Monday Jan 12, 2015

Big League Talent: Every Business Needs It


Well, it happened again. The Broncos fall short three years in a row in trying to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning at the helm. Granted, during that long spell of mediocrity between the Elway and Manning eras, Broncos fans would have been ecstatic to win a division title*. But Elway’s artful acquisition of arguably the best quarterback ever set the bar higher. Much, much higher.

This week, the Monday morning quarterbacks will be working overtime debating whether the Broncos can take another run at it with Manning. And whether Coach Fox is the man to guide the ship. Also, there is a looming dread associated with the anticipated exodus of talent at many key positions.

When it comes to acquiring, retaining, and managing talent, much can be learned from the major leagues...

says Pamela Stroko, Vice President, HCM Transformation and Thought Leadership at Oracle. Last fall, Stroko took the time to author this article, “Talent Lessons From the Major Leagues”. Drawing on her experiences as year round sports fanatic and an expert on talent, Stroko shares her insight on lessons every HR professional must learn:

  1. Make sure you have high performing talent in every role
  2. Performance matters—understand what you are buying
  3. It is never a great idea to throw your talent under the bus
  4. Hire for fit as well as for skill, capability, and smarts.

Download the full article to get the details.

Meanwhile, Colorado sports fans will regroup and look for some optimism for the future of our teams but that’s some tough fat to chew on. The Rockies never have the pitching they need. The Nuggets are unlikely to acquire that top 15 player that the NBA now requires to win a title. The Avalanche are hovering at .500. Good things is, we’re a pretty happy state and we’ve got plenty of other things to do.

Come Super Bowl Sunday, you can find me on the slopes of Loveland Ski Area. I won’t be in a hurry to get home in time for kickoff.

*yes, Orton and Tebow accomplished that feat but everyone knew they were overachieving and that the team didn’t’ have the talent to go deep in the playoffs.



Executive Insight Series

This new series features executive insight from Oracle, customer, partner, and third party thought leaders and is focused on Modern Best Practice.  Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

Previous posts:


Jim Lein

Oracle Applications Business Unit 

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Tuesday Dec 16, 2014

Career Paths: No Regrets?

No, this isn't a picture of Jim Lein

When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?

High School? College? Still pondering that question? Do you have any regrets about your career choices?

Generally I don’t have regrets because a) they serve no purpose and b) every choice has a ripple effect. For example, had I not chose to be a low paid ski bum in my twenties I never would have met my wife.

After reading this piece by Bernard Marr, Career Choices You Will Regret In 20 Years, I took a few minutes to reflect on my own career choices. I had 5 careers before settling in to the enterprise software industry for the last 16 years. Happily, I can say that I have not experienced the example regrets Marr offers but for one. And I’m not gonna tell you which one it is.

Today’s workforce—and future workforce—seems to know what it wants. For example, the 2013 National Society of High School Scholars Millennial Career Survey showed that respondents—primarily primarily female (68%) and current high school students (61%)—know what they want most from their future employers.

The responses reflect a maturity of thought and awareness that certainly didn’t exist amongst most of my generation. When I was in high school, I don’t know that I could have even answered these survey questions. My parents always told me, “You can be anything you want to be?”. And my reply was always, “Great. What do I want to be?”

Granted, the life experiences young people go through after they leave high school that will influence their career decisions. Not everyone can be a high paid doctor or engineer. But I’m hoping they keep those values and aspirations in place as they enter the workforce.

In any case, companies that succeed in hiring the best talent today are those who best understand what today’s workforce wants. If you’re talent sourcing, onboarding, and management processes don’t exploit enabling technologies—social, mobile, analytics, big data, IoT—then chances are you’re fighting an uphill battle when it comes to hiring and retaining the best talent.

Here’s a short video explaining how modern HR in the cloud can help you adopt Modern Best Practice for HR and Talent Management.


Learn more:

Oracle.com: Is Your HRMS Attracting a Modern Workforce?

Oracle.com: Adopt Modern Best Practice for HR & Talent



Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Friday Dec 12, 2014

Generate More Value From Finance

When I was controller for a chain of six Colorado ski shops, there were very clear expectations of my role. Primarily, I was expected to be accurate, reliable, and the bastion of honesty and integrity in a world of misfits and scallywags.  In the last decade, we've seen how some CFOs have busted out of the stereotypical role of head bean counter to expand their roles, many times to include IT and HR oversight. The response has been, "Congratulations. Now deliver more". 

In this performance.cfo.com article, 4 Ways to Generate More Value as CFO, Bill Budicin of The Keystone Group urges CFOs to, "Expand your thinking and your role. Value is about exceeding expectations. Closing the books in three to five days without error is an expectation in today's environment. You have to do more to really generate valuer in your organization".

Budicin offers several tangible ways to generate value:

  • "Restructure the way IT interacts with the rest of the organization...try creating a new process for requesting reports out of IT that includes documenting the decision being made, information needed to maket hte decision, and the data needed to provide the information."
  • "Help devise the metrics that will measure the progress of those initiatives. Think about how to communicate those metrics to the rest of the organization."
  • "Help your company identify all investment-related activities and rethink not only ROI targets but also the total amount you want to spend on these initiatives."

