Monday Dec 30, 2013

Looking Back on 2013: I Didn’t See THAT Coming

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

Like me, I’ll bet you’ve been inundated with emails and social media posts declaring trends and predictions for 2014. I think it would be much more interesting to learn about what the experts got wrong and why.

I confess—I planned on updating my 7 Enterprise Applications Trends for High Growth Companies in 2013 for 2014. But when I started the process, I was reminded of a lyric from the song Teen Angst by Cracker, “What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head”. That lyric cuts a little too close to the bone—I am a folk singer—but the thought jarred me into realizing that the last thing we probably need now is another set of New Year predictions.

The Bane of Email

That’s the most impactful, long simmering trend I did NOT see rising to a boiling point in 2013. The daily deluge of email keeps us from getting quickly to what we want: insightful, valuable information that helps us make better decisions.

Midyear, our team adopted an email charter and moved all of our collaborative work over to Oracle Social Network. I have 100% switched from email to social media and texting for personal correspondence. Yet I still spend over two hours a day reviewing emails. It remains a necessary evil. On average, email users check their inbox thirty times per hour!

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Baby Boomer or Generations, X, Y, or Z. We all want fewer emails. We have short attention spans. We are all information junkies. We spend hours scanning email subject lines and social media tag lines for that one or two words that will seize our attention. Yet we don’t want less or shorter content as much as we want better content.

One Pledge; One Prediction

I pledge in 2014 to craft more compelling content—valuable thought leadership from Oracle, partner, and customer experts to share with decision makers at growing midsize companies.

I predict that I will adopt voice recognition software and join the swelling wave of users who believe that the QWERTY keyboard has become a complete waste of space and efficiency.

On both counts, time will tell if I was right.

Thursday Dec 26, 2013

No Lump of Coal for Me

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

The kids are growing up so now we seem to buy fewer presents for each with higher price tags. And it's all about electronics. As of December 23rd, headphones and speakers accounted for 13% of the $8B consumer electronics purchases this season. I did my part, purchasing some decent over the ear headphones for each of my sons. Oh, and a tablet for my wife. My daughter prefers clothing and her annual gift of Ugg boots from Santa. Like I said, the price tags are higher but at least I can be sure that there won't be another box of discarded toys sitting in my garage waiting for the spring trip to Goodwill.

My big present from the whole family was a Blu Ray Home Theater Surround Sound System. I'd been saving up my rock 'n roll band earnings to replace the last blown out system but at the rate I was going, I wouldn't have a new one until May of 2016. All my other gifts were from REI including an intriguing BioLite Campstove for my planned Colorado Trail llama trekking experience. All Christmas Day, I had to suppress the desire to abandon our guests and sneak out to my patch of forest to tinker with my it.

We spent the whole day being amazed at and discussing the innovative features of our gifts. The campstove burns twigs for cooking and stores electricity as a byproduct to charge you phone and GPS. The headphones have interchangeable parts so that you can customize them to your preferences. Completely wireless surround systems are still priced way out of my reach but my new system does feature wireless connectivity to the two back speakers, eliminating those two wires that used to travel along the wall and snake up over the mantle and front door to establish a  complete surround sound experience. The tablet has stylus that intuitively helps convert notes to text.

Oracle has been a technology innovator for decades. This year I was privileged to learn more about how Oracle customers in all life stages leverage our solutions to continually innovate. Young and emerging companies like Kind Snacks (the dark chocolate/cherry cashew bar is my favorite), Yelp (my first iPhone app purchase), and Twitter (my first tweet was in 2013). Established midsize companies like MedicAlert, Trex (I just bought some of their Elevations products to shore up a section of old deck). Be the Match (I'm registered), and Radio Flyer (a prized childhood Christmas gift). And larger companies that first implemented when they were small like LinkedIn (my profile is All Star level), Treasury Wine Estates (I prefer bourbon but always a great gift for my wife), and Garmin (Santa slipped a nüvi® in my wife's stocking this year).

Increasingly, conversations with customers like these are focusing less on individual applications and more on establishing a comprehensive platform for growth and innovation. I'm sure I'll be writing a lot about that concept in 2014.




