Friday Feb 07, 2014

From Analysts to Architects: Oracle AppAdvantage

Author: Rick Beers

Rick Beers is Senior Director of Product Management for Oracle Fusion Middleware. Prior to joining Oracle, Rick held a variety of executive operational positions at Corning, Inc. and Bausch & Lomb.

With a professional background that includes senior management positions in manufacturing, supply chain and information technology, Rick brings a unique set of experiences to cover the impact that technology can have on business models, processes and organizations. Rick will be hosting the IT Leader Editorial on a regular basis.

The Oracle AppAdvantage team has kicked off its Executive Roundtable global series covering about 20 locations in North America alone, with a pilot in Boston last week. With its focus on Business Process Agility, one of our entry points, it was a very interactive discussion amongst the audience, the presenting customer, a global communications infrastructure company, and the sponsoring partner, Apps Associates. It certainly set the bar high for the rest of the series. More of that later in the blog, but for now I’d like to relay a conversation I had with one of the IT Leaders attending. After dinner he and I talked about the breakthroughs he was finally having in discussing business process management with his supply chain counterparts and the way in which Business Analysts were actually driving the discussion. In his view they were making a breakthrough in finally aligning technology and process so we did what any two responsible adults do after dinner to kick around a few ideas; we went to the bar for some single malt.

We talked about the way that the Business Analyst role was expanding beyond the traditional scope of fit and functionality, as systems moved beyond the tightly controlled ERP confines of the past.

Social, Mobile, Cloud and Big Data are certainly providing the opportunity to better (finally?) align IT and the rest of the business, but in doing so are redefining the Business Analyst role. As we were talking I began to sketch out the scope of this new breed of Business Analysts. There seemed to be four quadrants of activity involved in the ability of an enterprise platform to align with the business.

But then we discussed the dynamic nature of all this compared with the early days of the evolution of Business Analysts. That’s the reason for the continual loop of Iteration.

In ERP’s early days, from which emerged the modern Business Analyst role, we were all comfortable with a periodic review if business processes during the ‘fit/gap’ phase of an implementation or upgrade. Over time of course, business processes and even business models themselves grew much more dynamic, to the point where change became continual. The alignment between process and technology became even more elusive than before. With the emergence of digital innovations enabling the open architectures of today’s enterprise systems platforms the Business Analyst role is becoming a much more dynamic and strategic one. As a matter of fact, it’s beginning to look like a Business Architect role, but that’s a discussion for another day.

And that was the outcome for me of just one AppAdvantage Executive Roundtable. I can’t wait for the next one. We’ve designed these events to open up such ideas; to focus upon true iterative learning that we can build upon back at the workplace. Follow the link I just provided to learn more about these Roundtables, now underway in APAC, EMEA and North America. Register for one close to you and even better, bring along a functional counterpart. Get those creative juices flowing. And enjoy a scotch afterwards.

On a related note, the Oracle AppAdvantage IT Leaders Series has kicked off with a 30 minute documentary produced with the Pella Corporation, where we explored the impact that Digital Experience (one of our seven entry points) is having on Pella’s relationships with customers, partners and employees. The Webcast will occur on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET. Be sure to register for this unique online event.


Tuesday Jan 28, 2014

Oracle AppAdvantage IT Leader Documentary Webcast on Pella

Oracle AppAdvantage is not about products; it is about business use cases. At Oracle we have the unique opportunity to see and understand how organizations - big and small, global and regional - use Oracle Applications and how they look to extend and enhance the value of their existing investments in Oracle Applications. As ACE Director, Debra Lilley had mentioned in her post last week, much like traffic and roads, it is okay to ask for directions while navigating applications. Oracle AppAdvantage is that strategic approach to using Oracle Fusion Middleware with Oracle Applications or other industry applications whereby organizations can extend their technology investments to fuel innovation and meet strategic business objectives.

The Oracle AppAdvantage IT Leader program has been put together to showcase organizations and their successful technology roadmaps driving innovation for the future while enabling business success today. As  part of this program, you will see Oracle's executives sit down with IT Leaders of organizations around the world to discuss the business, cultural, organizational and financial impact of the use of technology, and of the application of Oracle AppAdvantage, to drive innovation and build industry differentiation. These in-depth, on-site interviews will detail the business rationale, the road to planning, design & ultimately success as well as the IT Leader's vision for the future. We will get insights into the industry, we will explore touch points between business and IT collaboration, and more. Oracle Enterprise Architects and technical experts will be called in to walk us through the logical reference model so we understand the technology that is fueling the success. We will explore the cross-industry applications of technology. And, we will host a live Q&A session so that YOUR questions are answered by the experts.