If you agree, my question to you is,"Do your current IT systems support new ways of generating value from finance?"

I'd bet the answer is "no" if those systems don't exploit the enabling technologies of cloud, social, mobile, analytics, big data, and IoT.

Whether you're researching solutions, crafting an RFQ, or in the selection process, Oracle can provide resources to help you understand how adopting Modern Best Practices that exploit these technologies will assist you in delivering more value from your finance organization.

Learn more about Modern Best Practice for Finance, HR & Talent, Procurement, Marketing, Sales, and Service


Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Wednesday Dec 10, 2014

Disruption: Are Hot Brands Breaking the Rules?


Many of today’s hottest, disruptive ideas are being championed by companies that are questioning why we’ve done things exactly the same way for so long. Disruptive strategies often bring accusations of not playing fair. However, most of the time the goals of these companies are not to eliminate the traditional ways of doing business but rather to either fill a need that is not being met ande/or simply offer alternatives.

The peer-to-peer lending service, Lending Club (an Oracle Finance Cloud customer), is going public this week and causing quite a stir since the fundamentals of bank lending haven’t changed much in about 4,000 years. Lending Club is a company to watch because, as this Inc. article states, “Can entrepreneurs succeed in disrupting the highly-regulated, highly-consolidated, highly-technical--and, let's admit it, often highly-boring--financial industry?”

Airbnb, an Oracle Responsys Marketing Cloud customer, isn’t planning on running Marriott or Sheraton out of business. But the concept of making it safe and easy to rent a room from a homeowner has opened doors to new travel experiences for millions of people. Yes, Airbnb rooms may (or may not) be less expensive than hotel brands. However, customers are just as likely to use Airbnb because, for example, they decided at the last minute to attend Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco and all the hotels are booked up. Or, maybe they want to experience Brooklyn more as a local than as a tourist.

Likewise, ridesharing services such as Lyft (an Oracle HCM Cloud customer) aren’t trying to empty all the taxi cabs. Their goal is to make getting from point A to point B an easier and more pleasurable (at at least less painful) experience. When’s the last time you said, “I just had the best taxi ride experience”? With Lyft, you ride shotgun. I rest my case. And, with Lyft Line, they are addressing the fact that about 75% of all commuters in the United States are in single occupant vehicles (105 million cars).

To some people, one or more of these companies may not be playing fair. But you know what they say… “Rules are made to be broken”.


Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Monday Dec 08, 2014

Cloud Solutions Drive Real Results

New Video Showcases What Modern Means to Oracle Cloud Customers

Oracle released a short (2:34) compilation video today featuring rapid fire snippets of customer testimonials. Each customer, in their own words, describes benefits their company has realized by deploying Oracle cloud applications and adopting Modern Best Practice. Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

Here are a few highlights. Click on the image to view additional videos featuring each customer's story:





Go to Oracle’s customer and partner successes home page to see more customer videos.


Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Wednesday Dec 03, 2014

Modern Best Practice, Growth, & Digital Transformation


Why Best Practice May Not Be Good Enough

Steve Cox, VP, Oracle Applications Business UnitEvery software vendor touts their ability to deliver best practice. However, best practice isn’t really best practice if it’s not “Modern Best Practice” and doesn’t exploit enabling technologies such as cloud, mobile, and social. So says Steve Cox, Vice President, Oracle Applications Business Unit, who recently authored an eBook, Modern Best Practice Explained to articulate why only modern best practice good enough.

Q: In your new eBook, you say it’s standardizing that matters. Why is that so important?

SRC: Standardization drives demonstrable results. Standardization has its roots in Henry Ford’s assembly line and Deming’s Total Quality Management. More than a decade ago, one of the key factors in Oracle increase of profits by over $1 billion was standardizing on a common set of business processes.

And standardization is just as relevant today in the age of digital transformation. Every organization that wants to thrive and grow must look at every process and transaction to see if it can be performed digitally. The goals are the same as they have always been—cut costs and improve the consistency of your customers’ experience in a world where buyer behavior is constantly changing due to technology.

Q: How does standardizing on Modern Best Practice help organizations digital transform?

SRC: With digital transformation as the destination, you must ask, “What are we going to standardize on to arrive at that destination?” Modern Best Practice harnesses the enabling tools that are essential to any digital transformation journey—cloud, social, analytics, big data, mobile, and IoT. Modern Best Practice can provide the turn by turn directions on the road to digital transformation. For example, it can serve as an illustrated guide to executing on a social relationship management strategy that not only makes it possible to comprehensively listen to and better engage with customers and prospects on their preferred social networks but to also extend those practices beyond marketing and throughout the entire organization.

Q: Why publish Modern Best Practice on oracle.com?

SRC: Oracle is committed to open standards. That pledge includes not only a commitment to build comprehensive solutions that enable our customers to execute end to end business processes but also the promise to share our knowledge. With our new Modern Best Practice pages, we’re sharing that knowledge together with practical guides to adopting modern ways of doing business.

Q: Which emerging technologies will be next in drive towards Modern Best Practice?

