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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 the 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...

Finance Topics & Trends

3 tips for using emotional intelligence when working from home

I’ve worked as a trainer for the Oracle sales organizations in EMEA and Asia Pacific regions for four years. I’ve coached more people than I can count, ranging from entry-level sales reps to executives. Back in 1995 when Daniel Goleman, published his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, I became fascinated with the subject of emotional intelligence. Simply put, emotional intelligence (EQ) describes a new way of being smart that is at least equally important to achieving success as IQ or technical expertise. It’s become popularized over the last two decades as researchers have uncovered key findings that emotional intelligence can impact success in business and leadership more than IQ. I have been so intrigued by the field of emotional intelligence that I am a certified EQ coach.             Why is EQ important now? It’s because we all find ourselves in uncharted territory in which our daily routines have been upended. We’ve had to adjust to the public transformation of social distancing where we can’t interact on a personal level, and face-to-face interactions are very limited. Many of us are working from home, when we’re used to going to an office. We’re shifting to video conferencing instead of in-person meetings and trying to accomplish tasks by phone, email, and text when we’re used to walking down the hall to discuss projects. For people in sales and consulting roles who are used to in-person presentations, negotiations, deployment planning and status meetings, we find ourselves trying to read the room, if you will, across a computer monitor. At the same time, many of us are juggling young children who are usually in a day care setting or kids schooling at home who demand and need attention. Emotional intelligence is more important now than ever so that we can successfully navigate these unprecedented times—both professionally and personally.  Empathy is key Without getting too deep in the weeds about EQ, a critical competency is empathy. We’ve all heard the adage, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”  In other words, walking in someone else’s shoes means you put yourself in the other person’s place to understand their circumstances, experiences, challenges, thoughts, and emotions. Think about that for a moment in the frame of our current collective circumstances of stay-at-home orders, dogs barking on conference calls, and kids walking into video conferences asking for help with school work. Empathy has become so important to create a human connection and shared understanding as we adjust to our new world of social distancing. It involves three key behaviors: •    Active listening - Fully concentrating on what the speaker is saying so you understand, respond appropriately, and remember what they are saying. •    Curiosity - A genuine desire to gain knowledge and information by asking the right questions. •    Emotional connection - Creating a genuine bond by communicating your understanding. Building emotional intelligence and empathy in our new way of life A well-known clinical psychologist, Dr. Martyn Newman, reviewed more than 100 of Goleman’s research papers and developed a structure of 10 emotional competencies based on the commonality he observed across Goleman’s different studies. His thorough review of that body of research established clear links between the 10 specific emotional and social competencies and outstanding leadership and professional success. The good thing is that you can develop and improve all these competencies/skills. One of my favorite concepts from Goleman is the Triple Focus Model, and it’s one I like to teach and follow myself. At a high level, it involves these three clusters: Focusing on Yourself It’s your ability to understand and moderate your own emotions so you can keep cool under pressure, strive toward goals despite setbacks or major changes that may have occurred in the last few weeks, and stay motivated day after day in an uncertain world. If you’re feeling overly stressed or anxious on a particular day, maybe it’s best to reschedule an important call with a customer. Focusing on Others This is your ability to adapt to changes, remain resilient and optimistic, demonstrate empathy for others, communicate clearly, foster teamwork and collaboration, and persuade others. These skills are crucial to creating connections as we social distance and work remotely. Focusing on Systems It’s your understanding of the organization, an industry, or a particular system. As you work remotely, knowing how to navigate an organization can be very helpful to accomplish tasks and build rapport with key colleagues. Tips for optimizing interactions while working remotely As our work world shifts to online technologies, keep these 3 high tech tips with EQ in mind: •    Video conferences - It can be overwhelming and exhausting to be on camera for hours every day. It can also be distracting to look at ourselves on camera, as if we’re looking at a mirror. Sometimes your colleagues may not want to be on video. They would prefer an audio call, and that’s okay.   •    Texts and emails - We all know it’s difficult to read emotions in written communications like texts and emails. The situation is compounded now as people work from home and juggle many different priorities. If you don’t get a response immediately, don’t assume that someone is ignoring you. They may just be busy and not able to respond as quickly as you’d like. A trick I like to use is the send-receipt notification on emails. When I receive a response, I know my email has been received and read. Then, I can give the person the time they need to respond. •    Social media - Be mindful of what you post, how it might impact others, or whether it appears as negative. If you want to share, be sure that it’s uplifting, inspiring, or motivating. Emotional intelligence is not an innate or finite skill. You can improve your skills as you practice them. With every call, email, text, or video conference, you can build your skill set to listen more actively, ask questions with a genuine curiosity for the answer, manage your emotions, become more resilient despite bad news, set-backs, or significant changes, and demonstrate empathy as others juggle their personal situations. We’re in the midst of unprecedented times and focusing on your emotional intelligence is a great skill set to help you manage your circumstances. For more information about how Oracle Cloud Applications can help you work remotely, go to www.oracle.com/applications      

