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.

Sunday Aug 04, 2013

Partnering With Your Applications. The Oracle AppAdvantage Story.

“But that’s like saying a smartphone is good for making and receiving phone calls” said Howard Beader, senior director of product marketing for Oracle Fusion Middleware, when I recently sat down with him to discuss the role of middleware as a foundation for business innovation with enterprise applications and follow-up on his recent update in Middleware Minutes. Howard’s point was that Oracle Fusion Middleware is much more than an application infrastructure foundation or the platform for Oracle Fusion Applications. “Leverage Oracle Fusion Middleware to enhance and extend the value of your business applications and you will realize the potential of the innovation platform. And, that is what Oracle AppAdvantage is all about.”

Here is the excerpt of my recent conversation with him on Oracle AppAdvantage.

Q. Has the role of middleware evolved over the course of these years?

Howard: Traditionally middleware has been referred to as the “glue” or “plumbing” that connects two sides of an application and passes data between them. But that’s just half the story. When you start to think about your business applications in mobile, social, cloud and big data context, the only way you can avoid bringing in customizations or making changes to your core-ERP systems is by using standards-based middleware technologies and leveraging middleware as the business application development platform. And it is those use cases that we talk about in Oracle AppAdvantage.

Q. What is Oracle AppAdvantage?

Howard: Oracle AppAdvantage is the approach Oracle Applications customers can take to extend and enhance the value of their existing investment across all Oracle Applications including E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel.

Based on your immediate need(s), whether that is extending your applications to mobile devices, building a customer self-service portal, creating a dynamic collaboration front with partners, taking applications to the cloud or securely extending them to serve your specific needs, you can take the extension or customization work out of your applications and seamlessly extend with Oracle Fusion Middleware technologies as required. Plus, middleware ensures zero downtime for your applications during upgrade and migrations; something that we all passionately care about.

So, with Oracle AppAdvantage, you are using IT to achieve business objectives by combining the power of Oracle Applications and Oracle Fusion Middleware solutions to simplify your IT infrastructure, differentiate from competition and innovate for the future by embracing new technology trends.

Q. Can you elaborate, how does Oracle AppAdvantage help align IT and business initiatives?

Howard: In my conversation with executives of our customer organizations, regardless of industry or region, there seems to be one common objective – improve our company’s bottom-line. You do that by one, creating business value and two, decreasing the total cost of operations (TCO). Oracle AppAdvantage allows you to use and extend your business applications to create business value for your organization and, at the same time, take the customization and management burden out of core applications and into the “process” layer leading to dramatic reduction in the cost of operations.

Oracle AppAdvantage takes a layered approach to aligning IT strategy with business strategy – Simplify IT, Differentiate from others in the industry and Innovate for business growth.

Q. Can you please provide examples of the layered approach with Oracle AppAdvantage?

Howard: Sure. Much thought has been given to how we create value for Oracle Applications customers. Where our customers are looking to Simplify IT, they are focusing on real-time data integration for maximum performance and availability and ensuring zero downtime during upgrades and migrations, enforcing secure, centralized access across all applications and leveraging engineered systems for higher reliability, reduced TCO and streamlined IT support.

Opportunity exists for businesses to Differentiate from competition by offering value-added services. These you do by developing and extending your composite applications to create value, bringing agility to your business by modeling at the business processes level or by leveraging cloud and on-premise deployment as dictated by the business needs.

To bring Innovation to bear and stay ahead of the industry, organizations might be looking to enable mobility – extending their services via mobile, creating exceptional user experiences with online engagement and offering intuitive, streamlined self-service for employees, partner or even your customers.

Each of these layers are, thus, supported by a breadth of business value entry points designed to impact cost reductions and/or fuel business growth.

Q. What, according to you, are the 3 most compelling things about Oracle AppAdvantage?

Howard: You will find that Oracle AppAdvantage is unique in 3 respects:

1. Oracle AppAdvantage offers guided paths for organizations looking to leverage their existing investment in Oracle Applications and extending it to create value in a manner that is scalable and sustainable. You can choose your own path across a myriad of ways. We have highlighted 9 of the most common business value entry points. There is no throwaway work involved.

2. This truly is a program that aligns IT spending and resources with business objectives and demands. For example, if your goal is to improve customer satisfaction and better the engagement model, you would look at how to better your online engagement and/or self-service model. With Oracle AppAdvantage, you are able to show a direct correlation between your IT investment and business growth.

3. As part of the Oracle AppAdvantage program, we are building an AppAdvantage IT Leader network to showcase industry thought leadership and their innovative thinking. The idea is to build models for other organizations to leverage and emulate based on their business objectives. This should allow for cross-pollination of ideas and overall industry development.

Q. How do you recommend organizations get started with exploring if Oracle AppAdvantage is the right fit for them?

Howard: Knowledge is power. Please arm yourself with information on Oracle AppAdvantage program, the philosophy and the alignment with your business objectives. A good place to start would be to browse and download our latest White paper: IT-Business Alignment: Why We Stumble and the Path Forward (PDF). Then, I suggest, you take a look at the Readiness Assessment there and get engaged in a strategy discussion with the experts.

