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Project Portfolio Management

6 Opportunities to Eliminate Waste in Supply Chain Projects

By Kaushik Sivakumar, SCM, Oracle, Product Management Asset-intensive projects are typically long-term initiatives that can cost millions or even billions of dollars over the asset’s implementation. During these uncertain times, it is even more important to streamline efficiencies for effective project management and to eliminate waste on highly capital-intensive projects. Some examples of asset intensive projects are nationally based cellular buildouts or a utility company’s project to install smart meters throughout a city. According to PMI Pulse of the Profession* survey, 9.9% of every dollar is wasted on poor project management, which equates to $99 million on a $1 billion project.   According to the same study, only 64% of the most mature project management teams deliver a project on time, and only 67% of projects are delivered on budget. When you compare those KPIs to low maturity project teams, only 36% of projects are delivered on time and 43% are on budget. Unnoticed Project Wastefulness There are many reasons for the excessive waste and poor project performance—a lack of visibility into financials for a given project, disconnected software applications, manual processes, workarounds to derive data from siloed information. Some traditional supply chain solutions provide data as sources for some of the project metrics, but they often don’t provide the detailed insight that a project manager needs to course correct quickly to prevent waste or knowing when to adjust supplies. Phases of a project Let’s dig a little deeper into the progression of an asset-intensive project, such as building a cellular network. Here are the typical phases of such a project: •    Quote/bid, initiate the project – This includes engineering functions, as well as negotiations, legal reviews, contracts, and project planning.  Depending on the contract terms, it may include prototypes of cell towers or suppliers providing quotes for other major physical components of the cellular network that are being built out or upgraded. •    Supply Chain Planning and Materials Management – This starts the initial phase of the supply chain processes that include planning, ordering, manufacturing, managing inventory, and transporting goods for the project. It also typically involves subcontracted services for specific aspects of the project, e.g. hiring architecture or site planning company, engineering services, or welders and electricians to help construct cell towers. •    Construction – Actual work of the project is performed at project sites. The project manager carefully manages the process, inventory and contractors to try to avoid delays and mitigate risks so that the construction project is completed on time and within budget. •    Transfer of ownership and service – Here, the completed asset, in this case, a cell tower network is transferred from the project manager/contractor to the owner. Depending on the project, it may be a private company or a public entity. And then, the asset typically rolls into a maintenance phase. At this point warranties, service contracts, SLAs, and replacement parts come in to play when there’s a hardware failure, upgrade or damage to a cell tower network. •    Capitalization, billing and revenue – The finance department will account for the receivables and payables, properly attributing costs and expenses to the correct project, and capitalizing assets. Common Challenges to Overcome What has been described is the intersection between projects and supply chain processes. Without an integrated solution, these processes can be a muddle of disparate management software applications, manual tasks, and cumbersome work-arounds. Add in delays in the timeline because of macroeconomics events, inclement weather, resource scheduling conflicts, permit reviews, approvals from cities or component part delays, and you could quite easily have a confusing trail that requires forensic investigation to see if a project is on budget, let alone identify the nuances of project waste and detect in-flight project scope creep. The Solution:  Six Opportunities to Eliminate Waste in Supply Chain Projects An end to end project-driven supply chain solution that integrates the six functions listed below can help project managers eliminate waste.   1.    Project planning—with dashboard KPIs to streamline scheduling and budgets for individual projects to quickly gain insight and track the progress at any point in the lifecycle. 2.    Procurement—designed for project-specific purchasing to ensure materials are priced, procured, and received into inventory according to the specifications of each individual project. 3.    Supply chain—with automated functionality to orchestrate a complex multi-project supply chain, you can set up business rules for project requests, orders, creating documents, look-ups and attachment categories, and replenishment planning with a dashboard work area to manage the workflows. 4.    Manufacturing—offering functionality to create work orders, review availability and pick materials at the project or task level, attribute work orders as well as manage inventory and costs per individual project. 5.    Maintenance—with a process flow to create work orders, issue parts from a common or project-specific inventory, the solution also enables you to purchase outside services, import materials, and resource costs, with all costs, resources, and details associated with individual projects. 6.    Finance—with controls to ensure that multiple projects, customers, and associated activities can be accounted for separately with visibility into costs, expenses, and payables. Benefits of a Project Driven Supply Chain Fully supporting supply chain processes within the context of a specific project, including procurement, inventory, ordering, manufacturing, shipping, maintenance and costing, as well as finance functions and project accounting makes it makes easier to gain oversight and take corrective action as needed.  When connected to finance, the project manager can gain visibility into how each project relates to the planned budget at any point in time. For more information on a complete suite of cloud-based applications, go to www.oracle.com/applications. For Project-driven supply chain information, go here.   *2018 PMI Pulse of the Profession Survey                    