I’ve worked as a trainer for the Oracle sales organizations in EMEA and Asia Pacific regions for four years. I’ve coached more people than I can count, ranging from entry-level sales reps...

Finance Topics & Trends

How guided learning can help lead your virtual workforce

Recently, across the world, many workers have transitioned to working from home. No more face-to-face interactions or shoulder-to-shoulder group meetings. People are working at a distance via phone calls, emails, texts, and video conferencing. As workers across the country have adapted to these recent changes, business leaders are left to speculate whether this shift will become permanent for some, if not, all of their workforce. Training Virtual Workers While real-time productive teleworking is possible given modern collaboration tools, you may also be considering implications around workforce training. How you can train workers in a remote setting—to quickly onboard new employees or contractors, have them adopt new business processes more easily, and help them to learn new software functionality quickly?  The answer may surprise you. You don’t have to train a remote workforce. Lead them with guided learning. People learn by doing. Let’s dive deeper into this thought with an example using our current social distancing work environment. If your company had rolled out new software functionality, business process or policy chance you may have been offered some form of in-person or a video-based training for handy tips and tricks. And possibly IT staff or power users were made available to meet with people in their offices to answer questions and help speed the learning curve.  Guided learning can improve worker efficiency, even during the most challenging times. If you use “guided learning” with easily digestible directions, seamlessly available in the cloud application at each step of the workflow, your workers can learn as they are doing – in the flow of work. They are guided directly through each step and also have direct links to company policy documents, training materials at their fingertips within the application. No face-to-face coaching required. The learning solution looks like part of the application. Workers simply follow the steps, tips and guides to progress through the workflow. In our hyper-connected world where people want instant   answers, guided learning modules can provide the immediacy people want, so they can quickly become proficient on the job. Cost Savings With this example in mind, consider the cost savings. You could avoid the expenses associated with in-person classes that may require people to travel or that consume large increments of time to participate in the class. At the same time, you wouldn’t lose productivity while people are out of pocket for a half-day, a full day, or multiple days.   According to an Oracle Guided Learning Benchmark Analysis, for a company with 5,000 employees, this could be a potential time and cost savings over an estimated 3,500 business days. In addition, the self-service aspect of a guided learning can reduce IT support costs with fewer repeat questions, tasks, and tickets.  According to the Oracle Guided Learning Benchmark Analysis, the same 5,000-person company could potentially save more than $300,000 annually on first-line support costs. Policy Compliance How can you enforce company policies or standardized business process flows for remote workers?   As an example, the work-from-home model has put a spotlight on the essential nature of our communications infrastructure. The country’s cellular and internet capacity has been pushed to the max as most people work from their home office. Many telecommunications companies are working overtime to ensure that critical infrastructure such as internet and cell towers are working properly to handle the surge, so calls don’t drop and video conferences run without glitches. The challenge for the telecommunications companies is the capital-intensive nature of their business. Equipment, tools, and replacement parts for cell towers, cable infrastructure, power sources, antennas, routers, and such are expensive.   In this example, a guided learning approach can extend beyond training to also help enforce company policy and compliance. For example, perhaps a field technician or a contractor for a telecom company needs replacement parts to repair a cell tower. Based on the worker’s role, job grade, or allocated inventory, the guided learning module within the inventory cloud application could provide built-in check points to ensure that the worker has authorization to check out certain equipment for that project. This can help to avoid waste, misplacement of parts, or excessive cable waste on a single job.   According to Project Management Institute’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession study, telecommunications infrastructure companies waste an average of $106 million on a $1 billion project.   Standardization for Global Companies Also, for global based companies, localizing the guided learning modules based on in-country policies and languages ensures the learning and policy is appropriate for all workers regardless of where they are working virtually. As our world rapidly shifts, business leaders have to juggle both immediate and long-term continuity strategies. The current business conditions we are experiencing are forcing companies to look at new ways to adopt policies easily and continuously streamline efficiencies through productivity.  Oracle Guided Learning provides a powerful tool that can support businesses in a state of change.   Business Benefits with Guided Learning By using Oracle Guided Learning as part of the cloud application, users can easily learn while doing, following embedded company policies, enabling cost containment as well. You can speed the learning curve for a changing workforce, onboard workers faster, make it easier to roll-out new policies to a global at home workforce, and more easily adopt new functionality as it becomes available in software applications.   To find out how Oracle’s Guided Learning for cloud applications can help your workforce learn faster and save your company time and money, click here.    

