AT&T is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. So it follows that when Angela Baskerville, vice president of corporate systems and talent enablement, spoke at a recent Oracle CloudWorld session, the audience sat up and paid attention. Baskerville injected humor into a great story of digital innovation; when asked what advice she had for leaders embarking on a finance transformation, she quipped, “Get a good therapist.” The whole audience laughed.
AT&T was one of hundreds of Oracle customers who recently appeared at Oracle CloudWorld, Oct. 17-22, 2022. Baskerville shared the stage with executives from Albertsons, Macquarie, JP Morgan, and Oracle for the finance solution keynote, “Leverage Finance Modernization and Transformation.”
A long-time Oracle customer, AT&T is a storied company with more than a century of history—and, like most long-lived companies, it has accumulated a lot of technical debt over the years. Baskerville saw simplification as a necessary step in their finance transformation.
“We happen to be moving quite a few applications to the cloud,” she said—more than a thousand over the past two years. “If you relieve technical debt and your dependency on legacy applications, you are able to simplify and invest that bandwidth and resources into growth, in products and services.” AT&T is also using AI and machine learning to focus on consumer needs, such as reducing fraud, scams, and robocalls: “How many expired car warranties do they really think we have?” she mused.
Finance at AT&T used to be very transactional, Baskerville explained. With Oracle Cloud ERP and EPM, they’ve automated most of their finance processes, giving them more time to mine their data for business insights. One example: AT&T uses its financial data to predict why and how customers churn, which helps them improve their services and develop better marketing and sales offers.
As for advice, Baskerville focused on processes, skills, and opportunities. “You cannot modernize bad processes,” she said. “That’s like taking all of the old, ratted furniture from the 70s and the shag carpet and moving it into a brand new penthouse.” Secondly, transformation is a way for both finance and IT staff to develop new skills, learning how to make the best use of data and analytics, rather than closing the books or administering a database. Finally, she said, transformation is a journey, not a destination, and companies should take advantage of the new technology as they’re moving, instead of waiting until a whole project is finished.
Lisa Fraser, CFO of Macquarie’s retail banking arm in Australia, also spoke at the finance solution keynote. Fraser told the audience that the “ability to adapt to change, be resilient, and be forensic about risk is part of our DNA.” Indeed, Macquarie has had record results over the past several years, despite macroeconomic disruption and market volatility.
Macquarie embarked on one of the biggest technology projects in their history with the crucial step of implementing a new general ledger. The company wanted a foundation that would provide the scale and functionality they needed for future growth. They also wanted something future-proof, because they didn’t want to have to reimplement a new GL several years down the road. With the continuous updates and innovation offered by Oracle, Fusion Cloud ERP met Macquarie’s criteria.
Fraser’s team involved their finance leaders early on to make sure the new GL met their reporting needs, which also helped get executive buy-in on the new processes. “We wanted to adapt ourselves to Fusion,” Fraser said, because the automation processes were already built in. Testing also played a big part in their transformation, and it paid off: “The go-live was quite seamless,” Fraser told the audience. Macquarie’s results were impressive:
The ability to report faster has been especially crucial when it comes to regulatory compliance. “Some of our companies around the world have to report every single day to their regulators,” Fraser noted, “and so that ability to be quick has been really important to us.”
Fraser said one of the best things about working with Oracle is the community of customers willing to share their experiences. Customers who had already embarked on their finance transformations advised Macquarie to find the best subject-matter experts among their employees and dedicate them full-time to the transformation team.
Fraser echoed Baskerville’s remarks about reskilling. Their move to Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP has given them the technology to achieve touchless processing, “so we end up with really wonderful, interesting jobs: a lot less time wrangling and producing data, and a lot more time to really think about the value that our teams can add.”
Gregory M. Rousseau, group vice president of finance transformation at Albertsons Companies, offered his perspective on the value of data. When the COVID-19 pandemic triggered lockdowns in 2020, grocery stores were one of the few businesses that experienced a significant jump in demand. In March and April of 2020 alone, Albertsons’ sales were up 34% compared to the previous year.
Greater demand meant Albertsons needed to expand its workforce and still keep their payroll humming. Albertsons had a corporate mandate to move out of its on-premises data centers and modernize its technology platform with a cloud-first strategy. As part of that plan, they selected Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM, gaining a unified platform for all finance and employee data.
“We went into this for better data,” Rousseau explained. “We didn’t go into this to save money, but it turns out we did.” After 13 months on Oracle Fusion Cloud, absenteeism has gone down, productivity has gone up, and the company has gained huge efficiencies.
The customer experience has also improved. Albertsons has more than a dozen food and grocery brands; many of them came to the company via acquisitions (most notably Safeway) and each brought with them their own customer loyalty programs. Albertsons harmonized all of that data, bringing the programs and the mobile apps together under one umbrella so customers can benefit from earning points at any Albertsons-owned outlet, whether retail or online.
The final guest of the keynote was Hubert J.P. Jolly, global co-head of corporate and e-commerce sales for J.P. Morgan. Jolly and Rondy Ng, executive vice president of applications development at Oracle, introduced the new Oracle B2B Commerce platform.
The platform will directly connect Oracle’s 40-thousand cloud ERP customers with service providers ranging from J.P. Morgan Payments and FedEx to other banks, insurance companies, and delivery services. It takes advantage of Oracle’s unified data model and secure workflows to digitize the entire B2B commerce process for mutual customers.
Jolly explained that connectivity between banks and ERP systems is a big pain point in B2B commerce. “When our clients want to work with us, connecting their ERP to J.P. Morgan—or any other bank—is a pretty significant effort. Working with Oracle, we can make that connectivity a lot easier.” The goal is to achieve much higher levels of automation for B2B transactions, including purchase orders, loan requests, financing approval, delivery, invoicing, and payments.
“To complete a deal, trading partners need to work through many manual interactions and each step in the process adds time and inefficiencies, introduces the possibility of human error, and takes buyers and sellers away from more strategic work,” said Ng. “With Oracle B2B Commerce’s integrations with J.P. Morgan Payments and FedEx, our customers will be able to automate purchasing, selling, financing, shipping, billing, and payments to reduce the cost of doing business.”
Lynne has 25 years experience in journalism and marketing. She spent the first 10 years of her career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, covering major news events such as the Quebec referendum, two federal elections, and the crash of Swissair flight 111 - coverage of which won a Gemini Award for “Best News Special Event Coverage.” Since then, Lynne has worked in marketing and communications for high technology companies such as Whitehill Technologies and Skywire Software. She currently works at Oracle as managing editor of The Modern Finance Leader, winner of a 2018 Killer Content Award from Demand Gen Report.