Monday Mar 31, 2014

“The (R)Evolution in IT Buyer Behavior”


by Jim Lein, Oracle Midsize

To understand how IT buyer behavior is changing, we need to remember where we’ve been. Put yourself in a time machine and imagine life in 1999--not that different to life in 1963 and the office of Don Draper in Mad Men. Men still wore suits to the office every day; women wore dresses. Except I don't think Don had casual Fridays. 

BTW- the image above is inspired by, "Mod Men : The World of Mad Men Through a 21st-Century Lens", by Doug Levy, Staff copywriter and editor for the Shutterstock blog.

Just like Don's office demeanor would not be appropriate today...IT managers shouldn't be making software selection decisions like they did in 1999. Back then, everyone was worrying about Y2K like it was the resurgence of the Black Death.

Back in the last century, Don Draper might have thought it was OK to knock back three martinis at lunch. And sometimes IT managers thought it acceptable behavior to spend a hundred grand and six months picking a software solution. 

Back then, here’s how the IT buying process proceeded:

  1. Appoint a Selection Manager
  2. Gather Requirements
  3. Write An RFP (Requirements Document)
  4. Circulate the RFP
  5. Review Responses
  6. Build a Short List
  7. Vendor presentations
  8. Negotiate
  9. Purchase

The trouble with this software selection process: takes too long, costs too much , and may produce inconsistent results.

IT buyers today have so many more resources at their command--social networks, online peer groups, software review websites, and-most important of all-years of experience. Yet everyone I speak with tells me that RFPs are getting bigger, harder to produce, and harder for vendors to respond to.  Shouldn't the process be easier?

Next up...Enterprise Software Review Sites - What Role Will They Play?”

Next week, ll be sharing what I learned from conversations with the founders of three of the most popular and innovative software review and advice web sites:



Jim Lein

I evangelize Oracle's enterprise solutions for growing midsize companies. I recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. I'm based in Evergreen, Colorado and love relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of Oracle.

Wednesday Mar 12, 2014

"Spreadsheets are Perfect for Planning & Budgeting," said no one. Ever.


by Jim Lein, Oracle Accelerate for Midsize Companies

I started using spreadsheets for planning and budgeting a loooooooooooooong time ago when I was controller for a chain of ski shops. Pretty simple stuff. A couple of dozen lines.  I can't imagine what it must be like to use them today for complex budgeting, forecasting, and planning functions. It would give me an ice cream headache.

My colleague Jennifer Toomey, Sr. Director of Marketing in our Business Analytics Product Group, tells me that 75% finance managers still rely on spreadsheets for financial planning and budget control.

You want to hear something really scary?

Research studies have showed that vast majority of spreadsheets-88% in this study--have errors and those errors are costing companies billions

Thousands of growing companies have replaced spreadsheets with Oracle's top rated Hyperion planning and forecasting solutions. As of February 18, Oracle customers now have another option,  Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS).

Oracle PBCS is not simply Oracle Hyperion in the cloud. It’s a next generation SaaS solution that reflects a major architectural rework and a vastly improved user experience. Oracle PBCS delivers on the cloud's promise of simplicity, low upfront cost, and fast time to value expected of a cloud solution while delivering the enterprise level functionality previously found only in on premise planning and budgeting products. It runs on an Oracle Engineered Systems platform, and enables fast processing of complex calculations for large volumes of data through optimal use of Cloud memory and resources. 

I encourage you to download Jennifer's recently published whitepaper, "Accelerating EPM Deployment with Planning in the Cloud" or watch this video to learn more.


UK-based Oracle partner Qubix Now Offers an Oracle Accelerate Solution for Oracle Planning Cloud

This week, I also spoke with Paul Johnston, GM at UK-based Qubix International, about their Oracle Accelerate Solution for Oracle Planning Cloud. Qubix was the first company to implement Hyperion Planning in the UK and has completed more than 150 Hyperion and related customer engagements

Johnston says there is a large, under-served market of growing companies that don’t yet know about Oracle’s great story for planning and budgeting. Qubix’s new solution unlocks a pricing and delivery model that both provides a fresh way of communicating that story and makes robust planning and budgeting capabilities accessible to companies of any size.