By Kaushik Sivakumar, SCM, Oracle, Product Management Asset-intensive projects are typically long-term initiatives that can cost millions or even billions of dollars over the asset’s implementation....

Finance Topics & Trends

7 Ways to be an Inclusive Leader while Social Distancing

Throughout my career, I have always appreciated that people are the most critical resource and determinant of whether our initiatives will be successful. New technologies, processes, and strategies will only work if team members are motivated and appreciated. As we navigate these uncertain times, we must challenge ourselves to further develop and enhance our talent management strategies. Inclusive leadership is important whether in person or working remotely.  Being inclusive at a distance can absolutely be challenging, but I am confident we can figure it out. Almost overnight, many businesses moved to remote operations and began using web conferencing. YES! But, let’s not stop there. Online meetings are a great first start, but more effort is needed. For leaders who are accustomed to onsite employees, the dramatic shift to employees who are remote takes a shift in mindset. Many studies have reported that employees are actually more productive at home. I have been a virtual team member at Oracle for almost my entire career here, and I absolutely love that there is no traffic between my bedroom and office. Yes! If there is any good news about the challenges we are facing, it is certainly that my colleagues have reduced their commute by as much as three hours a day. However, one of the many down sides of mandatory shelter-in-place order is the anxiety and worry that jobs could be in jeopardy since “out of sight” could also mean “out of mind.” Fearful employees may even take extreme measures by creating and working on many “busy” projects and also by sending volumes of unnecessary emails. Avoiding and reducing this level of stress is why managers and leaders at all levels must develop or enhance inclusive leadership techniques to promote cohesion, collaboration, expectations, and cooperation as we collectively navigate this new uncharted territory.   What is Inclusive Leadership? It’s a verb … an action … in which leaders intentionally create an environment where the entire team is comfortable and confident in bringing forth their respective ideas and recommendations. This goes above and beyond usual techniques that focus on the outcome more than the process. In outcome-focused leadership, the team is almost singularly focused on getting the task completed without room for discussion about different approaches for completing the task or even evaluating whether the approach will yield the best results. Inclusive leadership means understanding the strengths of each person on the team and what is needed to maximize their contributions—starting with making sure that everyone on the team understands the importance of their role within the context of the larger organization. It also involves creating opportunities for team members to build relationships. This doesn’t change just because everyone is in a different location. In a normal work environment, effective leadership is challenging. But now, as the ground seems to be shifting under our feet from week to week, inclusive leadership can make the critical difference between a team that’s just hanging on and one that’s thriving. Here are my tips for practicing inclusive leadership: 1. Communicate, communicate, communicate Leaders cannot communicate enough when everyone is juggling different priorities at work and at home. Challenging schedules intertwined with work and home responsibilities, like managing children while working from home or caring for family members, may mean that each person receives communications differently and at different times. Thus, leaders must use all appropriate communication mechanisms at their disposal to reach the team—email, text, video conferencing, and chat. In sharing details about new business initiatives, strategies, customer engagements, or partnerships, leaders must carefully consider the overall communication plan to reduce the grapevine and rumor mill. 2. Provide clear, consistent communications In times of uncertainty, team members need frequent and direct communication—almost to the point of over communication in order to stay focused. In communications, please consider that if the team members know what to expect and how any news impacts them directly, they will be less stressed. This may include details about how the company is doing as a whole, how the team is tracking against goals, new business models, pivot strategies, new technology roll-outs, etc. Incomplete details and unanswered questions can escalate challenges and uncertainty. 