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Emerging Technologies

Accelerate Your Path to Digital Transformation with Oracle Integration Cloud

The future of integration has arrived with the latest release of Oracle Integration Cloud. With new autonomous capabilities, Oracle Integration Cloud accelerates the path to digital transformation by eliminating barriers that small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) experience between business applications through a combination of machine learning, embedded best-practice guidance, and prebuilt application integration and process automation.  What is Autonomous Integration? Autonomous Integration delivers exciting capabilities today with more coming soon. Self-Driving: Provides machine learning recommendations and “best next actions” to eliminate errors associated with complex data mapping between applications and suggests best user selections for process flows. Self-Designing: Artificial intelligence driven generation of integration flows by mining successful execution of thousands of integrations at runtime. Self-Repairing: Senses application integration connectivity issues for corrective action.  Notifies when integration database or other storage has exceeded allowable threshold. What Does Oracle Integration Cloud Offer? Pre-Integrated with Applications: A large library of pre-integration with Oracle and 3rd party SaaS and on-premises applications through application adapters eliminates the slow and error prone process of configuring and manually updating web service and other styles of application integration. Pre-Built Integration Flows: Instead of recreating the most commonly used integration flows, such as between sales applications (CRM) and configure, price, quoting (CPQ) applications, Oracle provides pre-built integration flows between applications spanning CX, ERP, HCM and more to take the guesswork out of integration.  Unified Process, Integration, and Analytics: Oracle Integration Cloud merges the solution components of application integration, business process automation, and the associated analytics into a single seamlessly unified business integration solution to shrink the time to complete end-to-end business process lifecycles. Oracle Integration Cloud includes a machine learning based recommendation engine to guide users on mapping of attributes from one application to the other. With Oracle Integration Cloud, whether you are a small-to-medium business or a large enterprise, you can achieve faster time to market and deliver new business innovations quickly by rapidly connecting diverse applications and key business roles. Oracle Integration Cloud also promotes better business agility, making it easy to assemble existing technologies into new business services to better align with the changing pace of new business demands. And last but not least, you will attain complete visibility and gain 360-degree views across your entire business process lifecycles, eliminating the need to find errors or check status within every discrete application, integration, process, or analytics tool spanning the business process lifecycle. Get started with Oracle Cloud for Free and experience Oracle Integration Cloud free for 30 days. To learn more, read the press release: Oracle Delivers Next Set of Autonomous Cloud Platform Services. By Vika Mlonchina, Product Marketing Manager, Oracle

The future of integration has arrived with the latest release of Oracle Integration Cloud. With new autonomous capabilities, Oracle Integration Cloud accelerates the path to digital transformation by...

IT

What Happens When SMBs Switch from AWS to Oracle?

I came across a headline on one of our Oracle.com pages the other day, and it said, “Oracle Cloud Infrastructure: Purpose Built for the Enterprise.” In the moment, this bugged me on behalf of my client – the small-to-medium business (SMB). It bugged me because it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a product marketing colleague. She shared that market research indicated that, among expanding businesses, there was a misperception that Oracle cloud solutions were suited only for large, gazillion-dollar enterprises. Not so. But being that I’m not actually running a successful, growing business, it would be more helpful to hear from the people who are—and are using Oracle Cloud solutions to do so. Read on to find out what some of these SMBs discovered after switching from AWS to Oracle and taking the jump from on-prem to the Oracle Cloud. Surprise! It’s a Giant Bill Your mom was right: Quick and easy can lead to undesirable results. When N2N started building apps in 2011, they had three employees working out of a small room. That same year, they signed on with AWS and quickly grew from two instances to more than 150 instances in early 2015. But when they sat down to examine their cloud costs, N2N was surprised to find a $15,000 monthly AWS bill. Adding insult to injury, 60% of those servers were not producing any value. So, what did they do? Moved their cloud infrastructure to Oracle and saved more than 50% on their IT costs. On-Prem Can Be Off-Putting Oracle SMB customer, Flexagon had an extensive on-prem environment but knew remaining that way would only mean continued slow deployments and high costs. Dan Goerdt, Flexagon president, said, “We knew to achieve automation at scale, to accelerate delivery, improve quality and reduce cost, we needed a cloud-first approach. We began the shift to hybrid cloud by implementing Oracle Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS), and we’ve reduced the cost of managing our infrastructure by 33%. With metered services, we pay only for what we use. We can utilize resources much more effectively. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure allows us to spin up and shut down at will and with ease, without any ticking clock.” Some Say Migration; Some Say Lift and Shift However you refer to it and no matter the company size, the prospect of moving all your workloads and applications to another environment can feel as unknown and hopeful as a Hail Mary thrown seconds before the final buzzer. But it doesn’t have to. As evidenced by N2N, you can migrate easily and quickly. And then there’s Astute Business Solutions. They moved from AWS to Oracle and found that they could spin up the latest version of Oracle’s PeopleSoft applications in a devtest environment in hours, not weeks. The move also resulted in reduced cost of ownership and improved performance and reliability. Performance or Price: The End of Choosing Only One That’s what Frozen Mountain experienced on AWS: less-than-ideal performance and availability at high costs. “We needed the best price-performance available. We saw performance double vs. our prior solution, which translates directly into cost savings,” says Anton Venema, CTO, Frozen Mountain. “Dollar-for-dollar, you just get more compute with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.” Myth: AWS is Less Expensive Than Oracle Truth: It’s not. Compared to Amazon Web Services, Oracle Cloud is lower cost. Another discovery upon Frozen Mountain’s move from AWS to Oracle: “When the Oracle team approached us with a cloud infrastructure solution,” said Greg Batenburg, VP, Business Development, Frozen Mountain, “the cost of compute units was half of what Amazon was offering, and the bandwidth charges were reduced by a factor of 10; the concept of universal credits was fantastic. Oracle’s offering is extremely competitive and it was a natural choice for us to make the move.” N2N came to the same conclusion. Kiran Kodithala, founder and CEO of N2N, said “We realized we would be getting a better and more dedicated infrastructure at half the price of AWS. It was a no brainer. An Oracle Cloud Infrastructure meant a more affordable and reliable infrastructure.” The Final Word As Oracle SMB customer, Lynn Clark, CEO The Factory, A New Dimension, said, “They (Oracle) are welcoming small businesses. The platform has always been for what everyone knew it to be—large. You had to be a multi-billion dollar company for Oracle to work with you. To open it up to the small business, it has been great.” Choosing a new provider or moving from an on-prem environment to a hybrid or completely hosted one is a big decision. As an innovative, growing business, these decisions carry weight in a way that differs for a large enterprise. Other SMBs have gone before you and made the move to Oracle with great results. You can learn from their experiences and also do some comparing. 5 customers share why Oracle was the perfect choice for their SMB. 

I came across a headline on one of our Oracle.com pages the other day, and it said, “Oracle Cloud Infrastructure: Purpose Built for the Enterprise.” In the moment, this bugged me on behalf of...

IT

UiPath Chooses Oracle Cloud for Robotic Process Automation

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have been leveraging automation to achieve more with shrinking resources and budgets. UiPath is a leading provider of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions to efficiently automate business processes. UiPath allows organizations to be more productive and achieve better business outcomes through workflow and business process automation leveraging RPA, artificial intelligence and machine learning. UiPath was looking for a robust integration solution with end-to-end process design capability for automating business processes. UiPath chose Oracle Integration Cloud and Oracle Process Cloud for addressing their hybrid cloud integration and workflow automation requirements. This also allowed them to add artificial intelligence into their automations to drive additional workflow efficiencies. Listen to Bobby Patrick, Chief Marketing Officer at UiPath, talk about how with Oracle Cloud Platform they have been able to dramatically improve job satisfaction of their employees while helping their clients achieve improved business outcomes. To learn how Oracle Cloud Platform can help your small-to-medium business with application integration, process automation and other needs, visit oracle.com/paas. By Arijit Chakraborty, Principal Product Manager, Common Cloud PaaS - Product Management, Oracle

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have been leveraging automation to achieve more with shrinking resources and budgets. UiPath is a leading provider of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions to...

Emerging Technologies

Creating Tomorrow’s Enterprise, Today

I had the opportunity to sit down with Juergen Lindner, Vice President, Oracle Cloud Applications Product Marketing at Oracle, and Ashish Mohindroo, Vice President, Oracle Cloud Platform, Cloud Business Unit at Oracle, for the first podcast in our Tomorrow’s Enterprise, Today podcast series, where we are discussing how organizations small and large are embracing cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive rapid and continuous innovation to better serve their customers, employees and partners, and the different strategies and paths of technology adoption experts are seeing today. Throughout the world and across every industry, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are disrupting the business landscape, especially for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). In fact, 50% of IT professionals believe AI and ML are playing a role in cloud computing adoption today, growing to 67% by 2020. SMBs are gearing up to prepare for the future today. But how do you continuously innovate, adapt, secure and stay ahead of the curve? In the first podcast of our Tomorrow’s Enterprise, Today podcast series, Juergen and Ashish provided some great insight into how to do so. We discussed some of the fundamental shifts that most organizations are dealing with today, the impact digital disruptions have had on businesses, and ways companies can drive innovation to be disruptors rather than the disrupted. We also chatted about some of the risks and pitfalls organizations might face on their journey to innovation. You'll for sure want to tune in to find out what is the one technology advancement that Juergen and Ashish are excited about! If we’ve peaked your interest, please catch the “Creating Tomorrow’s Enterprise, Today” podcast and the rest of our podcast series! And be on the lookout for the next podcast in our series “3 Advances in Finance That You Can’t Ignore Anymore” coming soon! Is your SMB interested in learning more? You can see our upcoming schedule on our podcast page or below:  Creating Tomorrow’s Enterprise, Today  Podcast Link  3 Advances in Finance That You Can’t Ignore Anymore  Coming Soon  Let Employee Engagement be Your Digital Innovation Lab  Coming Soon  Internet, Smartphones and Now Chatbots – The Changing F(P)ace of Digital Evolution  Coming Soon  When AI Disrupted Customer Experience, Where Were You?  Coming Soon   We hope you’ll follow along as we help your SMB with your journey on the path to digital transformation! View the Oracle Cloud Café Podcast Channel

I had the opportunity to sit down with Juergen Lindner, Vice President, Oracle Cloud Applications Product Marketing at Oracle, and Ashish Mohindroo, Vice President, Oracle Cloud Platform,...

Product News

5 Reasons You Should Register for Oracle OpenWorld Today

Fall is right around the corner, and with it comes cooler temperatures (hopefully), Halloween (definitely), and Oracle OpenWorld (yippee!). October 22nd may feel like a long time away—after all, the kids just went back to school—but there are some real benefits to signing up as soon as possible. You could even do it during your lunch break; it’s as easy as that. To get you started here are five (brief) reasons why you should register for Oracle OpenWorld today. 1. Save Money If you thought that the discounted rate is a thing of the past, I am here to correct that assumption.  Pre-event pricing ends October 20th, so if you register now, you will save $200 from the onsite conference price. 2. The Pass Oracle OpenWorld and Oracle Code One are at the same time this year, and you can attend sessions from both conferences with an all-inclusive pass. When you sign up for “The Pass,” you will have access to more than 2,200 Oracle OpenWorld and Oracle Code One sessions, hands-on labs, executive solution sessions, and 2000+ innovative demos. When you attend both conferences, you not only get everything that Oracle OpenWorld has to offer, but you can also discover the latest on Java (from the people who know) and be part of the transformative technologies (blockchain, AI, chatbots, etc.) discussions. 3. SMB Customer Content Oracle OpenWorld is not just for our larger customers. Right now, there are 259 customer sessions specifically for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). And we are rolling more out every day, ranging from cybersecurity, cloud migration, big data, Oracle Cloud applications, emerging technologies, autonomous integration (to name a few), plus real-world stories from customers just like you. So take a look at the content catalog and start marking the sessions that will help you achieve your business goals.  4. Northern California Not only will you save money by registering now, but you will get a chance to spend time in beautiful Northern California. Plan a weekend and combine business with pleasure: Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, bay cruises, Coit Tower, and even wine country and the redwoods to the north. There is so much to do. And let’s not forget the food. You will want to take advantage of San Francisco's amazing culinary scene. Whether it's Italian food in North Beach or burritos in the Mission District, San Francisco has some of the best food in the country. 5. Everything Oracle Concentrated in One Place. There is no other conference where you will have the ability to gain the knowledge needed to get the most out of your current (and future) Oracle Cloud applications and technologies. Experts from all over the world—customers, partners, and Oracle employees—will be there to help you make new connections, grow your skills, and transform your business. Register to attend Oracle OpenWorld today!  

Fall is right around the corner, and with it comes cooler temperatures (hopefully), Halloween (definitely), and Oracle OpenWorld (yippee!). October 22ndmay feel like a long time away—after all, the...

Emerging Technologies

ERP Trends Report – What You Need to Know

They came for the money. They stayed for the innovation. That’s the key finding of our first ERP Top Trends report (a companion to the EPM Top Trends report, which has become an annual tradition here at Oracle). In a survey of more than 400 finance and IT leaders, the majority of respondents said they made the move to enterprise resource planning (ERP) cloud for economic reasons—which included the desire to avoid infrastructure investments (45percent) and on-premises upgrades (33percent), as well as lower the total cost of ownership (38percent). What was really heartening was that almost two-thirds (63 percent) achieved the economic benefits they were hoping for. But something surprising also emerged from the survey results. When asked about the top benefits of ERP Cloud, an overwhelming 81 percent cited, “Staying current on technology” as the #1 benefit—far outpacing usability, flexibility, economics, and collaboration. The ability to keep up with the unprecedented pace of business change—implementing the latest best practices and innovations on a regular basis—is a paradigm shift for the back-office. Instead of having to bridge the gap with spreadsheets and the manual transfer of data, new functionality and best practices are pushed out to Finance several times a year by the cloud provider. In the old world of on-premises systems, it would be unthinkable (and undoable) to update ERP at such a breakneck pace. Years usually pass between upgrades—and with every passing year, your growing small-to-medium business (SMB) stops―well―growing. With cloud, the risk of technology obsolescence drops to zero—putting the business on a more solidly competitive footing. As Frank Sorrentino, CEO of ConnectOne Bank, stated in Intelligent Finance: “Bankers ask me all the time, ‘How are you running that business, at that size, with that growth rate, with that reputation and with that level of service with as few people as you have?’ We are living in a cloud-based world. And as far as I am concerned, there is no better place to be.” Emerging Technologies Are Set to Transform Finance The cloud is the primary delivery mechanism for new and emerging technologies: blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cognitive computing, intelligent process automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Finance professionals are exhibiting a keen interest in these technologies. Roughly 4 out of 10 are already exploring these areas—in keeping with their desire for innovation and new capabilities. Many of these emerging technologies fall squarely into the charter of the finance function. For example, blockchain has a number of use cases that could impact finance and the supply chain, while AI and machine learning can detect patterns in huge data sets that humans being could never detect, potentially reducing and even correcting for material risks. These technologies have the potential to maximize resources, decrease risk, and generate more revenue. Tasks that requires efficiency, or where efficiency matters most, will be handled by technology. Humans will work on the “inefficient tasks:” innovation, experimentation, modeling, etc. These are the fun things anyway. It’s Not “Cloud Soon,” It’s “Cloud Now” With the benefits clearer than ever, ERP Cloud has become the new standard for Finance. Over three-fourths (76 percent) of our survey respondents said they either already have ERP Cloud or have plans to run ERP in the cloud within 24 months. The discussion is no longer about when to make the move. It’s now. Historically, the concerns about migrating the core financial system has left ERP as one of the last technology systems running on-premises. Yet the vast majority of companies we surveyed believe that the benefits of such a move outweigh the potential pitfalls; less than one-quarter of respondents (24percent) have no plans for ERP Cloud (yet). A Regular Cadence of Innovation With the pace of business change accelerating, finance leaders recognize that yesterday’s technology won’t help them grow their company. Moving to ERP Cloud is what small-to-medium businesses need to re-invent and transform their business processes. With the regular cadence of innovation delivered by the cloud, and zero risk of technology obsolescence, finance leaders will be well positioned to help build the business of the future. Learn the top ERP trends you need to know.  

They came for the money. They stayed for the innovation. That’s the key finding of our first ERP Top Trends report (a companion to the EPM Top Trends report, which has become an annual tradition here...

Emerging Technologies

How Are Emerging Tech and Robust Cloud Strategy Imperative to Business Success?

A few years ago, IT organizations were in a dilemma about whether or not to leverage cloud as part of their IT strategy; however, that is not the case today. Cloud is required and critical for a robust enterprise technology and business strategy and small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are looking into how to leverage the cloud to meet their specific business needs. The Future Is - More Applications in the Cloud Today, cloud is leveraged to bring agility and innovation to enterprises challenged by digitalization, cultural shifts in the workforce, and demanding customers who expect services to be delivered in real time. With cloud, businesses increase efficiency, productivity and collaboration among their customers, partners and employees. Cloud technology helps organizations reach new geographies, reducing time to market and opening up new revenue generation opportunities. Now more than ever, with cloud technologies in place, SMBs can better analyze their data in real-time, helping them make data driven business decisions to maneuver the fast paced evolving markets. According to IDC, by 2020 67% of IT infrastructure and software will be based in the cloud. This highlights the need for a cloud platform that can offer capabilities to developers to build, deploy and run new applications in cloud.  For IT management and line of business (LoB) leaders there is a clear need for platform services that can connect and extend their on-premises and cloud applications to maximize investments already made yet focus on innovation, scale and enterprise agility. Check out my newest podcast Research Edition: Exploring the Impact of Emerging Technologies on App Dev (also available on iTunes or alternate channels) to further explore the impact cloud and emerging tech has on your business. Cloud Democratizes Emerging Technology We are seeing emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, internet of things (IoT) permeate every aspect of work and life. As per some recent Gartner surveys: By 2020 - 20% of citizens in developed nations will use AI assistants to help them with everyday operational tasks. 85% of CIOs will be piloting AI programs through a combination of buy, build and outsource efforts By 2030, Blockchain-focused initiatives will generate some $3 trillion in business value annually with blockchain use cases continuously expanding as the market matures.’ These technologies are augmenting human intelligence, building trust and transparency while opening up new avenues for business exploration.  Utilization of emerging tech in enterprise eco-systems seems to be a strategic imperative for line of business and IT management. At the same time, emerging tech equally offers new venues to drive creativity and build new innovation among the developers and data scientists. The story of emerging tech that is fueling this new growth for businesses will be incomplete if we don’t talk about cloud. It is right to say that cloud is the precursor and enabler to help bring these technologies to the forefront of enterprises and end customers who are going to benefit from these technologies tremendously. Cloud truly is democratizing emerging tech to help it become mainstream. Cloud-based, Artificial Intelligence Solution Transforms Student Experience Based on my own experience I can say that university or college admission process can be a daunting task for both the parent as well as a student. What if the stress could be taken out from the entire student application process? This is exactly what the University of Adelaide, Australia did. They transformed their student application experience from stress to awesomeness by leveraging Oracle Intelligent bot. Students now could chat with a self-learning bot to access their ATAR score – the number that is used to gain access to the university in Australia. Having access to this technology made it very easy for students to gather the information they need, when they need it without having to wait for hours for a university representative to get back to them. A record of 2,100 unique conversations were conducted on the very first day of launch of service, leading to 40% reduction in  call volume to the university’s enquiry service. This reduction of call volume not only helped enhance overall student experience but also increased university staff call center productivity allowing them to focus on more critical student queries. Watch this video to hear Catherine Cherry, the Associate Director Student Recruitment at University of Adelaide, Australia speak about how Oracle Intelligent bot helped the university transform student experience and overall university call center  productivity. Learn how the AI/ML based Oracle Autonomous Cloud could transform your business to drive innovation. Two Sides of the Same Coin Just like a coin has two sides, new opportunities come with a new set of challenges. Lack of skillset, adoption of new cultural norms, and the quick arrival of new technologies are making it harder for SMBs to prioritize.  So, in these fast-paced, changing business environments it becomes critical that businesses invest time to understand how cloud computing along with new emerging technologies can impact your business. Get Started No matter where your SMB is in their cloud journey, explore the possibilities to learn more about the cloud, and how it can help accelerate your business transformation journey. Download the Longitude Research study sponsored by Oracle and Intel to gather detailed insights into the experiences of 730 C-suite and senior IT executives to learn about their cloud adoption journey and key strategic priorities. Learn more about Oracle Cloud Platform. By Savita Raina, Director Product Marketing, Oracle | @sraina03 | LinkedIn

A few years ago, IT organizations were in a dilemma about whether or not to leverage cloud as part of their IT strategy; however, that is not the case today. Cloud is required and critical for a...