Recently, across the world, many workers have transitioned to working from home. No more face-to-face interactions or shoulder-to-shoulder group meetings. People are working at a distance via phone...

Finance Topics & Trends

Bridging the gap for remote workers through digital assistants

By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant AI-based chatbots or digital assistants stand to change the way we interact with business applications, not just consumer ones. The main benefit is the ability to get immediate responses to queries via natural local language, without having to download apps or get training. While we have the freedom to engage in user-friendly experiences in our personal lives – such as Alexa and Siri – there have been few options for people in their professional lives. But that’s changing. As Steve Miranda, Oracle’s executive vice president of application development, remarked, “In HR, every common question or transaction has lent itself nicely to digital assistants. Within the next year, we will be calling HTML our ‘old UI.’ Every transaction you have will be through a digital assistant UI.” Work-at-home requirements associated with the spread of COVID-19 have made it all the more important to give employees easy access to ever-changing information – on company policies, insurance coverage, and public health guidance, in addition to the usual cadence of questions on vacation balances, status of expenses, and IT workarounds.  Here are a few key ways in which chatbots and digital assistants can help. An assistant for every employee Finding answers to simple questions can be a frustrating experience if there is no easy way to do so. Take, for example, basic questions like “how many vacation days do I have left?” or “what do I do if I have a change in marital status?” In some cases, employees need to log into their VPN to find the policy document or a web page, or the application – which they then need to further navigate to find answers to these straightforward questions. With a digital assistant, employees can simply speak the question out loud in a natural way or simply input the text, instead of having to navigate multiple screens or interfaces, and they will receive an immediate response. Not only that, the digital assistant can further help them by recommending or taking action as a follow-up to their original interaction and be a true assistant for the employees. For example, rather than just informing the employee on what to do to change their marital status, the digital assistant can actually trigger the change process by gathering the necessary information and then updating the relevant systems with that information.  Answering general policy questions With rapidly evolving governmental directives such as sheltering-in-place and social distancing, most organizations are quickly adapting their HR policies and guidelines. At the same time, employees need help and answers from their organizations more than ever. Questions may range widely from policies on employment, travel guidelines, and health and safety instructions, as well as guidelines on dealing with and working during the pandemic. In some cases, the information is very dynamic and changes by the minute. Digital assistants give employees a consistent channel, which is available 24x7, to ask their questions so they can get an immediate response – while freeing up the HR and IT/support teams to manage the more complex challenges they are facing today. In fact, you can also use digital assistants to send proactive alerts and notifications like changes in policies, so that employees don’t need to keep checking or search for the latest information time and again.  Supporting employee health and safety Practicing social distancing has also had an impact on recruitment, onboarding, and training processes for organizations. In effect, these processes provide resources and support that most organizations may seriously need in these uncertain times. Using a digital assistant, businesses can drive candidates’ pre-screening and interview scheduling online, across any messaging channel. You can drive virtual onboarding by enabling easy remote online access to relevant trainings, policies, and materials all via a digital assistant. Data can also be safely recorded to keep track of employee health status based on the organization’s health policy and guidelines. A digital assistant can also save the employee from the time-consuming task of completing forms or reporting on any health-related issues at work.  Employee self-service Whether working remotely or on-site as needed, employees may need access to both information and processes beyond just the HR systems. From submitting expenses to filing IT support tickets to making changes to travel plans, we touch a number of systems or applications as employees. Some processes even span across multiple systems, like role- or location-based expense reimbursement policies, where the system requires role information from the HR system before interacting with the finance/ERP system for reimbursement. A digital assistant is one common interaction point for employees, contractors, or partners across multiple applications and can provide a quick, consistent, and concise response.  Leading an organization through this unprecedented time has put an increased demand on the HR function. As a result, organizations would be wise to leverage AI-powered technologies such as digital assistants to scale their functions, create online connection and engagement, and provide dynamic updates on policies and safety guidance without bogging down human communication channels – which need to be available for essential tasks. A digital assistant can support an organization by providing benefits such as: Lowering operational costs via online self-service & automation Expanding HR availability 24x7 across different channels Enabling easy access to information and processes delivered via text or natural language Delivering consistent information and maintaining employee engagement Enabling proactive HR outreach Digital assistants can support the functions employees may need now while creating efficiencies for the long term. For more information or to discuss how a digital assistant can support your needs, email us here. Stay well, and be safe.  

