation As a result, digital assistants can help support the current need of a remote workforce and concerned citizens, students, and customers while creating long-term efficiencies for your organization.  For a more in-depth look into how your organization can derive quick value from a digital assistant in these uncertain times and the longer term, please contact us here.    

  By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, if you are in the human resources or IT/operations division of your organization, you are...

Virtual Learning Opportunities and Resources for Partners

We hope that our Oracle partner family is staying safe as the world confronts the challenges of COVID-19. We’d like to reiterate Oracle CEO Safra Catz’s commitment to supporting you and your business throughout this unprecedented time. The entire OPN team is here for you and ready to help. For those working from home, we understand that your work days - and ours too – look a little different right now. We encourage you to see this as an opportunity to broaden your competitive edge and proactively manage your personal and professional growth. As our partner, you have access to an enormous amount of virtual Oracle training and resources. We are also excited to share that now through May 15, 2020, Oracle is offering free access to online learning content and certifications for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Oracle Autonomous Database for all users – that includes you! Find out more about this great opportunity. Below is a list of additional resources organized by persona that you may find useful to keep yourself ready, focused, and sharp for the future. We’ll all come out of this stronger – and better – together. -The Oracle PartnerNetwork Team   All Partners Take advantage of a wealth of remote training and exam resources. Free online content and certifications for OCI and Oracle Autonomous  Cloud Learning Subscriptions (Joining a Track in Modernized OPN provides you access to CLS) PartnerCast Webcasts Online proctoring for all Oracle Certification exams Sales/Sales Engineers/ Business Development Become a trusted adviser to your customer by learning Oracle’s latest offerings and GTM strategies. Sell Expertise is tied to resell rights, and these trainings play a critical role. Learning Advisor (for Sales and Sales Engineers) Sales Central Cloud Cost Estimator Implementation and Technical Consultants Individual competence is crucial for delivering customer success. View the Modernized OPN Expertise Catalog for more specific information on SaaS, IaaS/OCI, PaaS and License & Hardware training. Oracle Cloud Support Specialist Assessment Oracle Cloud Infrastructure 2019 Certified Architect Associate Technical Workshop Platform Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Cloud Learning Subscription (Free to all learners!) Online proctoring for all Oracle Certification exams Solutions Architects Our customers run in complex, hybrid environments including rising needs in critical workflows. Learn overall cloud concepts, economic principals, and other critical drivers for customers.  Oracle Cloud Infrastructure 2019 Certified Architect Associate Project Managers The project management aspect of implementations is critical to delivering customer success. Holding a Project Management certification is a key qualifier to achieving Service Expertise. Project Management Institute Scrum Alliance Prince 2 Executive Decision Makers Get up to speed on Oracle policies applicable to you – a requirement for all OPN members.    Compliance and Ethics Policies & Partner Anti-Corruption Training OPN Administrators For those who interact with Oracle as administrators, learn where to go and how to most effectively work with Oracle as a partner. Competency Center Competency Center User Guide OPN Membership Enrollment or Renewal Status Expertise Dashboard Value Added Distributors (VADs) Check these VAD resources for the latest on new programs, trainings, partner enablement material, and marketing services.  Sales Central Oracle’s Channel Marketing Automation Service powered by Zift Solutions        

We hope that our Oracle partner family is staying safe as the world confronts the challenges of COVID-19. We’d like to reiterate Oracle CEO Safra Catz’s commitment to supporting you and your business...

