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. 

Thursday Jan 30, 2014

Year of The Horse--Wishing You Immediate Prosperity


by Angela Wang |Solution Principal Oracle Midsize Programs -Greater China

Tomorrow, we’ll say farewell to the Year of the Snake and welcome the Year of the the Horse. In Chinese history, the horse has always been a beautiful totem, which symbolized strength, speed, and grace. To be positive. To go forward ceaselessly.

Everyone likes horses. Search the internet and you’ll find many cute cartoon horses with money, or a house, or a car, or a couple of elephants on their backs. This is a lucky sign that expresses the will to right away have what we desire. The Chinese word “Ma Shang” means “at horse speed” and is used to mean that something will be done right away. Thus, a cartoon depicting a horse with money on its backs expresses the hope of immediate prosperity. The Chinese words for “a pair of elephants” and “boyfriends/girlfriends” share the same pronunciation. So…a horse with two elephants on its back expresses the hope of getting a date soon. You get the idea. I think, this must express our common willing for 2014.

When Oracle provides services to our midsize customers, we often find they need the same capabilities as big companies. They want the same software as our large customers.

Meanwhile, midsize companies often must face the challenges of fast growth. They need flexible and scalable software that can grow with them to suit the fast changing market. Midsize companies also can’t afford lengthy implementations and high project risks. This is just like choosing the right horse for a wagon while also in a fast changing environment!

It must be a horse—not a donkey, not an ox. The horse can grow stronger while the wagon gets heavier. It can turn easily as the direction changes. It can be easily and rapidly connected to the wagon and run immediately. This doesn’t sound easy, but it sounds quite familiar to me. Isn’t it Oracle Accelerate, the Oracle program designed for midsize customers?

The English word, “Accelerate”, has the meaning of “speed up”. The word makes me think of a galloping horse. Created by Oracle's expert partners, Oracle Accelerate solutions are simple to deploy, industry-specific packaged solutions, designed for fast time to benefit, which means getting the right solution in place quickly, inexpensively and with a controlled scope and predictable returns. Maybe, this is the most suitable horse that our midsize customers are seeking?

We will collaborate more with you via blog, Weibo and Wechat in the coming new year and share with you the thoughts from Oracle and partner experts. Our team will be like the horse that gallops without the raising of the whip! We wish you a lucky and wealthy Year of the Horse!

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.

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.

Wednesday Oct 09, 2013

When It Comes to ERP-Nobody Likes Surprises

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

I joined JD Edwards in 1999 and quickly learned a few ground rules. Think thrice before using the word “easy” to describe anything about ERP. The only constant in ERP is change. And customers hate surprises.


Syntax—Specializing in Oracle JD Edwards and Oracle Accelerate From the Get-Go

From the beginnings, Oracle JD Edwards enterprise applications have been known for having deep industry functionality and for being THE low risk and low TCO Top Tier option. Recently, I caught up with Gary Shaffran, Sr. Vice President and Co-Owner at Syntax, an Oracle Accelerate Partner and Platinum level partner in Oracle PartnerNetwork.

Syntax was founded in Toronto in 1972. Gary joined the company in 1981 and was part of the executive team that made the decision to hitch its ERP consulting wagon exclusively to JD Edwards in 1996. The company was also one of the original Oracle Accelerate Partners dating back to when the program was launched in 2007.

"The most consistent themes we're hearing from our customers are that they want cost certainty and industry best practices," says Shaffran. “They don’t want to reinvent the wheel. From the start, the Oracle Accelerate approach has given our customers a reason to select Oracle’s JD Edwards with the confidence that they will get return on their investments quickly.”

Rigid Template--Bad. Configurable Template—Good.

Syntax’s clients want best practices but not at the expense of flexibility. They need assurance that the solution of choice will bring best practices to their organization but not shoe horn them into a stagnant template that locks them into one version of industry best practices.

“One company’s definition of best practices is different than another’s,” says Shaffran. “Smaller companies are smaller—not simpler. An old-fashioned template approach based on rigid industry best practices is misguided because it won’t take into account that every company is different.

In Shaffran’s experience, that’s why Oracle Accelerate Solutions and Oracle Business Accelerators are unlike anything else in the market. Syntax leverages the embedded best practices to get customers set up on starting point based on the experiences of similar companies. But from there, each company has the ability to tweak their processes within the system—without customizations—to meet their changing needs as they grow and adapt their businesses to changing market conditions.

“Today, customer expectations are more complex because their businesses are more complex,” adds Shaffran. “The Oracle Accelerate approach gets our customers to that starting point more quickly and with more cost certainty.”

The Oracle Accelerate Resource Library Helps Customers Visualize Success

Syntax’s consultants leverage the thousands of assets in the Oracle Business Accelerators Resource Library not just for the implementation but also as tools to help each customer understand what life will be like with their new solution. The end result, Shaffran says, is that the project teams aren’t blindsided by unexpected barriers to success.

“We use assets in the Resource Library starting with our first presentation and all the way through post go-live training,” says Shaffran. “Those assets—such as business flow models and videos—help customer visualize what the solution will look like when it goes live. They gain confidence that the Oracle applications and the project team can handle all the complexity thrown at them. They know they will get to a great starting place and that, as they get their hands on the software and start working with it over time, they will have the knowledge and skills to expand, adapt, and configure as need be.”

Staying One Step Ahead of the Curve

For decades, Syntax has closely paid attention to the needs of their clients and strives to stay one step ahead. They continue to augment their Oracle applications services with complementary tool sets and industry specific add-ons developed, maintained, and enhanced by their consultants for their industries they focus on. They become trusted advisers to their clients, helping them to develop actionable strategies for adopting new technologies such as Cloud solutions for which important factors like an integration strategy can be overlooked.

Shaffran emphatically believes there’s never been a better time to be an Oracle JD Edwards customer than now. The same can be said for being an Oracle Partner dedicated to a JD Edwards practice.

“Adopting the Oracle Accelerate approach has made us better able to demonstrate to customers that they can have best of breed software—leading edge, top right side of the quadrant—without incurring the risk and cost uncertainty normally associated with going that route,” says Shaffran. “We now have offerings that fit the needs of any company—compelling solutions delivering rapid time to benefit rolled up with industry specific capabilities. Plus, we offer managed services, hosting, SaaS—the entire gamut of solutions. No surprises; all from one provider.”


Wednesday Oct 02, 2013

Now Available: A Podcast Teaser for the Blog Series "The Growing IT Labor Shortage"

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

We just released an Oracle Accelerate for Midsize Companies AppCast that is a 9 minute teaser/summary of our ongoing blog series, "The Growing IT Labor Shortage: Are You Feeling It?"

I'll be wrapping up the series later this month.  It's been fun because I've had the opportunity to speak with many smart, dedicated, and impassioned professionals--partners, customers, and Oracle subject matter experts--on the subject of how to attract and retain the best talent.

Meanwhile listen to the AppCast for the gist of the thought leadership and advice in the series.

Each of the posts in the series are accessible via links on the right side of this blog.

And...to listen to more Oracle Accelerate for Midsize Companies AppCasts go here


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.

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.

C

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

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