By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant AI-based chatbots or digital assistants stand to change the way we interact with business applications, not just consumer ones. The...

The Role of Digital Assistants in a Time of Remote Work

  By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, if you are in the human resources or IT/operations division of your organization, you are likely being pushed to the forefront during this extraordinary time. Your division may be actively leading efforts to communicate with your workforce or users as they adjust to a new environment such as remote work, while also complying with ever-shifting policies and guidelines. Given the significant upheaval in the way organizations have to operate these days, there are some common questions that many IT and HR leads are trying to address, including: How can our organization scale and make it as easy as possible for our ecosystem as everyone learns to cope with the new normal? How can we best provide access to policies, guidelines, FAQs, transactions, and data when information is so dynamic? How can we deliver information in real-time without employing more resources? While the more complex communication challenges will still need to be tackled by humans, a digital assistant may offer relief in some areas. For example, organizations may need to automate responses to most basic queries so human minds can be freed up to deal those more complex challenges. Enterprises and organizations may also need to enable more processes and transactions online and offer them in an easy-to-use medium – one that is easily accessible and intuitive.  Meanwhile, organizations are having to reconfigure how they engage with their customers, contractors, and employees – and in the case of public sector organizations and educational institutions, citizens and students, respectively. These various touch points include providing real-time, reliable information on health and safety guidelines; offering assistance in setting up a remote working environment; communicating up-to-date changes in policies; and enabling online self-service functions or access to relevant insights, information, and processes from within the organization’s systems.  Before COVID-19, AI-based chatbots or digital assistants were already changing the way we interact with our ecosystem – customers, employees, partners, citizens, and students. Enterprises had started to use digital assistants to provide 24x7 assistance to their stakeholders with self-service assistants for customer support; employee self-service across HR, ERP, CRM, and business intelligence systems; and vendors and partners for ERP self-service for quotes and invoice management.   A digital assistant can provide a consistent channel of communication and engagement in natural language text or voice, so users don’t have to learn an enterprise’s systems to interact or access information they need. Other benefits delivered by digital assistants include: Providing a 24x7 virtual assistant that is always there for stakeholders Offering users access to information on channels of choice like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Messenger, and more Streamlining employee queries, since there’s no waiting in line for the next available representative or help desk agent Freeing up employees to focus on the more complex challenges and queries that only human minds can solve Providing a natural way to access information and transactions across different backend systems, which promotes adoption of and adherence to processes and policies Proactively notifying users of changes in data so they can remain informed  Eliminating data searches, since a digital assistant powered by AI can be adapted to dynamic data changes so users don’t have to search for data  Reducing costs associated with support operations via self-service and automation As a result, digital assistants can help support the current need of a remote workforce and concerned citizens, students, and customers while creating long-term efficiencies for your organization.  For a more in-depth look into how your organization can derive quick value from a digital assistant in these uncertain times and the longer term, please contact us here.    