Monday Dec 23, 2013

Working Over the Holidays...Thinking About RFPs and Llamas

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

I'm working over the holidays to save up vacation days so that I can hike all 28 segments of the 486 mile Colorado Trail in 2014. And, I ‘m going to pack my gear on the strong backs of a couple llamas. I just happen to have a friend who is llama trekking expert. He says I need to start spending some quality time now with Buddy and Casper so that I learn how to handle them on his ranch rather than risk disaster on the trail. Yes, llamas spit, but I’m told they usually do so only at other llamas and only when annoyed, mistreated, or settling some herd hierarchy issue such as who gets to eat first.

Over the next two weeks, when I'm not spending my evenings with family, friends, and llamas, I'll be learning more about best practices for Request for Proposals (RFPs). As I mentioned in my first two posts on how software selection processes are evolving ("Is Software Selection Now Like Online Dating?" Part 1; Part 2), social media and the internet in general have radically changed how decision makers choose solutions.This includes how and when they choose to employ RFPs.

Should you collaborate with potential respondents when crafting an RFP?

I recall one experience when I was working for the leading manufacturer of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). A large city issued an RFP for installing and operating ATMs in their new airport. Not one company, including my own, submitted a response because the city’s transaction and revenue expectations were absurd and generally showed no understanding of how the ATM business worked. You might say that we, the intended respondents, felt we were being mistreated and chose to spit on their annoying RFP.

The city was treating potential respondents as vendors of a commodity, not potential partners who could each bring unique and valuable experience to the project planning process. After a few, sometimes acrimonious discussions between individual vendors and city project leaders, the city called the potential suppliers into a meeting for input. The result was a second version of the RFP that was reasonable and attracted the desired number and quality of responses. But they could have saved everyone a lot of time, money, and bad blood by getting it right in the first place.

I’ve interviewed several experts already and will be posting the first content on RFP recommendations after the first of the year.

Happy Holidays.

Monday Dec 16, 2013

Is Software Selection Now Like Online Dating? Part 2--Great Expectations

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

On Friday...I posted the first in this new series of thought leadership on software selection. This is Part 2. Moving forward, I'll be interviewing experts and sharing perspective from the Oracle community at large

One of my former Oracle colleague—a beautiful and busy, highly educated global traveler—actually met her future husband using an online dating service. He’s a surgeon and now, just before their second anniversary, she is a happy stay at home mom with a healthy new baby. But should all online daters dare to have such great expectations?

When making software choices, key decision makers at growing companies have high expectations too. And why not? We are experiencing an unprecedented time of technology innovation. Cloud solutions are proving that the sky is NOT the limit. A highly competitive market is forcing all solution providers to stay on their toes. And it seems like a new enterprise software provider comes out of the woodwork every day, touting some innovation—a previously undiscovered secret sauce—they believe will turn the software world on its ear. Yet, we don’t have to look too far back in time to recall just how hard it is to build a sustainable technology company that can meet its customers’ needs not just now but into the future as well.

Finding that perfect match is never easy. That’s why we’re embarking on this series: to help decision makers at growing companies leverage the experiences of others in finding that special…software provider.

Feel free to share your thoughts and send me a message if you’d like to discuss this timely subject.

Friday Dec 13, 2013

Is Software Selection Now Like Online Dating?

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

First in a series: How to choose the right software solutions to solve your real business challenges.

Many, many of my single friends have tried online dating because, in some ways, it seems like a modern and easy approach to solving an age old and complex problem—finding that perfect spouse/soul mate/significant other. That perfect match all humans crave.

Likewise there is no shortage of online advice and tools for choosing business software solutions. Google “software vendor selection” and you’ll get 6,570,000 results. It would be foolish to ignore such free access to that gluttony of information yet how do you sort it all out? Separate the wheat from the chaff? The pretenders from the real thing?

When looking for that perfect match between problem and solution, decision makers at growing companies can’t just reach out and pluck the first bright shiny object that catches their eye. Neither can they get bogged down in a drawn out solution review process that ends up addressing a problem that is no longer relevant.

So…how are decision makers today choosing the right software that both satisfies urgent cravings and stands the test of time?

