The shift to remote work at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis wreaked havoc with many business processes that require real-time data from across the enterprise. To close their books, for example, companies using siloed applications or spreadsheets had to manually gather and compile data from a multitude of sources—time-consuming and unreliable in the best of conditions but exacerbated by a distributed workforce. For companies that had previously transitioned to cloud-based enterprise applications, however, it was simply business as usual.
An integrated suite of cloud business applications that includes enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, human capital management, and integrated business planning makes navigating unpredictable events easier. It’s a reliable system that provides immediate access to core data that is current and comprehensive without needing your IT team’s intervention. This makes the business more agile and responsive in normal times and in times of disruption.
Over the years, companies with legacy on-premises enterprise applications have had to patch, update, and customize their systems to keep up with ever-changing business needs. This accumulates massive “technical debt” that slows progress, reduces flexibility, and makes it difficult to anticipate and respond to changing market conditions. These organizations also are forced to make decisions with outdated, often unreliable data. But SaaS applications are always up to date, and new capabilities—such as internet of things (IoT) integration, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI)—come online as soon as available with no patching or customization required.
Integrated SaaS enterprise solutions also give businesses greater visibility into the future because of shared data and virtually unlimited storage and compute capacity. In a crisis, planning becomes even more essential and more frequent. Finance can model scenarios to predict cash flow and other resources, while operations and sales can model changing supply and demand. Take Oracle, for example. When the pandemic hit, we were able to compress a four-week planning cycle to one week thanks to the scalable compute power of our SaaS enterprise backbone, bringing together data from across all of our manufacturing operations and along the supply chain.
Imagine trying to pull information from multiple sources manually without knowing if your data is even accurate.
Here are a couple of ways in which Oracle’s integrated business applications suite leverages IoT and ML to generate and process reliable data in real time:
Supply chain and operations: Anticipating demand levels is paramount to successful planning, especially during major upheavals. You have to link and analyze data across the supply and demand chain, as well as from finance and operations. Oracle's demand-sensing capabilities, for example, leverage customer experience data to predict where demand is trending so you can marshal your supply chain to meet it.
Meanwhile, operations and finance can draw from a single set of real-time numbers to plan scenarios that give a complete view of the company without exchanging spreadsheets or working across siloed applications. Yet another example: Let’s say that your company produces its own energy or energy for resale. Using predictive maintenance (part of Oracle IoT Intelligent Applications for Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and EPM), you could predict when a turbine, for example, is close to failure and obtain a new one in time to replace it.
Human capital management: Having access to real-time data on available workforce lets you plan with confidence to expand or move production and services where you need them. When you are doing scenario planning using Oracle Fusion Cloud EPM, you have access to real-time numbers about available workforce capacity. IoT applications like Oracle’s Worker Safety Intelligent Application can also help protect employees—for example, by enabling people to comply with social distancing in reconfigured manufacturing lines or sending an alert when occupancy reaches unsafe levels.
All of the benefits I cite above accrue thanks to the fact that Oracle’s enterprise applications— whether ERP, HCM, or SCM—share a common data architecture. That’s simply not true for SAP customers. Rather than sharing a single source of truth, SAP relies on customers to integrate S/4HANA with external HCM, SCM, and other line of business applications, adding to the burden of technical debt.
SAP deployments quickly become a thicket of integrations, customizations, and multi-vendor headaches. Oracle’s integrated solution ties together product innovation, procurement, production, and demand management within a single suite that is updated and upgraded automatically and doesn’t require ongoing maintenance, patches, or manual updates. This lets our customers make the kind of fundamental, end-to-end changes—such as switching from an in-store or distributor retail model to direct interaction with customers—that often become necessary in an emergency.
In the end, the COVID-19 crisis has left us with several lessons that organizations should take to heart. The planning cycle has accelerated to the point where it is essentially continuous. Continuous change means that businesses must be decisive—and base their decisions on accurate, real-time data. And finally, evolution is no longer sufficient. Instead, companies must be adaptive and agile in a way that they never had to be in the past. They have to plan more quickly, execute in alignment, and brace for the next change coming down the pike. There are telling indications that companies have realized during this crisis that digital transformation via the cloud isn’t a nice to have. It’s a must have.
Learn how Oracle Cloud Applications can make your business more agile and resilient in the face of continuous change.