Emerging Technologies

Mitsubishi Electric Puts Innovation on Hyper-Drive with Oracle Cloud

Cloud transformation has created massive change for businesses large and small, and changed the way people work. Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) can lead the transformation of the business and industry with digital technologies like social and mobile services, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT). At the same time, SMBs are under constant pressure to drive down costs through economies of scale and superior IT automation. Industry leaders are embracing Platform as a Service (PaaS) together with Software as a Service (SaaS) at an ever-increasing pace to drive cost efficiencies and create and exploit new business opportunities. The key to enabling this transformation is empowering organizations with a modern PaaS that accelerates the creation of new products and services for customers, employees, and partners -- and delivers capabilities never before imaginable. SaaS products such as ERP, SCM, HCM, and CX offer excellent features and functionalities to address every common business process, however, as the speed of business continues to accelerate, enterprises are often challenged to keep up, or even get ahead of the industry curve. In the current era of modern applications and technological transformations, SMBs continuously need to innovate. The Oracle Cloud Platform provides advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms and self-driving, self-repairing and self-securing capabilities, enabling Oracle SaaS customers to accelerate innovation and drive adoption of pioneering technologies. Mitsubishi Electric is a brilliant example of how organizations today are leveraging technology to put innovation on hyper-drive and deliver cutting-edge experiences. Join Timothy Lomax, head of business development at Mitsubishi Electric, and Oracle executives Juergen Lindner and Ashish Mohindroo, in this webcast to take a closer look at how Oracle Cloud is delivering faster innovation and future-proofing existing investments for its customers. Learn how your SMB can: Drive different paths of innovation by connecting, extending, securing and analyzing your business Accelerate your pace of innovation by complementing AI/ML-powered SaaS with AI/ML-powered platform services to deliver unique, powerful, connected and intelligent business experiences Achieve rapid adoption of cutting-edge technologies like chatbots, blockchain, voice, AR / VR and IoT to create new disruptive business models and stay ahead of the innovation curve Register today for the webcast, Mitsubishi Electric Puts Innovation on Hyper-Drive, on September 13th.

Cloud transformation has created massive change for businesses large and small, and changed the way people work. Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) can lead the transformation of the business...

IT

Outdoor Security Platform Pushes Limits Of Storage, Compute Infrastructure

V5 Systems turned to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure because its services were able to scale more cost-effectively than comparable services from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. “We were analyzing massive amounts of surveillance data and didn’t have enough physical storage or compute power to manage it all,” cofounder Steve Yung says. “We had to move it to the cloud.”   V5 Systems was founded in 2014 with a mission to provide city, college campus, and corporate security and law enforcement with cost-effective, portable surveillance systems that verify security threats and send real-time alerts. But as the company’s sales grew from tens of units per customer to literally thousands, its storage capacity was pushed to the brink.  The company’s technology differs from standard motion sensors, which send alerts for virtually anything that moves. Using machine-learning algorithms that distinguish cracks of thunder from gunshots and stray animals from intruders, the company’s systems continually train themselves to capture only relevant video and alert official responders only when there’s an actual threat. But storing all of that video and audio long term, and then downloading, analyzing, and sharing it, requires a tremendous amount of storage and compute power—resources for which Oracle’s competitors charged excessive fees, says Michael Seidler, V5 Systems vice president of global business development. “Their prices to download video were unacceptable,” he says. “Our customers need a fast and affordable way to download surveillance footage, use it to conduct forensic analysis, and then submit it as evidence.” Those competitors also expected V5 Systems to buy bulk storage up front. “That’s challenging for us,” Seidler says. “Our storage needs are based on our customers’ storage needs, which can expand or contract quickly, making it difficult for us to forecast.” V5 Systems will be attending Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco October 22 to 25. Partners in Fighting Crime In January of this year, V5 Systems migrated its security platform to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. “Oracle makes it really easy for us to scale out or in depending on what our needs are at any given time,” Seidler says, noting that Oracle charges the company only for actual usage. V5 Systems is using Oracle software development kits to build mobile apps for colleges that alert students, faculty, and staff of a campus security threat and where to go for help, says Ozhen Minashy, V5 Systems' head of product development. “Oracle allows us to push sensor data from the onboard hard drive into the cloud and then pull out data from the cloud into our mobile app without tacking on additional fees,” Minashy says. “That’s something the others didn’t offer us.” Real-time response times are critical. “Anything that slows us down needs to be put into the cloud,” Minashy says. “That’s where Oracle comes in. We can store more data, process more data, and do it all for a lot less cost.” Read the full article on Forbes.

V5 Systems turned to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure because its services were able to scale more cost-effectively than comparable services from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. “We were analyzing...

Finance

Take Control of Your Future Growth with the Right ERP Cloud

You could call it the ultimate 3-for-1 deal: With one upgrade to enterprise resource planning in the cloud (“ERP Cloud”), you gain the ability to innovate today, predict tomorrow, and shape your future — it will be the last ERP upgrade your small-to-medium business (SMB) will need. 3-for-1? That’s the three tenets of organization growth, built on machine learning, intelligent process automation, and analytics—with everything you need embedded right in. So now let’s talk about how you shape that future.  Every organization has its own path. A manufacturer might need to invest in 3-D printing, or it might seek to switch from selling equipment to providing it “as-a-service.” A regional bank might be preparing to make a move to touchless processing. A public sector agency will seek to reduce or eliminate suspect requests for grants. Whatever the path, a simple to achieve upgrade to ERP Cloud gives financial leaders of SMBs the ability to leverage strategic insights and collaboratively contribute to planning and organizing for tomorrow — which, as you’ve guessed, will look nothing like today. Transformational technologies are reinventing work and redefining value across industries as they break new ground with previously impossible capabilities. "I believe the technology industry is on an irreversible course to change itself,” Oracle CEO Mark Hurd commented in a LinkedIn post. “There’s no stopping this technological progress. In this business, as in all industries, innovation beats the status quo every time." Add Certainty to Your Future The future is never 100% certain, but it’s a lot less uncertain when applications can utilize artificial intelligence to learn. The result is better, more meaningful insights, fewer uncertainties, and stronger planning controls. Oracle ERP Cloud can make this happen. It is the only ERP Cloud built on machine learning. Why is this important? Well, the application suite has an ongoing loop of improvement built in at multiple levels: more automation and less process handling; more accurate estimates and predictions; and intelligent help like chatbots for alerts and reminders.  In the cloud, Oracle ERP no longer operates separately from other strategic functions, like human resources or sales. Employee dashboards support collaborative planning and execution increasing both employee engagement and productivity. There is a centralized source of data – your single source of truth. Finally, and music to many IT professionals’ ears, there is a unified back end that someone else securely manages. After all, why should your growing business use “Jetsons software” to manage customer experience and “Flintstones software” for the back office – when it could leverage the latest greatest technology across the entire organization? Oracle ERP Cloud also provides automatic, easy to consume and continual updates to the latest best practices, as well as technology upgrades to security, functionality, and capabilities. And of course, it’s scalable. It grows with you. Put all of this together and it means that Oracle ERP Cloud is the last ERP upgrade you’ll need to do yourself. An Open Door to Modern Best Practices To get a real picture of how Oracle ERP Cloud helps finance leaders shape their futures, we need to predict how best practices will evolve. Consider how three transformative technologies could enable advancements in key industries: 1. Blockchain Education and research: Student transcript validation and transfer, educator credentialing, and payment of federal/state funds or private grants Banking and finance: Know your customer, clearing and settlement, trade finance, domestic and cross-border payments, loan origination and post-funding automation, and anti-money laundering 2. Machine Learning-Embedded Apps Retail: Personalized product recommendations, smart promotions and offers, trusted data-search merchandising, audience activation and retargeting Banking: Automated generation of payables discounting program based on in-the-moment analysis of treasury positions 3. Internet of Things Utilities: Automated management of grid assets, such as smart meters Healthcare: IoT-driven data for customer engagement programs and research models Do any of these sound like the future of your fast-growing, small-to-medium business? If so, start planning and organizing for that future. Oracle ERP Cloud, the only ERP Cloud built on machine learning, will keep your organization on its unique path to the future. Learn why today is the right time for ERP Cloud.

You could call it the ultimate 3-for-1 deal: With one upgrade to enterprise resource planning in the cloud (“ERP Cloud”), you gain the ability to innovate today, predict tomorrow, and shape your...

IT

Oracle Integration Day is Coming to a City Near You

Are you able to innovate quickly in the new digital world? Are you looking for ways to integrate systems and data faster using a modern cloud integration platform? Is your small-to-medium business (SMB) able to achieve differentiation and disruption? Is your Data Integration architecture allowing you to meet your uptime, replication and analytics/reporting needs? For SMBs, integration is critical in keeping a business running smoothly, effectively, and profitably. Whether you are integrating data or NetSuite, ERP, HCM, or CX apps on-premises or in the cloud, your SMB needs an integration solution that is reliable, scalable, and customizable to your needs. Join Oracle product managers and application/data integration experts to hear about best practices for the design and development of application integrations, APIs, and data pipelines with Oracle’s Autonomous Integration Platform. Hear real-world stories about how Oracle customers are able to adopt new digital business models and accelerate innovation through integration of their cloud, SaaS, on-premises applications and databases, and Big Data systems. Learn about Oracle’s support for emerging trends such as Blockchain, Visual Application Development, and Self-Service Integration to deliver competitive advantage. With interactive sessions, deep-dive demos and hands-on labs, Oracle Integration Day will help you to: Understand Oracle's industry leading use of Machine Learning/AI in its Autonomous Integration Platform and how it can significantly increase speed and improve delivery of IT projects Quickly create integrations using Oracle’s simple but powerful Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) Secure, manage, govern and grow your APIs using Oracle API Platform Cloud Service Understand how to leverage and integrate with Oracle’s new Blockchain Cloud Service for building new value chains and partner networks Understand how Oracle’s Data Integration Platform Cloud (DIPC) can help derive business value from enterprise data; getting data to the right place at the right time reliably and ensuring high availability Check out the full list of locations and register now to reserve your spot! September 6, 2018 - San Francisco September 19, 2018 - New York City September 26, 2018 - Toronto October 3, 2018 - Boston December 5, 2018 - Chicago January 23, 2019 - Atlanta January 30 , 2019 -  Dallas February 6, 2019 - Washington DC February 20, 2019 - Santa Clara   By Vika Mlonchina, Product Marketing Manager, Oracle

Are you able to innovate quickly in the new digital world? Are you looking for ways to integrate systems and data faster using a modern cloud integration platform? Is your small-to-medium...

Finance

9 EPM Trends You Need to Know for Your High-Growth Company

Cloud technology is being fully embraced by finance departments across a broad spectrum of growing small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). Earlier this year, Oracle conducted our fifth annual Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Trends Report, and in that survey, more than half the respondents have moved or will move their planning, budgeting, and forecasting and other EPM processes to the cloud within the next year.  But more striking were the findings around why they moved to the cloud vs. the benefits they received. Respondents said they made the move to EPM Cloud primarily for economic reasons, including avoiding on-premises upgrades, costly infrastructure investments, and lower TCO.  And while the majority (77 percent) achieved economic benefits, when asked about the top benefits of EPM Cloud, 89 percent pointed to “staying current on technology,” which significantly outweighed all the other advantages cited. Learn the 9 trends in enterprise performance management you need to know.     In addition, high-growth companies are starting to appreciate the continual innovation and upgrades that the cloud provides. Migrating financial close, planning, and budgeting processes to the cloud is not about simply “lifting and shifting” on-premises systems to a cloud platform; it is an opportunity to reinvent and transform business processes. Trend 1: EPM in the Cloud Is the New Status Quo EPM Cloud is rapidly becoming the new standard for finance groups in companies across the world. The pace of adoption is accelerating, with 62 percent of this year’s survey respondents reporting that they are currently running EPM processes in the cloud, or will within the next 12 months. This is up from 46 percent in last year’s survey. Overall, 79 percent of respondents indicate they have plans for EPM Cloud in the cloud within the next two years, versus 65 percent in last year’s survey. Trend 2: "Just Say No" to Upgrades What’s driving this shift to EPM Cloud? As with our previous EPM trends studies, cost and economic considerations remain the two main reasons. But, with systems starting to age, organizations are looking more closely at the pain, complexity, and time involved in upgrading their on-premises software.  Avoiding on-premises upgrades has rapidly risen to the top as the main driver for moving EPM to the cloud (48 percent), up from the second most stated reason (42 percent) last year and sixth place (23 percent) two years ago. Trend 3: Come for Cost Savings, but Stay for Business Agility While economic drivers lead the reasons for cloud migration, the benefits realized with EPM in the cloud go far beyond cost savings. Organizations found that the competitive advantage offered by always-new technology outweighed everything else. Compared with last year’s survey, staying current on technology increased significantly as a benefit (89 percent, up from 75 percent). In this era of digital disruption, organizations need to be nimble, and the cloud offers the agility to rapidly adapt to changing conditions―usually before those changes become permanent. Moreover, with cloud, there is no technology obsolescence, putting the growing business on a more solidly competitive footing. Want to Know More? This is just a preview of what the survey uncovered. The full report includes quotes on experiences from EPM Cloud users, identifies trends in financial consolidation and close, narrative reporting, profitability and costing, and enterprise data management. It also discusses how EPM Cloud helps finance teams adopt best practices, and how they can leverage emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and intelligent process automation to build future-ready finance organizations. Download the complete EPM Trends Report 2018.   By Jennifer Toomey, Senior Director, Cloud Business Group, Oracle

Cloud technology is being fully embraced by finance departments across a broad spectrum of growing small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). Earlier this year, Oracle conducted our fifth annual Enterprise...

Finance

How Can High-Growth Businesses Predict Tomorrow?

There’s been a generational shift in computing, thanks to the cloud. With it, Oracle can deliver a constant stream of innovation to our customers, allowing them to take advantage of not just one, but all the major transformational technologies (mobile, analytics, social, big data, the internet of things, machine learning, blockchain, intelligent process automation, autonomous computing, and new human interfaces) and much more In today’s business, too many factors change too quickly for your growing business to cling to old technology. Longing for the “good old days”—even if it was just yesterday—isn’t enough. When so much is uncertain, you need to predict what’s coming next. Think about all the now-defunct companies that didn’t change fast enough to stay ahead of curve and keep up with constantly changing customer behavior—from the adoption of smart phones, to online shopping, to eschewing movies theatres for streaming videos. Every industry is facing similar threats—grocery stores, universities, furniture manufacturers (to name a few). Innovation is disrupting everything. It’s behind the major challenges all types of small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are facing, including: Ever-increasing customer expectations New and revitalized competitors Brand reputation management Drawing meaningful insights from exponentially increasing data volume Constantly changing regulatory frameworks Overcoming the skills gap More challenging sustainability goals Growing cyber and physical security risks The ever-increasing need to innovate (and then innovate some more) SMBs with outdated ERP systems are discovering that existing processes, software, and systems are no help. Built for a different era, legacy IT infrastructure hinders their ability to find and use data to glean immediate, meaningful insights that help them make good planning decisions.  Like many SMBs, you’ve probably invested in the latest technology to deliver a superior customer experience. But isn’t it time we recognize that having Jetsons software for the front office and relying on Flintstones software for the back office just isn’t a viable proposition for any business, let alone one with a high-flying compound annual growth rate (CAGR)? For finance, which plays a central role in helping leaders understand the business, there are both challenges and opportunities. But the bottom line is that in adapting to the new realities, finance leaders can transform their teams’ back-office cost centers into business-value generators. A critical component, however, is having the right technology and focus. Predicting Tomorrow with Modern ERP This transformation requires finance to develop a new attention span. Finance has to complement its understanding of the past and present (for the compilation and management of financial transactions and reports) but add a focus on the future (finding, analyzing and sharing business insights from ever increasing volumes of data). In short, finance teams must be able to predict the future quickly and accurately. Predicting the future is not a matter of knowing exactly what will happen, but what could happen and then choosing the best strategy based on the knowledge you have — all of which comes from data. To be able to perform effective analysis, you need to be able to generate and apply internal data quickly, as well as incorporate data from outside sources. It’s like scenario planning of old, but on steroids. Instead of data being collected and analyzed over weeks or months by a select group of executives, data is analyzed continually in the background to support quick decision-making, in the moment, by everyone. It’s the end of multiple pet spreadsheets each telling a different story but all purporting to cover the same information about the business. Technology is both a driver of this change and a solution. As more companies adopt the latest ERP and EPM solutions for predicting the future, they’re able to make decisions much faster, thus setting a faster pace for competitors. 3 Must-Have Capabilities for a Future-Focused ERP For companies looking to stay at the leading edge, here’s what technology for predicting the future looks like: Based in the cloud, it’s easily accessible via any device. The software itself is updated every 90 days, ensuring that you can rapidly uptake the latest technologies, respond to ever-evolving legislative and regulatory requirements, and stay up-to-date with the latest security and risk controls. An upgrade to cloud ERP is the last upgrade required. It offers dashboards for every employee, providing the data they need, when they need it, across any device — enabling finance teams to work in a truly modern and engaging way. It incorporates enterprise performance management, advanced analytics, and intelligent automation, augmenting the skills of your finance team and allowing them to manage by exception, while the technology takes care of the routine transactions. When everyone in finance has access to the right information to do their jobs and can share it across the organization, people can quickly perform “what-if” scenarios on issues big and small and then create plans based on the outcome. Oracle ERP Cloud (including Oracle EPM Cloud) is the only ERP cloud built on machine learning, providing the future-ready technology you need to predict tomorrow.   With disruption happening in all industries all the time, companies that cannot manage for the best-possible outcomes — whether risks or opportunities — will quickly become irrelevant. Learn why now is the time for ERP in the cloud.  Get the research.

There’s been a generational shift in computing, thanks to the cloud. With it, Oracle can deliver a constant stream of innovation to our customers, allowing them to take advantage of not just one, but...

IT

Adtech Startup Switches from AWS to Oracle

Bay Area startup Widget struggled with data latency, server outages and high data storage costs to run its Adtech platform on Amazon Web Services. “Customers were really upset with the latency because it was adding costs to each call,” says Al Zlogar, founder and CEO of the Bay Area startup, which converts images, videos, and documents into easily recognizable messages that can be sent via texts, calls, emails, or web posts. That latency forced Widget to remove several features from its alpha release, including voice and web, Zlogar says. Meanwhile, its cloud infrastructure, provided by AWS, was prone to frequent outages, rendering the Widget app unavailable for hours, he says. The high cost of the infrastructure was another problem. “We were spending enormous sums of money with AWS on server capacity that we weren’t using,” says Vik Mehta, cloud evangelist at VastEdge, Widget’s software implementation partner, who will be speaking with Zlogar at Oracle OpenWorld in October. Vik Mehta, left, cloud evangelist at VastEdge, Jet, Widget's chief mutt officer, and Al Zlogar, founder and CEO of Widget.Courtesy of Widget Rather than get truly “elastic” capacity, the cloud-based servers didn’t autoscale to the capacity that the company actually consumed, Mehta says. Instead, the service scaled up and down only within a certain percentage of a selected range. “You’re forced to decide up front on an elasticity window,” Mehta says, adding that Widget had wanted a lower capacity for day-to-day operations with an option to increase capacity for brief periods during testing. “But AWS didn’t allow that,” he says. Other companies have reported paying a high price for violating prenegotiated AWS autoscaling service contracts. One reason, reports TechTarget, is because AWS bills its users in one-hour increments. In Widget’s case, the company was billed for full hours despite using extra capacity for only a few minutes of those hours.  Another autoscaling “gotcha,” according to a blog post for infrastructure API vendor Segment, is that some AWS servers, such as DynamoDB, are shared with multiple customers, which are charged for a prenegotiated partition, not their actual usage. If a company uses up its contracted partition, AWS will automatically double the capacity and charge accordingly, according to the blog authors. When Widget started using AWS, the company was paying a few hundred dollars each month for its infrastructure services, Mehta says. But in less than a year, it was paying more than $20,000 per month, he says. “We were just stress testing,” he says, noting that Widget wasn’t supporting millions of users or requiring significant capacity. “We had no choice but to shut everything down.” ‘Just One Platform to Manage’ After migrating its messaging platform to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Oracle Cloud Platform, among the first things Widget did was consolidate more than 16 open source technologies and reduce the number of people it needed to support them, Mehta says. “When we switched to Oracle, we had just one platform to manage,” he says. The Oracle technology’s biggest advantage over AWS: “With Oracle, we’re now writing for block storage, which is always available for high-volume mobile applications and lets us pay as we go,” Mehta says. Since the beta launch of its application on July 17, Widget has been able to deploy its services on both web and mobile environments, Zlogar says. Messages are delivered through images and documents 20 to 30 times faster using Oracle’s cloud, he says. Read the full story on Forbes.

Bay Area startup Widget struggled with data latency, server outages and high data storage costs to run its Adtech platform on Amazon Web Services. “Customers were really upset with the latency because...