One Retailer's Sales Dwarfs USA Black Friday SalesThere are many. Widespread adoption of devices like indoor positioning systems will trigger new practices for proximity based marketing. Moving to in memory analytics will enable organizations of all sizes to do data analysis they always wanted to do but couldn’t due to system performance issues. Less expensive and more powerful hardware will make it possible for organizations to process more transactions to generate incremental profit at peak times. Adopting IT systems that align with the way people do business will expand to supporting new devices so someone like me can, for example, approve an expense claim on my watch during a long distance trail run. And just the imagine the impact on food producers’ and manufacturers’ production and supply chains as 3D printing evolves.

Q: What’s next for Modern Best Practice?

SRC: Oracle has vast resources of knowledge and we’re just getting started in sharing that in our Modern Best Practice format. Next up, we�������ll be publishing more content on commerce, sales performance, transportation, project lifecycle management, and projects. We’re continually adding more solution demos, relevant whitepapers, and executive level insight to help our customers understand how Modern Best Practice can be their guide to business transformation.



Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Startup Lessons: Go Big or Go Home

For every startup that succeeds, about nine fail. A recent Inc.com article by Kimberly Weisul, What Went Wrong: 101 Failed Startups Tell All, analyzes extensive post mortem data collected by CB Insights to find five primary causes of failure:

  • No market need—43%
  • Ran out of cash—29%
  • Not the right team—33%
  • Got outcompeted—19%
  • Pricing/cost issues—18%

It’s mission critical for aspiring to analyze why businesses fail but it’s equally important to get advice from successful entrepreneurs. Reggie Bradford is Oracle’s SVP of Product Development for Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM). Prior to joining Oracle, he was involved in three successful startups, most recently Vitrue which was purchased by Oracle in 2012 and is now a key component of our SRM suite.

In this Forbes article, 8 Lessons In Creating A Lasting Enterprise Startup, Reggie shares his experience of what it takes to not just succeed as a startup but to launch a company, “that can scale to work with the largest brands in the world. No mom-and-pop strategies here—go big or go home”.

A great idea and impeccably crafted business plan is not enough. Success requires passion, perfect team chemistry, embracing risk, continual adjusting (even pivoting) and even support from family.

It’s easy to forget that Oracle was once a startup too, with a garage as our first corporate HQ. Since 1977, we’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs transform ideas into enduring enterprises. Oracle’s startup customers understand the need to choose technology partners that offer solutions that will continue to meet their needs as they grow and thrive.



Learn more:

Video: Solairus Aviation Soars with Oracle ERP Cloud Service

Blog: Lyft Chooses Oracle HCM Cloud to Adopt Modern Best Practice

Video: Q-See Improves Customer Satisfaction with Oracle Service Cloud


Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Tuesday Dec 02, 2014

Social Sourcing: Head and Shoulders Above Online Recruiting

Why rudimentary online recruiting is not good enough.

I ran across this article today in The Guardian. It offers a great insight into why rudimentary "online recruiting" is far from best practice for companies who expected it to be a panacea to their talent sourcing woes.

As the article states, "Many small business owners hailed the rise of online jobs sites, which have become ever more sophisticated; it beat the previous convention of placing an ad in a local newspaper. But now even the online jobs sites have become a bewildering thicket of missed connections and archived resumes, lacking useful filtering mechanisms that time-pressed CEOs may need."

A strategy of relying on on line job boards and manually searches of social networks such as LinkedIn is likely to produce exponentially more candidates of lower quality than archaic, pre-internet recruiting processes. Socially powered referrals enabled by Oracle Talent Acquisition Cloud offer companies of all sizes the ability to adopt Modern Best practice for Recruiting.

Read more in my recent blog post featuring Richard Atkins, EVP of Cloud Solutions, for Oracle partner Certus Solutions, Recruiting Via Social Sourcing and Viral Job Sharing. 



Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Tuesday Nov 18, 2014

Recruiting via Social Sourcing and Viral Job Sharing

What’s the First Thing You’d Do If You Were Looking for a Job?

A conversation about modern talent sourcing with Richard Atkins, EVP of Certus Solutions

by Jim Lein, Oracle 

Not that I’m looking for a new job…but if I were, I’d do two things. First, I’d tell everyone I know. Second, I’d make sure all my social profiles are putting my best foot forward. I came to those conclusions after my recent conversation with Richard Atkins, EVP of Oracle Cloud Applications at Certus Solutions. Certus Solutions is the UK Oracle User Group (UKOUG) Fusion Applications and Training Partner of the Year for 2014.

I’d take those two steps because I’d want it to be easy for the right company to find me. That “right” company would be one that has adopted Modern Best Practice across their operations, exploiting social, cloud, mobile, analytics, big data, and the Internet of Things to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.

“Today, progressive companies are winning the battle for best talent by proactively searching their employees’ extended social networks for best fit candidates,” says Atkins. “Gone are the days when recruiting departments spent most of their time writing up job descriptions, posting them on job boards and with agencies, and then sitting around waiting for candidates to apply.”

Beyond LinkedIn to Social Powered Referrals

Social networks have been the sandbox for recruiters for quite some time but modern talent sourcing solutions like Oracle Talent Acquisition Cloud are taking what once was an art to what is now more of a science.