3. Create frequent, proactive touch points to connect your team In team meetings, it is a good idea to build in time for short round-robin discussions to check in on team members, foster comradery and promote networking. Each meeting could have a different topic and team members can suggest creative discussion topics. Here are a few ideas to get you going: •    Mindfulness Mondays—encourage each person to share something they do to promote self-care, for example, recommending their favorite wellness app, online exercise class, or podcast •    Happy Hour Tuesday—ask everyone to share some good news … it can be work-related or personal •    Recognition Wednesday—each person acknowledges someone on the team who helped them recently •    Thankful Thursday—encourage people to share something they appreciate … again, it can be about work or in their personal lives •    Funday Friday—ask people to share something they are looking forward to that weekend Other ideas: •    Binge Mondays—what did you binge-watch over the weekend? •    Throwback Thursday—remember when … there were no iPhones, there was no email, there was no social media, etc. •    Reimagine Friday—what would you do about xyz initiative if you were in charge? 4. Share boundaries for the day or the week In the current environment, team members are juggling many priorities that may not coincide with the typical work day. If team members aren’t going to be available for specific segments of work day, ask them to share their availability by email or via another collaboration tool so that the entire team knows when to connect and/or when to expect a response. 5. Avoid accidental exclusion Inclusive leadership means no one is left out. This means paying extra attention to emails and posts that could unintentionally forget someone. For instance, if leaders hold a call about a particular topic, excluding someone from a meeting related to their responsibility only serves to alienate them and result in their worry about their roles. Another example is related to LinkedIn posts where the leader creates a post thanking specific people who worked on a project. Please be sure not to forget anyone by accident. Further, if leaders like and share posts on LinkedIn or other social media outlets, be sure to mix it up so you’re following, liking, and sharing posts from people across the organization. Optics are important. Trust me, team members notice if leaders only like the posts of upper management. A few unintentional slights like these can cause the team to feel completely marginalized. 6. Welcome new employees Usually when a new team member joins, they are taken around the office and introduced to all of the other team members. We can’t forget the benefits of a having a network and a few “go to” team members we can ask questions. In a remote environment, we must mirror this process as much as possible. Everyone must make an extra effort to get to know new team members by engaging them, inviting them to a virtual coffee, helping them get to know others in the organization, and also sharing context to get acclimated to the team as soon as possible. 7. Strike a balance between managing and micromanaging Demographic characteristics of the team must also be considered. There is a difference between Gen Y and Baby Boomer team members just as there are differences between new team members and seasoned ones. Each team member requires a different level of interaction, guidance, and autonomy—especially in remote environments where the inclination is to ask for daily reports and over-managing. And while it’s important to remember that everyone may be different, a new team member in a remote environment will require much more engagement than a tenured employee who knows the organization. At the same time, seasoned team members still need help and guidance from time to time. Although these team members typically prefer autonomy, leaders must not ignore them since there is a risk they could feel adrift within the organization. "Pay-it-forward" for employees and customers In closing, every leader has the ability to be an Inclusive leader. With intentional effort, leaders can enable and promote an inclusive environment in a virtual setting that is just as effective as the physical office space. I think the saying that “customers will never love you, until your employees do first” is 100% true. The benefits of new and strengthened alliances, collaboration, and comradery are well worth the effort. Customers and business partners will see and absolutely recognize these efforts. It’s a win-win! For more information about how Oracle Cloud Applications can help you and your team work remotely, go to www.oracle.com/applications. To learn more about Kimberly Ellison-Taylor you can access her Oracle Executive Biography here and also follow her on Linkedin.    