Supply Chain Management

How SMBs Can Control Costs with Smarter Procurement

From office supplies to raw materials to machinery parts, businesses are continually making purchases to ensure their employees have what they need to be productive and keep the manufacturing lines running. Procurement is a critical part of the business that ensures uninterrupted supply, consistent supplier performance, risk mitigation and keeps costs under control. On the latter, to control costs, buying activities must be managed because of the effect it has on profit margins and the company’s cashflow. Managing a company’s spend is a top priority, but many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) today lack effective processes and controls over employee buying activity. Procurement: Holding the Line on Expenses Procurement is a complex discipline covering many activities. For many companies though, getting basic purchasing activity under control can be a challenge. It’s a problem that can be blamed, in part, on the tools businesses are using to manage their procurement processes. Smarter spend management involves both incentives and deterrence. Many businesses struggle with getting spending under control because they lack the systems to support it. eProcurement systems emerged in the 1980’s as a component of larger on-premise ERP system deployments.  However, legacy eProcurement systems—those that manage the transactional purchasing by employees—were often difficult to use and expensive to deploy. Their intimidating user experiences were often a deterrent, enough for well-meaning employees who simply gave up in frustration and “went around” the process. Still other companies, including many SMBs, simply didn’t consider deploying eProcurement systems. Instead they focused on financial management systems in an effort to get their finances in order. The Downstream Effect: How Unchecked Spending Impacts Productivity One such small business, a fast-growing provider of medical language interpretation services with revenues under $150MM, followed that formula. However, several months after deployment, the company’s controller found her finance staff overwhelmed with invoices from vendors with no reference to a purchase order. Perhaps even worse, her finance staff had no way to identify the employee who made the purchase. As a former accountant for a regional developer and property management company, I can personally attest that processing “orphan invoices” was the least favorite part of my job. The hours I would spend attempting to find out “whodunnit” was almost as enjoyable as receiving phone calls from vendors attempting to collect on their overdue invoices. To add insult to frustration, most of our vendors were contractors or building supply companies, prone to using colorful language to emphasize their point which gave me a new appreciation for parking enforcement officers! Going back to our language translation company. Their controller recognized she had several big problems, including:   Out of control spending The burden placed on her staff who received invoices from over 2,500 different vendors Each of the vendors had to be manually entered into her ERP system Every invoice lacking a purchase order had to be verified with the purchaser in order to approve it for payment. Advantages of Integrated eProcurement and Financial Systems The company controller deployed Oracle Procurement Cloud along with Oracle Financials Cloud, providing a control mechanism that made it easy for employees to find the products and services, resembling an eCommerce website experience. With such an easy buying experience, employees could find everything they needed from approved suppliers and vendors. Also, employee requisitions were automatically routed to an employee’s manager for approval through system approval workflow rules. Only then did the solution generate a purchase order to send to the vendor. With a firm “no PO, no pay” policy, the company’s vendors quickly got the message. Now her accounting staff receives invoices with PO references, which in most cases are processed automatically by matching the PO to the invoice and an “OK to pay” authorization. The result: a 12% reduction in expenditures and an impressive annual reduction in invoice processing times by over 2,000+ man hours. Creating Strategic Value with a Better Procurement Procurement organizations provide increasingly strategic value to their companies. However, for many SMBs, shifting the focus to more strategic activities requires getting the company’s transactional procure-to-pay processes under control. Often, that requires a combination of eProcurement systems that make it easy for casual users to find what they need quickly, along with compliance enforcement through approval rules and purchase order creation that ultimately makes Accounts Payable much easier—if not completely automated—and reduces the company’s expenses considerably. Learn more about Oracle Procurement Cloud. Read the new ebook to find out how SMBs are building tomorrow's supply chain, today. By Jim D'Addario, Director, SCM Product Marketing, Cloud Business Group, Oracle

From office supplies to raw materials to machinery parts, businesses are continually making purchases to ensure their employees have what they need to be productive and keep the manufacturing lines...

Emerging Technologies

4 Reasons Why Your Cloud Journey Doesn't End with SaaS

Has your small-to-medium sized business (SMB) made the switch to the cloud, running various Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions in your organization? If so, you’ve probably seen some cost reductions and streamlined processes as a result of running your applications in the cloud. But is your organization getting the most out of SaaS? Connecting your cloud and third party applications (both SaaS and on-premises) and extending your application investments with latest technology innovations are some of the different ways your organization can maximize the benefits. Here are four ways we have seen organizations develop their innovation journey by using a standardized, common cloud platform with Oracle SaaS. Connect Your Oracle Cloud Applications with the Rest of Your Business Using autonomous capabilities of Oracle Cloud Platform, you can rapidly connect your Oracle Cloud Applications with on-premises applications and third-party applications to create business connectivity.  From real-time app data exchange and mapping to process automation across multiple applications, bulk or incremental data migration and creating data feeds from one application to another, this is the glue that helps to create a connected business. For example, connecting applications with Oracle Autonomous Integration Cloud, provides complete visibility for a 360 degree view across the entire business process lifecycle. Prebuilt adapters and flows rapidly connect applications, data and processes. Create Unique Experiences Using Voice, Text, Mobile, Chatbots and More Each organization is unique, with its own unique business processes or customer requirements. Forward-looking organizations use one cloud platform to extend their cloud and other applications to build new applications, or create engaging innovative experiences with mobile, sites, chatbots, IoT and more. Now you can control the pace of innovation by marrying the built-in intelligence of Oracle Cloud Applications with innovative technologies in Oracle Cloud Platform. As an example, with Oracle Autonomous Mobile Cloud Enterprise, your business is equipped with a complete and open platform to extend and enhance your applications to create mobile and chatbot engagements. Intelligent chatbots that draw from different applications enable the automation of requests and responses, allowing for engagement 24/7 and offering the first line of service for customers, employees and partners. Blend Data Easily with SaaS and External Data Sources Using Highly Visual Analytics Business decisions are only as good as the data intelligence behind them. So, the more sources of data that are aggregated, the more intelligent the insights can be. With built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, Oracle Autonomous Analytics Cloud enables you to access many sources and blend data across these sources, resulting in accelerated analytics in business processes to speed time to value. Business leaders can now visualize business patterns and trends across multiple applications and data sources combined with AI/ML for smarter decision making. Advanced Security for Monitoring and Remediating Malicious Users’ Activities One of the biggest hurdles in organizations considering a move to the cloud, despite its obvious advantages, can be security. With that in mind, Oracle Cloud Applications have built-in security capabilities to deliver security in the cloud. The additional security options around continuous user behavior monitoring, managing applications access perimeters and secure identity management further complement built-in security within Oracle Cloud Applications. Because these apply across applications, these are best used from one foundational cloud platform. With hardened security platform solutions including Oracle Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), you can gain visibility into user access behavior, with a cloud service that continuously detect threats in real-time. With continuous user behavior monitoring, threats can be automatically detected and remediated against unauthorized infiltration or malicious insider activity. Wherever you find yourself in your cloud journey and whatever unique business needs you have, you can use any of these four categories to innovate anywhere along the way. Look at some additional resources to help you learn more about how connected cloud applications on a single cloud platform can accelerate innovation and growth in your business. By Audrey Melville, Product Marketing Analyst, Cloud Applications, Oracle

Has your small-to-medium sized business (SMB) made the switch to the cloud, running various Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions in your organization? If so, you’ve probably seen some cost...

Human Resources

Why Engaged Employees Are Your Best Calling Card

A century and a half ago, when a person wanted to be remembered (what marketers today call “being top of mind”), it was customary to leave a card whenever one went out “calling.” In those days, you couldn’t pick up a phone and call your friends or send them an email to check in. You personally visited the homes of friends, family, and social peers; you would leave a calling card if the person wasn’t home. A calling card was similar to a business card. It displayed the person’s name and address in case the recipient wanted to send a thank you note. But even though they contained contact information, the purpose of a calling card was quite different. It was personal, meant to enhance one’s social standing by creating a memorable experience. Thus, a great deal of attention was paid to the quality, printing and details of a calling card, and it was of critical importance that each calling card be unique and delivered according to strict rules. The tradition of leaving a calling card has been lost to the ages, but the idea of being top of mind with the people who matter most to us is still a key consideration to any high-growth business. Today, one sure way to stay top of mind with those who matter is by having engaged employees who care deeply about creating a positive and unique customer experience―one that’s memorable and keeps customers coming back and recommending your small-to-medium business (SMB) to others. Today, it’s people who are your company’s best calling card. Here’s why. Engagement Impacts Performance It makes sense that engagement impacts individual performance. After all, your best employees are typically those who feel connected to your organization’s purpose and truly care about customers and coworkers. But it’s also been shown that employee engagement has a well-established connection to performance outcomes such as customer satisfaction, profitability, productivity, and more. In a recent study of nearly 50,000 work units and nearly 1.4 million employees, Gallup found that SMBs ranking high on employee engagement were 22 percent more profitable, 21 percent more productive, and had 10 percent better customer rating than low engagement organizations. These organizations also saw significantly lower turnover: 25 percent less turnover in historically high-turnover organization, and 65 percent less turnover in historically low-turnover organizations. What is it about engagement that has such a strong impact on organizational performance? The answer goes back to how we define engagement: Gallup defines it as having employees who “are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” In short, engaged employees are those who deeply care about the organization they work for and the purpose it serves; they care about the people in their work orbit, both fellow employees and customers. Perhaps most importantly, engaged employees aren’t just there to collect a paycheck. They have an emotional, personal commitment to making sure customers have a great experience. When you get enough engaged employees together, your organization develops a culture of engagement and a reputation based on exceeding expectations― not just meeting them. This attracts other engaged individuals who will further strengthen relationships within and outside the company. In an increasingly impersonal world, this level of personal care hearkens back to an earlier time, and is the modern-day “calling card” that creates memorable experiences that are hard to replicate.   Talent drives your high-growth company, so maximize their full potential—today and tomorrow.   Engagement Enhances Customer Experience It might seem that employee engagement wouldn’t matter much to customers in the Age of digital transformation, but studies are finding that the exact opposite is true. Technology is certainly transforming how organizations serve their customers, but it’s taking the customer experience in two opposing directions. In some organizations, technology is being leveraged to automate processes and eliminate human interaction mainly in the pursuit of lower costs and higher profits. In other organizations, technology is being used to help employees create unique and memorable experiences that exceed customer expectations. Both approaches have their merits. When technology replaces the human touch, it can make serving customers less expensive. However, this is an approach that leaves organizations little choice but to compete on price, since they can’t compete on service. But when technology is leveraged by engaged employees to enhance and personalize the customer experience, it allows them to deliver something unique and memorable. Greater customer loyalty, a willingness to pay more for better service and higher profits can result. Recent research supports the idea that customers will pay more for the type of customer experience that only engaged employees can provide. A recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that the majority of the more than 4,000 individuals surveyed would be willing to pay a premium of as much as 16 percent to have a better customer experience. Also worth noting: 74 percent wanted more human interaction in their customer experience, while 64 percent felt companies had lost touch with the human side of the customer experience. Figures like these demonstrate that your people―and the experiences they provide―are one of the biggest differentiators your growing company has in an increasingly competitive and technology-driven marketplace. In short, engaged employees are your “calling cards” that deliver memorable, loyalty-enhancing experiences that stand out from the crowd. We’re looking for contributors for a new book “Beyond the Plateau Effect.” If you can answer the question, “What role does culture play in your success?” visit our website to share your story. We would love to hear from you.

A century and a half ago, when a person wanted to be remembered (what marketers today call “being top of mind”), it was customary to leave a card whenever one went out “calling.” In those days,...

Human Resources

A Chat About Turning the Tide on Employee Disengagement

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Andrew Sherman, author of The Crisis of Disengagement and a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Washington DC, where he spends a lot of his time working with innovation and human capital management (HCM) issues. In his world of corporate transactions, private equity, and venture capital, he found that more questions were being asked not just about human capital compliance but human capital strategy. Investors wanted to know about engagement levels and culture. Culture as a matter of corporate governance, he found, is being embraced from many sides. The human resource function has been elevated, so Andrew has embarked on a journey to help HR professionals stay current, stay educated, and stay competitive. Q: Why has employee disengagement reached such high levels? I think we're at an interesting intersection in history. People want to matter. People want to be relevant. People want to feel like their job is important, and that they're doing some work of meaning. At the same time, with the advent of machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT), they're feeling―well―threatened. They are asking, “Does my work matter?”  There is also frustration with economic declines and cycles that are going on. Many Baby Boomers are not ready to retire, therefore, not ready to delegate. Many in the millennial generation want to be empowered and want to do more, but they can’t. Or they feel like they can’t. Q: What do the workers of today want? The workers of today want a balance between quantitative reward and qualitative reward. Study after study shows that yes, money is important. We need it to pay our bills, we need it to put our acorns away for retirement, but multiple studies show that it's ranked fifth and sixth and seventh when it comes to workers’ priorities. Workers want to identify with the core values of the company. They want to feel aligned; they want to feel like the company is a good corporate citizen and has a strong set of values. They want genuine respect and recognition. When you go home at the end of the day, and I call it the “honey, how was your day?” rule, you want to have something exciting to talk about, not just show a paycheck. How people feel about themselves, how they feel about their leaders, how they feel about their peers, their access to the right technologies in the workplace, a sense of empowerment, an ability to innovate, all of those things seem to add up even higher than the paycheck in terms of today's employees’ priorities. I do think as the workplace evolves, this is going to become even more important than it ever was before. Andrew Sherman explains how SMBs can use technology to boost employee engagement. Q: Would you say that this is across generations or is this generation specific? That is a fantastic question. How big and how wide and how deep is the crisis of disengagement? According to Gallup's Study of the American Workplace poll, it's pretty wide; it’s pretty deep; it's cross-generational; it's multi-cultural; it's multi-ethnic. It's not specific to certain industries. People say, “Oh well, it's just the retail worker that's disengaged, not the tech worker.” That is not true. The Gallup results were cross-industry and global. It turns out that as disengaged as the U.S. workforce is, and I don't know if this is good news, workers in many other countries are even less disengaged. In the U.K., almost 60 percent of government workers describe themselves as disengaged. In Japan, the disengagement rate runs as high as 90 percent. Compare this to the U.S., where we have four percent who describe themselves as highly engaged, 25 percent who describe themselves as just engaged, 51 percent as disengaged―a scary number. But the scariest of the numbers is the 20 percent (one-fifth of our workforce) who describe themselves as highly disengaged. Those are the saboteurs sitting inside companies, and you know, for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), the impact of that number is even higher. If you have 10,000 workers, you can get away with 2,000 people who hate their job, but if you've got 20 people working for the company, you really can't. The impact's going to be felt, and it's going to be hard, and it's going to impact profitability and productivity. Q: Is a charismatic leader enough to build an engaged workforce? Certainly, when compared to a non-charismatic leader, the needle will move a little bit, but it’s much deeper and much wider than that. Coming in and being excited, showing that you're excited, having a set of shared values, and a certain passion about the work will trickle down some to the workers. However, it is really a bottom-up process. People have to feel a connection to their work; they have to feel a sense of meaning, and all the cheerleading in the world by a charismatic leader won't help if the compensation reward systems, the technology, the flexible workstyle, and the actual workspace isn’t in line as well. I think that one of the common mistakes in leadership is to think “if I'm very excited and charismatic, that that will be contagious.” It's not necessarily contagious, and it's got to be these days. But more than ever, it has to be authentic. It's got to be from the heart. It's got to be real. Q: Has the rapid evolution of technology played a role in employment disengagement? Technology can boost engagement levels, and it certainly has facilitated a more flexible workstyles, telecommuting, virtual work, the gig economy. We couldn't have those things without technology giving people the ability to access their workplace without physically being there. Traffic's getting worse and worse across the country. People want to work in different spaces, and sometimes they're more productive and more creative and more innovative in different venues in different spaces. But technology is also creating a lot of fear. Fear of replacement. People wonder when the “age of the machine” overtake the “age of man?” Artificial intelligence, robotics, automation. Many people worry about their jobs. The better, more progressive companies are taking affirmative steps.  AT&T recently announced that they are investing over a billion dollars in retraining, training, and development. People will remain relevant, but only if their employers invest in them. But back to the issue of compensation for a second, which would you rather have? A 2,000 dollar Christmas bonus? It sounds nice at first, but it is very short-term. It will probably be spent very quickly. How about 2,000 dollars invested in executive education, that's going to keep you relevant for the next 10 years. That (in a nutshell) is the trade-off that leaders need to focus on. And, yes, it is true that there are not unlimited pools of capital, what is available needs to be invested in keeping people relevant. Otherwise, all you are left with is the fear that is affecting disengagement and irrelevance. Q: You just mentioned AT&T, but what can small-to-medium businesses do to turn the tide? SMBs need to use digital technology to facilitate communication, collaboration, cooperation, not only within the four walls of their companies (in terms of increasing collaboration, coordination, and communication) but also with their partners―companies in their supply chain, companies in their distribution channel, even companies in their sales channels. SMBs need to be more linked and interconnected. Small companies can be at an information disadvantage relative to larger companies, but they can use technology to level the playing field, giving them access to the same kinds of information, customer data, big data, data mining tools. But this can only be done if they deploy the technology and really embrace the technology. I've seen too many companies spend lots and lots of money on software that nobody uses, nobody understands, and by the time somebody figures it out, it's time for the next version of the software and another cost of capital. Learn how Oracle HCM Cloud can improve processes, take the mundane out of your employees’ days, and free up more time to focus on the things that really matter―your people.           Read more from Andrew and other Oracle SMB Influencers.  

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Andrew Sherman, author of The Crisis of Disengagement and a partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Washington DC, where he spends a lot of his time working with...

Customer Experience

Oracle a Leader in 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

High-growth companies naturally want the best ecommerce platform for their business. There seems to be an endless supply of small SaaS companies vying your business. However, it’s also important to look upmarket to see if larger cloud technology companies can offer what the smaller vendors cannot―namely security, scalability, research and development investment, and emerging tech (i.e. artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things). Many fast-growing companies think that larger ecommerce vendors are not a good fit. They would be wrong. Ecommerce technology is mature. While total cost, feature/functionality, security, and integrations are essential considerations, alignment with today and tomorrow's business strategy is also key. As a high-growth, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are you looking for a technology provider to help you sell or an innovation partner to help you grow? Many SMBs do not just focus on current problems; they are looking to build tomorrow's business strategy, today. They know that growth requires new sales models, new pricing models, new markets, and a scalable strategy to optimize the customer journey. Integration and connectivity is the key. The right connected ecommerce platform can support marketing processes, sales cycles, customer service, and even loyalty programs―seamlessly. And we believe here is where the long-term value of that shines in Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. The Standards That We Believe the Best Ecommerce Platforms Support According to Gartner, “Leaders demonstrate the ability to: Provide depth and breadth of commerce functionality Deliver commerce capabilities across multiple industries and business models Deliver commerce platforms that can scale up to support large transaction volumes and high levels of digital commerce GMV revenue Provide sales and support services both directly and through an ecosystem of application, services and integration partners Deliver additional application functionality that integrates with their core commerce platform Leaders also have financial, technical and organizational viability, and they appear consistently on client evaluations of digital commerce vendors. They often set the competitive benchmark against which other vendors compare themselves.” Regardless of where you are on the growth curve, we believe the time is now to partner with a digital commerce leader. Read the full report.   Source: Gartner (June 2018) Gartner "Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce", Penny Gillespie, Jason Daigler, Mike Lowndes, Christina Klock, Yanna Dharmasthira, Sandy Shen, 5 June 2018. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Oracle. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

High-growth companies naturally want the best ecommerce platform for their business. There seems to be an endless supply of small SaaS companies vying your business. However, it’s also important...