“Recruiting the best talent is getting more and more challenging so the most successful companies are recruiting all the time,” says Atkins. “Manually searching LinkedIn profiles is certainly better than the old way of doing things but it’s definitely not modern best practice. Referrals are a far more powerful way and that’s where the automation capabilities of social sourcing solutions really come into their own.”

A successful referral strategy starts with encouraging all existing employees to build out their social networks. Once a job profile is created, an automated sourcing solution can be used to first look for employees who fit that profile and send them a link in case they might be interested. Concurrently, that solution will troll through employees’ social networks and find other people that fit the ideal profile. When matches are found, emails are sent to employees who are connected to the candidates, asking them to refer the job to those qualified candidates. And, as Atkins points out, “The automated solution identifies candidates that may be good matches even if they’re not looking for a new job.”

Scary? No…Scary Good

Trolling your employees’ social networks might sound a little scary. But automated sourcing tools are not tyrannical cyber monsters with minds of their own. They can only use information you give them access to.

“You control they automation,” says Atkins. “You determine the keywords and set the parameters. You tell the system how many candidates to return to you. Maybe you start off with sharing one job profile with just a couple of employees and politely nudging them. ‘Hey… we notice that you are linked to these people. They look like they would be great candidates.’”

With Taleo Social Sourcing, once candidates are identified and apply, they are moved more quickly and efficiently through the selection process. First, referrals are assigned to different categories than people who randomly apply. And, since candidates have already been screened via their social profiles and relationships, you can ask applicants to answer just a few rules-based questions that generate talent pools within the system. That helps identify who you would consider to be star candidates.

“It’s viral job sharing that you control,” says Atkins. “It’s developing a recruiting network that builds up within the system on itself. Candidates that apply become part of the network, automatically spreading your recruiting net wider. Everything is tracked automatically, providing analytics about people who are being referred and who your top referrers are. There’s no real limit how far that can go.”


Learn more

Register for the EMEA Building Better Businesses Webcast Series 

Modern Best Practice for HR and Talent Management


Jim Lein

Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by cloud, mobile, social, analytics, big data, and the internet of things, making it possible for your organization to achieve more, faster and with fewer resources.  It is flexible, supports growth and innovation, and enables new ways to achieve consistently superior performance.

The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Tuesday Nov 04, 2014

Lyft Chooses Oracle HCM Cloud to Adopt Modern Best Practice

San Francisco has one of those good news/bad news problems. Just about everyone has a job. That’s good news for everyone with bills to pay but potentially bad news if you’re job is to hire and retain top talent.

Such is the situation for Ron Storn, VP of People at San Francisco-based ride-sharing and revolutionary startup—Lyft. Storn was recently an executive customer speaker in an Oracle OpenWorld session devoted to strategies for adopting Modern Best Practice in high-growth organizations. Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by emerging technologies—Cloud, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things, and Big Data—to enable organizations to achieve more, faster and with less resources. Lyft’s core business model is predicated on those technologies.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of people facing the dilemma of getting from Point A to Point B simply tap a button on Lyft’s mobile app and a friendly Lyft driver pulls up to the curb in a matter of minutes. For Storn, the challenge of finding talent is a bit more difficult but he’ll soon have help from Oracle’s HCM Cloud solutions.

“Our mission is to change transportation as we know it by building a peer-to-peer transit solution that works with cities to make them safer, more affordable, and better connected,” says Storn. “That now includes providing commuters with a daily transportation option—like Lyft Line—that connects passengers traveling along similar routes, a solution that has incredible potential to decrease traffic congestion and green house gas emissions.”

Hyper Growth Amplifies Onboarding Challenges

Lyft, like most growing companies, needs top talent to achieve its lofty goals. The company now operates in more than 65 cities and plans to go global in 2015. In September of 2013 Lyft had about 100 employees. A year later they had more than 350.

“Competition for talent is fierce. Speed is critical,” says Storn. “We offer the type of work environment that attracts individuals that really want to have an impact yet they’re not really sure where that impact should best be applied. Our goals are to find an initial home for those individuals and then have the ability to monitor HR analytics that map their journey. The strategy is to understand what their capabilities and interests are and then realign those skills over time.”

With hyper growth, Lyft has found it increasingly difficult to onboard talent efficiently. Over time, they have developed a number of one off HR solutions that are “scrappy”, as Storn says, but not scalable. He equates it with, “being on a 747 that’s in the air and building an engine as you’re flying.”

As an analytic-driven executive, Storn required the new HCM system to be a robust, scalable solution that would help establish one platform that all managers and HR staff could use as a stepping stone to managing the workforce. Among its numerous shortcomings, Lyft’s old HR systems didn’t have tools to pull data to align employees to the right teams.

“Our approach to building our business is to launch and iterate,” says Storn. “We hire smart, talented individuals. We need the predictive analytics in Oracle HCM Cloud to identify, for example, an individual who has been rated as having great potential but has been flagged as underperforming in their last review. That will enable us to proactively deal with an issue before it’s too late. That kind of learning and alignment tool will help us become a great attraction for hiring talent hiring and for retaining people by keeping them engaged.”

Although a robust system was a core requirement in the selection process, Storn also recognized that Lyft’s business is not yet so complex or scaled to the point that they need everything that Oracle HCM Cloud has to offer all at once.