We kick-off the IT Leader program with Pella - a well known doors and windows manufacturer in North America. Tune in Wednesday, February 12 at 10 am PT/ 1pm ET to see and hear from the IT Leaders at Pella as they describe how they are leveraging Oracle AppAdvantage to reinvent the way they interact with employees, customers, and business partners. Find out how technology is enabling continuous improvement throughout the manufacturing and sales cycles at Pella. Register for this complimentary webcast and get your questions answered live by the experts. Rick Beers, our host of the regular IT Leaders Editorial column, will be the host of this documentary webcast with Pella.

Pella Revolutionizes the Digital Experience for Customers, Partners and Employees

Date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Time: 10:00am PT / 1:00pm ET

Register Now


Monday Jan 13, 2014

Business Value vs. ROI

Author: Rick Beers


Rick Beers is Senior Director of Product Management for Oracle Fusion Middleware. Prior to joining Oracle, Rick held a variety of executive operational positions at Corning, Inc. and Bausch & Lomb.

With a professional background that includes senior management positions in manufacturing, supply chain and information technology, Rick brings a unique set of experiences to cover the impact that technology can have on business models, processes and organizations. Rick will be hosting the IT Leader Editorial on a regular basis.

I still remember a conversation that changed the way I looked at enterprise systems as if it occurred last week, even though it was 17 years ago.

I was on the balcony of a convention style resort in Phoenix during an annual conference held by a large manufacturing technology research organization. I had recently been given responsibility for the supply chain technology portion of a global ERP program and was at the conference to learn more of an emerging (and at the time heavily hyped) technology known as Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS). Systems such as PeopleSoft’s newly acquired Red Pepper and SAP’s APO were promising to replace the manual processes at the core of existing supply chain planning systems with automated modeling, detection and response technology. I was easily convinced. It was sexy, compelling and carried with it ROI’s in excess of 30%.

While at the conference I was pulled aside after dinner by a marketing executive at the research organization after he heard me in a panel discussion extolling the promise of APS. Out on the balcony, over a glass of wine, he advised “Be careful. Just because you have a system to tell you what to do doesn’t mean that you should do it, or even can in the first place. Your legacy manufacturing equipment and business processes must change to keep pace with the shorter run lengths and more frequent changeovers that the system will require.” This one piece of advice opened my eyes to three dynamics that have stayed with me ever since, and have guided my recent work with Oracle on AppAdvantage:

  1. That enterprise technology alone is rarely a determinant of value; rather it is the business value that technology enables.

  2. That enterprise technology rarely achieves its potential unless it is harmonized with its business surroundings: people, processes and physical assets.

  3. That the ROI of enterprise technology itself cannot be calculated because it is an enabler of a business outcome, not the outcome itself.

It’s the last one that was the most profound and is an issue still today. Our industry (providers, partners and practitioners) is still in search of quantifiable ROI from enterprise technology. It’s like the search for the Holy Grail: a worthy mission that cannot succeed because its basic premise is flawed.

Instead we should focus on business value. In effect, a contract with business leadership that identifies the outcomes that a technology project will be measured upon and the steps necessary to deliver them. This has five key components:

  • The Project itself described in terms of the business outcome rather that the specific systems involved. This creates a culture of business ownership and the identification of business owners.

  • An agreement on the measurable outcomes that have clear line of sight to the project.

  • An agreement by business owners of the processes that need to change and the investments required in skills and physical assets that the technology will require.

  • Line of sight metrics for both the delivery of the technology and the agreed upon business outcomes.

  • Clear accountability for those outcomes.

Oracle AppAdvantage, and the layered framework that it comprises, has been developed around the delivery of Business Value as opposed to more traditional technology ROI. In particular, its seven Entry Points are designed to facilitate Business Value discussions between IT leaders and Lines of Business leadership. Its visual similarity to a compass is deliberate; it provides directional guidance based upon desired business outcomes.

During February and March we will be conducting Oracle AppAdvantage Executive Roundtables in Asia, the Americas and Europe that will prompt such dialogue amongst the audience. I will discuss these in my blog next month.