Best Practices

SaaS for Dummies: Everything You Need to Know About Cloud Applications

Are you confused about cloud? Don’t know your hosted software from your SaaS? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I started in the technology business doing public relations, and it took me years to become the font of knowledge that you see before you. Even today, I couldn’t tell you the difference between an X-Box and a PlayStation. (I know — heresy!) As someone who has spent long years trying to wrap her brain around the difference between configuration and customization, I was happy to see the publication of a new ebook, SaaS for Dummies. In advance of this excellent read, I thought it might be useful to summarize the different delivery models for finance software — one dummy to another. What is “on-premises” software? In order to understand software as a service, or “SaaS,” it’s useful to look at what preceded it: the traditional, “on-premises” model of business computing. So, let’s go back to the beginning. Think about the business applications your teams use every day to manage finances, human resources, supply chain, and any other number of business functions. The traditional IT model has involved purchasing this software from a vendor and installing it “on premises”: on a big server kept in a dedicated room somewhere (or maybe in a closet, if your business is really small). In the on-premises model, you (meaning: your IT employees) are responsible for maintaining this server and any software that runs on it. Let’s imagine that your small-to-medium business (SMB) purchased Traditional Finance Software 9.1 back in 1999. Your company’s IT team installed this software on the server. They rolled it out to every desktop and laptop in the finance department, so that your whole finance team could access it. They probably did a good job of this, back in ’99, and maybe you were happy with the results. What you didn’t see was all the work that went on behind the scenes. In the on-premises model, your IT team is responsible for keeping the software up to date and available. If it went down during the middle of the financial close, they had to scramble to get it back up and running. As your finance team grew, they had to set up new user accounts. As new computer viruses were released on an unsuspecting world, they had to apply any patches released by the vendor. (There were also a host of issues around integrating your finance system with other systems, like HR and payroll — but for the sake of simplicity and my sanity, this dummy isn’t going to tackle those problems in this article.) Probably the most painful part of the on-premises model, as most IT people will tell you, were the upgrades. Traditional Finance Software 9.1 might have been top of the line in 1999. It probably had a user interface about as appealing as an electric typewriter, and maybe it only ran about 20 percent of the reports your finance team needed. So the IT team set to work customizing the software to meet your specific requirements. Customizing is a messy business: it involves cracking open the source code and rewriting it — essentially reprogramming the software to make it do what you want. It typically requires hiring a third-party consulting firm, who tend to have much more experience in these types of project than an in-house IT team. And once you reprogram a piece of software, you can’t upgrade it automatically. Why not? Because the new version doesn’t include all those lovely customizations your consultant so painstakingly programmed. Install the new version on your server, and the old version gets wiped out — special code included. This is why upgrades only happened every 5 years or so — sometimes longer, in the case of finance systems. If you wanted to keep your custom capabilities, you had to migrate and/or reprogram them into the new version — a project that takes a long time, and costs a lot of money in consulting fees. Plus, it ate up a lot of your IT team’s hours, taking them away from other projects they could have been working on (like researching and purchasing that new supply chain software you desperately need).  Along Came Hosting There was another problem with upgrades: a new piece of software often required new hardware to run it. Back in the days of Windows 95, I wanted to upgrade my old desktop computer to Windows XP. But XP required a faster central processing unit (CPU) and more memory. I couldn’t just upgrade to new software on my old machine; I had to buy a whole new computer. It’s often the same in the world of business software. In 2018, perhaps Traditional Finance Software version 13.1 is available. It looks shiny and easy to use, but it won’t run on your old server. Time to buy a new server, right? Well, not necessarily. Companies began springing up offering to run the software for you, on their servers, and deliver it via the internet. Your finance team logs into the application remotely from their laptops. This model is known as “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS). Instead of buying your own servers (aka “infrastructure”), you rent it from a provider on a monthly basis. Many people refer to this model as “the cloud” — but it’s not SaaS. What’s the difference? Well, in IaaS, you still have to buy a license for your finance application, and your IT team is still responsible for maintaining, patching and upgrading it. The main cost savings are in the hardware. Your company still carries the cost of security and maintenance of the finance software — and an upgrade to the latest version will involve the same amount of time, money and effort as it did in the on-premises model. Upgrading to version 13.1 is still a capital investment, which probably requires approval from the board of directors. You might decide it’s easier to wait for version 14, a few years down the road — meaning it will be several years before you get access to new finance functionality. What is Software as a Service? SaaS is an entirely different operating model. In the world of SaaS, you don’t need to buy the hardware or license the software. Instead, you pay a monthly fee to a cloud provider, and they deliver the software to you over the internet. It runs in their data centers, on their servers, and they are responsible for maintaining it. Patching, security, maintenance, upgrades — all of this is included as part of your monthly subscription. You don’t need to do any of it. The provider does it for you. You log into your finance system via your laptop — or even via your mobile device — and start your day. All you need is a web browser.   And here’s the best part. Those long, painful and expensive upgrades? They become a thing of the past. Instead, the provider updates the software on a regular basis (typically, between 2-4 times a year) — similar to how you periodically receive notices to update the apps on your mobile phone. These updates contain new functionality and capabilities — often because customers like you have requested new features. So you always have the latest, most up-to-date finance software at your fingertips. You’re never stuck reprogramming old software to force it to do what you want, because the software is always new. SaaS applications are highly configurable and continually incorporate best practices, so the need to customize effectively goes away. But if there is some feature that your business needs — that “special sauce” that sets you apart from your competitors — you can build it using Platform as a Service (PaaS). Unlike custom code, PaaS enhancements sit outside the core finance software, so when you upgrade from one version to the next, the capabilities still work. You don’t need to reprogram them. Why Does SaaS Win? To the dummies among us, it might seem like the differences between “hosted cloud” (IaaS) and true cloud (SaaS) are splitting hairs. But the distinctions are important, because IaaS doesn’t offer the same benefits. In the SaaS model, the benefits are well documented: 3.2x higher return on investment (ROI) than on-premises software 52% lower total cost of ownership (TCO) Zero risk of technology obsolescence Upgrades several times per year, vs. once every 5-10 years (or longer) Security and patching managed by the SaaS provider No hardware costs No more capital investments to purchase new software — the monthly fees become an operating expense Continuous innovation It’s not that running Traditional Finance Software version 13.1 in a hosted IaaS environment is necessarily a bad idea, or bad for your business. It’s just that running finance SaaS — such as Oracle ERP Cloud (including Oracle EPM Cloud) — is better. And with new upgrade programs available from providers like Oracle, it’s the last upgrade you will ever do. Moving to SaaS is now easier than ever. Your competition is already doing it. So look into your options around finance in the cloud, and don’t get left behind. Nobody wants to be a dummy. Want to get smarter about SaaS? Get the ebook, “SaaS for Dummies.”        

Are you confused about cloud? Don’t know your hosted software from your SaaS? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I started in the technology business doing public relations, and it took me years to become...

Customer Experience

Gartner Ranks Oracle CPQ Cloud as Leader in 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant

Gartner has named Oracle a leader in the 2018 Gartner report “Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites.” Analysts Mark Lewis and Melissa A. Hilbert analyzed eleven vendors and placed each in one of four categories: Leader, Challenger, Niche Player, or Visionary. We believe our “leader” designation for CPQ Cloud acknowledges Oracle’s continued robust development investments, visionary roadmap, the implementation savvy of our global (system integrator) SI network, as well as the value that our small-to-medium business (SMB) customers have achieved. The Promise of Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) While the Gartner MQ report provides some high level analysis, it only tells part of the story. The following Oracle CPQ Cloud differentiators are essential to the modern selling experience. 1. AI-driven deal management: Oracle CPQ Cloud leverages the inherent power of transactional data to provide real-time decision guidance to sales reps, approvers, and deal desk executives. It helps users find the optimal price to wins more deals without leaving money on the table. 2. Built-for-purpose CPQ platform: Oracle owns the full architecture that drives its CPQ Cloud application. This minimizes operational risk, enables elastic scalability, and provides “one-throat-to-choke” accountability. 3. Asset-based ordering: Oracle CPQ Cloud offers native subscription management capabilities. With it, your sales reps initiate move-add-change-delete subscription transactions that seamlessly flow into billing and fulfillment systems. Oracle CPQ Cloud delivers on the promise of the subscription economy to your sales channels. 4. Point-and-click administration ease with upgradable extensibility: Some vendors offer adequate core CPQ functionality. Others allow you to extend the application to meet unique business objectives. Oracle CPQ Cloud provides. The most robust CPQ feature set. Oracle CPQ Cloud has over 17 years of cloud-based development. Point-and-click administration: Its drag-and-drop UI layout editors, document template editors, powerful table-based rules, and formula management capabilities enable non-technical administrators to add products, update prices, and keep the sales team productive. Upgradable extensibility: Oracle CPQ’s standard functionality meets your growing business’s needs today and allows you to easily upgrade to get the latest new features. This is the promise of cloud-based CPQ. Don’t let your CPQ application hamstring your business. CPQ professionals need to dig deeper into the advanced functionalities that enable successful sales transformation projects. Contact us, and we’ll be happy to show you how to leverage Oracle CPQ Cloud to improve your sales process and your bottom line. Download the report: 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Applications Suites. By Graham McInnes, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites, Melissa A. Hilbert, Mark Lewis, 29 January 2018. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Gartner has named Oracle a leader in the 2018 Gartner report “Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites.” Analysts Mark Lewis and Melissa A. Hilbert analyzed eleven vendors...

Human Resources

A Chat About Purposeful Pathfinding and Building a Buzz-Worthy Culture

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Adam Fridman, a seasoned entrepreneur, a co-author of The Science of Story, and the co-founder of ProHabits and Mabbly. Everything that Adam does revolves around the idea that a company’s brand is a reflection of their culture. He crisscrosses the country to deliver this message. His focus is on how purpose inspires, values guide, and habits define. This powerful message has inspired numerous organizations and individuals to make the conscious choice to pursue purpose, establish values, and maintain the habits to build a common belief system and then use that to build a brand that attracts the best and brightest. Q: What would you say the three components are to a buzz-worthy culture? For us, it all comes down to purpose, value, and habits. Those are the three pillars of a buzz-worthy workplace culture. But let’s take a moment and talk about a buzz-worthy culture. The buzz words of today are values, and when I talk to organizations (and I have talked to hundreds), I ask, "How do you bring your values to life? How do you bring innovation and integrity to life?" Their response? "It's on our website, on our walls, our charismatic leader talks about it annually. We're good." Meanwhile, the truly progressive companies focus on stories, behaviors, habits, and rituals, so that they are living their values daily. They are going beyond 1000 character statements on a poster. Q: Everyone knows how important culture is and the importance of a good cultural fit. But what is the difference between culture and purpose? Two years ago, I interviewed Simon Sinek. It was an inspiring conversation. We both got intrigued with the connection between storytelling and purpose. So we went out and interviewed 500 organizations and we asked every one of them, "What is your why?" We were able to categorize the responses in one of three groups: Cliched Armageddon. Companies in this category would say, "We build long-lasting relationships." And before I have an opportunity to dig deeper, they would say, "But we really mean it." Interestingly enough, this is where most professional service companies landed. Forgot My Homework. When asked, these executives dived for their phone, paused for a second and then asked, "Are you looking for a purpose statement, vision statement, mission statement, or will our most recent tagline suffice?" Long Story. Founders would come in with incredible stories about why they started the organization and the impact it’s made. These long stories are impossible for future employees to remember and can’t radiate throughout the organization. We then mapped all of the responses and came back with what we call The Bullseye of Purpose: simple, genuine, aspirational. Q: Why is culture such a critical component for recruiting? Culture is extremely important for recruiting because, at the end of the day, culture really is a reflection of your organization, a reflection of your brand. In a tight, talent market, it's critical to represent your organization to people that are looking for home―for their next permanent position. Q: How does culture impact employee retention? It's interesting. As we look at our engagement scores across the world, 87 percent of workers are disengaged. At any given time, the overwhelming majority of folks are open and looking for positions.  For example, younger workers will take a job that pays less but has more meaning for them. If you have a culture that engages…if you have a culture that gives individuals the ability to reach the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy, if you will, to self-actualize their work and to reach their full potential, those individuals will continue to be loyal and stay. Q: What is one piece of advice for SMBs on how to build a culture that attracts the right people and inspires them to stay? The one piece of advice that I would give to a progressive and fast-growing organization, would be to remember the roles of the three pillars. Purpose inspires, values guide, and habits define. As Aristotle said, "we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” Q: How can technology help with the development of culture, purpose, and values? The role of technology in helping to develop purpose and culture within an organization is about understanding the employees’ journeys and identifying areas that are uninspired. When you ask someone to consistently handle mundane tasks, paper-pushing if you will, how can that same individual be engaged in other areas of the business? So I think technology needs to continuously improve, innovate and ultimately inspire its people as part of the holistic journey.  Technology must continue to represent, it must reflect, it must become a holistic part of their experience, it must embody the purpose, the values and the habits of their organization, and deliver it on a daily basis. Learn how Oracle HCM Cloud can improve processes, take the mundane out of your employees’ days, and free up more time to focus on the things that really matter―your people, building the culture, bringing engagement, providing a purpose.   Read more from Adam on finding and defining your SMB’s purpose.  

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Adam Fridman, a seasoned entrepreneur, a co-author of The Science of Story, and the co-founder of ProHabits and Mabbly. Everything that Adam does revolves...

Emerging Technologies

Oracle Positioned as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, 2018

More and more, we are seeing that consumers are engaging with brands via multiple digital touchpoints, and the convenience of digital technologies have changed people’s expectations of businesses. Customers, employees, and partners now expect on-demand access to content and application services that anticipate and complete business tasks. They want to have ready information at hand, drive decisions, and do their tasks simply, anytime, anywhere and from any device. Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) capable of optimizing digital experiences will be well positioned for the long haul. Industry analysts are seeing a resurgence of projects and investments in flexible technologies that have reliably demonstrated an ability to deliver compelling, differentiated multi-channel and multi-device experiences for end users. At the top of the list? Integrated digital experience strategies and platforms. Some SMBs are finding the potential of consistent, multi-channel digital experiences elusive. Both IT executives and lines of business are discovering that they simply do not have all the technologies they need to deliver websites, mobile apps, and integrated systems while supporting their digital experience initiatives. If your SMB is in the market for a digital experience solution, IT research and advisory company Gartner has released its 2018 Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM). We believe Gartner’s Magic Quadrant reports are always highly anticipated and are a first step to understanding the technology providers you might consider for a specific investment opportunity. We’re excited to make this year’s report complimentary to our SMB readers, so that you can see how Oracle is positioned alongside other web content management vendors. Executive Summary WCM is more important than ever for digital transformation and optimization, so there is increasing pressure to "get it right this time round." After studying this report, decision makers keen to deliver effective digital experiences will be better placed to identify the most suitable vendor. Market Definition/Description Gartner defines web content management as the process of controlling content consumed over one or more digital channels through the use of specific management solutions based on a core repository. These solutions may be procured as commercial products, open-source tools, cloud services or hosted services. The functionality of WCM solutions goes beyond means of simply publishing webpages. It also includes: Content creation functions, such as templating, workflow and change management Repositories that organize and provide metadata about content Library services, such as check-in/check-out, version control and security Website management features, such as layout, menus and navigation Content deployment functions that deliver prepackaged or on-demand content to web servers A high degree of interoperability with adjacent technologies, such as customer relationship management (CRM), digital asset management (DAM) and web analytics Capabilities such as real-time personalization of visitor interactions The ability to integrate well with delivery platforms such as digital commerce platforms, social media, portal software and broader digital experience platforms (DXPs) Oracle was positioned as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management based on its ability to execute and completeness of vision. Oracle Content and Experience Cloud is a digital experience platform that enables organizations to manage and deliver content to any digital channel to drive effective engagement with customers, partners, and employees. The cloud-based content hub allows organizations to easily create and distribute content in a meaningful way to improve brand engagement and customer growth and retention. In today’s digital economy, people expect to have a seamless experience across multiple channels. Organizations need the ability to unlock content from existing systems, and drive native cloud content production to publish across any channel. This helps organizations to deliver consistent omni-channel experiences for their customers and build brand advocates. Oracle Content and Experience Cloud delivers a single cloud-native platform for content production, management, and delivery across all lines of business. It provides unique capabilities to support a variety of business needs, from employee and customer engagement, to sales enablement and business development. Key capabilities include: Content Collaboration: Easily collaborate on content internally and with external teams. Discuss, share, and annotate content with mobile access, anywhere, anytime. Centralized Content Hub: Utilize a single content hub to create, share, manage, and publish content to any channel, including business documents, digital assets, user-generated content, and web content. Consistent Omni-Channel Experience: Leverage rich APIs to deliver engaging experiences across any channels and put your business in charge with business-friendly tools. Enhanced Enterprise Applications with Content: Manage content from within your enterprise applications and enhance your application experience. Oracle Content and Experience Cloud is uniquely capable of addressing the needs of both the business user and IT, enabling them to work together to deliver modern, engaging digital experiences (DX). The platform integrates with the Oracle Customer Experience Cloud Suite, an integrated suite of cloud applications that empower organizations to take a smarter approach to customer experience management and business transformation initiatives. The Content and Experience Cloud also integrates with all of the Oracle Cloud Platform services. This forms the most comprehensive and powerful DX platform for managing content operations, data integration, complex workflow management, and mobile and marketing automation capabilities. Oracle was pleased to be named a Leader in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management. Access the full report: 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (Expires July 2019)   Source: Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, Mick MacComascaigh, Jim Murphy, 30 July 2018. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Oracle. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

More and more, we are seeing that consumers are engaging with brands via multiple digital touchpoints, and the convenience of digital technologies have changed people’s expectations of businesses....

Emerging Technologies

How Can You Innovate Today for the Future of Finance?

Whenever I look at the metrics for this site, one thing stands out: small-to-medium business (SMB) finance readers are hungry for information about emerging technologies. Articles about blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, and the Internet of Things are inevitably the most popular content we publish. Everyone wants to know how to put these transformative technologies to use to drive better business results. No longer the province of the IT department or analyst community, these technologies are part of the business discussion, upending business strategy and models and driving innovation across the finance line of business. Finance leaders are wanting to do more than be efficient and timely; they are eager to add value with greater transparency, more meaningful insight, automated control, and improved governance.  The alternative? A steady slide into irrelevance. Let me give you an example: a colleague of mine recently “cut the cord,” giving up cable TV in favor of streaming media. Upon returning her cable equipment, she was surprised to see, at the company’s technical support desk, a big box of rubber bands for staff to wrap up all the cables that were being returned. Think about it. So many people were cancelling their service that the company created a process to manage it. Worse, they were so inured to their slow descent into irrelevance that they were completely open about it. Based on her experience, I developed what I call the “rubber band test” — a way to determine how irrelevant your business is. Basically, you should ask yourself, “Are we so used to bad things happening that we’ve developed a process around enabling the bad thing to be handled well?” A similar situation in finance is when the team uses a spreadsheet named for a specific member of staff (e.g. “Bob’s spreadsheet”). That person created the spreadsheet and everyone else unthinkingly uses it—and keeps using it. In one case, one of our customers discovered that the person whose name was on the spreadsheet had left the company four years earlier. The finance department hadn’t updated its process in that long. In these scenarios, process leaders have failed to either respond appropriately to change or even recognize that change has even occurred. Either way, the cost of “enabling that bad thing” (i.e. continuing business as usual) is the establishment of bad processes and decimation of productivity. You go backward as your competitors move forward, accelerating your slide into obsolescence. Averting obsolescence requires innovation. As you look at new technologies, processes, and business models, consider these three critical actions that every finance department should undertake today to get ready for the business world of tomorrow. 1. Centralize Your Data In recent years, there has been an explosion of cloud vendors all eager to replace a part of your on-premises ERP suite. However, the vast majority are boutique firms that manage only a single business function, such as financial reporting (or even a single business process, like the financial close). Implementing software from multiple providers results in a “cloud hairball,” with all the integration costs and complexity that comes with it. It requires multiple vendors, SLAs, and release cycles to manage; it contributes to an overall lack of trust in data and results; it offers no clarity over who owns the data; and it maintains the functional silos that stymie quick decision-making. Instead, choose a provider that not only centralizes financial data but that connects business processes across every line of business, including human resources, customer experience, procurement, and risk management. Doing so gives you a single source of truth across every part of your organization, enabling finance teams to act as change agents—partnering with other lines of business to guide better, smarter, faster decision-making across the company, as well as provide strategic guidance to the entire organization. 2. Think Cloud Artificial intelligence, IoT, machine learning, and blockchain would be nothing without the cloud. It is the enabler and delivery system for the technologies that finance is eager to adopt. With cloud applications, updates are automatic and frequent — every 90 days — keeping you continuously up-to-date with the latest innovations, security, compliance, and risk controls. Think of an upgrade to the cloud as the last upgrade you’ll ever do, as it builds a future-ready system that can be enhanced as business needs and new technologies emerge and evolve. As Oracle CEO Mark Hurd noted in a recent interview, the cloud “costs less, it’s actually more secure, and you get a ton more innovation at the same time.” 3. Add Intelligence To ensure that you create a future-ready process, choose solutions that offer predictive analytics and intelligent automation. These capabilities will augment the skills of your finance team with the decision-making power of data-driven insights. Oracle ERP Cloud (including Oracle EPM Cloud) is the only cloud ERP solution built on machine learning to incorporate these capabilities. The pace of change in business continues to accelerate. By innovating now, you ensure your ability to predict tomorrow and shape the future for your organization. Find out how Oracle ERP Cloud can help your growing company meet tomorrow's finance needs, today.

Whenever I look at the metrics for this site, one thing stands out: small-to-medium business (SMB) finance readers are hungry for information about emerging technologies. Articles about...

Growth Corner

SMB CEOs: 5 Steps to Long-Term Growth

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) account for more than 99 percent of U.S. employers, yet only half of US companies make it past their fifth year in business. For startups looking to beat those odds, we offer strategies for achieving success, compliments of five CEOs. 1. Make Informed Decision-Making Part of the Company Culture Cleveland Brown, cofounder and CEO of payment processing company Payscout, encourages employees to challenge old ways of thinking, base decisions on subject matter expertise and work with different teams to test new ideas. Payscout’s virtual reality commerce app helps merchants authenticate payments via a simple head movement, iris scan or voice recognition. “We didn’t become the first company in the world to launch a VR commerce payment platform by maintaining the status quo,” Brown says. 2. Tap Partners to Fill Critical Gaps and Scale the Business Among a SMB’s most pressing challenges is competing with large enterprises for qualified workers. Bigger companies can woo top talent with higher salaries and more generous benefits, and they have the HR budgets and specialists to hone in on the right people. More than 25 percent of small-business job openings go unfilled in the current employment market, so many SMB executives end up spending an inordinate amount of time doing the work themselves, according to a survey by non-profit SCORE and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Inside the Heads of Leaders of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies   But there’s an alternative to hiring more people or forcing current employees to “do more with less”—and that’s to partner with other companies for everything from sales and marketing to product development and customer service. Dr. Becky Sage, CEO of Interactive Scientific, says most of the growth at the UK-based edtech company, which has only 14 employees, has come via partners. “We don’t need massive teams right now,” she says. 3. Compete Beyond Availability and Price Industrial automation has helped even small manufacturers compete on a massive scale. But simply building parts faster and cheaper isn’t a long-term competitive advantage. For example, when Noble Plastics decided to automate its injection-molding factory with robots, CEO Missy Rogers wasn’t just thinking about operating more efficiently. She also wanted the company’s engineers to spend more time analyzing production data and coming up with new designs to solve problems for customers. “Even a commodity business that melts plastic pellets and turns them into finished parts can compete beyond availability and price,” Rogers says. “By explaining to customers how a single part can also function as a safety device or enhance a user experience or improve the functionality of the entire system, we can demonstrate real long-term business value. This is exactly how we’re differentiating. This is how we’re making money.” 4. Get More Thoughtful About Your Targeted Marketing When the newspaper and magazine business moved to digital platforms, most of the advertising was aimed at getting clicks rather than building brands, says Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard, which curates news and other content for more than 100 million monthly users of its website and mobile platform. Unlike websites that use only cookies or bots to place ads in front of consumers wherever they are online, Flipboard uses artificial intelligence, data analytics and human curators to help publishers and advertisers worldwide tie their content to people’s interests and then place ads in the precise moments that are most relevant. “As a photographer, I welcome seeing an ad from a camera company about their latest mirror-less gear when I’m reading about photography, but it’s less relevant when it pops up when I quickly want to scan what’s going on in politics,” he says. 5. Take the Long-Term View Small businesses often want to race down the fast track to profitability in order to attract new investors or keep their current ones happy. But there can be long-lasting consequences to short-term thinking. Take the agricultural industry, for example. For most small farmers, using chemical pesticides provides immediate relief from crop loss and the opportunity to grow more food on more acreage, resulting in more income. But those short-term benefits can be fleeting. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that applying too many chemicals can leach soil nutrients, contaminate water and pollute the air. The potential long-term fallout: damaged crops and lower yields, as well as food-borne illnesses such as E.coli, Salmonella and hepatitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although organic alternatives to pest control can take up to three growing seasons to produce optimal results, they’re well worth the wait, argues Pam Marrone, founder and CEO of organic pesticide maker Marrone Bio. Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal.