“Part of the reason Oracle was attractive to us is that we can actually pick and choose the modules that work for our company today,” says Storn. “Since we are starting from the ground floor, we deploy just a couple of modules first to get us off the ground. Oracle’s solutions are very adaptable in that regard.”

Outcomes

Storn is confident that Oracle Cloud HCM will provide the tools to properly manage current and future employees in a well-rounded way. The planning process for solution adoption has helped executives and managers take stock of and analyze Lyft’s HR needs. Oracle HCM Cloud will integrate and streamline Lyft’s processes by providing a consolidated space for most of their HR portals as well as a database of compliance information relative to employees.

“Having the ability to be nimble, proactive, and preparatory helps stabilize our company,” says Storn. “We will be better equipped to provide an exemplary work environment that will contribute to employee loyalty and further establish Lyft as a leader and model of the start-up world.”


Read more: Ron Storn and Lyft featured in Oracle Profit Magazine Q&A




Friday Oct 31, 2014

T H March Seeks to Redefine the Jewellery Insurance Customer Experience


A young couple stands in front of a jewellery store window, holding hands and gazing in wonder at the life changing purchase they are about to make—a stunning engagement ring.

It’s a timeless scene until the bride-to-be snaps a selfie with her smartphone to share on social media and the future groom checks the establishment’s reviews on Yelp. Welcome to buying jewellery in the digital age. A short time later, they emerge from the jeweller. She clinging to his arm and radiating happiness. He, strides forward, proud and happy, but his brow is furrowed in concern. How will he pay for his purchase? How will he protect his priceless future heirloom?  That second question will be answered when he dials the number on the business card tucked in his jacket pocket for the firm of insurance brokers recommended by the jeweller.

London based T H March is the UK’s largest and most experienced firm of insurance brokers specializing in all aspects of insurance for the jewellery trade, with 60% of the commercial market and tens of thousands of consumer clients.

Founded in 1887, the firm is a trusted advisor and preferred partner to the UK jewellery trade and its customers. Over the decades, the company’s customer experience practices have embraced new technology including the use of the internet and email.  However, on the whole, T H March (like most of its contemporaries) has continued to remain heavily reliant on traditional manual and paper-based processes – until now!

Neil McFarlane, Managing Director at T H March, was recently an executive customer speaker in an Oracle OpenWorld session devoted to strategies for adopting Modern Best Practice in high-growth organizations. Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by emerging technologies—Cloud, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things, and Big Data—to enable organizations to achieve more, faster and with less resources.

“Insurance by nature is an impersonal business,” says Neil. “You don’t get a tangible product. You get a piece of paper with a promise. Our antiquated manual processes had become shockingly inadequate. For example, once a year we write to our clients and, essentially, ask for money. Those letters began with, ‘Dear valued client’. No personalized salutation. In this day and age, that’s inexcusable. It wasn’t difficult to work out we had a bit of a problem. We needed to change that dynamic.”

Finding the Right Solution to Take T H March Further Into the Digital Age

Behind that harsh self assessment is a sincere desire by Neil and his leadership team to better engage with their valued clients and to offer products that are most relevant to them. He knows too well the motto of the insurance business: If you win on price, you lose on price. The only way to establish differentiation is by offering a unique service proposition. T H March’s disparate, fragmented, and largely manual systems were stretching the firm’s resources and impacting response times, innovation, and service.

“Nearly all our competitors are ex-employees,” says Neil. “They have an inside track on our business. They drop our name in their elevator pitches to get the opportunity to provide quotes to our clients. They brag about having worked at T H March but then go on to say that they offer a ‘fresher, newer’ perspective. It’s very frustrating.”

When he began searching in earnest for new approaches to sales and marketing in 2011, Neil was T H March’s Sales and Marketing Director. Oracle wasn’t on his list because he believed the company only worked with large clients and not small but growing firms like T H March with its 100 employees. Neil’s opinion was swayed after attending an Oracle Eloqua marketing automation solution road show. While he was quick to appreciate  the solution’s capabilities and ease of use, he simultaneously became aware that they would need to adopt an overarching strategy to modernize not just marketing but also sales and social relationship management.

“Oracle demonstrated immediately that they really did get what we are trying to achieve,” says Neil. “They were the only company who understood our main driver was marketing automation, not basic CRM. They also fully involved Enigen, our implementation partner from the very outset, so that together they always seemed to be 1 or 2 steps ahead of the competing vendors.  Oracle and Enigen were the only vendor team that took the time to understand what our needs were and personalized a solution to those requirements.”

Outcomes

The Oracle and Enigen team helped Neil visualize how solutions for sales, marketing, and social relationship management (SRM) would work together to enable the firm to adopt modern best practice customer relationship management. His expectations go well beyond the customer relationship, sales, and territory management in Oracle Sales Cloud. He believes they already do a pretty good job at that but acknowledges they can do better by adopting Modern Best Practice for Sales.

Neil believes that the most impactful outcomes will be realized by putting together very personalized marketing campaigns with automated responses to nurture client and prospect relationships. And, by adopting social relationship management they will be better able to judge the effectiveness of those campaigns by listening to what people are saying about the firm and its brand and then responding and adapting accordingly.