We’ll explore that burning question over the coming months, gathering and sharing the advice of pundits, implementation partners, customers, and Oracle experts. We’ll seek out fresh and contemporary ideas—from overarching strategies to line of business tactics—for choosing the right modern technology solutions that solve the real world business challenges of growing companies.

Here are some of the topics we’re eager to dig into:

  1. Are RFP/RFI’s obsolete?

  2. When does hiring a selection partner make sense?

  3. How long does it take to make the right decision?

  4. Can a software provider be a “partner” not a “vendor”?

    Feel free to share your thoughts and send me a message if you’d like to discuss this timely subject.

Wednesday Dec 11, 2013

Outside-In: The Customer Experience of Things

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

CX (Customer Experience) is a relatively new term used to describe a category of applications solutions that address how customers interact with companies. For decades, most companies didn’t rely much on software to manage CX. That made sense because, for thousands of year, a positive customer experience was the result of human interaction. And feedback—good or bad—could only travel so far by word of mouth.

Consumer and B2B decision maker behavior has changed radically with the explosive growth in online commerce and social media usage, prompting companies to rethink their CX strategies. CRM—the first generation of CX applications—was built to do two things. Sales Force Automation sold things to more new customers. Call Center sold more things to existing customers. An “inside-out” view.

Today, companies need to not just build efficient sales machines but also understand in real time how customers are shopping, buying, and talking about their experiences. That requires an “outside-in” view of exactly what customers and prospects are seeing. Modern CX solutions must go far beyond CRM to address cross channel commerce, customer loyalty, web experience, social media monitoring, and buyer insight.

How important is social media to CX? Here’s what the Nielsen’s 2012 Social Media Report 2012 tells us about social media users in the US:

  • 47% engage in social care
  • 33% prefer social care over phone support
  • 50% complain or express concerns about service at least once a month
  • 65% learn about brands products and services

And...my manager is visiting customers in Australia this week, here are some fun facts about Aussies:

  • More than 50% shop online
  • 46% of online users rely on social media for making purchase decisions
  • 12 million use Facebook
  • 85% of fans of brands on Facebook recommend brands to others

It’s easy to see that CRM and a good web site are not good enough because they provide a very limited outside in view. Yet, some of Oracle’s key competitors are still pushing their customers hard to buy CRM—those inside-out tools that help sell more stuff to customers whether they want it or not. Drive efficient sales engines. Create higher conversion rates from pipeline.

Yes, those processes are important. However, Oracle’s approach to CX today is to offer a comprehensive portfolio of solutions that our customers can employ to enable their potential customers to make better decisions. Who they want to deal with. How much data they want to share. And to monitor those activities to gain the outside-in view that is essential to understanding their customers’ and prospects’ behavior.

Tuesday Dec 10, 2013

How To...Accelerate Time to Value When Deploying Clinical Trial Management

Guest Post by Param Singh, VP of Clinical Trial Management Solutions, BioPharm Systems

BioPharm Systems, a Gold level partner in Oracle PartnerNetwork, joined the Oracle Accelerate Program in 2011 with an Oracle Accelerate Solution Based on Oracle’s Siebel Clinical Trial Management System.


Accelerating a Multi-Faceted Clinical Trial Management System Implementation Project

There are several ways to speed up a clinical trial management system (CTMS) implementation, including choosing an accelerator and having it hosted in the cloud. Both of these concepts have existed for a few years and have gained a lot of traction. Organizations that opt for accelerators in the cloud have learned that it gives them a big leg up on the competition.

Now, there is another way to speed things up. It is a project management approach called “Rolling Releases.” MannKind Corporation (MannKind) completed an implementation in July of Siebel Clinical, Oracle’s CTMS that involved an accelerator, the cloud, and rolling releases. Read on to learn more about their thought process and experience with employing all three accelerator methods together.

Given the anticipated success of MannKind’s innovative insulin therapy called AFREZZA and plans for research into additional applications of their therapeutic approach, the company recognized the need to replace their existing CTMS with a more comprehensive, user-friendly CTMS, particularly one with advanced site payment functionality and the ability to integrate with their clinical data management and electronic data capture (EDC) systems, Oracle Clinical / Remote Data Capture (OC/RDC). Based on their planned clinical trial schedule, they knew they needed a solution in place quickly, despite knowing that implementations involving integrations generally take a long time. The organization also knew they did not have the necessary information technology resources to implement and maintain a system in-house, so they needed a CTMS in the cloud.