Q. Would we hear more about Oracle AppAdvantage at Oracle OpenWorld?

Howard: Absolutely. We recognize that leveraging IT to create business value is a need that most organizations have and Oracle is honored to be a partner in your business transformation journey. We have an entire track of sessions dedicated to Oracle AppAdvantage at Oracle OpenWorld this year. And, you’ll hear about it across middleware and applications discussions and sessions. Over the course of next few weeks, my team will start to share comprehensive guides that should help you find the sessions, experts and resources on Oracle AppAdvantage while at Oracle OpenWorld and online.

Thank you, Howard, for spending some time with us and sharing information on Oracle AppAdvanatge and giving us some insights on what keeps you and the team busy nowadays.

Here are the quick links to materials on Oracle AppAdvantage that Howard alluded to during his interview:

Visit Oracle AppAdvantage webpage

Get started with the Readiness Assessment guide

Download the informative whitepaper: IT-Business Alignment – Why We Stumble and the Path Forward

Wednesday Jul 31, 2013

Middleware Minutes with Howard Beader - August Edition

It’s been a while now since I have blogged myself and given the importance I have placed on the social channel, I thought it was time to reacquaint myself with the wonderful world of blogging.

First let me introduce myself, I am Howard Beader and I lead the Oracle Fusion Middleware product marketing organization. Basically this means my team is responsible for creating all the online marketing content and activities across the Fusion Middleware Suite, and for all the content you see at our in-person events. As you can imagine, we are involved heavily in driving new product launches, in Oracle Open World and of course in driving our social media activities across all these various assets including the blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

For those of you that may not be aware, Oracle Fusion Middleware includes a complete portfolio of market leading products including Oracle Weblogic Suite, Oracle Coherence, Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle BPM Suite, Oracle Data Integration, Oracle GoldenGate, and Oracle WebCenter. Also rolled into this area are our Developer tools, Master Data Management and Java.

As I am sure you have heard many times by now, the world is becoming “Mobile”. Well, let me be one of the first to assure you, that this is most definitely the case and the time has truly and finally come for enterprise mobility. For those that have known me for a while, they know that I have been involved in helping enterprise customers mobilize their enterprise systems for almost 13 years now, yes… even before there were smart phones! As I write this, perhaps I should ask my children if they remember time before the iPhone and how we had to actually pressed real buttons on a cell phone in order to dial a number or that there was no texting, tweeting way back then. Okay, back to the story - at that time, “way back then” in 2000, the devices were under powered, the network was not yet capable of managing the speeds for the data required, the IT infrastructures were not optimized to support service based integration and we didn’t know what we know today about user experience design. Fast forward to today, can you imagine not being able to check email every 15 seconds, or the same with Facebook?

It should be just as easy for a salesperson to check on a customer’s order, for a service person to log in and order a replacement part for a repair order, or for an executive to look at her management dashboard and know that the company is on track to hit their targets. These types of capabilities are expected today across anywhere on any device, 24/7 and a required part of being competitive in today’s economy. Enterprise mobility is a focus area for Fusion Middleware in FY14, and one that you will see lots of activity around, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for more.

Another area of focus is cloud. Specifically, we are seeing customer interest in a number of areas including platform as a service, PaaS, and this, of course, is another top focus area for Oracle and for Fusion Middleware in FY14.  We are excited by the latest release of our Cloud Application Foundation and hope you have the opportunity to learn more by checking out the latest webcast.

Cloud integration is a hot topic, customers are always asking for the best solution to integrate their cloud solutions with their on-premise applications.  In a survey that Oracle conducted we found that a stunning 64% said they were unable to integrate their cloud apps with other enterprise apps. More information on cloud integration and the study can be found here.

Fast Data is an exciting topic that we introduced at OpenWorld last year, and is an area that we are continuing to see tremendous interest in across our customer base. Fast Data is a complimentary approach to Big Data for managing large quantities of “in-flight” data that helps organizations get a jump on those business-critical decisions. Fast Data is the continuous access and processing of events and data in real-time for the purposes of gaining instant awareness and instant action. You will be seeing much more from us in this area, but if interested feel free to check out our Fast Data article on Forbes located here.

Mobile, Cloud, Big/Fast Data are all top of mind initiatives we are hearing from our customers and partners. Oracle Fusion Middleware provides significant benefits across these areas and more especially for our application customers. In FY14, we have developed a focused program, Oracle AppAdvantage, to help our customers maximize their investments across Oracle Applications.

With Oracle AppAdvantage we are addressing the topics we are hearing from our application customers. As an example, our customers often ask - I have E-Business Suite Peoplesoft, JD Edwards and or Siebel, how can we develop more agile processes, how can we optimize our platform, how can we have better engagement with our customers, employees and partners, or how can we mobilize our applications to name just a few. The answer is... Oracle AppAdvantage!

Stay tuned to learn more about the program, and if you are coming to Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco you will hear a lot more about the above topics across our Oracle Fusion Middleware sessions, hand-on labs and demos so if you are there stop by and say hello we definitely want to hear from you!

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.


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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