Wednesday Aug 07, 2013

Embracing Situational IT


Rick Beers is Senior Director of Product Management for Oracle Fusion Middleware. Prior to joining Oracle, Rick held a variety of executive operational positions at Corning, Inc. and Bausch & Lomb.

With a professional background that includes senior management positions in manufacturing, supply chain and information technology, Rick brings a unique set of experiences to cover the impact that technology can have on business models, processes and organizations.

Rick will be hosting the IT Leaders Editorial on a regular basis.


Confession: I am neither a technologist nor a long term IT professional, having spent the first two thirds of my 40 year career in manufacturing and supply chain, before first entering IT in 1997 as the supply chain technology lead in a global ERP roll-out. I still remember my early impressions of the IT profession, both positive and negative. To be clear: I see many more of the former than the latter; this is an industry that thrives on energy, innovation and the creation of new and disruptive things that change the way we live, work and play.

I did, however, have two critical observations at the outset though that have stayed with me for the past 15 years:

  • We continually believe that we know everything and that we are right all the time. Not only collectively but also individually. Consensus often seems to be a case of having an opinion and then convincing everyone else that it is right.
  • We lean towards binary thinking; believing that there are always distinctly right and wrong ways to do things; that software technologies would work as designed in all situations as long as they were implemented correctly.

During my manufacturing years I was trained in ‘Situational Leadership’, popularized in the late 1970’s by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, co-authors of the Management of Organizational Behavior. This ground breaking research, now in its 10th edition, holds that there is no clear right or wrong style of leadership; that effective leadership is often defined to one’s surroundings such as organization, tasks and culture. Oh, to be certain, there are standardized norms with which we all must comply, both legal and ethical, but beyond those, our behavioral norms and the situation involved guide how we lead. Might this also extend to the way we manage technology?

I considered this the other day when I was going through my archives and came across a December 2009 white paper from PricewaterhouseCoopers entitled The Situational CIO. It left a strong impression on me then and is still relevant today. Information Technology management is simply not a binary exercise, as most CIO’s instinctively realize. In observing that CIO’s must continually navigate between three apexes: IT Operations, Sourcing & Orchestration, and Strategy, the research quickly focuses its attention on a key constraint facing CIO’s, the growing impact of earlier generation, inflexible enterprise systems in situational world:

“At least that’s (re: navigating between the three apexes) the theory. The reality is that keeping the lights on will remain difficult for years to come, given the billions of dollars worth of installed systems that cannot simply be swapped for the standard, turnkey tools that vendors are promising. Yet the CIO who stays too focused on these technologies will be in danger of becoming obsolete or unemployed. Keeping the lights on is expected but not valued until big problems occur, in which case the company usually looks for a new CIO.” (The Situational CIO: IT Problem Solver, Cost Cutter, Strategist. PricewaterhouseCoopers, December, 2009).

It is for reasons such as this that Oracle’s Fusion Middleware team is this month launching Oracle AppAdvantage, an external program focused upon ”the incremental value gained by Oracle Applications customers with Oracle Fusion Middleware”.

Due to the breadth and depth of Oracle Fusion Middleware platform, and the fact that it is increasingly compatible with Oracle Applications including E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JDEdwards, Siebel and Oracle’s core Industry applications such as Oracle Health Sciences E-Clinical Solutions and our Oracle Banking Platform, enterprises now have an achievable opportunity to continually navigate the need to simultaneously lower costs, create business value and realize their strategic visions.

With AppAdvantage, Oracle customers can maximize the value of Oracle Applications with Oracle Fusion Middleware by adopting a pace layered approach.

1. Standardize and consolidate core Enterprise Applications, removing invasive customizations and costly workarounds.

2. Move business specific processes and applications to the Differentiate Layer, thus creating greater business agility with process extensions and best of breed applications managed by cross- application process orchestration.

3. Drive business innovation by connecting people, information, and applications anywhere, anytime. Treat this as an Innovation Layer, with capabilities that transform organizations

4. Simplify IT by minimizing complexity, improving performance and lowering cost with secure and reliable systems across the entire Enterprise.

For an extended view on this subject read the whitepaper I just finished: IT – Business Alignment Why We Stumble and the Path Forward. Next month I’ll be discussing AppAdvantage in more detail and how we’ll be showcased at Oracle Open World.


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