Throughout my career, I have always appreciated that people are the most critical resource and determinant of whether our initiatives will be successful. New technologies, processes, and strategies...

Finance Topics & Trends

3 Ways that Subscription Management Impacts CFOs

Humans are hardwired to view uncertainty as a risk. It’s called the fight-or-flight response, and it’s part of our genetic make-up. This survival mechanism is brought on by a combination of stress as a reaction to life-threatening situations. Over the course of humanity, we have evolved in a variety of ways, but the fight-or-flight response remains. It’s part of human existence. Our stress triggers have changed greatly, but to adapt to this response, we have also evolved to add a planning component to our lives. From planning meals as hunters and gatherers to planning all aspects of our children’s lives, their education, we sacrifice while searching for ways to make sense of the changing world around us. But, there is no resisting the changing world. Our world is in constant motion, and if we want to survive, we have to adapt. These adaptations take on new nuances in the business world, especially when talking about how customers are consuming and wanting to make purchases. In the era of The Experience Economy, the idea of ownership is no longer viable. We have entered a new era, that is depicted in a recent blog post, “The End of Ownership.” What thrives in this new era is the power of recurring relationships through subscription management. When subscription management is brought up in a discussion, whether personal or business in nature, it always means a change in buying behavior. There is no one more interested in the impact buying in a business setting than the CFO. Subscription Management Means a Shift to Recurring Relationships As a CFO, much of your job revolves on planning and forecasting. As you know, when buying relationships shift to subscriptions, you can no longer simply look at what closed this month or this quarter. You have to shift your view to fully look at all avenues of the future. This impacts how you allocate and spend money as you better understand what’s to come in the future. Below are three ways that subscription management impacts CFOs. ERP is the gold-standard system.  As CFO, your ERP system forms the basis of your company’s revenue existence. If any upstream inefficiencies or inaccuracies arise, and they aren’t stopped before they go downstream, this impacts the data in the ERP system. Thus, it’s vital that correct revenue recognition is kept in your organization’s ERP, not integrated through complex models outside ERP. These complex models fuel inaccuracies and hard-to-decipher integrations. It’s also important as a CFO that you not only have a clear view of the correct financial numbers and data but that you are also complying with all financial tracking regulations that investors require. Again, revenue recognition needs to be contained within the confines of the ERP. Maximize revenue through new relationship paths. As your business builds new types of relationships—those brought on by recurring revenue— you’ll need to understand which levers to pull to get maximum value from your goods and services, just as you did in a traditional model. By understanding and investing in the long-term life-time value of a customer, you are establishing pricing and contract terms with your sales team that will get the most value not just for you, but for your customers as well. New challenges will always arise. Certain complexities will always appear when adopting new business models, and this is especially true for those managing complex changes around subscriptions. These complexities in subscription management manifest as mid-month cancellations. Those types of cancellations can create chaos in financial systems if not handled correctly. For those just starting out with a subscription business model, they may turn to a simple offline model for tracking and monitoring, believing that this will be the easiest way to manage these challenges. However, chaos will rear its ugly head soon enough.  The best way to alleviate these challenges is to take an automated approach. Automation and supporting workflow can help sort out the cancellations and make sure the customer is billed correctly. In these challenging times of uncertainty, customers are making decisions to reduce anxieties and investments that can be difficult to validate. This influences many to take a subscription-based service that will give them the flexibility to scale up or down with the evolving needs of their business. There is no resisting the constant motion of the changing world. Adaption by forecasting and planning is the only way to truly evolve alongside uncertainty. To learn more about Subscription Management please visit here.      

Humans are hardwired to view uncertainty as a risk. It’s called the fight-or-flight response, and it’s part of our genetic make-up. This survival mechanism is brought on by a combination of stress...

Finance Topics & Trends

Are “Noisy Neighbors” Affecting Your SaaS Application?

Now that we are sequestered at home, some of us may be experiencing the challenges of noisy neighbors. Neighbors partying into the wee hours of the morning. Dogs barking when you’re trying to work. These noisy neighbors can affect your well-being at home. Similarly, noisy neighbors can also affect your SaaS application. Now more than ever with people working from home, cloud applications and databases need to be able to handle the sheer of volume of data and transaction volume. More people are entering more online transactions via ecommerce, scheduling at home deliveries, doing remote financial closes; all done via cloud applications. Without a secure data isolation design, you could be at risk of being affected by a "noisy neighbor" syndrome. This can happen with first generation SaaS multi-tenant environments and can limit application scalability and performance.  What is a SaaS “Noisy Neighbor”? If your business application shares a cloud database with a “noisy neighbor” company, you may experience significantly slower processing speeds resulting in slower reporting performance. Slower reporting performance can result in a longer month-end close that could takes days, rather than minutes. Example of a “noisy neighbor” and it can affect daily work Here is an example of cloud noisy neighbor in finance that uses a first-generation SaaS shared multi–tenant model.   The telecommunications provider below has millions of mobile phones that are tracked and depreciated. To calculate the depreciation of millions of mobile phone assets, it generates millions of journal entries. Its asset book is so big, it has to manage it or process it in chunks or batches: 10 batches x 2 hours = 20 hours total processing (compute time). Sharing a database in the cloud with this finance application creates a “noisy neighbor”. Imagine the impact on your processing time if you are sharing a database with this user. It will negatively affect the processing speeds and reporting performance available to you. How can scalable high-performing cloud applications help your business now? As cloud applications scale, they process transactions quickly, regardless of volume or calendar period. Scalable cloud applications maintain optimal performance levels, so periodic increases in data inflows are easily handled without negatively affecting your business or your bottom line. How can you reduce the risk of “noisy neighbors”? Ask your cloud provider for cloud applications that carry a unique and differentiated secure data isolation architecture allowing for scalability and increased performance. With secure data isolation, you have dedicated instances that are not co-mingled with other customer’s data. This eliminates the “noisy neighbor” syndrome. To learn more about the impacts of noisy neighbors and scalability in finance, download this pdf.  