“We intend to leverage Oracle CX Cloud to engage with our customers on a personal, very real basis and be relevant to them at the right time with the right information,” says Neil. “By creating a complete understanding of how, when, where and why our clients contact us, we can design personal and individual responses and campaigns based on their own needs. None of our competitors are even close to adopting that Modern Best Practice.”



Wednesday Oct 29, 2014

Fin, Feather, & Fur Outfitters Chooses Oracle to Drive Digital Transformation


How does a hometown sporting goods retailer compete with specialty big box giants? The answer is: you exploit their weaknesses. Ohio-based Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters has averaged 30-40% year over year growth since 2010 by doing what the big guys can’t.

Shawn Gilronan, CIO at Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters, was recently an executive customer speaker in an Oracle OpenWorld session devoted to strategies for adopting Modern Best Practice in high-growth organizations. Modern Best Practice exploits new capabilities made possible by emerging technologies—Cloud, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things, and Big Data—to enable organizations to achieve more, faster and with less resources.

“We have built our competitive advantage by carrying a broad selection of branded firearms and accessories that closely reflect what are customers want to see,” says Gilronan. “We also take pride in our knowledgeable sales associates who are highly trained in programs sponsored by such top tier vendors as Sig Sauer, Rocky Boots, Columbia Sportswear, and Under Armour.”

Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters’ executive team knew that profitable growth could only be sustained by transforming the company from a local mainstay to one that can go toe-to-toe with industry juggernauts. As Gilronan guides the company through a “Crawl/Walk/Run” Oracle deployment strategy over three phases, the company could potentially be a case study supporting this MIT Sloan Management Review research, “The Nine Elements of Digital Transformation”.

Software Selection Via the 21st Century Good Ol’ Boy Network

“We knew we needed to change,” says Gilronan. “The systems we had weren’t scalable, reliable, and couldn’t cope with the volume of transactions. We knew we needed a ERP system with deep and broad industry capabilities to build a foundation on. Plus we also needed a robust front end solution for our cashiers to get customers in and out the store efficiently.”

Prior to deploying Oracle, Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters had no enterprise wide IT platform in place—something not necessarily vital to a company with just four stores, no shared services warehouse/distribution system, and no eCommerce presence whatsoever. Many non-standard processes and procedures were in place, born out of necessity, rather than formed out of intelligent, thought driven planning. High growth quickly exposed the deficiencies in the company’s existing IT systems. The company reached over capacity on system SKU’s. They experienced frequent system outages. The executive leadership team worried that sales revenue was being left on the table.

Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters’ customers prefer quality brands with reputations established over time amongst their friends and peers. Brands like Carhartt, Case Knives, and Smith and Wesson. Likewise, when Gilronan sent out a growth focused RFP, Oracle quickly rose to the top based on the local reputation of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne for finance and distribution as well as the industry penetration and well known ability of Oracle’s eCommerce solutions ATG and Endeca for eCommerce to support sustained growth.

“Oracle rose to the top for a number of reasons,” says Gilronan. “First, the robust distribution management capabilities in JD Edwards align well with our company growth model. Plus, Oracle offers a user-friendly application environment. And finally, our selection was based on a “best fit” approach in terms of using a local partner, the right cost, and the fact that Oracle and our partner aligned well with our company’s morals and values.”

The Outcomes of Digital Transformation

As identified in the MIT Sloan Management research, “Executives in all industries are using digital advances such as analytics, mobility, social media and smart embedded devices as well as improving their use of traditional technologies such as ERP to change customer relationships, internal processes and value propositions.” Also, “Executives are digitally transforming three key areas of their enterprises: customer experience, operational processes, and business models.” Not by coincidence, Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters’ digital transformation will dramatically impact all three of these key areas.

“Our customers’ experience will be enhanced by Oracle’s state of the art POS system, optimized inventories, and online purchasing options,” says Gilronan. “We’ll be adopting modern best practices for our industry with Oracle’s out of the box capabilities and standardizing training across all operations. Our business model will be radically enhanced by developing a compelling online presence and by tripling our number of stores and moving to building a modern warehouse and distribution facility.”

Gilronan expects dramatic ROI as the each of the three phases are completed. For the first time, managers will have integration between sales, inventory, and financial management. Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters has succeeded by accurately matching their inventory to their customers’ preferences but, without modern inventory best practices, that has resulted in high inventory carrying costs. With the adoption of Modern Best Practice for inventory management they’ll be able to perform detailed analysis to determine profitability at a more granular scale such as store square foot allocation by product and the carrying cost of products at the store level. Gilronan expects to reduce inventory levels by 30-40% even as they continue to grow dramatically.

“Our digital transformation will allow us to continue our organic growth model,” says Gilronan. “We’ll be opening many new locations and exploring new-to-us concepts without being impeded by technology. We’ll be a more formidable and direct competitor with larger big box stores.”

Wednesday Sep 24, 2014

Hey Friend—Could I Catch a Lyft?


San Francisco-based Lyft isn’t just one of the hottest brands in the emerging rideshare industry—it’s also an intriguing startup story in one of the most competitive talent markets in the country.