“Our clients will see a 30-40% cost savings when compared to a traditional on premise deployment,” says Johnston. “Plus, a traditional on premise project spanned 4-6 months. We deliver Oracle PBCS in 30, 60, or 90 days based on which pricing tier the client chooses-Express, Professional, or Enterprise. The idea is keep it simple and affordable without compromising capabilities.”

Qubix's solution features pre-built apps—ready to go templates that are free to customers. These apps complement the work Oracle has done by transforming the Qubix engagement from a deployment to a collaborative “fit-to-gap"  analysis.

Visit Qubix's Planning in the Cloud page to learn more about their solution, including access to their new TCO calculator


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Jim Lein evangelizes Oracle Accelerate, Oracle's Applications Strategy for growing midsize companies. He recently celebrated 15 years with Oracle, having joined JD Edwards in 1999. He is based in Evergreen, Colorado and loves relating stories about creativity and innovation whether they be about software, live music, or the mountains. 

Wednesday Nov 27, 2013

Get a Number…Give A Number. I give Oracle “7”.

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

There’s a game currently making the social media rounds in which one friend assigns a random number –let’s say, “twelve”—to another friend. The assigned friend then shares twelve little known facts about themselves.

The “Get a Number…Give A Number” game reminds me that I might not know some of my friends as well as I think I do. It’s a rare occasion when I meet someone who doesn’t have opinions about Oracle. Ask yourself—what do you really know about the second largest software company on the planet? To that end, I have randomly assigned the number “seven” to Oracle (seven is a lucky number and every writer knows list-based posts must have an odd number of items just like all landscaping projects must have an add number of shrubs).

Here are seven facts you might not know about my company:

  1. My home state of Colorado ranks third in the nation for concentration of tech workers in the public sector (8.7%). Oracle is a major contributor to that statistic, having inherited multiple Colorado campuses via acquisition including JD Edwards (Denver Tech Center), Sun Microsystems (Broomfield), and BEA Systems (Boulder).
  2. More than two thirds of Oracle’s customers are midsize companies .
  3. Oracle headquarters in Redwood City occupy reclaimed tidelands and the 66 acre site was originally Marine World/Africa USA.
  4. My first boss at Oracle was a guy who I had met years before when we worked on the same floor at JD Edwards. I didn’t know what his job was back then but we had pleasant conversations at the copier (remember those things?). But I digress…
  5. Oracle wins numerous awards for philanthropy including being ranked #7 in the Silicon Valley Business Journal Corporate Philanthropy Awards.
  6. Oracle OpenWorld ‘96 (the first) featured 420 sessions and 17,200 visitors at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Many superstar acts have performed over the years at the Oracle OpenWorld Customer Appreciation Events including Elton John, Sting, Billy Joel, and (my favorite) Counting Crows but the farthest back anyone could remember was Oracle OpenWorld ’98 at which KC and the Sunshine Band, Dave Wakeling (of The English Beat fame), Asleep at the Wheel, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies performed.
  7. Oracle’s smallest customers run the same applications as our largest customers. For example, Land o’ Lakes (14B USD, USA) runs Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and so does Felsineo (<100M USD, Italy). And Ingersoll Rand (14B USD, Ireland) runs Oracle E-Business Suite and so does PressureJet Systems (<100M USD, India). And Skanska AB (60,000 employees, Sweden) runs Oracle Taleo Talent Management and so does Be The Match (875 employees, USA). You get the picture.

If you haven’t yet guessed, this post is a thinly veiled attempt to get you interested in learning more about the kind of company Oracle is today. This is not your father’s Oracle. Today Oracle has 120,000 employees and many of us honed our skills and gained experience prior to joining Oracle at such great companies as JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Primavera, Siebel, Taleo, Eloqua, and Hyperion . That’s where we’ve been but now our heads are in the cloud. So get to know us better. If you’re not an Oracle customer now, odds are—you may soon be one.

Tuesday Nov 05, 2013

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: Industry Best Practices + Flexibility


By Richard Garraputa, VP of Sales & Marketing, brij

Richard joined brij in 1996 after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with degrees in Information Systems and Accounting. He directs brij’s overall strategies of both the business development and marketing departments.

