A few weeks ago I had a great visit with two customers along-side one of our partners, Vlamis Software Solutions. The first customer focused on fashion retail and the second customer is a large restaurant and hospitality brand. The first customer is a growing Small & Medium Business (SMB), with revenue under $500M. The second company has revenue larger than the $1B ceiling for the SMB label.Their business behavioral patterns are more akin to a medium sized organization. This IT market segment is of focus for many technology providers as it reached a $1B market value to close out 2015, and in the US alone the SMB cloud computing & services market grew from $43B in 2015 to $55B in 2016. It was for this reason that when offered the chance to go meet with these customers, I was excited to hear from their own voice, what were the IT challenges, what were their goals to improve their business and where could Oracle be of assistance in modernizing their organization. For the purpose of this blog, we will look that those elements and how they pertain to data management.
Let’s first look at some of the challenges the two customers were looking to address, in order to grow their business. We visited the retail clothing provider first, and the initial point that struck me was the number of individuals that indicated that they were new to the organization. The firm is doing well, but IT management had the foresight to engage with executive leadership to emphasize that their growth had been organic, and due to the founders’ expertise in fashion/retail, however the market was changing and new strategies were needed to stay ahead of the growing competition from direct online retailers. Their first challenge was that they had no means to get their arms around the amount of data they were taking on. Newly updated PoS systems and eCommerce tools were gathering significantly more data than they had consumed before. This was a positive challenge, but one that was creating a fly-wheel effect. As Line-of-Business managers had access to more data to empower their decision making, the more data they wanted stratified and cut to their specific analytical paths, and so data-creates-more data. To further compound the issue, as with all IT staffs, they were being asked to do more with less, and the firm now wanted to roll out new merchandising tools and a potential rewards program to gather more data and help in strategically targeting customers. These two polarizing forces created the 3rd key problem. They did not have the resources to maintain existing operational IT activities, and certainly did not have the capability to put in place tools to capture the value of all the inbound data coming in.
The second company, while over twice the size of the first company, was experiencing similar challenges. This firm was growing quickly, as they were growing organically within their primary vertical of food retail, but were growing even faster via brand expansion (through acquisitions) into other neighboring verticals such as hospitality. While their IT staff was much larger, it was this inorganic growth that was creating bottlenecks in current IT projects in flight, and forcing resources onto company integration activities. These acquisitions were growing the business, and providing access to larger, incremental, data pools, but they were on vary different systems, and would take time to integrate. The larger firm was ahead in terms of having a large loyalty program, but was unable to fully harness the power of the inbound data due to a lack of resources. Their biggest concern for future growth was the growing industry demand by younger audiences for boutique restaurants featuring local, organic and unique food palettes. How could they go develop products and market to this demographic of younger customers without the ability to capitalize on the data they already had.
Figure-1: SMB Data Management Challenges
Both firms are considered disruptors or leaders in their respective industries, and so their goals were specifically aimed at improving operational efficiency in order to reduce costs and free financial resources to stay ahead of their competition. Now, let’s take a look below at their individual goals –
Figure-2: Customer Goals
As one can see, despite the size and resource differences, their goals are quite similar. My deduction was that since both firms were growing at such fast scale, that neither company was able to put in place a strategy to ensure IT resources were put in place to walk “lock-step” with company goals. Now each firm was trying to modernize their IT resources and strategies to keep their competitive edge. Another common element, was that both firms were open to utilizing our partner and Oracle services to help with next steps, as they both organizations needed all their IT staff focused on key IT projects currently in flight.
After the customer meetings and an internal discussion with the partner we carved out some viable options for both customers. The strategy for both organizations was a “crawl-walk-run” path to enabling them to create an analytic warehouse for the purpose of extracting key data points for critical business decisions.
Figure-3: Customer Recommendations
While the high-level end solution of delivering to the customer the means to create an analytic warehouse, the path was different. The retail customer was locked on their current PoS and merchandising projects, thus the recommendation was that they first gain some experience with Oracle’s Database and Analytics cloud services through a free trial. Then the customer would work with our partner to deploy a proof-of-concept around a particular data set they wanted to use to solve an operational issue. If the PoC met their desired goals, then the customer would migrate their data sets to Oracle’s DBaaS cloud. The second phase would consist of migrating their traditional IT infrastructure to Oracle’s IaaS to consolidate vendors and move their IT staff off of managing a datacenter, and instead focusing on adding strategic value.
For the larger customer, they would keep key staff working on systems integration from newly acquired resources, while working with Oracle’s partner to develop a targeted PoC. Since this customer did not want their critical data in the cloud, the proposal was to consider the Oracle Cloud Machine to enable Oracle’s public cloud at the customer’s datacenter. After this, the customer would then look to migrate their traditional IT workloads to Oracle’s IaaS, and for the 2nd phase of growth, Oracle would return to discuss options surrounding IoT and Big Data solutions.
I hope you found this blog insightful, as I found the time spent with both customers exciting and educational. I learned that customers across different industries and of different sizes and skill sets share common challenges and obstacles, but they also share similar goals on how to improve their business trajectory. Both customers had lofty goals and aspirations, but were grounded and realistic as to the priorities that lay before them. In taking a consultative approach, our goal was to present solutions, as well as guidance on which options were most viable within their specific timing and scope. Rather than force them down a fixed path, our goal is to help them grow strategically to ensure we can be their each step of the way. For more information on Oracle’s data management cloud solutions, as well as some key SMB customer video testimonials, please see the links below.
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