Ron Storn, Lyft's VP of People, will be one of four Oracle customers presenting in our annual customer-focused session at Oracle OpenWorld, Customer Voices: IT Strategies and the High-Growth Organization. This session is focused on thought leadership from executives at growing companies relating to how they are deploying technology solutions to adopt Modern Best Practice

Admittedly, while I’ve been following the trends in this industry recently, my first actual rideshare experience will happen at Oracle OpenWorld. When you need a ride here in the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Denver, you call a friend which is no small challenge in this rural area where nothing is on the way to anything else. That’s not too far from Lyft’s mantra, “Your Friend With a Car”. The difference in my situation is that no app is usually involved and payment is made with an, “I owe you one”.

The rideshare industry’s competition for drivers is big news. But, behind the scenes, the battle to acquire and retain talented people is just as fierce. The Bay Area has the lowest unemployment rate in California. Rapid growth puts pressures on companies like Lyft to practice continuous talent review and succession planning to facilitate employee engagement and profitable growth.

Given Storn’s background with Facebook, Google, and Price Waterhouse, it’s no surprise that he’s an analytics-driven person. One of the things I hope to learn in our Oracle OpenWorld session is how he will leverage the predictive analytics in Oracle HCM Cloud to meet Lyft’s growth challenges.

If you're coming to Oracle OpenWorld, give Lyft a try like I'll be doing. Here's how it works. I've downloaded the Lyft app and I'm practicing my fist bumps.


Session information:

CON7281, Wednesday, October 1, 2014; 10:15-11:00 am; Moscone West – 3006

Register for Oracle OpenWorld; then use the Schedule Builder to plot your course

Session Abstract: 

Getting the right IT system to support growth is a challenge. This panel session, moderated by Oracle, gives you a unique opportunity to hear from fellow Oracle customer executives on how they managed their transformation to modern businesses with Oracle Applications.

Customer Presenters 

  • Neil McFarlane—Managing Director of UK-based TH March, a jewelry insurance broker that is modernizing their sales and customer care processes with Oracle Customer Experience (CX) solutions

  • Shawn Gilronan—CIO at Fin, Feather, & Fur Outfitters, a brick and mortar Ohio retailer engaging in a ground up digital transformation based on an Oracle JD Edwards ERP, technology, and hardware platform.

  • Ron Storn—VP, People at the Lyft, a Bay Area company with one of the hottest brands in ridesharing that is adopting Modern Best Practice for human resource management with Oracle HCM Cloud.

  • Scott Brown—VP, Finance at Mouser Electronics, an electronics components distributor and Berkshire-Hathaway company focused on growth that is deploying Oracle Cloud ERP


About Modern Best Practice

BEST PRACTICE (per Wikipedia) is, "a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means".

MODERN BEST PRACTICE is flexible, supports growth and innovation and enables new ways of executing to achieve radically superior performance.Exploiting new capabilities made possible by Cloud Computing, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things & Big Data, modern best practice enables organizations of all sizes to achieve more, faster and with less resources.

Download the eBook, "Modern Best Practice Explained

Monday Sep 22, 2014

T H March Adopts Modern Best Practice to Deliver Priceless Customer Service

Neil McFarlane, Managing Director of Chartered Insurance Brokers T H March had wanted to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot (“jet jockey”) but sadly his vision let him down. Three decades on, however, it is his vision that is the driving force behind this highly successful company of British Insurance Brokers as it prepares to make a giant technological leap forward.

On the surface, insurance might seem rather boring when compared with the glamour of jet fighters. But if you consider that insurance, like piloting jets, is really all about taking calculated risks, (particularly when you consider that Neil’s company specialises in the jewellery industry) it’s not really quite so far removed! Add into the mix being able to understand people and what they deem important enough to insure, as well as security, jewellery trade crime and prevention, it suddenly gets a lot more interesting!

Neil will be one of four Oracle customers presenting in our annual customer-focused session at Oracle OpenWorld, Customer Voices: IT Strategies and the High-Growth Organization. This session is focused on thought leadership from executives at growing companies relating to how they are deploying technology solutions to adopt Modern Best Practice.

The fundamental insurance product needs of T H March’s clients may have not changed much since 1887 but the expectations of clients themselves have. Today, customers expect their sales and relationship managers to have a comprehensive view of all past interactions as well as insightful anticipation of their future needs. Plus, they require ready access to customer service across all their preferred communications channels

In this Oracle OpenWorld session, Neil will share his company’s plans to adopt Modern Best Practice for sales, marketing, and customer care by leveraging the enabling technologies of cloud, social, mobile, and analytics. T H March is now deploying Oracle Sales Cloud to facilitate more effective and efficient client interactions. Concurrently, they are deploying Oracle Eloqua Marketing Automation which will enable them to read and respond to the Digital Body Language that identifies the interests and preferences of their customers and prospects.

TH March and its affiliates help insure their clients against the loss of jewelry that is valuable-sometimes invaluable. Nothing is more important to Neil McFarlane than protecting his most priceless assets-his company's clients and reputation. I'm looking forward to learning more about how adopting Modern Best Practice -enabled by Oracle solutions-will help maintain those high standards now and for years to come.