Planning With a Tight Timeline

MannKind selected BioPharm Systems’ pre-configured version of Oracle’s Siebel Clinical solution, ASCEND, part of the Oracle Accelerate program. Although the CTMS accelerator met most of their requirements out-of-the-box, the remaining requirements revolved around a collection of intelligent site payment enhancements and the integration with OC/RDC. Due to MannKind’s tight timeline, BioPharm proposed an innovative approach to the project that involved “rolling releases,” meaning that the work would be divided into separate, logical work streams that could be executed largely in parallel, thus significantly shortening the overall project timeline. In addition, BioPharm proposed that one of those work streams be the implementation and release of the base version of ASCEND, so that MannKind could begin benefiting from their new system while the other work streams were still in progress. MannKind’s custom and integrated system would also be hosted and managed by BioPharm in a private cloud.

A Three Pronged Parallel Approach

The project was divided into three work streams:

  1. Implementation of the base version of ASCEND
  2. Application changes
  3. EDC integration
The project began with the parallel installation of the development (Dev) and production (Prod) environments of the base version of ASCEND. While the computer systems validation activities were being conducted for Prod, the application changes and integration coding began in Dev. Once Prod was validated, BioPharm cloned the environment to create the validation (Val) environment to be used for testing the additional work streams. When Prod and Val were fully validated, BioPharm trained MannKind and Prod was released for use. MannKind began using the system right away, entering clinical administration data, as well as building their investigator database.

Ahead of Schedule

Just six weeks later, the application changes were validated and released to Prod for use. This work stream was released nearly three weeks ahead of schedule, allowing MannKind to expand their data entry to include study, country, and site-specific information even sooner than planned.

Just four weeks after the application changes went live, the EDC integration work stream was validated and released to Prod for use. This work stream was also completed nearly three weeks early, providing MannKind with all three work streams in just three months; all validated, all integrated with Active Directory, and all hosted and managed by BioPharm in a private cloud.

Time = Money

BioPharm’s approach to the CTMS implementation and integration at MannKind resulted in:

  1. An estimated time savings of 3-4 months per work stream
  2. Quicker return on investment (ROI)
  3. Increased user adoption, due to receiving the system sooner and learning to use it in smaller chunks
  4. Long-term cost savings due to private cloud hosting services

In this fast-paced industry in which so much depends on being first-to-market, we expect to see more time-saving innovations around CTMS and other system implementations. Accelerators, hosting and, now, rolling releases. We are excited to see what comes next.

Thursday Dec 05, 2013

Pssst...Channel Partners: Want to Grow Your Business? IBM Says Help Your Customers Deploy Comprehensive, Integrated Solutions

by Jim Lein | Sr. Principal Product Marketing Director | Oracle Midsize Programs | @JimLein

We asked our friends at IBM to provide their perspective on what issues are important to their midsize customers.

Chako Thomas, IBM's Go To Market Leader-Transformational Programs for Oracle JD Edwards in North america, sums it up for us in this blog post, "Emerging Mid Market Growth Trends for Business Partners". I've known Chacko for years and--funny thing--the conversation I remember best was at an Oracle sales kickoff years ago at which his company sponsored the escalator handrail decals in the conference center. I was overly impressed because I hadn't seen that before. Kind of a "President George H.W. Bush being amazed by the supermarket checkout scanners" moment. 

But I digress...

In his post, Chacko provides his perspective on opportunities for technology partners catering to midsize clients based on his many years of experience. Of note, he points out that the biggest opportunities for partners is in delivering services (73% of the market and growing at 4.1%). No big surprise, yet that statistic does beg the question, "What type of services?"

From Chacko's perspective, the opportunity for Oracle partners exists in guiding the delivery of a comprehensive integrated industry specific solution to their customers.This aligns tightly with what we learned from a recent independent report, commissioned by Oracle, and published by Dynamic Markets, "Cloud for Business Managers in Midsize Organisations: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly". This report documents that, although many midsize organizations are moving some activities to the cloud, they are failing to realize the optimal level of benefits due to integration issues with other solutions.

More on that report in my next post.



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