Friday May 17, 2013

The Growing IT Labor Shortage Post 4: Natus Medical Adopts a 3-Pronged Approach to Avoid IT Labor Shortage Pains

by Jim Lein, Programs Management Senior Principal, Oracle Accelerate Corporate Programs

Natus Medical recently went live on a broad footprint of Oracle products, deploying over 60 Oracle application modules in just ten months. The new solution replaced old versions of Baan (ERP, acquired by Infor Global Solutions), Clientele (CRM), Agile (PLM), PM10 (FP&A) applications. Bharat Poria, Sr. Director of IT at Natus Medical Inc, has almost 30 years of IT experience and was keenly aware of the impact this IT modernization project would have on the roles and activities of his staff. Poria chose to retrain his existing staff rather than hiring new employees to fill the IT business analyst roles.

“There is a growing shortage of skilled IT resources that have both the product expertise and the business knowledge to deploy and maintain modern IT systems,” says Poria.

Poria knew some of the existing staff would have to be retrained regardless of which new solution was deployed. Accordingly, he adopted a strategy that would mitigate risk and hasten staff retraining.

“First, we decided to choose just one vendor and one partner,” says Poria. “We chose Oracle because they had the complete solution including applications, middleware, database and a web front end making deployment and management worldwide easier. This approach also made it possible for us to work with just one partner—NTT Data—instead of multiple partners with expertise across the products of multiple vendors.”

A second key component of the strategy was to deploy NTT Data’s Oracle Accelerate Solution for Life Sciences. This enabled the use of Oracle Business Accelerators for the core Oracle E-Business Suite deployment in order to complete the project rapidly and adopt 95% of the best practices within the solution.

Lastly, Poria uses a hybrid approach to managing the new solution. Poria manages the overall on premise infrastructure and has one business analyst in each of three functional areas—finance, operations, and sales/service/marketing. NTT Data remotely manages the technical and functional aspects of the solution.

Poria doesn’t have a lot of extra time to ponder the cause of the current IT labor shortage in the United States. However, he offers several educated opinions.

“Part of the problem is that American universities teach in a theoretical approach rather than a practical manner that provides students with knowledge of specific products,” observes Poria. “And technical universities outside of the United States train students on very specific areas of technology but they don’t learn the broader business side of things. Also, I believe that the economic downturn led to actions by companies that discouraged students from pursuing technology degrees. During those hard times it was easy to make layoff and offshore outsourcing decisions based on the numbers.”

Twenty years ago, Poria would have hired a business analyst and had them learn on the job what they needed to know about products. Today, he would look for someone with specific product expertise and teach them the business. Ideally, a new hire would have both product and business expertise but he says that’s hard to find.

“We need to get college students excited again about careers in technology, information flow, how a business operates and more importantly, business processes,” says Poria. “Oracle can also be a great training ground for graduates because of the comprehensiveness of their solutions. Oracle’s approach to complete solutions shows that they understand that the complexity is not in the products but in the collaboration—getting all the system parts to work together. Those collaboration skills are a great place for an IT graduate to get started and learn end to end business flows.”

More in this series:

Post 1: The Growing IT Labor Shortage: Are You Feeling It?

Post 2: Want to Hire and Retain the Best Talent? Leverage Your Employees' Social Media Networks

Post 3:United Streetcar: America’s Only Streetcar Manufacturer is Back On Track

Oracle Accelerate AppCasts - Listen and Share:

Listen to an interesting conversation on Natus Medical Inc.'s experience with Oracle's Applications.

Thursday May 09, 2013

Aberdeen Group Report: SaaS and Cloud ERP Observation

Is Cloud ERP right for growing organizations? Read the Aberdeen Group report ”SaaS and Cloud ERP Observations” to learn why growing companies should have a deployment model that best fits their requirements for cost, scalability, and flexibility.

Click here to read the report.


Tuesday May 07, 2013

The Growing IT Labor Shortage Post 3: United Streetcar: America’s Only Streetcar Manufacturer is Back On Track

by Jim Lein, Programs Management Senior Principal, Oracle Accelerate Corporate Programs

Managing Finance and IT Under One Roof

Streetcar (tram) systems are gaining popularity in the United States and worldwide, often as a key component of urban revitalization. Potential investors and residents can be assured that development plans are more than just dreams if a city is investing in an appealing transportation infrastructure. In 2005, Portland-based Oregon Iron Works (OIW) spun off a subsidiary, United Streetcar, to embark on the vision of becoming America’s only domestic manufacturer of streetcars.

Oracle’s Profit magazine featured United Streetcar in the August 2011 Profit Oracle’s JD Edwards Special Edition. However, achieving full production mode was delayed by months, partly because the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) was still actively developing access and safety standards.

Today, United Streetcar is back on track. Late in the evening on January 21st, 2013, it delivered its first production streetcar to the City of Portland. A second streetcar was shipped in April. There are some great pictures on its Facebook page.

Last week, I had a conversation with Don Hutchison, Director of Finance at United Streetcar, to see how things were going. He played a role in the company’s decision in 2009 to deploy the Oracle Accelerate Solution for Manufacturing from local Oracle partner Jibe Consulting.

“We selected Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne because of its capabilities for mixed mode manufacturing and because we knew it would be the best solution to help us build a new 100% domestic supply chain for streetcars,” says Hutchison. “And we chose Jibe because they are local and have a great reputation in implementing Oracle solutions at many Portland-area manufacturing companies.”

Hutchison has a diverse background in finance, IT, consulting, and operations. He supervises the finance and IT functions at United Streetcar. For this blog series on The Growing IT Labor Shortage I asked Hutchison about his approach to managing both.

“If done correctly,” observes Hutchison, “finance should be able to provide operations with meaningful and actionable information. That’s what we need to do. An income statement and a balance sheet are interesting but—as I often remind my team—we are a manufacturer-not an accounting firm.”

Hutchison’s IT strategy for United Streetcar reflects an increasing trend amongst growing midsize companies to adopt a hybrid sourcing plan for IT roles and functions. Infrastructure support duties—primarily server management—for both United Streetcar and OIW are shared by three IT staff and one or two contractors from an outside firm. Hutchison has just one part time sub contractor supporting the Oracle’s JD Edwards applications. He meets with Jibe once a week to review open issues and pulls them in as needed.

With most production barriers now removed, United Streetcar is now actively bidding on multiple streetcar projects. Hutchison says the capabilities in Oracle’s JD Edwards give United Streetcar an advantage over big foreign competitors. “90% of streetcar design is the same from city to city,” he says, “with minor variations to things like seating layout, HVAC, and communication systems requirements as well as the cosmetic look of the front and back ends. As we engage in new bids, we can leverage Oracle’s JD Edwards to more quickly and accurately do an evaluation of how any variations will impact our bid. This makes us better situated to meet the needs of the US market which requires bidding on short runs of maybe 6 cars instead of 50-200 cars as is common in Europe and Canada.

 More in this series:

 Post 1: The Growing IT Labor Shortage: Are You Feeling It?

Post 2: Want to Hire and Retain the Best Talent? Leverage Your Employees' Social Media Networks

Thursday May 02, 2013

MarketSphere Achieves Oracle Business Accelerators Qualified Status for Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne

Find out how powerful, cloud-based rapid implementation tools enable MarketSphere to speed delivery of Oracle Applications for customers.

Click here to read the press release.



Midsize Blogs


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