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) account for more than 99 percent of U.S. employers, yet only half of US companies make it past their fifth year in business. For startups looking to beat those odds,...

Emerging Technologies

4 Benefits of Digital Transformation with Oracle Cloud

In today’s world, the cloud is changing the face of adoption of new services and applications, and it has completely transformed enterprise IT. In fact, adoption rates have soared. 95% of enterprises now use the cloud in some capacity, with 89% of those using the public cloud for one or more deployments. Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are looking at application delivery engines to speed up new application deployment and services the business demands to be competitive and address digital transformation demands. Additionally, many SMBs today are under pressure to meet skyrocketing customer expectations. To meet these needs, SMBs must be able to provide unique digital experiences across every step of a customer’s journey— requiring software that spans finance, HR, supply chain, marketing, commerce, sales, service, and more, as well as requiring applications to be highly secure and compliant with local regulations. How can your SMB take advantage of transformational technologies to innovate in today’s ever-changing, digital world? Here are 4 ways: 1. Connect Across Applications Use artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) recommendations, self-designing integration, pre-built adapters and flows to rapidly connect application, data and processes and deliver unified experiences. 2. Deliver a Cutting-Edge Customer Experience Delight your customers with engaging, intelligent experiences with unique mobile and web apps, sites, AI-driven chatbots that draw from multiple applications; enable blockchain easily and other tech as it emerges. 3. Provide a Seamless Integration Between Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Extend SaaS quickly with custom UI and logic that are upgrade-safe. 4. Advanced Security in the Cloud Proactively detect and remediate unauthorized or malicious user activities, enable identity self-service and enforce policies for cloud usage. Oracle’s Cloud suite which is complete, future-proof and trusted, offers businesses both large and small with options to adopt Oracle SaaS and PaaS solutions in the cloud, if they have concerns about: the occurrence of data silos across the business, reducing integration points and securing data in the cloud, or the ability to innovate rapidly and the ability to consume emerging technologies quickly. Create Tomorrow, Today. Oracle Cloud Platform for Oracle SaaS brings AI/ML powered autonomous services in Oracle Cloud Platform to Oracle Cloud Applications customers, partners and developers in a seamless user experience. SMBs can accelerate your pace of innovation by complementing AI/ML powered SaaS with AI/ML-powered platform services to deliver unique, powerful, connected, intelligent business experiences and achieve rapid adoption of cutting-edge technologies like chatbots, blockchain and IoT. Simplify connecting, extending, securing and the analysis of your business using one autonomous cloud platform to create new disruptive business models and stay ahead of the innovation curve. No matter the size of your organization, Oracle can help you reach your digital transformation goals. Get started today.

In today’s world, the cloud is changing the face of adoption of new services and applications, and it has completely transformed enterprise IT. In fact, adoption rates have soared. 95% of enterprises...

Emerging Technologies

Internet of Things Helps SMBs Keep People Off the Graveyard Shift

Productivity gains made possible through industrial automation and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution have given small manufacturers such as Noble Plastics an opportunity to compete on a massive scale.  The Louisiana-based contract manufacturer of injection molding products has long been aware that simply automating its processes without integrating the systems that monitor them can result in defective parts and expensive rework.  The company’s 10-year-old asset-monitoring system was supposed to text somebody if a machine went down, but every once in awhile that system stopped working. “There would be a power glitch or our servers would lock up,” says Noble Plastics technology director Scott Rogers. When the system failed, Rogers says, his team was flying blind, risking excessive damage to equipment and large batches of unusable parts. “These events were having a negative effect on our business, causing excessive waste and production delays,” he says. The impact was particularly severe during the night shift, when the company’s engineers and machine operators were at home and the robots ran the shop floor. Problems with the old monitoring system kept surfacing. “I just didn’t trust it anymore,” Rogers says.   Today, the Oracle Internet of Things Insight Asset Monitoring Application can automatically pull Noble Plastics’ production data from its robots and molding machines, and then use anomaly-detection algorithms to help keep tabs on machine health, maintenance requirements, and parts quality.  “These KPIs are critical,” Rogers says. “The power of machine learning is being able to analyze millions of product and machinery characteristics, predict if a machine or process is going to break down, and then help us avoid making bad parts.”  Read the full article on Forbes.

Productivity gains made possible through industrial automation and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution have given small manufacturers such as Noble Plastics an opportunity to compete on...

Emerging Technologies

Oracle Again Named a Leader in the Ovum Decision Matrix: Selecting a Web Experience Management Solution, 2018–19

Customer centricity is the difference between success and failure. In our own lives, we do business with companies that focus on customer delight and are a pleasure to work with. Hence investing in the right Web Experience Management (WEM) platform that will enable your small-to-medium business (SMB) to execute on an engaging and highly personalized digital experience (DX) strategy across multiple channels; and help you adapt and grow with the market is of paramount importance. Oracle Content and Experience Cloud, with its rich feature set, integration capabilities, and headless architecture has been named as a leader by Ovum in the just released “Decision Matrix: Selecting a Web Experience Management Solution, 2018–19” report. Ovum has called for organizations, both small and large, to look for “implementing WEM solutions that provide support for new and emerging channels such as augmented and virtual reality, chatbots, and the Internet of Things (IoT)”. For SMBs, selecting a WEM platform that is innovative, flexible, easy to use both by your business users and developers, easy to integrate with, and reduces time to market; is key to successfully executing your overall DX vision. We invite you to download the report and check out the Oracle Content and Experience Cloud SWOT Analysis that Ovum recently released. By Kamal Kapur, Vice President, Software Development, Oracle

Customer centricity is the difference between success and failure. In our own lives, we do business with companies that focus on customer delight and are a pleasure to work with. Hence investing in...

IT

Edtech Startup N2N Taps Blockchain To Transform Higher Education

Universities across the US are taking a new path to adult education, focusing on students' competencies so that they can apply their work experiences to speed their path to graduation. The technology that makes the new model possible includes a cloud software platform developed by edtech startup N2N Services. On the platform, college IT staffers create their own web services to design game-based learning applications that offer students a series of tests to demonstrate their competency. As students pass each test, they’re automatically moved to the next level of the program.. Kiran Kodithala, CEO and founder of N2N, “Traditional semester-based courses take around six months to complete,” notes N2N CEO and founder Kiran Kodithala. “Now, universities can break down courses into multiple rubrics, test student competencies at each level, and then place students within an academic program according to their proficiencies.”  Universities can subscribe to N2Ns platform for a monthly fee of $500. N2N is processing more than a million transactions per month now, and Kodithala predicts that number will grow to one million transactions per day by 2020. (N2N runs on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.) “Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and the bare metal experience are helping us scale with a more reliable infrastructure than we had with Amazon Web Services,” Kodithala says. AWS’s shared servers gave N2N limited control of the cluster. In contrast, “Oracle has a shared infrastructure, but gave us a dedicated server, allowing us to spin up new servers as we rapidly expand,” he says. Blockchain ‘Personal Value Ledger’ N2N is part of Oracle’s Scaleup Ecosystem, an accelerator program for later-stage startups. “Oracle has not only given us support for sales, marketing, and product management, but also access to a lot of new customers,” Kodithala says. Oracle, he notes, has hundreds of thousands of small and midsize customers, which N2N plans to target as the company expands its platform beyond higher education into other industries. N2N is also in the process of developing a blockchain “personal value ledger.” The idea is to take work projects from employment histories and employment agencies, vet them through a transcript and credential-evaluation services, and then make those “certified assets” available to universities and employers. Unlike a social site such as LinkedIn, where anyone can upload any work history or document he or she wants, N2N’s personal value ledger would give institutions that are part of the blockchain network the ability to confirm the authenticity and relevance of those assets.   Read the full article published on Forbes: Edtech Startup To Release Blockchain-Based ‘Lifelong Learning Ledger’

Universities across the US are taking a new path to adult education, focusing on students' competencies so that they can apply their work experiences to speed their path to graduation. The technology...

Emerging Technologies

Growing Your Business with Oracle Autonomous Cloud Platform

Digital is disrupting every industry. Automation is helping small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) rise to the challenge of doing more with shrinking resources and budgets. While the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and mobile technologies are changing the way we work and connect with businesses. However, taking advantage of these transformative technologies can be challenging for SMBs in hyper-growth. You may struggle to scale, be wrestling with legacy systems, manual processes, and a lack of the right IT skills. The cloud has made these emergent technologies more accessible, secure and affordable, but smaller businesses can be slow to adopt for fear of disrupting day-to-day operations. Some of the fastest growing organizations have embarked on their journey to innovation and are leveraging a new era of autonomous computing powered by AI and machine learning in the Oracle Autonomous Cloud Platform.  We have enabled them to migrate and modernize applications, lower costs, and improve security and speed to market. Connect and Extend Applications Digital transformation comes by connecting your disparate network of on-premises apps, data, APIs and content across SaaS clouds. How do you do this simply and efficiently?  As your SMB evolves into a digital, cloud-based organization, critical to innovating will be providing a reliable platform for your applications. One that allows your teams to seamlessly connect content across SaaS clouds and on-premises apps. Many businesses have mission-critical legacy applications that sit outside of their cloud-based framework. This can be problematic when you want to enhance and extend capabilities of these apps with the most up-to-date functionality and releases. It can also be a challenge for your IT team who are trying to identify key areas for integration and complete projects as quickly as possible. Oracle Autonomous Cloud Platform has autonomous integration services that automates business processes across multiple systems and applications. You don’t need specialist skills or coders, you can connect, and even build apps with a few pre-defined clicks. Built-in automation and machine learning offer embedded best practices and pre-built adapters which speed up integration and reduce downtime. Based on the inputs from your users the autonomous integration services learn and adapt to recommend further automation. This self-learning is especially useful for cutting down on tasks, such as expense reports, that drain valuable staff time because of their highly manual nature. Oracle Autonomous Cloud Platform offers users the best possible experience, accelerating a path through a minefield of data and process. No matter your size and starting point, Oracle can accelerate your journey to the cloud. View this topic page to hear from our customers and learn more.

Digital is disrupting every industry. Automation is helping small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) rise to the challenge of doing more with shrinking resources and budgets. While the Internet of Things...

Emerging Technologies

Announcing General Availability Launch of Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service

On Tuesday, July 16th, Oracle announced the general availability of Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service. This new service allows companies of all sizes to easily build blockchain networks to drive more secure and efficient financial transactions, track goods through supply chains, and improve the trustworthiness of IoT devices. Businesses worldwide have been deploying early adopter versions of Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service including small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) Cargosmart, Solar SiteDesign, Certified Origins, Superfinanceria, and Intellipost. If you missed the launch, you can access it on-demand. Simply register and see how Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service: Is an industrial blockchain platform, providing enterprise strength to companies of all sizes Is production-ready and preassembled for simple deployment Is delivered with a wide range of software development kits and application programming interfaces (APIs) for easy integration Makes it simple to add smart contracts to 3rd party interactions Is easy to secure, thanks to Oracle’s powerful identity management service Is simple to monitor and manage—either through Oracle’s administrative console or existing operational tools Makes it easy to connect to existing applications or create entirely new ones About Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service Oracle’s blockchain platform is built on top of The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric. It is pre-assembled with all the underlying infrastructure dependencies including container lifecycle management, event services, and identity management.  Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service is an Oracle-managed cloud platform backed by a 99.95 percent availability SLA, with built-in high availability configuration, autonomous recovery agents, as well as continuous ledger backup capabilities that can enable multi-datacenter disaster recovery across availability domains.  It further benefits from broad capabilities in Oracle Cloud Platform for plug-and-play integration with existing cloud and on-premises applications, API management, and application development environments and tools.  Free Trial & Contact Us Customers can now try the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service for FREE by signing up for the Oracle Cloud Platform Trial via http://cloud.oracle.com/tryit . Also, feel free to contact us to discuss your blockchain use case and how our Oracle Blockchain experts and partners can help you implement your project easily on Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service. Helpful resources Website: Oracle.com/Blockchain Product Content & Sign Up: Cloud.oracle.com/Blockchain Developer Content: developer.oracle.com/Blockchain On-Demand Launch Webcast Press Release Don’t forget to follow our twitter channel @OraclePaaS for the latest information. By Jay Chugh, Senior Director, Products, Oracle

On Tuesday, July 16th, Oracle announced the general availability of Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service. This new service allows companies of all sizes to easily build blockchain networks to...

IT

Is It Time for SMBs to Get Data Smart?

It’s the second year Oracle has joined forces with Inc. Media to survey leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies to find out, among other things, what they credit their success to and what their spending priorities for the year are. As you can imagine, amidst all the responses, there were some interesting findings. Like this plot twist: when asked to identify their main obstacles to growth and the biggest contributors to their success, the executives gave the same answer: scalablity, talent, and sales/customer retention. Basically, what landed them on the Inc. 5000 is also what they fear might throw them off.  For these companies, short- and long-term success relies heavily on growing sales and managing the customer relationship (47 percent of respondents named this as a leading success factor), and having and holding on to the correct talent (this came in at a close second at 42 percent). What keeps business afloat is also what can upend the entire apple cart. According to these small-to-medium business (SMB) executives, the #1 reason for success is customers (a healthy 58 percent of respondents cited customer experience as the leading driver of success). Yet those same leaders stated that managing security was their lowest spending priority. And only nine percent of the SMBs surveyed stated that data security was the most important area of investment for 2018. Keeping customers happy and offering a satisfying experience requires keeping their data safe and secure. So why is it then that data security, one of the biggest threats to the health of the customer relationship, ranked so low? Perhaps the reason is buried in misplaced fear and misunderstanding. Let’s unravel this a bit. These Companies Know What They Are Doing First, to land on the Inc. 5000 list, you have to pull off some rather impressive feats of business. The list isn’t a popularity contest, it’s a ranking based on financial statements that cover a three-year period. So yes, the people running these companies know what they’re doing. Achieving triple- and quadruple-digit growth for multiple years is not a fluke. If we dig a bit deeper into the responses, we’ll find that 42 percent of respondents stated that integration across all their cloud products was their biggest objection and obstacle in the cloud. And for 28 percent of them, their biggest objection to using cloud is data security. But this is where the goodness lies. Concerns about security and integration are one of the reasons to go toward the cloud − not away from it. The cloud shouldn’t be viewed as a barrier to success. The contrary. It should be an enabler. Here’s why: Piecing together solutions to solve problems only as they arise will result in a platform that doesn’t work well in the long term. For fast-growth companies like those on the Inc. 5000 list, a future-growth approach works best. The right cloud vendor can create a strategic plan that integrates solutions that are scalable–growth can be accommodated quickly and as needed with systems that all work together. Again, your IT infrastructure should enable growth, not constrain it.  As SMBs move more critical data to the cloud, security should scale with it to enable a secure environment beyond the firewall. Since not any one stop-gap will halt all threat factors, when data sits within the Oracle Cloud, it’s protected with multiple layers of defense built-in from the app down to the database. Among the respondents who stated that security was their most important investment area in 2018, 47 percent said improving awareness of best practices and training was a main focus. This is wise. In the recent Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report, 97 percent of organizations surveyed require that all or most cloud services be approved by the IT/security team, yet 82 percent of those same organizations express concern that employees and teams are violating those policies. A cloud access security broker (CASB) solution can close the gap by monitoring cloud accounts and preventing inside fraud with better processes and more awareness. For example, Oracle’s CASB solution can look at more than fifty-thousand types of SaaS apps, (Oracle and non-), giving IT a view into what their users are accessing (shadow IT), enabling consistent security control. No matter the size of the company or whether you’re on this year’s list of the Inc. 5000 (and congratulations if you are), security should be a top priority, particularly if you want to stay in the business of growth. If you want to know more about what it takes to make it to the Inc. 5000, read the complete report.

It’s the second year Oracle has joined forces with Inc. Media to survey leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies to find out, among other things, what they credit their success to and what their...

Emerging Technologies

Put Innovation on Hyperdrive with AI and ML Powered Cloud

Throughout the world and across every industry, artificial intelligence (AI) is creating new opportunities for business growth by driving personalized engagements, delivering new channels of revenue, and reducing service and infrastructure costs. With breakthrough technologies like conversational AI, Augment Reality (AR), Virtual reality (VR), Internet of Things (IOT), blockchain and other machine learning (ML) based human interfaces, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are discovering new ways to engage customers, partners, and employees with mobile, digital, and personalized—even predictive—experiences. But AI is only as good as the data it is fed. And data resides across different apps, different data warehouses, in-house and in third party sources. You need to be able to gather intelligence from ALL the data across these different sources and run processes across it. Then, you need to be able to serve up this unified intelligence in personalized context on different channels – it could be on web or mobile apps, chatbots, or even sites or microsites. But if we are still thinking of traditional methods for integrating data and intelligence, or creating new apps or engagement models, then by the time we are actually done, the collected intelligence would have already gone stale. For SMBs working with limited in-house resources, this is especially significant as they try to keep up with ever changing information and technologies. We need a faster way to ingest new technologies and drive rapid innovation at the pace of business! Check out this podcast on how an AI-powered Cloud solutions allows you to connect your enterprise and extend your reach to new revenue streams. To take advantage of conversational AI and ML, SMBs are looking to the cloud to drive their common business needs and address their specific, one-off requirements. Continuous innovation is the only way to leverage new technologies like blockchain, IOT, chatbots, AI/ML, AR/VR and whatever comes our way next. Intelligence needs to be inherent in the ready-to-adopt innovative solutions - SaaS, as well as in the services that are needed to allow you to drive innovation at your end - PaaS. And quite frankly, when you are dealing with ever evolving security threats landscape, throwing more security professionals isn’t a viable practical option. You have to fight AI with AI even when you are thinking security. Oracle is in a unique position to support SMBs on their cloud journey and path to innovation. We are seeing high-growth companies starting their digital transformation with SaaS adoption and continuing it with PaaS to be able to connect their SaaS investments with on-premises setup, to extend their SaaS applications or build new ones, drive intelligent, engaging and personalized experiences with chatbots, mobile and web, deliver intelligent security and personalized insights. For SMBs, this is the fastest route to innovation, removing the complexity and cost of managing best of breed infrastructure. Plus, this approach future proofs investments for SMBs as they can now uptake new technologies as they come. Whether you are a consumer or an employee, artificial intelligence is starting to have a significant impact on your life. For most companies too, AI adoption is becoming real as well. The good news is that AI is no longer a science project.  All tech vendors, including Oracle, are providing tools and services to make AI approachable. Learn more in this article from the Harvard Business Review: Using Digital Platforms and Artificial Intelligence to Outpace Rivals.     Visit oracle.com/connectandextend for more information and to design your journey to innovation. By Vika Mlonchina and Tanu Sood, Oracle Cloud Business Group

Throughout the world and across every industry, artificial intelligence (AI) is creating new opportunities for business growth by driving personalized engagements, delivering new channels of revenue,...

Customer Experience

5 Signs Your Stand-Alone CX, ERP, and SCM Solutions Will Cost You Sales

Every business exists to obtain and retain customers. CX Cloud solutions (marketing, service, sales, commerce, social) are integral to this process. However, that is not enough. A company also needs to manage its financial assets and its fulfillment processes. This is handled with ERP Cloud and SCM Cloud. Every business starts off the same. You need to generate revenue by selling something to someone. Once the sale is made, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) needs to collect the data that will support both the customer experience and the back-end financial processes to ensure that the company grows profitably. That data is needed by both front-office employees and systems to ensure that customers buy, buy again, and stay loyal customers. Sales are lost when SMB employees can’t get needed information fast enough.   Ecommerce has set a new standard. Customers expect to see real-time inventory levels, confirm delivery schedules when placing an order, and interact with customer service minutes after placing that order if changes must be made. But this level of real-time responsiveness is impossible with siloed, disparate systems. Growing companies that have pieced together their applications footprint will lose market share to others that can fly at on-demand speed. 69% of CFOs say that siloed data is the biggest or most common financial mistake that companies make. Here are five warning signs that your siloed point solutions are costing you sales: Customer service fails because customer service reps (CSRs) struggle to access up-to-date information. When customers contact your service department, delays, transfers and incorrect information are not acceptable. But when data―inventory levels, shipments, customer financials, order history, payments, returns, pricing―has to be retrieved from different systems, this is precisely what happens. Customers probably will not complain (few do), but churn and abandonment figures rise as customers walk away. Inventory is never where customers want it. When it takes too long to update point-of-sales (POS) data, it is virtually impossible to prevent inventory outages. Therefore, some outlets will not have stock, while the same SKU sits on shelves elsewhere. This crushes profitability and complicates trend analysis (by both SKU and sales channel). Customers and distributors don’t have self-service access to needed information. Customers and distributors want/need to check inventory, place orders, and confirm status for themselves. The key to multi-channel support is supporting every way any customer wants to contact you (chat, email, phone, snail mail, etc.). But if you cannot justify the required investment of time and money to adapt current systems that were not designed to operate 24x7, you will continue to lose sales. Customers’ information can’t be easily collected or filtered for sales and marketing campaigns. Even though your company is sending out regular email campaigns, the sales team has no information about response rates when they call prospects. Unsold inventory is a problem because of how long it takes to organize a promotion, sales push, or mail drop to clear the excess products. Little-to-no control over forecasting and sales reporting. With siloed systems, it is difficult to pull together information from across the organization to use in forecasting and to create sales reports. Employees become less productive as they spend time manually looking for information in different systems and then reconciling that data. Productivity and accuracy plummets. Learn the benefits of complete CX Cloud and ERP Cloud integration.