  By Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, AI and Digital Assistant As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, if you are in the human resources or IT/operations division of your organization, you are...

Emerging Technology

Tackling Your Cloud Applications To-Do List

Cleaning closets … organizing the garage … rearranging the pantry. Do these sound like projects you’ve been doing at home over the last few weeks? As social distancing and stay-at-home orders have become our new normal, many of us are finally getting around to our list of home organizing projects. I certainly have cleaned a few closets recently. Chances are, you have a long list of “housekeeping” tasks at work too. If you and your team have a bit more time these days, perhaps you can use this as an opportunity to tackle your cloud applications “to do list.” And even better, think proactively about how to position your organization and processes in this “new normal” operating model. Here are a few ideas to consider. Conduct a Cloud Security Review It may have been a while since you’ve reviewed your security access controls. Some companies use cloud applications with the help of consultants and contractors who need remote access to these applications. Similarly, employees may be initially granted access to applications based on prior roles, and then roles shift and processes change. Companies often can improve security by having a consistent user access review scheduled to audit appropriate application access. Now may be the time to devise and implement a security review plan. Be sure to look at these areas: • Do people have the correct access to systems, applications, functionality, and data? • Are there changes in your workforce that you should examine that may lead to altered or revoked access levels? • Does it make sense to ask departmental managers to review access and revoked privileges to validate your list of security changes? • Is your role-based access strategy still appropriate for your organization? Since the in-person work paradigm has quickly shifted, as most of the workforce has been working from home, you may need to rethink your long-term remote access strategy. This is especially important when relying on remote access and collaboration technologies for video conferencing. And looking into the future, is your access strategy appropriate for your organization if telecommuting remains in place as a permanent operational model? Analyze Cloud Reports If your organization has been using your cloud applications for a while, now may be a good time to revisit your reports to see what’s needed or can be improved. If you poll your departmental leaders and IT team, there’s likely a laundry list of reports that people need, such as exception reports or new data visualizations, to identify new trends and patterns or create scenario models that can help identify and forecast new business opportunities.  Once you and your team have created the reports, you can schedule them to run on a regular basis so you can incorporate the new intelligence into your business analysis and forecasting processes. Personalize Your Applications for Maximum Efficiency When people think of personalization, they typically think of adding a company logo and changing the colors in a cloud application so it reflects your brand. Once people start to use the solution in their daily workflow, you may hear rumblings that people would prefer to have certain fields in different places on the screen or perhaps there are fields that people don’t use.   Now could be a good time to conduct a quick poll of end-users to get some anecdotal feedback so you and your team can personalize application screens to gain efficiencies. Sometimes minor changes like these can go a long way to boost morale because you improved application usability and efficiency. Happy users are more productive. Learn about Emerging Technologies If you’ve got a bit of personal downtime on your hands, now may be a good time to learn about an emerging technology … digital assistants, IoT, blockchain, AI, machine learning, etc. For example, you may want to consider replacing repetitive tasks with digital assistants, or understand how smart sensor IoT devices could help to improve customer satisfaction.   Now may be just the time to learn about these powerful emerging technologies. Take some time to think strategically about how you can utilize them to enhance your business processes and gain a substantial competitive edge. Here’s a list of suggested reading if you want to dig into emerging technologies. •    Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, Third Edition by Russell & Nori •    The Second Machine Age by Dr. Andrew McAfee & Dr. Erik Brynjolfsson of Sloan MIT •    Machine, Platform, Crowd by Dr. Andrew McAfee & Dr. Erik Brynjolfsson of Sloan MIT These are just a few ideas for high tech house-keeping and business improvements that you can initiate within your cloud applications. Stay tuned for my next blog installment with some more ideas, so you can add some more polish to your business processes. For more information on a complete suite of cloud based applications, go to www.oracle.com/applications.

Cleaning closets … organizing the garage … rearranging the pantry. Do these sound like projects you’ve been doing at home over the last few weeks? As social distancing and stay-at-home orders have...