Tuesday Oct 21, 2014

Coming from OOW - Automating Financial Processes in PeopleSoft, E-Business Suite

At Oracle OpenWorld earlier this month, I had the opportunity to moderate a customer panel to discuss how to automate financial processes for Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle PeopleSoft in a scalable, efficient manner.

The panel was aimed at Application IT as well as Line of Business attendees who are looking to undertake similar implementations. With that in mind, our invitations to speaker panelists were rather deliberate. Not only did we have representation across industry and geography, our panelists' roles within their organizations were different enoguh to provide  both technical and business perspectives. For our panel, we had Michael Stevens who is the Financial Services Initiative Lead at Lend Lease Corporation based in Australia, Doris Wilson from National Express Corporation (NEC) who represented the Application IT side of the house on our panel and Michael LaPlante, Director of Business Process Improvement at National Academy of Sciences (NAS) based in Washington DC.

The business drivers for the three were industry centric. Lend Lease has offices all around the world and because of their business, they need to ensure expedient processing of supplier invoices. Different geographies for Lend Lease meant different invoice templates so it was important to find a solution to reconcile structured and unstructured data. The company went with Oracle WebCenter Capture to scan the invoices, WebCenter Forms recognition to reconcile structured and unstructured data from the invoices while storing the electronic content with WebCenter Content complete with data sync with Oracle E-Business Suite. To enable integration and smoother process management, the company has implemented Oracle SOA Suite. Michael is currently globe-trotting to take these regional implementations live, keeping in mind the regulatory nuances for each region.

Doris did confirm that the implementation request and the solution selection was directed by her finance team counterparts. But to ensure that the implementation was consistent with Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) and the rest of the applications infrastructure at NEC, Doris and her team got involved. The company needed to minimize paper invoices and automate invoice processing so they could free up their resources to do more meaningful work. The company uses Oracle E-Business Suite extensively for most of its operational needs. Oracle WebCenter Suite and Oracle SOA Suite were the obvious choices given the interoperability and proven integration. With the implementation, NEC was able to automate one of the most tedious processes in their company's finance operations, eliminating the need to even have handwritten signatures and GL account coding. The digital invoice images were then clipped to invoice in EBS making tracking and processing faster and relatively easy while giving visibility to AP liability dollars at month-end. And final resource investment count: 5.5!

NAS is not your typical organization with a not so typical vendor and customer model. True to its distinction, Michael LaPlante and team approached this project quite scientifically. A thorough analysis helped them select which financial processes when automated would provide the most (and near term) return on investment. Invoice processing won hands down. NAS implemented Oracle Webcenter and Oracle BPM Suite to automate invoice processing for PeopleSoft. The project took 13 months to implement with the company hitting the break-even point within 11 months, savings coming in the form of time investment of 8 full time employees! The biggest hurdle for them - change management. Once they got their users on the standardized approval process flow, it was relatively smooth sailing from there on. The ROI increases with every workflow process they now add after AP. Aside from savings in disk storage and offsite storage costs, the company is realizing significant efficiencies in searches, reporting and of course having better visibility. With that under their belt, the NAS team may be looking at tackling the HR processes next.

The three customers on the panel discussed leveraging middleware technologies to complement with EBS or PeopleSoft implementation to automate financial processes and extend the value of their existing investments. That's AppAdvantage; that's technology at work.

The panelists experiences were rather rich and the session provided valuable insights. Hope you found the summary useful as well. If you need more information and have follow up questions, do reach out to use and we will aim to get you answers as quickly as possible.


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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