Every business exists to obtain and retain customers. CX Cloud solutions (marketing, service, sales, commerce, social) are integral to this process. However, that is not enough. A company also needs...

Human Resources

5 Tips to Merge Cultures During an Acquisition

Growth via mergers and acquisitions are on the mind of many small-to-medium business (SMB) executives these days, judging by their frequency. Since 2015, mergers and acquisitions have been happening at record-setting levels. The global value of M&A deals exceeded $3.6 trillion in 2017 - the fourth consecutive year to exceed $3 trillion. In fact, with nearly 50,000 deals announced worldwide, it was the strongest year for mergers and acquisitions since record-keeping began in 1980. Companies merge for a variety of reasons―to diversify their product or service offerings, increase their reach into new markets, or to eliminate a competitor by joining them. Yet, the success of any merger is not guaranteed. In fact, the vast majority of mergers and acquisitions fail. According to KPMG, only about a third of mergers in North America actually add value, while nearly 70 percent reduce the value of the merged companies, or are at best neutral. And chief among the reasons they fail, according to 17 percent of executives surveyed, was the failure to adequately address the issue of merging distinct, invested cultures. Culture Matters During M&A Mergers create greater value by combining assets. Typically this value is measured in terms of the dollar value of those assets. But when it comes to culture, there’s something more than monetary value to consider. In fact, unlike most assets that are easily measured and identified, such as number of employees, revenue, profits and the like, culture is not something that shows up on a balance sheet at all. It’s something that lives within the hearts of your employees. I’ve written previously that culture is about what’s shared between and unifies the people who are part of an organization. Culture combines: Your organization’s mission. Companies that have similar or related missions will naturally have an easier time finding synergies that increase value. Your purpose. This is a combination of the values, beliefs, interpersonal relationships, focus, and other forces that drive your people and make them want to come into work every day. Some organizations, for instance, are very profit-driven, while others might be more customer-focused; some are very entrepreneurial and innovative, others are more risk-averse. Combining two companies with different values can create conflict, and this could reduce value if improperly handled. What you do. Who plays what roles? Do people trust one another? What are their work habits? What processes do they use? Processes and roles must be defined and trust established―either before or during the acquisition―so that the two organizations can work effectively together.   Talent drives your high-growth company, so maximize their full potential—today and tomorrow.   Misalignment and Plummeting Value Failure to align cultures can jeopardize the value created by a merger or acquisition. That’s because even if two organizations share a similar mission or purpose, their values and how they accomplish the mission can vary widely. And when these aspects of culture aren’t aligned, it can render both companies less effective, less profitable, and their people far less happy. And unlike other assets that might be combined during a merger, it’s very difficult to change or “liquidate” culture. Culture tends to linger post-merger for a couple of reasons. First, people within an organization often don’t recognize what it is about their culture that is unique; it’s difficult to change what you don’t understand. Second, culture is also about feelings, such as being part of something larger than the self. These feelings are subjective and therefore difficult to identify and change. Five Best Practices to Successfully Merge Cultures It’s difficult to recognize culture, let alone measure it, yet it is one of the most important assets your company has. So what is the best way to address these cultural challenges during a merger? Here are five best practices: Build from strength. If the object of a merger is to create value “greater than the sum of its parts,” then it stands to reason that both companies must identify the strengths that will add the most value to the organization after the merger. It’s crucial to ensure these are retained in the new organization. Strengths can be identified in a variety of ways, including employee/manager/customer surveys and interviews, and analyzing process flows to identify the roles and workflows within key departments of each company. The goal should be to identify what each organization does best, what motivates their people, how each organization operates, and in some instances, where those organizations need help. Identify culture champions. Often during a merger, the culture of the acquiring company is imposed on the company being acquired. Yet this approach fails to take into consideration the strengths that the acquired company may bring to the table. To combat this, culture champions from each organization should be appointed during the due diligence period to identify what makes each organization unique, in what ways they are similar, along with the strengths and weaknesses that each brings. This helps to identify synergies that can be applied to the merger. Envision the new company. Once the culture champions have done their jobs, a new list of strengths should be drawn up that combines the best aspects of both organizations―aspects that must be retained to create one great organization. Envisioning the future also includes processes: how can processes be improved or eliminated to make the new organization more efficient? Whenever significant change is identified, it’s important to understand how this might impact the culture of the combined organization. What relationships will change or where trust might need to be developed? Focus on employee impact. Often, the reason given for doing an acquisition is to provide value to external stakeholders (investors and customers). The impact on internal stakeholders (employees and management)is treated as a secondary concern. Yet, internal stakeholders will ultimately be the ones to determine if the merger is successful. When employee impact isn’t addressed, morale drops and the best employees head for the exit. To prevent this, companies must ensure that even if the merger ultimately leads to workforce reductions or changes to the organizational culture, the environment for workers who remain is positive.  Put culture at the center of change management. Change management is an important part of a successful merger, but many organizations tend to think of it in terms of communication - making sure everyone knows “what” is happening. When culture is at the center of change, the “why” and the “how” should be equally important. Why is this merger happening? What are the goals? How will employees be affected? How will positive aspects of culture be maintained and integrated across the new organization? Acquisitions have the potential to be of benefit not just to shareholders but also to employees and other internal stakeholders of both organizations. However, to reap those benefits, culture cannot be an afterthought. Companies must put the culture merger at the top of their acquisition to-do list. We’re looking for contributors for a new book “Beyond the Plateau Effect.” If you can answer the question, “What role does culture play in your success?” visit our website to share your story. We would love to hear from you.

Growth via mergers and acquisitions are on the mind of many small-to-medium business (SMB) executives these days, judging by their frequency. Since 2015, mergers and acquisitions have been happening...

Finance

High-Growth Companies Can Build the Finance Function of the Future

Over the last few years, the vision and role of finance has expanded. Today, it’s not enough even to be the co-pilot. Finance professionals must also be the change agent of the organization—innovating today, predicting tomorrow, and influencing the future. Being a “numbers-keeper” is no longer enough. The single-most important question finance leaders within small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) need to be asking is, “What will tomorrow bring, and how can we prepare for it?” Part of our mission here at Oracle is to provide the solutions your high-growth company needs to get the data to the right people to answer that question. Here is an example. Imagine you’re a CFO of a fast-growing company on a morning run, listening to your favorite podcast on your phone. Suddenly, you receive an urgent alert: a last-minute competing bid could short-circuit an acquisition your company wants to close on today. You stop in the middle of your run; this could derail everything. The acquisition is the cornerstone of your company’s growth strategy. A million questions run through your mind: Can we increase our bid? By how much? If we do, will the deal still make sense? Machine learning (ML), natural language processing, intelligent automation (and more) should work with your finance systems to give you the answers you need within minutes—so that the all-important deal doesn’t fall apart. To see how, watch this video. Before you can be this CFO, you need to become a change agent. The technology you’ve relied on to date has served your business well. Yet with new technologies and use cases emerging every day, your current ERP solution cannot keep up. Build Tomorrow’s ERP Today Tomorrow’s ERP—built on machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and intelligent process automation —can automate day-to-day operations today, helping your team guide the business, instead of processing transactions, transferring numbers, and running reports. As companies produce and receive a seemingly endless amount of data from internal and external sources, it’s finance that is in the best positioned to radically improve productivity, as well as connect historical and predictive insights to strategic planning and goals. A cloud ERP with built-in ML capabilities are critical to reset the finance function. Not only do they remove the labor from labor-intensive tasks, they continuously run them in the background and learn as they do, continually finding new ways to improve efficiency. At the same time, they feed rapid-fire responses to “what-if” questions posed through chatbots, rich-context dashboards, and other tools at your fingertips. Yesterday’s ERP often requires expensive and lengthy reimplementation to upgrade—meaning that the organization enjoys the benefit of upgraded software only every two to five years (or more). The world is moving much too fast for upgrades to happen every two to five years. Think how many new regulations (federal, state, and local) come online every year. ERP Cloud eliminates all that with: Frequent updates driven by the vendor on a 90-day cycle 3.2x higher ROI and 52% lower running costs When you migrate to Oracle ERP Cloud, it will be the last upgrade you will ever need to do yourself. The cloud supports the latest features, as well as legislative and regulatory requirements in your market. This is true continuous innovation, rolling out new modern best practices and capabilities on a regular basis. With a trusted innovation partner acting as your cloud provider (and technology expert), finance teams can be unleashed to become the strategic contributors by: Driving greater business insights. Meeting regulatory requirements. Automating to support management-by-exception as a standard practice. Using flexible hierarchies, dynamic reporting and scenario analysis/testing. Gaining greater understanding around investments for better cost control. And of course, in the war for top talent—especially in finance—providing opportunities to help mold the future of an organization (rather than just manage numbers) offers a huge advantage. Oracle ERP Cloud is the Future of Finance Technology is driving the next wave of business productivity, and finance leaders have a unique opportunity to lead this change. Traditional, on-premises, cobbled together ERP does not equip the finance team with the capabilities needed for success—today or tomorrow. SMB leaders who embrace the right technology are better equipped to anticipate and predict what comes next—becoming the change agent, and leader, that every business needs to succeed. Growing companies can standardize processes, automate the mundane, and harness game-changing technologies to get to the next level. The future is here. Are you ready?

Over the last few years, the vision and role of finance has expanded. Today, it’s not enough even to be the co-pilot. Finance professionals must also be the change agent of the organization—innovating ...

Customer Experience

CPQ and Faster, Smoother, Easier Audits

We all love being audited. Audits can be enjoyable. Yes, that’s right… I said those two words together in the same sentence: enjoyable audits! When I recently wrote on this topic for the Oracle Customer Experience (CX) blog, I received mixed feedback ranging from “Andy you must be daft” to “How is a configuration and pricing solution related to a financial audit?” It’s simple actually. No one wants find themselves at court or read about their company in the next financial headline scandal. One reason small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) invest in a Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) cloud solution is that it provides a robust audit trail especially for pricing and deal decisions. CPQ can help. Here’s a look at why, and how. Pricing Decisions, CPQ, and the Audit Trail All pricing decisions (who, what, when, why), requests for discounts, the way revenue is allocated across products and services, and the way revenue is recorded all is documented in the CPQ solution. Therefore, a CPQ Cloud solution can be the simple answer to your audit needs. All approvals are attributed to an individual (along with the reasons why) and time stamped at the time of approval. More importantly, the ability to quickly show an auditor the entire history of a decision and to be able to follow the trail from the quote through the signed deal to the reported revenue shows that there is nothing to hide decisions were made according to approved policies and procedures This builds trust and confidence for the auditor, and any anomalies can be quickly analyzed. When you combine this tamper-proof process with the storage capabilities of the cloud, with information only accessible only to those who need it, the audit process becomes so much easier. No more anxiety and sleepless nights. Auditors are no longer the enemy. You will find they can advise on improvements to the rules and workflows in your system to make future audits even more enjoyable. Yes - that’s right...I said it. Enjoyable audits! For SMB’s, CPQ can be an auditor’s friend. Whether you’re a company affected by IFRS 15 or a growing company impacted by GDPR (or any one of a thousand other guidelines, rules, or quality policies that must be followed) having data and decision trails stored in a CPQ system will help make your audits much more palatable too. For the Love of Audits Audit transparency is critical for SMBs who want to grow predictably and profitably. Think of all the companies (big and small) that have imploded due to either lack of internal transparency or lax audit practices, then consider the impact this would have on your business. Scandals such as Enron and Worldcom gave rise to stricter audit requirements setting higher standards for internal controls and harsher penalties for executives who fail to ensure that financial statements are accurate. These stronger internal controls introduced additional layers of hierarchy and longer chains of command all of which create additional drag on SMB’s. The solution is to maintain audit transparency with CPQ.  Honestly, no one loves (or even likes) getting audited. Digging through archived documents to piece together a story for every transaction of what happened and when it happened can bring even the most streamlined department to its knees. With a CPQ Cloud solution in place, information on all quotes (who, what, when, why, how much) are all clearly recorded and documented in a way to please any auditor. And that can make audits enjoyable. Yes…I said it again. To learn more, download the full report: Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites.

We all love being audited. Audits can be enjoyable. Yes, that’s right… I said those two words together in the same sentence: enjoyable audits! When I recently wrote on this topic for the Oracle...

Human Resources

Inc. 5000 Credits Success to a Focus on Talent Acquisition

We have mentioned in previous blogs that Oracle and Inc. Media joined forces last year to learn what the leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies credit their success. How did their companies land on the coveted Inc. 5000 list and how did they stay?  What we found out was interesting―so interesting, that we decided to revisit this group of small-to-medium business (SMB) executives to see if anything has changed.  And in a lot of ways, it did. The #1 Reason for Success Was…. In 2018, SMB executives stated that the #1 reason for their success was an ability to sell to new customers and maintain those customer relationships as well. Awesome. But customers are not the subject of this article. We wrote all about them in a previous article. We were interested in the other reasons because success and failure is never about one thing.  Following Closely Behind at #2 Was… Talent. In fact, 42 percent of Inc. 5000 executives stated that their ability to hire and retain the right talent was the key to their success. Considering that 47 percent named customer acquisition and retention, it seems that finding people and (both inside and outside the four walls of your high-growth company) and treating them right will lead to double- and triple-digit growth. But why is talent so critical? The answer lays in the finances behind the talent. The people who are working for your growing company are your most valuable (and expensive) asset. Employee turnover can slap a fast-growing company right off the growth curve. Bad executive leadership, low employee engagement, failure to provide a work environment that attracts candidates, and even immaturity or lack of integrity are issues that can (and have) derailed some of the fastest-growing companies in the last decade. So what does the Inc. 5000 feel that they are doing right? Culture. Sixty-nine percent of Inc. 5000 respondents stated that they had successfully built a culture that attracted the people that they wanted to employ. Compare this to the next most common answer, where eight percent credited their ability to construct an ideal candidate profile modeled from their best performing employees―a proven success factor, to be sure, but not one that the Inc. 5000 as a whole was focused on quite yet. What Happens as the Inc. 5000 Grows Up? Some things stay the same, and some things change in importance. For those Inc. 5000 companies between $100 million and $500 million, 69 percent attributed their success to the right culture. But the number who attributed continued growth to their ability to create a model of their ideal candidate and then recruit them almost doubled to 13 percent. So, as we have discussed in previous blogs, establishing and advertising a great culture is crucial to the recruiting process, but once a company learns the type of employee who excels, they use that as a blueprint (if you will) to find others with the same skills, expertise, and competencies. Spending Priorities in 2018? Companies on the Inc. 5000 are planning to invest in growth, with the largest amount going to gaining, keeping, and growing customer relationships (chosen by 85 percent of respondents). But coming in at a very close second (at 80 percent) was hiring and retaining the right talent. And how do they plan to do that? The overwhelming majority (47 percent) plan to build a leadership team that is equipped to handle the demands of a fast-growing business. And as the job market continues to open up, employees are presented with opportunities at other companies, 16 percent will focus on succession planning and career advancement.  As They Grow, Inc. 5000 Companies Focus on Different Talent Priorities Talent management priorities change as companies grow. For those Inc. 5000 companies between $100 million and $500 million, succession planning and employee career advancement leaps ahead as the number one priority. This is where 36 percent of the larger companies on the Inc. 5000 companies plan to focus their spend. However, less (28 percent) will focus on building the right leadership team, indicating just how important establishing the right management team is early on in a company’s life. However, when asked “what are the biggest obstacles to your company’s continued growth?” those same leaders overwhelmingly pointed to problems around talent acquisition. Forty-three percent of Inc. 5000 leaders named it as one of their top three concerns for 2018, and almost two-thirds (65 percent) of larger Inc. 5000 companies listed talent acquisition as one of their top three obstacles for 2018.  Talent is the life-blood of any company. Transformational technologies can speed processes and shorten timelines and analyze humongous amounts of data to see big trends, but the talented people that you employee are going to be the ones who design those processes, and use those trends to identify new markets, new products, and new audiences. Want to know more? Check out the full survey results.

We have mentioned in previous blogs that Oracle and Inc. Media joined forces last year to learn what the leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies credit their success. How did their companies...

IT

How Flexagon Got Better, Faster with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

Flexagon provides a DevOps platform for continuous delivery and release automation that helps companies of all sizes automate the entire build, deploy and release lifecycle, and improve the productivity and quality of software development. As an Oracle customer and partner, it’s critical that Flexagon derive ongoing value from their Oracle cloud investment. We sat down with Flexagon president, Dan Goerdt to learn more about his experience with moving from an extensive on-prem environment to a hybrid cloud/on-prem model. Q. You’ve said that in the past, Flexagon was spending too much time and money on infrastructure issues, specifically provisioning and maintaining infrastructure. How have you addressed that? A. That’s correct. Years ago, FlexDeploy, our automation platform, and our test environments were primarily deployed on-prem. Given the nature of the product, we required many test environments with myriad different operating systems, Oracle, open-source, and other commercial tools and technologies. With the number and complexity of environments, we found that managing on-prem was prohibitive. We knew all too well the challenges associated with software delivery: cost – too much; speed – too slow; delivery – too many errors and too much risk. Remaining an on-prem shop would only prevent us from delivering to our customers what we wanted and needed to achieve in-house: faster time-to-market and reduced costs by way of automation. So with that in mind, we moved to Oracle Cloud. Q. Did that help; if so, how? A. Yes. We knew to achieve automation at scale, to accelerate delivery, improve quality and reduce cost, we needed a cloud-first approach. We began the shift to hybrid cloud by implementing Oracle Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Oracle Platform as a Service (PaaS). The payoff here has been the one-two punch of allowing us as an organization to reap the benefits of the cloud and then pass on those efficiencies straight to our customers. Q. What kinds of efficiencies? A. Combining the automation power of FlexDeploy with Oracle Cloud streamlined the entire provisioning/dev/test process and enabled much quicker and more cost-effective software delivery – again, for both Flexagon’s internal processes and our customers. We’ve increased our speed and agility. We can spin up test environments very quickly; we’ve reduced cycle time for releases and fixpacks and reduced distractions, helping us focus on what we do best. In just the past 18 months, we’ve delivered 6 major releases and 12 minor releases. And we’ve accomplished this while maintaining a 9.8 (out of 10) customer satisfaction rating. Q. Were there any surprises along the way or after you moved to Oracle Cloud? A. A pleasant surprise has been the extent to which we saved time and cut costs. We’ve reduced the cost of managing our infrastructure by 33%. With metered services, we pay only for what we use. We can utilize resources much more effectively. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure allows us to spin up and shut down at will and with ease, without any ticking clock. We’re not in the infrastructure business, we’re in the development business. Because we are more efficient, we can be more innovative. We’ve seen this show up as a 50% decrease in time spent troubleshooting infrastructure issues. This has translated into four full-time employees being able to move to software development – not support. And that value is compounded. Talented software developers and engineers are in demand and recruiting and retaining good people is expensive. Now that we can focus on what we do best, our employees are happy and that pays dividends for the entire company. If you’d like to hear more about how Flexagon relies on Oracle Cloud to help them speed software delivery, reduce costs, and improve quality and agility, watch the webcast, “Flexagon & Oracle: The Path to Faster, Better, Cheaper.”

Flexagon provides a DevOps platform for continuous delivery and release automation that helps companies of all sizes automate the entire build, deploy and release lifecycle, and improve...

Growth Corner

Austin Welcomes Oracle’s First US Startup Cloud Accelerator

Oracle recently announced the opening of an Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator in Austin, Texas—the program’s first location in the US and ninth worldwide. Started in Bangalore, India, in April 2016, the accelerator program later added locations in Delhi and Mumbai; Bristol, England; Paris; Singapore; Tel Aviv; and São Paulo. The new Austin location gives select startups across Texas access to technical and business mentors; a co-working space in the city’s Capital Factory; opportunities with some of Oracle’s more than 400,000 customers, partners, and investors; and free credits for Oracle Cloud services. The program also aligns participants with an ever-expanding global community of startup peers. “Austin and the state of Texas are thriving centers of innovation, and we are proud to dive in and support the startup community,” J.D. Weinstein, head of the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator program in Austin, said in a statement. At the Heart of Innovation The new Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator cohort is supported by the company’s growing presence in Austin. Oracle recently opened a state-of-the-art, 560,000-square-foot facility on 40 acres of property on Lady Bird Lake. That campus includes an adjacent 295-unit Azul apartment building for employees and the general public. “Rooted in its own entrepreneurial beginnings, Oracle has long believed that startups are at the heart of innovation,” Reggie Bradford, senior vice president of Oracle Startup Ecosystem and Accelerator, said in a statement. “The Austin accelerator is key to our mission of creating a global ecosystem of co-development and co-innovation where everyone—the startups, customers, and Oracle—can win.” Following a rigorous application process, the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator program has accepted just five or six startups, twice a year, in each city. In addition to giving each startup a six-month residence at a co-location space, giving them access to Oracle's technical, management, and marketing product teams, and assigning them a dedicated program manager and technical mentor, Oracle has offered each startup a set of credits for Oracle Cloud products. In evaluating applicants, judges from Oracle and elsewhere score each company on the strength of its management team, its use of technology, and its market traction. While the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator is relatively new, it has the potential to nurture companies that complement Oracle’s own portfolio of platform and enterprise applications, according to a new report by consultancy Ovum. Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator, which is open to early-stage technology and technology-enabled startups, is accepting applications for its Austin location through August 7. Those selected will begin the six-month program in early September. Learn how Oracle Cloud solutions help high-growth companies compete with the same reach, speed, and connectivity as their larger competitors.  