Bridging the gap for remote workers through digital assistants

By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant AI-based chatbots or digital assistants stand to change the way we interact with business applications, not just consumer ones. The main benefit is the ability to get immediate responses to queries via natural local language, without having to download apps or get training. While we have the freedom to engage in user-friendly experiences in our personal lives – such as Alexa and Siri – there have been few options for people in their professional lives. But that’s changing. As Steve Miranda, Oracle’s executive vice president of application development, remarked, “In HR, every common question or transaction has lent itself nicely to digital assistants. Within the next year, we will be calling HTML our ‘old UI.’ Every transaction you have will be through a digital assistant UI.” Work-at-home requirements associated with the spread of COVID-19 have made it all the more important to give employees easy access to ever-changing information – on company policies, insurance coverage, and public health guidance, in addition to the usual cadence of questions on vacation balances, status of expenses, and IT workarounds.  Here are a few key ways in which chatbots and digital assistants can help. An assistant for every employee Finding answers to simple questions can be a frustrating experience if there is no easy way to do so. Take, for example, basic questions like “how many vacation days do I have left?” or “what do I do if I have a change in marital status?” In some cases, employees need to log into their VPN to find the policy document or a web page, or the application – which they then need to further navigate to find answers to these straightforward questions. With a digital assistant, employees can simply speak the question out loud in a natural way or simply input the text, instead of having to navigate multiple screens or interfaces, and they will receive an immediate response. Not only that, the digital assistant can further help them by recommending or taking action as a follow-up to their original interaction and be a true assistant for the employees. For example, rather than just informing the employee on what to do to change their marital status, the digital assistant can actually trigger the change process by gathering the necessary information and then updating the relevant systems with that information.  Answering general policy questions With rapidly evolving governmental directives such as sheltering-in-place and social distancing, most organizations are quickly adapting their HR policies and guidelines. At the same time, employees need help and answers from their organizations more than ever. Questions may range widely from policies on employment, travel guidelines, and health and safety instructions, as well as guidelines on dealing with and working during the pandemic. In some cases, the information is very dynamic and changes by the minute. Digital assistants give employees a consistent channel, which is available 24x7, to ask their questions so they can get an immediate response – while freeing up the HR and IT/support teams to manage the more complex challenges they are facing today. In fact, you can also use digital assistants to send proactive alerts and notifications like changes in policies, so that employees don’t need to keep checking or search for the latest information time and again.  Supporting employee health and safety Practicing social distancing has also had an impact on recruitment, onboarding, and training processes for organizations. In effect, these processes provide resources and support that most organizations may seriously need in these uncertain times. Using a digital assistant, businesses can drive candidates’ pre-screening and interview scheduling online, across any messaging channel. You can drive virtual onboarding by enabling easy remote online access to relevant trainings, policies, and materials all via a digital assistant. Data can also be safely recorded to keep track of employee health status based on the organization’s health policy and guidelines. A digital assistant can also save the employee from the time-consuming task of completing forms or reporting on any health-related issues at work.  Employee self-service Whether working remotely or on-site as needed, employees may need access to both information and processes beyond just the HR systems. From submitting expenses to filing IT support tickets to making changes to travel plans, we touch a number of systems or applications as employees. Some processes even span across multiple systems, like role- or location-based expense reimbursement policies, where the system requires role information from the HR system before interacting with the finance/ERP system for reimbursement. A digital assistant is one common interaction point for employees, contractors, or partners across multiple applications and can provide a quick, consistent, and concise response.  Leading an organization through this unprecedented time has put an increased demand on the HR function. As a result, organizations would be wise to leverage AI-powered technologies such as digital assistants to scale their functions, create online connection and engagement, and provide dynamic updates on policies and safety guidance without bogging down human communication channels – which need to be available for essential tasks. A digital assistant can support an organization by providing benefits such as: Lowering operational costs via online self-service & automation Expanding HR availability 24x7 across different channels Enabling easy access to information and processes delivered via text or natural language Delivering consistent information and maintaining employee engagement Enabling proactive HR outreach Digital assistants can support the functions employees may need now while creating efficiencies for the long term. For more information or to discuss how a digital assistant can support your needs, email us here. Stay well, and be safe.  

By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant AI-based chatbots or digital assistants stand to change the way we interact with business applications, not just consumer ones. The...

How Companies Can Rethink the Customer Experience Amid Current Conditions

Five years ago, a peer of mine opened a yoga studio with her husband. Within a year, their business grew to a point where her partner was able to leave his investment banking job and focus fully on their joint venture. That success was interrupted this year by COVID-19, which forced the studio to close its physical doors. But they didn’t shut down operations. They pivoted to an online, stay-at-home service model with subscriptions for live and on-demand classes. This change has sustained the business and allowed the couple to reach clients in multiple continents. After hearing their story, I wondered: “How will the coronavirus change the way other industries do business?” During March, brick and mortar retailers began closing stores across North America. As a result of social distancing, grocery delivery services saw incredible demand that pushed their workforces to capacity. The job market has responded with hiring increases across not just the grocery business, but also healthcare, package delivery, telecom, and other industries. The key takeaway? Businesses now have the chance to reduce their losses and better serve their customers through new channels. Specifically, they can do this by providing digital, self-service customer experiences. Several months ago, I met the VP of sales from a North American construction materials manufacturer who provided insight on representatives’ time spent on small, transactional reorders. These interactions drove up selling costs and reduced reps’ time on strategic deals. Even before no-contact orders became a health imperative, he understood the value that focus could bring his organization. Consultancy McKinsey cites e-commerce as one of several ways companies can reimagine the way they endure difficult times and simultaneously support their customers. Buying stuff isn’t the only thing affected by this global health crisis. Amid stay-at-home mandates, companies have to worry about insufficient headcount to carry on basic operations.  A peer recently told me about a service call he had with a major airline where he waited 2 hours to speak with a representative before the last leg of his transatlantic flight. Sounds exhausting, but at least he made it home safely. There are firms that are helping their customers and service teams combat this fatigue. For example, Exelon deployed a 24/7 chatbot in less than two weeks, improving its ability to quickly respond to customer requests such as billing and service outages. This could apply to numerous other industries. Exelon Readies AI Driven Chatbots for Millions of Customers Firms aren’t limiting their efforts to point solutions like chatbots. Many are undergoing big transformations to bring digital, self-service experiences to their clients, customers, and constituents. Two years ago, a large South American healthcare insurance company recognized a problem with meeting time-to-market goals. Customers had difficulty with the buying experience and service levels were below acceptable standards. To solve the problem, the insurer sold directly through e-commerce and utilized omnichannel services. The results were 2 million new online plan configurations per month. The company also dramatically increased its call center deflection rates. Every industry will face different challenges as we move through this time of uncertain buying and service behaviors. This uncertainty will create challenges, but also allow space for opportunities to re-evaluate the models organizations use to create great experiences for their customers. Based on what I’ve seen in the marketplace, these next-generation experiences will start with digital self-service throughout the customer lifecycle. Click here to learn more about how Oracle is committed to our customers and partners during these trying times.  Have You Joined The Experience Economy? Consider These 4 Tenets  

Five years ago, a peer of mine opened a yoga studio with her husband. Within a year, their business grew to a point where her partner was able to leave his investment banking job and focus fully on...