Now that we are sequestered at home, some of us may be experiencing the challenges of noisy neighbors. Neighbors partying into the wee hours of the morning. Dogs barking when you’re trying to work....

Finance Topics & Trends

Want to maximize SaaS performance? Check under the hood.

Speed. Scale. Security. A modern cloud infrastructure can make all the difference in SaaS. When you’re driving down the freeway, sometimes you need to step on the gas to accelerate in the moment. When your car responds quickly, it gives you the power you need at just the right time. In business, as with driving, acceleration can be helpful to navigate the changes in front of you. That’s when, under the hood, better engineering and reserve horsepower are essential. The cloud infrastructure supporting a SaaS application is the engine that provides the security, scale, and performance for your business applications. It includes the database, operating systems, servers, routers, and firewalls (and more) required to process billions of application transactions every day. What can cloud infrastructure do to help? Faster response, better scalability Not all cloud infrastructure capabilities supporting your SaaS applications are the same across all cloud providers. Many providers do not run or design their own infrastructure or provide their own high-performance servers. In fact, some cloud providers use other infrastructure providers and shift their responsibility for cloud reliability, availability, and security to that secondary provider. Some are running on an aging cloud infrastructure, built using older commodity hardware. That infrastructure’s architecture may be less responsive and have fewer security capabilities built in. Many SaaS providers have narrow, capped limits for customers’ use at the infrastructure level so they can prevent other users from consuming the bulk of resources—such as processing time—bringing overall performance down for everyone. These limits can adversely impact the speed and scale of your SaaS application, especially if you are processing many transactions, for example, during a month-end close, or you are processing online ecommerce transactions. When you click an application function and get a slow (or no) response, it may be because of the infrastructure, the network design, or both. And because most SaaS infrastructures are early generation multi-tenant, many customers are all sharing the same database. Noisy neighbors can impact performance by chewing up precious database resources, making other users wait for their turn. As a SaaS end user, you don’t actually see this infrastructure—but you can experience it when it has problems. When you click an application function and get a slow (or no) response, it may be because of the infrastructure, the network design, or both. Autonomous security In large enterprises, the IT organization can patch hundreds of systems within the infrastructure regularly. They also need to keep up on the latest types of attacks and their associated patches. These are daunting tasks because malicious bots are attacking systems and networks continuously, finding new ways to breach them. The IT team might also have to help remediate problems after a data breach, which is costly and time consuming. The manual approach to securing database systems and “remediation after the breach” is no longer effective. Today, automation of security with autonomous technology at every layer of the stack is Oracle’s goal and a best practice design.   “The main economic benefit of Oracle’s Gen 2 Cloud Infrastructure is its autonomous capability.” Larry Ellison, Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer, Oracle   As Larry Ellison noted at his 2019 Oracle OpenWorld keynote “The main economic benefit of Oracle’s Gen 2 Cloud Infrastructure is its autonomous capability, which eliminates human labor for administrative tasks and thus reduces human error. That capability is particularly important in helping prevent data theft against increasingly sophisticated, automated hacks.” Seamless updating A cloud infrastructure must be updated by the provider on a regular basis. In an economy where application downtime can seriously impact a business’s bottom line, autonomous capabilities in the infrastructure can be a definite advantage. Automated 24/7 maintenance of cloud infrastructure allows for faster and more efficient patching and updating. It helps reduce downtime from configuration errors and missed patches, so cloud infrastructure has the most recent patches and security is up to date to reflect an ever-changing cybersecurity threat landscape. With these three important elements in mind, consider the importance of checking under the hood of your SaaS application and examining the cloud infrastructure it runs on. These differences can enable your SaaS-based business to be ready for the latest security threats and to grow as needed. For a closer look, read how other SaaS applications providers stack up against Oracle’s Gen 2 Cloud Infrastructure and Oracle Software as a Service (Oracle SaaS) application capabilities. Learn More •    Oracle SaaS + Gen 2 Cloud Infrastructure vs. competition   Lisa M. Schwartz is senior director of SaaS applications for Oracle’s Product Marketing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @Leeza2020.  