Companies looking for new ERP systems spend so much time comparing features and functions of software products but too often short change the value of their own processes.  Company managers I meet often claim that they are implementing a new ERP system so they can perform better and faster.  When asked how, the answer is often “by implementing best practices”.  But the term ‘best practices’ is frequently used to mean ‘doing things the way everyone else does them’ rather than a starting point or benchmark to build upon by adding your own value.

Of course, implementing standardized processes across an enterprise is an important step in improving operational efficiencies.  But not all companies are alike.  Do you ever tell your customers “We are just like our competition and have no competitive differentiation”?  Probably not.  So why should the implementation of your business processes be just like your competitor’s?  Even within the same industry, companies differentiate themselves by leveraging their unique expertise and approach to business.  These unique aspects—the competitive differentiators that companies use to thrive in a crowded marketplace—can and should be supported by the implementation of business systems like ERP.

Modern ERP systems like Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne have a broad and deep functional footprint designed to integrate a company’s core operations.  But how can a company take advantage of this footprint without blowing up their implementation budget?  Some ERP vendors claim to solve this challenge by stating that their systems come pre-configured with ‘best practices’.  Too often what they are really saying is that you will have to abandon your key operational differentiators to fit a vendor’s template for your business—or extend your implementation and postpone the realization of any benefits.

Thankfully for midsize companies, there is an alternative to the undesirable options of extended implementation projects or abandoning their competitive differentiators.  Oracle Accelerate Solutions speed the time it takes to implement JD Edwards EnterpriseOne solution based on your unique business characteristics, getting your new ERP system up and running faster without forcing your business to fit a cookie-cutter solution. We’ve been a JD Edwards implementation partner since 1986 and we now leverage Oracle Business Accelerators—cloud based rapid implementation tools built and maintained by Oracle. Oracle Business Accelerators deliver the benefits of embedded industry best practices without forcing every customer in to one set of processes like many template or “clone and go” approaches do. You retain the ability to reconfigure your applications—without customization—as your business changes.

Wielded by Oracle partners with industry-specific domain expertise, Oracle Accelerate Solution implementations powered by Oracle Business Accelerators help automate the application configuration to fit your business better, faster. For example, on a recent project at a manufacturing company, the project manager told me that Oracle Business Accelerators helped get them to Conference Room Pilot 20% faster than with a traditional approach. Time savings equal cost savings.

And if ‘better and faster’ is your goal for your business performance, shouldn’t it be the goal for your ERP implementation as well?

Established in 1986, brij has been dedicated solely to helping its customers implement Oracle’s JD Edwards solutions and to maximize the value of those customers’ IT investments. They are a Gold level member in Oracle PartnerNetwork and an Oracle Accelerate Solution provider.

Thursday Oct 10, 2013

New Study Reveals SMB Companies Are Increasing Adoption of Modern Marketing Techniques

Survey Highlights Business Value of Modern Marketing Techniques and Factors Driving Increased Adoption

Click here to read the press release.

Tuesday Oct 01, 2013

Making your Move to the Cloud

By Steve Viarengo, Vice President Product Management, Oracle Taleo Cloud Services 


While Cloud based business applications have been around for more than a decade, there have never been more options for customers. There are solutions in the Cloud for almost any area of business need, from CRM to HCM to Supply Chain to ERP. The number of vendors has grown dramatically, with thousands of small as well as large software companies selling cloud-based solutions. For small and midsize businesses, the promise of the Cloud can be very enticing because letting someone else host and manage the solution spares you the expense and burden of having to staff your own internal IT resources.

According to CedarCrestone’s 2012-2013 HR Systems Survey, deploying a Cloud solution requires 75% less staff to support than an on premise solution. Additionally, with many solutions you can subscribe and pay “by the drink,” only paying for the amount of the service you need and increasing or decreasing your subscription as your business changes. Moreover, you are also always on the latest version of the software, never having to worry about upgrades, backward compatibility or upgrading your hardware to support the latest version. Everything is managed and supported for you, just like your telecommunications or utilities.

