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  • March 10, 2017

Insights from the 'Journey To The Cloud' Conference

Richard Bingham
Senior Development Manager

The UK Oracle User Group held a one day conference entitled 'Journey To The Cloud' where the community came together to discuss what is involved in adopting Cloud Applications and for those already there to share their experiences. Here is the agenda for the day, with the sessions I attended highlighted (large size):

Keynote

Oracle's HCM Cloud Evangelist Andy Campbell delivered an interesting keynote. The theme was 'change', starting with some thought provoking examples of where steps (and people) have been taken out of a modernized process (citing Roborace and Amazon Dash) and how this future vision has implications for today's businesses. Another example of change was how the personal information on LinkedIn (available for free) is most likely much more detailed and up-to-date than most in-house HR systems. He gave examples of where the opening of self-service HR has shown up to 30% of records were updated immediately because data was wrong.

The session transitioned into looking at peoples productivity, comparing the very gradual increase over the last few years with the exponential rate of technology increase, showing the clear -and growing - gap between the two. Andy went on to look at Cloud Applications, with specific reference to how point-solutions proved initially popular but that the industry now shows a trend toward cloud application 'suites' due to the significant overhead of integration. Andy's final slide was on something that is actually taught at my children's junior school - the fixed/growth mindset - and how modern business leaders should ensure they foster continuous improvement into their IT strategy.

Our Session - How To Migrate Your Customizations To The Cloud

In an extension of our usual remit of showing how to customize and extend Fusion Cloud Applications, this time we added a methodology to help those implementing think carefully about customization and to adopt a comprehensive migration approach. This focused around the flow in the diagram below. First understand what you have today; what is used, by who, when, how much, and what for. This starting position allows you to understand if you might be able to immediately eliminate some customization. From that you build your future vision; how you'd like to see your application services evolve. Again a chance to understand what users really want and why - because migration should not be a replication of today but a big improvement.

Then comes the creation of a map to get from A to B. This part covered demonstrating the customization solutions available inside the SaaS applications as well as extension features available in the Oracle PaaS services. Finally the 'Extend' part allows reflection on opportunities for further enhancement, beyond looking at the the business needs and into business development and adoption of new capabilities.

I was pleased that the session was very popular (with people left standing in the aisle!), and seemed to be well received.  Let me know in the comments if you'd like the slides (the file is too large to load here), however I am also working on publishing the content separately.

Other Attended Sessions

The first session I attended was given by our friend and colleague Andy McGhee from the Oracle HCM Centre of Excellence who provides direct assistance to specific customer projects. He first illustrated the typical implementation roadmap, with an emphasis on post-implementation proactive service management. I noted his advice to keep records on early solution analysis and design, to avoid key considerations getting missed later on. He gave an example of doing 'catch-up' of missing data migration that can prove problematic. Another note I made was to ensure implementation includes reporting needs in the project plan, and not leave it out and as such becomes another catch-up task

Interestingly Andy explained how when he visits customers he often leads with showing the Business Process diagrams upon which the application functionality is based, and can be found in MyOracleSupport Note 1542019.1. This help reduces misunderstanding and sets expectations. Andy continued to offer lots of great advice on owning and managing a cloud environment, such as setting up a Cloud Manager role to ensure accountability of ongoing testing, administration and integration. He also referenced the popular HCM Talk Radio podcasts (where we collaborated in the past), with new content almost weekly.

The second session was under the more technical track and explained the Platform-as-a-Service components used to extend Oracle Cloud Applications (PaaS4SaaS). Despite having looked at this ourselves, there is always more to learn and good to hear others points-of-view. The session was given by Debra Lilley, UK OUG board member and VP of cloud services for Certus Solutions Ltd. The focus was around the findings from a workshop held last year between partners Certus and eProceed, and the Oracle User Experience team. Here the objective was to build an app using PaaS services which complements Oracle Cloud Applications. Key takeaways included; power of the RDK for ADF development, the need for more APIs in Cloud Applications, no browser redirects, and most significant the lack of business process customization.

It was reassuring to hear confirmation that several of the considerations have been addressed since the workshop. In a general PaaS landscape overview it was interesting to hear that the extensive catalog (>30) is being rationalized into complementary suites, to make it easier to understand what you need. A final note I made was that Debra proposed that the adoption of cloud is maturing to more organizations looking to replace existing systems, compared to customers adopting cloud to access new applications and functionality they did not have before.

The third session was a real customer - the University of Birmingham - and their road map to adopting Cloud Applications. While they were at the start of their actual implementation it was interesting to hear about the procurement process they followed and the massive scope of the systems they were replacing. They cited over 200 ancillary applications around their core business applications (like finance and HR) and how the rapid growth of their business has contributed to the need to bolt on more and more just to keep pace. As such they reached a tipping point where the cost of managing and developing more additions is beyond what they can justify.

It was interesting to hear how they did not use the traditional first step of documenting user requirements, but went to top-tier vendors to understand what their solutions offer out-of-the-box and see if that could fit with their business. This big change to the usual process I heard again a few times during the day. During the session I noted a great phrase - 'swivel chair integration' - for how when systems do not currently work together employees pass messages to colleagues sitting next to them. While Birmingham University had worked on the cloud project for more than a year it was interesting how they understood that even at the end of their implementation it was 'the end of the beginning' as they would need to continuously manage and optimize their Oracle Cloud services.

 

The fourth session was actually re-titled to "CRM is not a system" and led by Fred Wilkinson from Oracle partner BPI OnDemand. This broader reaching session gave some great propositions to consider. The main drive was that typical CRM systems are architected based around the internal departments of the organization - and not around the customer experience at all. They drive internal improvements but give less focus on improving the process for the customer. He gave examples such as self-service help which is often cost saving driven. One good example is Tesla who have 70% of their customers who buy their cars without a test drive.

He also looked at the value of the data organization hold, citing the $8bn valuation of General Motors who own factories, parts, labour etc compared to $50bn for Uber who have hardly any non-digital assets. He also proposed that discussions of social data and big data is often focused on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, but there are over 3 million other data sources out there. Fred went on to propose three tenets of successful CRM projects; People, Data, Process and Advocacy. This session was big on thought-provocation and certainly allowed attendees to think past where they are today.

 

The final session was "Why does mobile need a cloud" delivered by Grant Ronald, Director of Product Management for mobile at Oracle. Always a popular presenter grant explained the Mobile Cloud Service and showed demos of some of it's components including the Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) for setting up and managing mobile-ready API's and the Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX) for low-code development of mobile apps. In just a few minutes he had a working mobile client and you can see him do very similar in these great mobile cloud service videos.

Grant went on to look at future technologies, including an exciting demo of the Oracle Chatbot platform introduced at OpenWorld last year. Grant demonstrated - from a personal banking use-case - how you can issue instructions to artificial 'personas' using the same chat client you use with your friends (Facebook messenger was used) and the back-end systems will interpret the instruction (using Natural Language Processing), execute the task, and reply with a human-like confirmation (or questions if it's not sure). It was a great demo and glimpse into the future.

 

Panel 

As the last event of the day there was a panel session for open Q&A. I was lucky enough to be invited onto the panel and we had a broad range of questions put forward. Each panel member responded with their own take on the questions which gave a very rounded and complete answers. Questions where on a broad range of topics, from specific technologies and products to wider queries about the top benefits of adopting cloud applications. It was a good opportunity for anything left unsaid and proved popular with topics taken off-line also.

Summary

The day proved well attended and the depth of the presentations I saw seemed to satisfy the needs of attendees. Hopefully this will become an annual event and we'll certainly be there to support it.

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