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.


Monday Oct 29, 2012

Using Oracle BPM to Extend Oracle Applications

Author: Srikant Subramaniam, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Fusion Middleware

Customers often modify applications to meet their specific business needs - varying regulatory requirements, unique business processes, product mix transition, etc. Traditional implementation practices for such modifications are typically invasive in nature and introduce risk into projects, affect time-to-market and ease of use, and ultimately increase the costs of running and maintaining the applications. Another downside of these traditional implementation practices is that they literally cast the application in stone, making it difficult for end-users to tailor their individual work environments to meet specific needs, without getting IT involved. For many businesses, however, IT lacks the capacity to support such rapid business changes. As a result, adopting innovative solutions to change the economics of customization becomes an imperative rather than a choice.

Let's look at a banking process in Siebel Financial Services and Oracle Policy Automation (OPA) using Oracle Business Process Management. This approach makes modifications simple, quick to implement and easy to maintain/upgrade. The process model is based on the Loan Origination Process Accelerator, i.e., a set of ready to deploy business solutions developed by Oracle using Business Process Management (BPM) 11g, containing customizable and extensible pre-built processes to fit specific customer requirements.

This use case is a branch-based loan origination process. Origination includes a number of steps ranging from accepting a loan application, applicant identity and background verification (Know Your Customer), credit assessment, risk evaluation and the eventual disbursal of funds (or rejection of the application). We use BPM to model all of these individual tasks and integrate (via web services) with: Siebel Financial Services and (simulated) backend applications: FLEXCUBE for loan management, Background Verification and Credit Rating.

The process flow starts in Siebel when a customer applies for loan, switches to OPA for eligibility verification and product recommendations, before handing it off to BPM for approvals. OPA Connector for Siebel simplifies integration with Siebel’s web services framework by saving directly into Siebel the results from the self-service interview. This combination of user input and product recommendation invokes the BPM process for loan origination. At the end of the approval process, we update Siebel and the financial app to complete the loop.

We use BPM Process Spaces to display role-specific data via dashboards, including the ability to track the status of a given process (flow trace). Loan Underwriters have visibility into the product mix (loan categories), status of loan applications (count of approved/rejected/pending), volume and values of loans approved per processing center, processing times, requested vs. approved amount and other relevant business metrics.

Summary

Oracle recommends the use of Fusion Middleware as an extensions platform for applications. This approach makes modifications simple, quick to implement and easy to maintain/upgrade applications (by moving customizations away from applications to the process layer). It is also easier to manage processes that span multiple applications by using Oracle BPM.

Additional Information

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