However, the move to the Cloud understandably generates a number of questions and concerns. Common questions tend to be:

  • How do I know my data is secure with the vendor I choose?
  • Will Cloud solutions integrate and work with my existing applications and IT infrastructure?
  • How can I make sure I am getting the maximum ROI?
  • Is it better to go with a single vendor or piece together best of breed solutions?

Many, if not all, of these concerns can be addressed by selecting the right solution from the right provider. Selecting a solution from a vendor with robust and complete capabilities is crucial when moving to the Cloud.

Critical things to look for when evaluating solutions and their providers are:

  • A clear picture of the vendor’s security model and hosting capabilities which includes:
    • The physical security of the data center
    • The network security that will block hackers and malicious parties
    • The application security that ensures your data and information is separate from other users
  • The integration capability of the solution. Well developed solutions have very well defined interfaces that allow you to:
    • Easily and quickly pull information out and push information into other solutions
    • Use web services such as REST and SOAP to allow information to be easily callable via well know web standards
  • Quick, fast and easy implementation.
  • Flexible and configurable to accommodate the special needs of your business without expensive customizations or waiting for a future release
  • A vendor who can provide a broad but deep solution. Just like you are not likely to hire one gardener to mow the lawn, another to edge and another to cleanup after, you want one vendor who can provide you a complete service
  • Not required to manage many different logins, store data across different solutions, and navigate different support models

So while the leap into the Cloud can be daunting, the benefits are compelling and selecting the right partner with the right solution can make the difference between achieving your business goals and a painful crash landing!

For more information on your move into the Cloud go to http://www.oracle.com/us/solutions/cloud/overview/index.html

Friday Sep 06, 2013

Don’t Miss the Oracle Midsize Sessions at Oracle OpenWorld 2013

Click here to see the Oracle Midsize sessions and activities taking place during Oracle OpenWorld in San Fancisco, September 22-26.

Friday Jul 19, 2013

Mastering the New Recruiting "Game" with Taleo Social Sourcing

Attend the July 23rd webcast with Qualcomm to find out how Oracle's Taleo Recruiting with Social Sourcing Cloud Service can help you unlock hidden connections to top talent, improving recruiting and hiring efficiency by as much as 50%.

Register today.

Thursday Jul 18, 2013

Oracle Launches Oracle Business Accelerators for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 in India

Oracle launches Oracle Business Accelerators for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 to rapidly deploy best practice business processes to growing Engineering & Construction and Industrial Manufacturing companies in India.

Read the press release.

Friday Jul 12, 2013

Modernizing the Little Red Wagon

By Jim Lein, Programs Management Sr. Principal, Oracle Midsize Programs.

I rescued my first Radio Flyer little red wagon from a dump in rural Minnesota when I was four. Some fool had discarded it simply because it was missing one wheel. We took it home and I helped my Dad MacGyver a wheel on to the rear axle from a tricycle that was beyond salvage. That wagon served me and my siblings well for another decade.

Steve Cox, Vice President of Oracle’s Midsize Programs, recently provided a guest blog post for softwareadvice.com. In it, he provides his perspective on how Radio Flyer—a 96 year old company—recently modernized their IT infrastructure with Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and Demantra Demand Management.

Radio Flyer’s experiences have a lot in common with that of many other Oracle midsize customers. They are a growing company that needed to replace legacy systems with modern solutions and standardize on best practices.

Additionally, like other growing companies, Radio Flyer modernized IT to enable innovation such as their new “Build-a-Wagon” website featuring the first ever customizable wagon.

“By integrating our customer-facing website with our financial and value chain operations, we could speed order processing and minimize manual errors for personalized, one-of-a-kind orders,” says Radio Flyer’s Senior Director of IT, Tom Cesario. “Our Build-A-Wagon and Build-A-Trike features on radioflyer.com provide our customers a high touch and high tech way to interact with our brand.”

Read Steve's entire post here.

I guess my Dad and I were pioneers when we customized our Radio Flyer by slapping that tricycle wheel on it. Too bad we didn’t think to invent the internet at the same time. We could have teamed up with Radio Flyer and made our fortunes.