Speed. Scale. Security. A modern cloud infrastructure can make all the difference in SaaS. When you’re driving down the freeway, sometimes you need to step on the gas to accelerate in the moment. When...

Finance Topics & Trends

Oracle Digital Assistant Named a Leader in Ovum Decision Matrix for Intelligent Virtual Assistants

Ovum, a leading analyst firm and part of the global technology research organization, Omdia, has recognized Oracle Digital Assistant as a leader in the market in its latest research report, "Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting an Intelligent Virtual Assistant Solution, 2020–21." The report analyzes the evolution of virtual intelligent assistants, the increasing scope of use cases, and the market landscape, and evaluates 10 niche and large technology vendors to determine Oracle Digital Assistant as one of the leaders in this market. Oracle Digital Assistant is a comprehensive, AI-powered conversational interface for business applications. Oracle Digital Assistant interprets the user’s intent so it can automate processes and deliver contextual responses to their voice or text commands to enrich the user experience, eliminate helpdesk and support overhead, and enable scale for communications and engagement. The Ovum report specifically highlights Oracle Digital Assistant as an easy-to-build solution, thanks to its no code, design-by-example, Conversational Design Interface that is intended to be used by non-developers to build, train, test, deploy, and monitor AI-powered digital assistant on channels of choice. Ovum also noted Oracle Digital Assistant’s advanced linguistic and deep learning-based natural language processing (NLP) models as a key strength that enables the Digital Assistant to better understand domain specific vocabulary, and respond with contextual information and best next step actions accordingly. Oracle Digital Assistant also received kudos in the report for providing an “enterprise-ready” solution. Organizations leveraging Oracle Digital Assistant know that their data is their own, stored securely in Oracle Cloud or via Cloud@Customer for organizations wanting to keep their data within their own boundaries. Furthermore, because it is a comprehensive platform, Oracle Digital Assistant can integrate with existing processes, routing rules, and contact center agents to support enterprises’ unique business needs. In fact, Ovum noted that “A differentiator for ODA [Oracle Digital Assistant] is that a business process engine sits beneath it and is tightly integrated to perform tasks emerging from the conversation. For example, when an end user informs the ODA of a change of address, several relevant processes kick in. Oracle's ODA and business process management R&D teams are also tightly integrated because of the overlap in functions.” Oracle also offers out-of-the-box chatbot skills for Oracle Cloud HCM, Cloud ERP, and Cloud CX, as well as integration with Oracle CX Service to speed up deployment and provide seamless engagement for Oracle Cloud Applications customers – a point that was noted as a strength in the Ovum report. With no apps to download and no training needed to use Oracle Digital Assistant, the use of intelligent assistants has picked up quite significantly in the industry. Over the past years more and more organizations – both public sector and commercial – have come to rely on Oracle Digital Assistant for their needs. Common use cases include enabling easy and 24x7 access to employee HR self-service functions and employee expense and finance functions, offering customer or employee FAQs and information lookup. This enables Oracle Digital Assistant to be the first line of customer/employee helpdesk and drive seamless bot-agent handoff only where needed, and more. These use cases present massive sales and ROI opportunities, freeing up human resources to take on the more complex challenges while at the same time improving the user experience. Oracle’s leadership position in the Ovum report is a testament to the significant R&D investments in AI and NLP-powered Cloud service over these recent years. For more information on how your organization can leverage Oracle Digital Assistant, please visit our website. And to download the full report, click here.

Ovum, a leading analyst firm and part of the global technology research organization, Omdia, has recognized Oracle Digital Assistant as a leader in the market in its latest research report, "Ovum...