If you want to start a lively debate, ask me about the best team in NFL history. I have friends from places like Pittsburgh, San Francisco, or Chicago who might try to argue otherwise, but I’ll stand by my position that the 1992 Dallas Cowboys remain the most complete team to ever step onto the gridiron. Did they have a ton of individual talent? Sure. But what sets them apart from other contenders was their ability to excel in every aspect of the game as a team. Each player knew not just their job, but roles of those around them as well. And they were able to execute their job effectively and consistently. That’s what made them the most complete team.
The value of consistency and completeness holds true in the business world as well. I recall, for instance, years ago as an analyst, doing supply chain performance benchmarking. We found that the manufacturing companies who were best in class in one or two functional areas were never the best in overall performance or results. However, the companies that were the most balanced in performance across all supply chain functions were the ones that were best where it really mattered: in total costs and perfect order performance. It’s like the African proverb says: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. More on that later.
I see these same lessons play out in the business application strategies at many companies, where functional leaders have been empowered to make software decisions based on what is perceived to be the best for their function. And while they have seen many benefits within an individual function like Sales or HR, they have, in many cases, lost sight of the overall company performance and specifically taken a step back in the execution of end-to-end processes or delivering end-to-end visibility.
Since the dawn of the business management software industry, the pendulum has swung back and forth between centralized or common platforms and decentralized or best of breed systems. As I mention in my previous blog, we see the pendulum swinging back from disparate or point solutions to common platforms. But how can organizations get the benefits of unified processes and data without losing business agility? I believe there is reason for hope and the key word is composability.
While it may be referred to as composable architecture or composable ERP, in the context of this blog, composability means the ability to connect processes and functionality easily to existing core technologies. The value proposition for composability is relatively simple. With core enterprise applications moving to the cloud and providing a wealth of APIs, organizations should be able to plug and play their own unique and innovative modules without needing complex integration and coding. In reality, though, for each disparate core system an organization adds, the complexity (and cost) for integration grows exponentially.
Take the example of Johnson Controls, who provide fire, HVAC, and security equipment for many of the largest buildings in the world. They have been able to transform from manufacturing equipment to providing a complete suite of AI-infused service solutions for their customers.
Think of the number of systems it takes for Johnson Controls to provide excellent customer experience. They need to schedule and distribute equipment for multiple systems across multiple physical locations. They have to optimize and schedule maintenance and service, which means making sure they have the right people, trained and ready to deliver that service. To provide insight to their customers, they need access to a wide range of data. To be a trusted partner, they need to ensure that their planning, financials, and risk management functions work seamlessly.
In short, achieving this kind of transformation – providing this level of service for their customers – goes far beyond their customer experience apps. It requires a connection with just about every business system they have. Had they wanted to innovate on top of disparate systems, the majority of their efforts would have been spent on integration and testing. Fortunately, they chose the completeness of Oracle Fusion Cloud Apps.
Composability is, though, about so much more than completeness. It’s about what that completeness enables. When composability and completeness meet, it opens up a whole ecosystem of partners and innovators.
In the case of Discover Financial Services, it was the basis of success for their As One Team partnership between Discover, Accenture, and Oracle. They were able to replace multiple disparate systems with the unified Fusion apps built on a common data platform. We’re talking about integrating around 1,200 reporting data attributes from 75 feeds from their line of business partners and 48 source systems. They did this all remotely at the height of the pandemic, on time and under budget and at high quality.
Because of composability (and the partnership it enabled) Discover estimates that they were able to integrate four times faster, and were able to stand up a self-supported product team. Having this speed and self-reliance means that they can dedicate more time and budget to creating innovative solutions for the road ahead. As Discover’s Vice President, Business Technology: Strategy, Transformation and Governance, Michelle Green described it in a recent conversation with Oracle, “we won the digital cloud transformation Super Bowl as one team.”
For those of you who were at Oracle CloudWorld in Las Vegas recently, a recurring theme shared by many of the presenters was the sense of urgency to transform. With economic and geopolitical uncertainty looming and the ever-present threat of industry disruption, those who hesitate put themselves at an increased risk of not weathering the storm. So how do you want to go, far or fast? In today’s climate, you have to do both. With the access to innovation that you can gain from composability, you can go fast. With the completeness of a portfolio of applications built to work together, you can go far. In my next blog, I’ll delve deeper into the ecosystem that composability enables – not just for companies and partners, but what this looks like at a global scale.