Oracle recently announced the opening of an Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator in Austin, Texas—the program’s first location in the US and ninth worldwide. Started in Bangalore, India, in April 2016,...

Emerging Technologies

The Truth About 3 Popular Bitcoin and Blockchain Myths

When a new technology hits the market, misperceptions and myths often pop up right alongside of it. This is certainly the case with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that have emerged over the last several years. As As policymakers and regulators start to focus more attention on these currencies, now is a perfect time to examine the myths that have sprung up around them. Myth 1: Bitcoin is Blockchain, and Blockchain is Bitcoin The first myth is wrapped in confusion and misunderstanding. Simply put, Bitcoin is not blockchain. And yet, the misunderstanding persists; the words “Bitcoin” and “blockchain” are so often used together that the words have become practically interchangeable. The only connection between bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) and blockchain is simply this: blockchain is just one of several technological components and constructs used to manage cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Blockchain is a decentralized ledger that is securely viewed by all parties with permission to join the chain. When a new transaction is added to a blockchain, the “chain” grows by one; each transaction typically includes a new sequence number and date, identification of the owner, and the associated value or set of other parameters defined specifically for the transaction. Importantly, blockchains can be permissionless (public), or permission-based (private), depending on how participants decide to set up the technology. Bitcoin works because it leverages blockchain to manage values and transactions. Blockchain is the underlying technology—but it has many other potential uses across all enterprise activities, including finance, supply chains, and human resources. Myth 2: Blockchains Are All About Managing Money While blockchains can (and are) being used to manage financial transactions, that’s just one of many applications of the technology. A blockchain can track any type of transaction—from the movement of goods through a supply chain, to the completion of courses a student needs to earn a degree. My colleague, David Haimes, recently wrote about potential use cases for blockchain technology, and there are many more under consideration by various organizations.   The remarkable value of blockchain technology is its potential to streamline transactions while increasing insight into transactional activity. Without blockchain, transactions of all types—whether they are financial or supply chain-related—require data flows in and out of central information systems. With blockchain, ownership is easier to follow and any associated party can confirm event activity. Transaction transparency, trust and tracking is comprehensive and very efficient. Myth 3: Blockchain Consumes Insane Amounts of Energy My favorite blockchain myth highlights the electrical power consumption required to power blockchains. The myth has variations, but it basically follows this proposition: in the future, more and more blockchains will consume electricity comparable to that of small nations around the world. This construct started about two years ago with a simple spreadsheet analysis from a consulting firm. This spreadsheet estimated the Bitcoin network was currently consuming as much electricity in one year as Denmark’s annual national power consumption. More recent studies have increased this estimate to the electrical consumption of larger countries like Austria or Ireland. While this might be true for Bitcoin’s network, remember that Bitcoin and blockchain are not synonymous. Cryptocurrencies use blockchain technology; blockchain technology is not exclusive to cryptocurrencies. As mentioned earlier, most blockchains fall into two categories: permissionless and permissioned. A blockchain may be accessed by anyone, or only by certain participants. Permissionless (public) blockchain: Access open to everyone. Bitcoin’s blockchain is an example of a permissionless network; it is open source and anyone may participate in it. While this type of network has its advantages (i.e. no one entity controls it, and anyone can audit it), it does have drawbacks. Permissionless blockchains such as bitcoin consume enormous amounts of computing power because of “mining”; this is what drives comparative estimates of electrical consumption equivalent to one or more countries. With a permissionless blockchain network, mining is deployed to ensure trust and helps the network be practically tamper resistant. Mining involves extensive mathematical calculations that must be completed through networked computers to process lengthy and complex algorithms. When a correct answer is reached, those running the calculations—the “miners”—receive a new bitcoin of a predetermined value. This process utilizes millions of computations per second using servers located around the world. Because of the lengthy computational requirements, this mining process is very energy intensive. Permissioned (private) blockchain: Access restricted.   With permissioned blockchains, participants seeking to join the network are vetted and must be granted permission into the network. The process of mining is not necessary since the governing body or trusted participants of the network validate information across the chain. With no data mining required, energy consumption for a permissioned blockchain becomes a non-issue. Examine Your Assumptions  These myths and misperceptions highlight why it is always important to not only understand the foundation and application of any new technology, but also the implications and impacts. Underlying assumptions, sometimes simplistically extrapolated from guestimates in spreadsheets, can lead to overzealous and ungrounded predictions that can discourage early adopters from exploring a promising technology. Most importantly, these fears and extrapolations typically divert attention from serious conversations involving important new technologies and their potential uses in business applications for enterprise environments. This is why it’s important to examine the facts closely, and not let myths overcome reality. When building the business of tomorrow, it’s crucial that you give your team every opportunity to leverage emerging technologies for business benefits and competitive advantage, today. Learn how Oracle Cloud solutions are helping small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) meet tomorrow's needs with game changing technology.

When a new technology hits the market, misperceptions and myths often pop up right alongside of it. This is certainly the case with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that have emerged over the...

Human Resources

7 Reasons to Make Oracle HCM Cloud Your HCM Cloud

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have recognized the need to use HR as a strategic advantage. They realize that their most valued asset is their people, and, with the help of technology, they are looking to address the challenges of sourcing, hiring, nurturing, and retaining those customers. But choosing the right HCM Cloud solution is not easy. Resources are limited and may not exist to go back and correct a bad buying decision. Oracle has spent years working with growing businesses to successfully implement Oracle HCM Cloud to help them attract, retain, and develop talent. Therefore, many high-growth companies have decided to implement Oracle HCM Cloud. But what drew SMBs to Oracle HCM Cloud in the first place?  Here are the top seven reasons:   Flexibility to add functionality as needed. Our customers have said over and over (and over) again that the most significant benefit that came from investing in Oracle was the flexibility to use only what was needed and then seamlessly add new functionality with the time is right. No longer do growing companies have to purchase with blinders on―trying to solve a particular issue with no idea how that decision will impact them as time passes and their needs change. Oracle HCM Cloud has the flexibility growing companies need to buy what they need, and then add required functionality as time progresses (and needs change). Empower the HR team to make a crucial difference. Even for an SMB, the people in your human resources department can make a critical difference in business growth. When HR professionals are in-sync with long-term business goals, they can better identify the right candidates, improve employee retention and increase morale. Oracle HCM Cloud is fully integrated to the rest of the Oracle applications cloud products, making it easy to meet talent goals today (and tomorrow). Updates galore. Every year, employers across the nation face a host of new or amended federal, state, and/or local laws. Oracle frequent updates deliver new functionality to support these constant changes. But that is not all. Change can come from inside the four walls of your growing company, and Oracle HCM Cloud is easily configurable to meet those changes as well. Reconfigure your organizational chart, model your workforce with new compensation data, and set up processes without IT’s involvement. Emerging technologies. One of the things that sets the Oracle’s cloud applications apart is that they are built on our cloud platform and infrastructure. This foundation of artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and machine learning (ML) helps our customers’ employees work faster and smarter. For example, the system can highlight employees at risk of leaving and empower you to retain them. Analytics. Oracle HCM Cloud provides easy-to-configure dashboards with data across HR, Finance, and Sales so that high-growth companies can effectively manage their employees, costs, and drive profitable growth. Global capabilities. In a recent Inc. survey, over fifty percent (54 percent to be exact) of America’s fastest-growing companies plan to start (or do more) business internationally. The cloud has eradicated borders. And Oracle HCM Cloud is designed―at its core―to meet both headquarters/regional needs for over 200+ localities and 25 languages. To the end user, the system can be regarded as a local system, while on a higher level, all these local solutions can be rolled up as part of a global solution to the organization. A community of peers. There are many opportunities to learn from others. Oracle’s talent acquisition, talent management, and global HR solutions are used by thousands of growing companies across the globe. And we offer plenty of opportunities (both in person or online) to share ideas, learn best practices, and see innovative new ways to get going, get better, get ahead. Read the Nucleus Research report for examples of customers that have moved to Oracle HCM Cloud.  

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have recognized the need to use HR as a strategic advantage. They realize that their most valued asset is their people, and, with the help of technology, they are...

Supply Chain Management

Oracle WMS Cloud Named a Leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant

Oracle has been named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). Oracle was recognized for its strong ability to execute and completeness of vision. Gartner Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems, C. Dwight Klappich and Simon Tunstall, May 2, 2018. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Oracle. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. What Makes a Leader?  According to Gartner: “Leaders combine the uppermost characteristics of vision and thought leadership with a strong consistent Ability to Execute. Leaders in the WMS market are present in a high percentage of new WMS deals, and they win a significant number of them. They have robust core WMSs and offer reasonable — although not necessarily leading-edge — capabilities in extended WMS areas, such as labor management, work planning and optimization, slotting, returns management, yard management and dock scheduling, and value-added services. To be a Leader, a vendor doesn't necessarily need to have the absolute broadest or deepest WMS application. Its offerings must meet most mainstream warehousing requirements in complex warehouses without significant modifications, and a substantial number of high-quality implementations must be available to validate this. Leaders must anticipate where customer demands, markets and technology are moving, and must have strategies to support these emerging requirements ahead of actual customer demand. Leading vendors should have coherent strategies to support SCE convergence, and must invest in and have processes to exploit innovation. Leaders also have robust market momentum, market penetration and market awareness as well as strong client satisfaction — both in the vendor's local markets as well as internationally. Because Leaders are often well-established in leading-edge and complex user environments, they benefit from a user community that helps them remain in the forefront of emerging needs.” A Modern, Cloud-based Warehouse Management System That’s Ideal for Small-to-Medium Businesses Year after year, Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud has consistently been named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for warehouse management systems. Most small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) may wonder, why do I need a WMS? Shouldn’t spreadsheets and phone calls be enough? When there’s a strong demand for your product, and need to make sure of product availability, SMBs often need to compete with large companies and often find challenges in order fulfillment, leading to lost revenue. Oracle WMS introduces a new paradigm in supply chain warehouse solutions that is perfect for small businesses, but also gives you the flexibility to handle larger more complex warehouse processes as you grow your business. It offers extended warehouse management functionality, including omni-channel functionality, cross-dock and put-to-store management, at a significantly lower total cost of ownership. What’s even better is that the solution is highly configurable for rapid, cost effective implementation with the added structure to change and evolve with your business. Oracle WMS Cloud offers the breadth and depth you need in a warehouse management system that is cost effective. If your goal is to grow your business then spreadsheets will not take you there. Learn how Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud can help you become successful and keep your customers happy. Download the report to see why Oracle is named a leader for warehouse management systems. By Joan Lim, Sr Product Marketing Manager, Oracle

Oracle has been named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). Oracle was recognized for its strong ability to execute and completeness of vision. Gartner Magic...

Customer Experience

Inc. 5000 Names Customer Experience as the Key to Their Growth

Last year, Oracle and Inc. Media joined forces to get inside the heads of the leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies. What we found was interesting―so interesting, that we decided to revisit with this group of small-to-medium business (SMB) executives to see if anything has changed.  So drumroll, please…. The #1 reason for success came down to one thing―customers. However, it is not just the act of selling to those customers. SMB leaders overwhelmingly chose their ability to sell to new customers and maintain those customer relationships as the #1 reason for success. Why? Because they understood their customers’ needs and the market they were selling to (listed by 58 percent of those who ranked customer experience (CX) as their #1 reason for success). Coming in a distant second (21 percent) was the establishment of an account management/service team for relationship building―allowing sales to focus on sales. This was followed by providing more self-service options so that customer-facing employees can focus on higher value-add activities (15 percent). Success Does Not Hinge on One Single Thing Changing (or adding) one thing is not going to spur exponential growth. It takes a focused, concerted effort, across multiple departments and roles, to become (and stay) a profitable, fast-growing company. This means that every aspect of the customers’ experience needs to be analyzed and reworked if necessary. It is a well-known fact that current customers are much more profitable than new customers, but what keeps a customer coming back are their previous experiences and the emotions tied to those interactions. When asked what exactly they credit with making the Inc. 5000 list, great sales and marketing ended up at the top of the list, with 41 percent of respondents naming it as a top three reason for making the Inc. 5000. So every aspect of customer experience needs to be spot-on―from marketing’s initial touch, through to the sales process, to after-sales service, support, and marketing―all tied up in a bow made up of social media interactions.  What About the Dollars in 2018? Companies on the Inc. 5000 are planning to invest in growth, with the largest amount going to (you guessed it) gain, keep, and grow customer relationships (chosen by 85 percent of respondents). This is key. Many failed companies focused solely on “discounts,” sacrificing customer service and support that could be the one distinguishing factor that would have kept their business healthy. What They Credit Their Success to They Also See as a Barrier to Success Interestingly enough, when asked to identify their primary obstacles to growth, the Inc. 5000 leaders pointed to many of the same reasons that landed them on the list in the first place. As mentioned earlier, great sales and marketing, having the right management team in place, and the ability to scale to keep costs in line with growth were the top three answers to the question “what were the primary reasons for your company landing on the Inc. 5000?” However, when asked “what are the biggest obstacles to your company’s continued growth?” those same leaders pointed to CX, specifically around growing sales (named by 43 percent), through better training, analyzing sales numbers/metrics, and auditing and automating sales processes.   Achieving triple- and quadruple-digit growth for multiple years is both an art and a science. The Inc. 5000 survey respondents provided us with many actionable insights on what it takes. Want to know more? Check out the full survey results.

Last year, Oracle and Inc. Media joined forces to get inside the heads of the leaders of America’s fastest-growing companies. What we found was interesting―so interesting, that we decided to...

Emerging Technologies

What Mature SMBs Can Learn from Digital Business

Not all companies are set up with the goal to expand, grow, and dominate a market space. Many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) on the “smaller” end of the spectrum are lifestyle businesses―companies that are set up with the goal of providing a particular level of income for the founders and owners. Now, this does not mean that the lifestyle cannot be large. Many lifestyle SMBs bring in millions in dollars of profits. Scalable businesses are established to move beyond their founders.  These are companies that started small and developed a strategic growth model that was able to replicate and expand without limitations.  These companies have quickly adopted cloud-based systems, built revenues based on digital commerce platforms, utilize emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), and view data as a second language.  In other words, they undergo constant digital transformations. “Lifestyle” and “scalable” are both relevant and practical business strategies. The Role of Digital Transformation to a Scalable Business Almost 75 percent of growing companies realize that digital transformation will impact their business, but only 17 percent are harvesting benefits from any digital transformation efforts. Digitally transforming your business is not a “one and done” exercise. Benefits can gather momentum slowly, but, once that momentum is gained, there are exponential benefits regarding costs, efficiencies, and expansion. And that allows scalable growth companies to compete in a variety of ways, all while keeping their costs in check. However, digital transformation does not need to be a process of “ripping and replacing.” There are plenty of opportunities to deploy digital technologies into your traditional strategies. Here are three suggested lessons from today’s market realities to help you see the possibilities: Support your market instinct with data and analytics. A midsize east coast research company recently undertook projects to understand why their customers were—or were not—renewing contracts. Up until that point, management had emphasized on-site, in-person customer visits. Through surveys and a detailed multi-variate study of customer engagement data, the company discovered that the most inexpensive and frequent customer interactions (such as downloading content off of the customer portal and attendance at company-hosted regional events) were highly correlated with contract renewal. New programs were launched to drive content and event participation—leading to a 14 percent contract value growth the following year. Trust the cloud. SMBs have plenty of opportunities to adopt lower-risk cloud-based applications. And company leadership is beginning to understand that. SMB purchases of cloud and hybrid-cloud application deployments are surpassing purchases of on-premises software applications for collaboration, BI, e-commerce, and IT infrastructure. Further, security fears over public cloud deployments are not as much of a concern as they have been in the past. Cloud service providers can update security measures faster and more thoroughly than individual firms. In fact, many of these fears may be exaggerated. Recent research has discovered that through 2022 at least 95 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault, resulting in lost opportunities and inappropriate spending.”  Reduce costs by optimizing operations with digital technologies. To deliver value with digital technologies, you don’t always have to replace/expand your primary source of revenue or re-architect your business. Even in manufacturing businesses, there are opportunities to reduce manufacturing times, delivery times, and increase worker productivity. A mid-sized fruit processing company recently installed digitally-automated equipment “without a single additional hire and increased production by 50 percent.” Now that is scalability. This connected technology provides real-time feedback to all 900 employees, providing the information necessary to make quick decisions and act accordingly.” SMB executives can learn valuable lessons and trends from scalable companies who have embraced digital technologies. Through BI/analytics, cloud-based applications, and optimizing operations even the small-to-medium ‘old dogs’ that have been around for a long time can learn new tricks. Learn how digital technologies enable small companies to provide "large company value".  

Not all companies are set up with the goal to expand, grow, and dominate a market space. Many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) on the “smaller” end of the spectrum are lifestyle businesses―companies...

Customer Experience

How CPQ Software Saves SMBs Time and Boosts Sales

For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), tapping into configure, price, and quote (CPQ) solutions levels the competitive playing field. They can compete with their larger counterparts—even when they have fewer resources and less staff. Such CPQ software applications automate the configuration and quote process. They’re often used by companies and sales teams selling complicated products—everything from high-tech machinery to vehicles to medical devices.  We recently saw first-hand the difference a CPQ solution made for one of our manufacturing clients. The company needed a solution to replace their manual configuration and quote process. We helped them integrate Oracle CPQ Cloud with software they were already using to create an efficient, more accurate process that continues to save time and opens the doors to more sales opportunities, increases customer facetime, and speeds time-to-close. Why Does CPQ Matter? It’s a good question, especially for SMBs. In the case of our manufacturing client, the process of configuring and quoting a specific product was fairly involved. The company’s sales teams had to gather the requirements, start the configuration process, and then pass the information to an internal expert for review. There was a constant back and forth with the customer to gain confirmation of the configuration details. The entire process was made even more complicated by the fact that company used channel partners’ sales reps to sell their pumps. The company was using a legacy third-party software platform to diagram the configurations. The company was happy with this diagramming software, but the overall configuration process was highly manual, involved multiple people and spreadsheets, and took longer than the company could afford. They were an ideal candidate for a CPQ solution. In a recent blog post, Accenture notes that technology and big data analytics are changing how pricing—even for complicated products—is done. Organizations that get on board stand to benefit from “empowered sales, accelerated pricing, and improved margins."  Those benefits sound great for any company, but they can truly help spur growth for a smaller one. Oracle CPQ Cloud helped the manufacturer reduce the amount of time their staff spent on configuration and improved the accuracy of their configurations and pricing. That’s because the CPQ software accounts for different dependencies, such as one part being incompatible with another, and provides only feasible options. In addition, the CPQ tool reduced the number of people involved in the process and empowered the company’s channel sales partners to provide automated sales quotes for their customers. End-to-End Customer Experience CPQ provides a myriad of benefits on its own. But as a systems integrator, we love helping companies realize the exponential advantages available once they integrate CPQ with their other software, such as a CRM, Service, an ERP solution or, in the case of this manufacturer, a legacy diagraming solution. At this point, the sum truly becomes greater than its parts. Integration allows companies to manage their customers throughout the entire customer lifecycle. For example, you can track when the customer comes into the sales process as an opportunity via CRM, follow them through the configuration and quote all the way to the purchase. An integration with ERP allows you to determine whether the products being quoted are in stock. We integrated their CPQ with multiple other solutions for our client, including the aforementioned diagramming software. CPQ and Growing Companies It’s worth noting that SMBs often assume that CPQ and other software solutions are resources for larger companies with deeper pockets. But that’s not the case. In an era of cloud-based software, SMBs can affordably take advantage of the same technology (and therefore the same sales productivity) that their larger competitors use, and then scale their own solutions to grow as they do. For our manufacturing client, their integrated CPQ solution automates an integral part of their business process and provides them with a solution that’s likely better than many of the bigger companies in their space. The time savings is critical to be sure. But what’s more is that configure, price, and quote technology like Oracle CPQ Cloud opens up more opportunities for SMBs to expand their sales efforts, improve their conversions, and ultimately grow their revenue. See how CPQ can benefit your growing business. Brian J. Friedman, SoftClouds’ VP Global Strategic Sales, has a background in technology, business development, corporate management, and sales. Brian has been responsible for the creation and growth of numerous companies developing successful long-term relationships that have resulted in double-digit sales growth and continuing business expansion. For further information on how SoftClouds can help your company grow through CPQ, reach out to Brian at brianf@SoftClouds.com.

For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), tapping into configure, price, and quote (CPQ) solutions levels the competitive playing field. They can compete with their larger counterparts—even when they...

