The ultimate measure of success for a cloud applications provider lies not in winning a customer’s business. It doesn’t reside in an on-time, on-budget go-live either. While these are critical goals to meet, they represent milestones along the path to the brass ring of achievement: ensuring customers receive enduring value from their applications.
This goal drives both the philosophic and practical approaches Oracle Applications Consulting instills in every customer project. In this interview, Steve Reeter, Oracle’s Vice President of ERP Consulting, discusses how we collaborate with customers to establish a strong foundation of ownership and knowledge of Oracle Cloud Applications that pays long-term dividends.
Q: At a recent event, I heard you define a happy customer as one who finds lasting value with Oracle. How does Oracle Applications Consulting help customers achieve that lasting value starting from the implementation experience to beyond the go-live?
A: For some time, certainly all the way back to on-premises, we’ve ascribed to a philosophy that it’s not just about a go-live event, it’s a commitment to agility. For cloud, it's all about long-term agility, long-term sustainability, long-term flexibility. Staying current becomes vastly easier in the cloud, which gives customers a roadmap that is an appreciating asset. Our ability to get customers to that place in deployment is key, and the way in which we get the customer onboarded adds signature value both in the implementation and over time because we are arguably the most transparent partner. Oracle Consulting is the most aggressive in making sure that our customers are self-sufficient.
We have a multi-decade reputation of getting customers better trained and more knowledgeable. I like to think of our work as ensuring customers become better custodians of their Oracle applications. We not only get customers live, but very quickly on the heels of the go-live, we position them to be great custodians for change. We empower them to continue to optimize and take advantage of business events in the cloud, not just application updates or unlocking software value.
It’s about addressing business change, mergers and acquisitions, expansion, globalization, technology innovations—all the things that we want them to be able to capitalize on. Our litmus test within the first year, second year, and third year is to confirm that value is appreciating faster than they’ve experienced before. That embodies lasting value for us, not a “one and done” go-live.
Q: You mentioned our reputation for delivering better training and knowledge transfer. What is different about our approach? How does Oracle Applications Consulting deploy the strategy and tactics to enable that custodianship from day one?
A: It begins with the transparency and the explicitness of what it’s going to take to be a successful customer. The best enablement for success that a customer can acknowledge is they’re going to have to be a critical participant. They’re going to have to be a decision-maker. They're going to have to commit resources. This is not a back-office project, and it’s critical for customers to align with that mindset to ensure they’re truly prepared.
The process that begins from there, the way we deploy cloud, we believe is markedly different. With our implementation methodology, True Cloud Method, we have customers engage with the software extremely early—right up front—instilling the notion that their role as an informed participant is critical to success. Specifically, that starts with things like familiarization workshops as a part of True Cloud Method, which serves as early application education awareness. That lays a foundation so that, once we start making decisions, making setups, and establishing, confirming, and accepting designs, they’re truly an informed participant.
We progress from there with customers working side by side with us. We look at the project as a bell curve—it shifts over time to less dependency on Oracle Consulting and more responsibility on the customer. That’s deliberate, so the customer begins to validate the system.
By validating it, they’re creating muscle memory as opposed to just intellectual understanding of their processes on the cloud. That’s vital because, again, you can throw a lot of consultants at testing and validation, but that doesn't cement that necessary sense of ownership for the customer. Empowering our customers to own validation carries them forward. It prepares them for their first month-end close, for the first unexpected production support, for the first proactive business event that needs to be conducted in the cloud.
The last milestone before go-live is when a big part of the customer’s organization—not just their core team—is validating with hands on a keyboard, and they have been properly prepared to do that. That makes for a successful cut-over, and it makes for a successful cloud custodian relationship with the applications.
Q: Your description of the transfer of responsibility over the course of the project brings to mind a common challenge I’ve heard from many customers during my career: “How do I dedicate the internal resources necessary for this implementation without disrupting my day-to-day operations?” What approach does Oracle Consulting take with customers to ensure they can successfully run their business while doing the implementation in parallel?
A: The last technology event that many of our customers have seen is an upgrade, which can create a false sense of interaction. So, at times, our customers will say, “Well, this is maybe a little more work than the upgrade,” or “You, the consultants, will do a little more work than the upgrade.” My response is, “No, that’s like the difference between some house maintenance and building a brand-new home.”
We prepare customers accordingly in several ways. We make it clear they’ll be making key decisions that impact their business. And as a result, they need to assemble the right team to support it. That requires the executive sponsors of the project to assemble their best people to fingerprint this new cloud design. This sounds obvious, but it can be difficult to assign your most in-demand talent to another project.
We go an extra step to understand not only what the demands are for some of these key folks, but to determine what other capital projects are going on in parallel that may be fighting for resources. Sometimes that’s as innocuous as an expected audit. Sometimes it’s as strategic as an acquisition during the life of the project, and those same critical resources will get tapped.
Once the team is assembled, executive sponsors must deputize individuals by clearly making the project a priority for them, and empower them to make decisions on behalf of the company. The C-level executives won’t be at every meeting. Responsibility assignments and governance structures only work if there is a true delegation of authority. In absence of that, you get decision volleys, secondary reviews, and decisions that lack staying power.
So, we are candid about the level of commitment needed and the importance of mapping the right resources to the project. The power to make things go quickly requires an empowered team. Customers want to know how fast we can run. And the answer is, it’s a three-legged race. The consulting team can only run as fast as we can run together.