Wednesday Jul 10, 2013

The Growing IT Labor Shortage Post 5: PL Developments Relies on Time and Patience to Fill IT Roles

by Jim Lein, Programs Management Sr. Principal, Oracle Midsize Programs 

PL Developments is one of those companies that you’ve probably never heard of yet you’ve most likely consumed their products dozens of times. Based in Westbury, New York, the company packages and distributes private label over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as analgesic pills and cough, cold, allergy, and digestive remedies for some of the biggest and well known retailers in the United States. After experiencing double digit year over year growth for almost ten years, the executive team at PL Developments decided to replace Sage MAS 500 with KPIT Cummins’ Oracle Accelerate Solution for CPG. In 2011, the company deployed the Oracle applications without customization in just ten months, moving to industry best practices that come with the Oracle Business Accelerators. The use of Oracle Business Accelerators substantially reduced the time to value for the solution and the cost of IT resources needed during implementation.

Flexible Oracle Business Accelerators Facilitate Talent Decision Making Processes

Tom Crowe, CIO at PL Developments, knew that moving from an outdated Tier 2 solution to Oracle’s enterprise-grade applications would require restructuring of his IT staff. Prior to Oracle, he had six people filling roles in IT management, network administration, EDI management, report building, and help desk. During the implementation, Crowe relied on partner consultants to configure the applications based on guidance from internal super users—mid-level managers in supply chain, finance, and logistics.

“We really challenged ourselves to make decisions during the requirements gathering phase in order to adopt best practices,” says Crowe. “We loved Oracle Business Accelerators because they facilitated that decision making process and were flexible enough for us to be able to run our company with out of the box functionality. I knew those decisions would directly impact what IT roles we would need to fill so we waited to hire additional resources until after go-live.”

Keeping IT In House

Once they went live, Crowe sat down with the partner consultants to decide one by one what new IT resources would be needed. The goal was to become self sufficient, bucking a popular trend to outsource IT functions to managed services, in order to more quickly resolve outstanding issues. Crowe expected to add about half a dozen people, each with both deep Oracle knowledge and CPG business savvy. He has extensive experience in outsourcing some IT activities to overseas resources, most recently in Russia. Occasionally, Crowe farms out technical activities to overseas resources after having internal resources that really understand the business define requirements and scope.

Crowe cast a wide recruiting net across a heavily populated tri-state area and was soon disappointed in how long the hiring process was taking. On average, it took at least fifty resumes to get three applicants worth talking to. Many were asking for $25,000- $30,000 over the salary target while not filling the majority of the requirements. The technical skills of the candidates represented the greatest recurring gap. Crowe speculates that this was because they were a midsize firm competing for talent with much larger firms in the tri-state area and that so much technical training is now being done overseas.

“We were getting a barrage of people who said they had specific experience at the required level but when we dug deeper we’d find that they were nowhere near that level,” observed Crowe. “It was a bit discouraging at first.”

Perseverance Pays Off

Recruiting took a lot longer than anticipated, requiring PL Developments to rely on partner consultants longer than they wanted to but their patience was rewarded. Crowe is very satisfied with the way things turned out. He believe they are now self reliant because they cherry-picked the right people—new employees that wanted to work in a smaller company with a more intimate type of working environment. Crowe says that, if he were to do the project again, he would start looking for some of the specific talent earlier on, challenging the partner to identify what key roles would need to be filled upon go live.

“It’s harder now to find the right talent than it used to be,” says Crowe. “And I think that’s because we were looking for very specific job skills. There is more Oracle talent in the market place than just about any other vendor. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to find people with technical skills for many of the smaller vendor solutions.”

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

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

Oracle Accelerate AppCasts - Listen and Share:

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


Friday Jun 21, 2013

Chain-Sys Uses Oracle Business Accelerators to Reduce Implementation Costs by 25%

Find out how Oracle Business Accelerators for Oracle E-Business Suite and Chain-Sys's appLOAD tool reduced implementation costs by 25% for a major Indian power and infrastructure company. Click here to listen to the 11 minute AppCast.

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.

C

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.

Tuesday Apr 30, 2013

NEWS: Oracle Business Accelerators Enable Growing Companies Around the World to Adopt Modern Business Applications Quickly & Reliably

See how customers and partners leverage Oracle’s cloud-based implementation tools with embedded best practices to swiftly realize benefits of Oracle applications.

Click here to read the press release.

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