On a side note...
catch Neil’s presentation Customer Case Study: Making an Impersonal Business Personal with Oracle Customer Experience to understand more about T H March’s journey to empower its sales teams, ensure consistent marketing, and provide personalized customer interactions, using Oracle Customer Experience solutions.

 


Session information:

CON7281, Wednesday, October 1, 2014; 10:15-11:00 am; Moscone West – 3006

Register for Oracle OpenWorld; then use the Schedule Builder to plot your course

Session Abstract: 

Getting the right IT system to support growth is a challenge. This panel session, moderated by Oracle, gives you a unique opportunity to hear from fellow Oracle customer executives on how they managed their transformation to modern businesses with Oracle Applications.

Customer Presenters 

  • Neil McFarlane—Managing Director of UK-based T H March, a jewelry insurance broker that is modernizing their sales and customer care processes with Oracle Customer Experience (CX) solutions

  • Shawn Gilronan—CIO at Fin, Feather, & Fur Outfitters, a brick and mortar Ohio retailer engaging in a ground up digital transformation based on an Oracle JD Edwards ERP, technology, and hardware platform.

  • Ron Storn—VP, People at the Lyft, a Bay Area company with one of the hottest brands in ridesharing that is adopting Modern Best Practice for human resource management with Oracle HCM Cloud.

  • Scott Brown—VP, Finance at Mouser Electronics, an electronics components distributor and Bershire-Hathaway company focused on growth that is deploying Oracle Cloud ERP


About Modern Best Practice

BEST PRACTICE (per Wikipedia) is, "a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means".

MODERN BEST PRACTICE is flexible, supports growth and innovation and enables new ways of executing to achieve radically superior performance.Exploiting new capabilities made possible by Cloud Computing, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things & Big Data, modern best practice enables organizations of all sizes to achieve more, faster and with less resources.

Download the eBook, "Modern Best Practice Explained

Wednesday Sep 17, 2014

Fin, Feather, & Fur Outfitters Gets Their Ducks in a Row

Pardon the pun please…

Shawn Gilronan, CIO of Ohio based Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters will be one of four Oracle customers presenting in our annual customer-focused session at Oracle OpenWorld, “Customer Voices: IT Strategies and the High-Growth Organization”. This session is focused on thought leadership from executives at growing companies relating to how they are deploying technology solutions to adopt Modern Best Practice

Shawn has a great story about how he joined Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters. It involves a gun safe but I’ll let him share that tale. The Ohio-based retailer is well known in the region for providing high quality products and services to outfit you with everything you need for your next big hunt, whether it’s scouting for your next waterfowl blind location locally or packing up for an expedition out west to bag an elk in the Rocky Mountains.

Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters didn’t have much need for enterprise-wide technology systems as they grew from one to four stores. Today, their growth aspirations—to become an industry leading online retailer—requires the adoption of Modern Best Practice that can only be achieved through a tailored IT strategy—you might call it getting your ducks in a row—that leverages enabling technologies such as Big Data, Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics, and The Internet of Things.

Shawn’s challenge is to guide his company through a digital transformation. As described in this MIT Sloans Management Review, “The 9 Elements of Digital Transformation”, digital transformation is, “the use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises”. First things first, Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters is putting an enterprise-wide technology platform in place with Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, Fusion Middleware, and Oracle Hardware as the foundation.

Join us in this session if you’re attending Oracle OpenWorld and are interesting in learning more about how our growth-focused customers are adopting Modern Best Practice. I’ll be in the sitting in the back taking notes and wishing that Carhart qualified as business casual.


Session information:

CON7281, Wednesday, October 1, 2014; 10:15-11:00 am; Moscone West – 3006

Register for Oracle OpenWorld; then use the Schedule Builder to plot your course

Session Abstract: 

Getting the right IT system to support growth is a challenge. This panel session, moderated by Oracle, gives you a unique opportunity to hear from fellow Oracle customer executives on how they managed their transformation to modern businesses with Oracle Applications.

Customer Presenters 

  • Neil McFarlane—Managing Director of UK-based TH March, a jewelry insurance broker that is modernizing their sales and customer care processes with Oracle Customer Experience (CX) solutions

  • Shawn Gilronan—CIO at Fin, Feather, & Fur Outfitters, a brick and mortar Ohio retailer engaging in a ground up digital transformation based on an Oracle JD Edwards ERP, technology, and hardware platform.

  • Ron Storn—VP, People at the Lyft, a Bay Area company with one of the hottest brands in ridesharing that is adopting Modern Best Practice for human resource management with Oracle HCM Cloud.

  • Scott Brown—VP, Finance at Mouser Electronics, an electronics components distributor and Berkshire-Hathaway company focused on growth that is deploying Oracle Cloud ERP


About Modern Best Practice

BEST PRACTICE (per Wikipedia) is, "a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means".

MODERN BEST PRACTICE is flexible, supports growth and innovation and enables new ways of executing to achieve radically superior performance.Exploiting new capabilities made possible by Cloud Computing, Mobile, Analytics, Social, The Internet of Things & Big Data, modern best practice enables organizations of all sizes to achieve more, faster and with less resources.

Download the eBook, "Modern Best Practice Explained
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