IT

Life After GDPR: Why CEOs Need to Help Achieve Success

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now in effect, but small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have been under pressure to become compliant since the law was introduced in 2016. Some responded by changing their IT processes, others placed the burden on their legal team, but others only began to adapt in earnest once the 25th May deadline was just around the corner. Data protection must be treated with the right level of gravitas. It might be tempting to think you can steer clear of regulatory issues as long as you are not doing anything untoward with people’s personal data, but this is short-term thinking. GDPR may only mark the beginning of a global regulatory push to improve data protection, and regulation will only become more demanding.   Real change requires a shift in culture. The way SMBs govern data has not yet caught up to the way employees use technology, which is why we still see staff taking a lackadaisical approach in many organisations. They save company information to personal devices, use (and sometimes lose) business laptops on the train, and turn to file sharing sites to share sensitive information. All these practices pose a security risk, and they are all too common.  The cost of not complying with GDPR can be significant. Business leaders will be aware of the potential risk of non-compliance (up to 20 million euros or 4% of the company’s global turnover) but there are less obvious consequences too. Data breaches must be made public to the supervisory authority within 72 hours once a company becomes aware of them, and the reputational damage that comes with these if the company does not have a good handle on security, has its own cost. In addition, a supervisory authority has the power to impose a temporary or definitive limitation including a ban on processing, and data subjects have the right to bring claims for compensation. GDPR is a Boardroom Issue This makes GDPR a boardroom issue, but this does not mean SMBs can just appoint someone to take charge of compliance and let them run with it. With an imperative this important, the bucks stops with the CEO. Business leaders must be figureheads for data protection. For an organisation to manage data more responsibly and stay on top of its data in the long term, it needs buy-in from all staff. Each individual must be accountable for their actions and play their part in compliance, and this understanding must be driven from the top down.    How can business leaders help achieve this? The first step is to make training compulsory. This could include anything from data management training, to workshops on protecting data or even running phish-baiting tests to help employees identify suspicious emails. Incentives also help drive change. Data protection needs to be as much a part of someone’s job as doing their timesheets, so why not reward team leaders who have ensured all their staff have taken the appropriate training, or include security training as part of employee performance objectives? It will ultimately come down to HR, IT or legal teams to develop these initiatives, but the imperative must come from a company’s leadership. Get more information on GDPR and its implications. By Alessandro Vallega, Security and GDPR Business Development Director, Oracle EMEA

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now in effect, but small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have been under pressure to become compliant since the law was introduced in 2016. Some responded by...

IT

Podcast Series: Insights from the Cloud

It’s no secret that cloud computing has expanded and evolved into one of the biggest paradigm shifts in the computer age. The journey to the cloud can be fraught with peril and unexpected pitfalls, but many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have undertaken to make it anyway due to the promised benefits. Lessons from the Cloud Implementing cloud solutions into your portfolio can provide opportunities to increase agility and improve process efficiency by supporting a faster time to deploy applications, reduce development costs, reduce overall IT expenses and increase the utilization of resources to address rising customer expectations. Adopting cloud is often considered as part of a larger business technology transformation initiative which aims to reign in the increasing IT spend, and close the gaps between costs and productivity. A cloud survey by Longitude Research polled 730 senior execs from 13 countries, across nine industries. This new podcast series, Cloud Research Insights, delves into some of the most insightful and impactful findings from the study in each cloud focus area. This new research-based podcast series will be rolling out on the Oracle Cloud Café podcast channel, with episodes covering: integration, security, systems management, analytics, workload migration, application development, and data management in the cloud. There’s no substitute for experience, especially when it comes to cloud computing. As your SMB develops your own unique path to cloud, learn directly from 730 of your peers in these podcasts that details what they're discovering about the cloud as they continue along their own journeys. Discover key takeaways to guide your journey to the cloud by tuning into this podcast series.

It’s no secret that cloud computing has expanded and evolved into one of the biggest paradigm shifts in the computer age. The journey to the cloud can be fraught with peril and unexpected pitfalls,...

Customer Experience

Right-Brain Selling with Left-Brain Management—That’s CPQ Cloud and Guided Selling

A professional sale involves an astonishingly high level of creativity (right-brain). While salespeople are not stereotypical creative types, the job of selling complex products requires a deep understanding of the customer’s challenge, their industry, their product, and their customers. Only then can the salesperson begin carefully crafting a solution and composing an approach strategy that presents that solution in the best way possible. The Collision of the Right Brain and the Left Brain Providing a solution to the customer (that will be accepted) requires the salesperson to address a mountain of very analytical “left-brain” challenges and process bottlenecks. Even a simple quote may involve addressing complex, ever-changing product configurations, regional currencies, customer-specific pricing, channel discount levels, and existing contractual agreements. But the process does not stop once the solution has been configured. Thanks (again) to complexity, the approval process may include sales operations, sales engineers, legal, finance, inventory control, order management, and even transportation/logistics. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that half of all sales reps routinely don’t make quota. They’re too busy wading through left-brain process minutia to effectively deliver their creative right-brain solution. Learn how one SMB is extinguishing business risk in the cloud. Guided Selling The answer is to streamline the sales process with rules-based guided selling. This eliminates the need for sales to have to begin the configuration process from scratch by having to address complex product scenarios or complex pricing options, which, in turn, could paralyze the process. Business rules and predefined configuration logic help the sales person identify the solution that best meets the needs of the customer AND stays within the requirements of your business. With the solution in place, the sales rep received information on the best discount to optimize the chance of winning the deal—all designed specifically the product, the deal size, the customer, and the competitive pressures according to geographic location. Data (such as historical pricing, win rates, and regional discounting guidance) supports right-brain sales activities so that the rep is confident in proposing and supporting a specific discount or product mix. This is one of the core benefits of Oracle Configure, Price, and Quote (CPQ) Cloud. But Wait, There's More Guided selling, automated workflows, and business rules curtail unnecessary review processes and eliminate internal bottlenecks. By providing logical up-sell and cross-sell reminders, deal sizes (and margins) are optimized. And because the entire process is based on robust rules, each quote is accurately configured and priced. Benefit: Shortening the time it takes to create a quote allows the sales rep to spend more face-time with the customer actually doing the creative side of their sales job. This leads to higher levels of customer engagement for better relationships and lowers sales rep turnover. Impact: Guided selling is so much more than simply helping new sales reps get up to speed. Guided selling enables every level of staff to create comprehensive configurations quickly and with confidence. This means that complex quoting is no longer limited to the domain of the most sophisticated staff. But even seasoned sales professionals benefit by starting with predefined baseline product configurations or relying on previous configurations they have set as personal favorites. Simplify: All sales reps are able to connect the correct product offer, at the right price, to the right customer. This is invaluable in changing sales behaviors in meaningful ways freeing them to provide higher levels of personalized customer service.  Oracle CPQ Cloud does it all by combining the power of right-brain selling with left-brain management. Gartner positions Oracle CPQ Cloud as a leader. Read the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites report.   By Graham McInnes, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle

A professional sale involves an astonishingly high level of creativity (right-brain). While salespeople are not stereotypical creative types, the job of selling complex products requires a...

Finance

How to Keep Finance Talent from Jumping Ship

It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of finance talent in the workforce. While the national unemployment rate is now at a svelte 3.9 percent, that figure grows even slimmer for this segment, where demand for those with accounting and finance-related degrees are outpacing supply: A recent analysis by recruiting firm Robert Half pegged the unemployment rate for accountants at 1.8 percent; for financial analysts, it was a mere 0.8 percent.  Yet, finding talent is only half the battle. The real challenge is keeping up-and-coming finance professionals – particularly those in the first decade of their careers, who have the highest attrition rates – from jumping ship. Finance managers aren’t alone in this regard. In a recent Deloitte survey, 43 percent of Millennials said they planned to leave their current job within two years. When talent takes off, companies face direct and indirect costs of recruiting and training replacements, and lose institutional knowledge in the process.  Meanwhile, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) in booming markets face yet another hurdle: How to compete against Fortune 100 companies that are moving in or ramping up. If all else in the equation is equal, your talent may very easily jump at the chance to add a big brand to their résumés. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an equal experience. Whereas many SMBs may come up short when it comes to global name recognition or recruiting firepower, they can offer finance talent even better reason to stay: Flexibility, exposure and long-term opportunities that may be hard to find at larger firms. Here’s how to get an edge: 1. Know what you’re up against Every market has its own dynamics, which is why it’s important to keep tabs on what’s happening in your backyard. Are new companies moving into the region? How are accountants, financial analysts and other finance professionals being compensated? Don’t rely on national trends or surveys to glean this critical information. It’s important to put your best foot forward out of the gate, but you’ll also want to stay current on salary, benefits and workplace trends after you make key hires. Once talent starts looking elsewhere, it’s often too late. While offering a competitive salary and traditional benefits (i.e. health insurance and retirement) is a must, be sure to look beyond the obvious. The Deloitte survey found that after pay, culture and flexibility are a top priority for millennials. No doubt, the flexibility to work at home, leave early when needed or sidestep red tape carries as much weight as compensation, both in the decision to take a role and to keep it. 2. Play to your firm’s strengths Larger organizations can offer brand recognition and competitive benefits, but when it comes to giving finance professionals exposure to senior executives or developments outside of accounting, smaller companies often have an edge. At SMBs in particular, the lines between finance, operations and other functions are blurring, offering motivated finance professionals myriad opportunities for career development. In yet another study, this one on “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” Gallup found that 87 percent of respondents said career development is important in a job. Of course, it’s one thing to pay lip service to these promises during the recruiting process and quite another to deliver on them. To keep top talent in the fold, finance leaders need to make sure up-and-coming employees have the opportunity to have a seat at the table. Fortunately, technology has made it possible for finance professionals to shift their focus from data collection and reporting, to analysis and strategy. Again, for finance professionals at smaller organizations, this alone may be reason to continue to stay. 3. Find the right fit in the first place Many hiring managers are so eager to fill a position that they neglect to take the extra steps needed to ensure employee retention. Given the high cost of recruiting and training new talent, it’s far more effective to make sure that a new hire has staying power the first time around. Going back to the Deloitte survey on top priorities, culture is a top priority for today’s class of talent. Yet, what qualifies as a great culture for one hire might be a miss for another. Therefore, it’s essential to know what’s unique about your firm’s culture, and size up candidates accordingly. If your firm’s culture is entrepreneurial, for example, your best shot at keeping talent is spotting people who can thrive in a dynamic environment. Then again, what others might consider an opportunity – intellectually, professionally and even financially – others might find too unpredictable. 4. Embrace big-company best practices In the fight to keep top talent, and stay competitive, SMBs should aim to embrace the agility of a smaller organization while emulating some of the best practices of a larger one. This includes making sure your finance talent has everything they need to do their jobs effectively. In a PwC study on how millennials are reshaping the workplace in financial services, more than half of young professionals said access to state-of-the-art technology was important to them when considering a job. There was a time when smaller employers could not compete with the behemoths in this regard – but modern improvements have made this engagement possible. Cloud computing, advanced analytics and other leaps have made it possible for finance teams at SMBs to adopt the best of both worlds. Is finance talent keeping you up at night? Compare yourself with America's fastest-growing companies.

It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of finance talent in the workforce. While the national unemployment rate is now at a svelte 3.9 percent, that figure grows even slimmer for this segment,...

Supply Chain Management

The Advantages of Demand Planning in the Cloud

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are more successful when they can streamline and optimize supply chain management (SCM) process. Therefore, demand planning must improve, so that growing companies have visibility into their forecasts, including the ups and downs of demand. The goal is to laser-target revenue forecasting and maximize profitability for each channel in the supply chain. This is particularly important for small-to-medium high-growth companies. Every SMB wants to drive growth and profitability and find an edge over larger competitors. Optimizing the supply chain (across various geographies) is a great way to do just that. Cloud-based demand planning tools provide the tactical advantage to drive operational success and help with the achievement of strategic goals. When Demand Planning is Done Right With the right cloud-based demand planning solution, your company can accurately predict customer demand, efficiently deliver products to customers, boost cash flow, and profitably manage an ever increasingly complex global supply chain. As forecasting accuracy improves, SMBs will benefit from better inventory turns and order fill rates. How that is achieved, though, differs by company since each business has unique needs, goals, and processes. For many firms, the cloud offers the best way to move forward with enterprise-level demand planning. It is the new default choice for any company, particularly SMBs, when considering game-changing demand planning solutions. Cloud demand planning delivers four significant benefits, regardless of the industry: Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – When your demand planning solution is hosted in the cloud, you are no longer responsible for the management of the IT infrastructure that supports it, or for the costs associated with on-premises upgrades, patches, and general management. Streamlined Operations via Real-Time Integration – Your team accesses the exact data they need, when they need it, without worrying about how timely or accurate the data is. Why? Systems are seamlessly connected to one another, which also reduces operational costs and boosts collaboration. Laser-Targeted Market Demand Responses – Because you can access real-time demand signals, your company can quickly and efficiently respond to demand spikes/drops, even in the most volatile market conditions. Seamless Upgrades – On-premises upgrades can lead to business interruption, which affects fulfillment, which affects profitability. With cloud solutions, upgrades are quickly rolled out during non-peak times, or otherwise, take place with as little business interruption as possible. But the benefits do not stop there. Doing demand planning in a cloud environment is a massive advantage for any industry that requires accurate and comprehensive planning for demand. And what industry doesn’t? With the cloud, demand planners leverage a common foundation to support supply chain planning with demand planning activities to create customer-centric solutions. Streamlined operational efficiencies, productivity improvements, improved user experiences, and tight data security are also key benefits. Oracle Demand Management Cloud Oracle Demand Management Cloud offers advanced capabilities, such as: Enhanced statistical capabilities Configurable hierarchies to support aggregation and disaggregation of demand Configurable metrics and workbenches Enhanced analytics Management-by-exception capabilities to streamline demand management daily functions Simulation capability Additionally, users of Oracle Demand Management Cloud can tailor their application experience without the assistance of IT. This drives down costs (as compared to on-premises solutions), as well as a more empowered user base. Coupled with very effective ROIs and robust functionality, the economic argument for Oracle Demand Management Cloud is hard to ignore. Align Operations with Strategic Goals SMBs are under increasing pressure not just to grow, but to profitably grow while moving into new markets, territories, and products. This requires the dovetailing of day-to-day operations across supply chains with strategic goals. Demand planning is an integral part of this exercise. The capabilities of Oracle Demand Management Cloud lets your company analyze consumer demand at its most granular level in real time and drive forecast analysis closer to consumption points. All while providing an intuitive, tightly integrated user experience.   The bottom line for high-growth SMBs? With Oracle Demand Management Cloud for demand planning, companies can rapidly gain a competitive edge once available only to large enterprises. With this tactical tool in the cloud, it becomes easier to quickly reach strategic goals regardless of an SMB’s supply chain depth and complexity. Learn how Oracle Cloud is helping growing companies prepare for the future. By Brad Van Zeeland, Senior Solutions Architect, CSS International, Inc.

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are more successful when they can streamline and optimize supply chain management (SCM) process. Therefore, demand planning must improve, so that growing...

Finance

2 Ways Exponential Growth Affects Finance—As Explained by America’s Fastest-Growing Companies

To land (and stay) on the Inc. 5000, high-growth small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) need to look for ways to expand—more sales, more employees, bigger market share, new markets. But expansion requires money. You know the adage—it takes money to make money. That made us wonder how important finance is to those companies that exemplify high-growth. As you may know, Inc. Media and Oracle revisited a partnership from 2017, where we reached out to past and present Inc. 5000 companies and asked them to what they attribute their success. The results for both 2017 and 2018 were intriguing. Company leaders reported that their focus was on two areas: employees and customers. How to get them and how to keep them.  They were not as focused on finance, but that does not mean that they did not understand the importance of effectively managing their money. When it came to the two areas of finance that they are paying close attention to in 2018, it all comes down to Effectively managing cash flow (named by 21 percent of respondents) Obtaining financing (identified by 11 percent of respondents) Cash is King In many ways, cash flow trumps revenue and even earnings in high-growth companies. Rapid growth which can be volatile and unpredictable can negatively affect cash flow. When high-growth companies do not have a scalable business model or sufficient risk management practices, they may be forced to take on lots (and lots) of debt to fuel growth. This can occur if customers do not pay on time, or payroll expands, or a surprising tax bill arrives. Any of these scenarios can lead to a cash flow crisis. As you only focus on growth, revenue, and earnings, it may not become immediately apparent that you have a problem. It is easy to overlook a late payment when you’re earning more every month, but it’s still a problem because you do not have access to cash that comes with the payment. The spiral continues with more debt, which causes more cash flow issues—and so forth, and so on. Obtaining Financing Finding financing—in any economic climate—can be challenging, whether you're looking for start-up funds, capital to expand, or money to tide you over through volatile demand curves. The economy could be roaring along, and you still may struggle to find the cash you need to support growth.   And many SMBs choose to look for outside financing; it most cases, it makes more sense to do so than to cover cash flow gaps or pay upfront costs out of pocket. There are several options to pursue: short-term financing, long-term financing, a business line of credit, SBA loan, credit cards, or even a microloan. With the exclusion of credit card financing, you will not just be handed money.  Your financials need to be in place. Profit and loss statements, bank statements, balance sheets, tax returns, business debt schedules, accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP) aging reports, etc. will have to be ready, accurate, and handed over. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you are looking for funding to acquire a business (and 20 percent of the Inc. 5000 are planning to do just that in 2018), you will need the sales agreements, financials, and other information on the business you are purchasing. If you are looking to buy new equipment, you will need the purchase agreement. Bottom line, your financials need to be in order. And the better your financials cloud, the easier (and quicker) it will be to gather that information. Bottom Line The importance of finance for a growing company’s success cannot be understated. To succeed, the finance team must take on a multi-faceted role.  They have to know the numbers, compile reports, and comply with regulations. But now they have to migrate into roles focused on strategic planning and innovation that is needed to drive business growth. Technology is the key to that migration. Finance teams have to embrace technology, including artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities (that are built into Oracle ERP Cloud) to automate many financial processes so that finance professionals can focus on meaningful contributions to business strategy. Want the complete story? View the entire study, Inside the Head of Leaders of America's Fastest-Growing Companies.

To land (and stay) on the Inc. 5000, high-growth small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) need to look for ways to expand—more sales, more employees, bigger market share, new markets. But expansion requires...

Human Resources

Recruit Better by Putting Cultural Fit in the Spotlight

What’s more important during recruiting—culture fit or skills? As unemployment dips below 4 percent, this question is a critical one for employers that want to attract and retain the best people. The truth is, both are important. However, if you had to choose, cultural fit should win out. That’s because while you can train for skills, you can’t train for fit. Cultural fit is innate; it’s more about a candidate’s outlook on life than anything you’ll find in a textbook, classroom, or online course. That makes it a powerful tool for building a more engaged culture, yet one that can be difficult to define and identify for best results. Fortunately, there is a way to assess for cultural fit during your recruiting process. Four Steps to Assessing Cultural Fit Before you can assess for cultural fit, you’ll need to do some legwork to understand more about your culture and learn how to use that knowledge to make the best hiring decisions. These four steps can help you do just that: Know your culture. What are the values, purpose, managerial style, and habits that define your small-to-medium business (SMB)? To hire for culture, these need to be clearly defined and understood, not just from a theoretical perspective, but from a “lived” perspective. You need a strong understanding of what your culture looks like in action and in each role you’re seeking to fill. Ask culture questions. Ask each candidate questions designed to uncover how they will fit with the most important culture aspects of your growing company. Value alignment, personal and professional habits, preferred managerial styles and roles, and complementary personality types are all aspects of culture fit that will impact an employee’s experience with your company. Ask questions that assess these areas of culture fit.   Involve the right people. People are the foundation of your culture. In fact, 77 percent of workers recently surveyed stated that their co-worker relationships were a top driver of engagement. The most important of those relationships will be with managers and team members, so it’s important to involve these individuals during the interview and hiring process. Make the right decision. Early in your recruiting process, you’ll likely be assessing individuals based on either their skills and experience or their ability and desire to learn. If you’re fortunate enough to be faced with several qualified candidates, culture fit rather than skills and aptitude should be the deciding factor. This will help to ensure that you make the right decision, attracting not just the most qualified candidate, but the one most likely to become fully engaged (and remain the longest). Learn how Oracle HCM Cloud can help your high-growth company. Four Key Aspects of Culture Fit Organizational culture refers to the characteristics that make your organization unique. It includes the values and purpose that drive your organization and its people, the habits that are employed to get the work done, the personalities and management styles that are prevalent within the organization, and much more. Here’s how to assess for some of these key aspects of culture. Values fit. One of the most important aspects of hiring for culture fit is alignment with values. A global study of more than 28,000 employees across 15 countries found that the number one driver of employee engagement was commitment to the company’s core values.  So, if you want to ensure culture fit, determining if a candidate shares your organization’s core values is a great place to start. To assess for values fit, you should ask questions that reveal how well the candidate understands and is aligned with your organizational values. To assess these, you’ll need to have identified those values, and know what they look like in action. Some questions to ask include: What values are you seeking from your next company? Which of our core values reflects your own personal core values? Tell us about a time when you made a difficult decision based on your core values. Habits fit. What people have done in the past is often the best indicator of what they’ll do in the future. Therefore, it’s important to probe what kinds of habits the candidate may have exhibited in the past. How do they approach their work? What do they do to stay focused on the right things?  Perhaps most importantly in today’s fast-changing world of work, how willing are they to embrace new habits that will make them more effective? Ask questions like: How do you start your day? Or, how do you unwind after a challenging workday? How do you maintain focus when faced with multiple priorities? Tell us about a time when you learned a new positive habit, or let go of a negative one? The good news is that of all the aspects of culture, your employee’s work habits may be the most malleable. An old adage says that it takes about 21 days to learn a new habit. Employers can even help employees develop better personal and professional habits with employee engagement and development tools like ProHabits that help work teams implement concepts such as mindfulness, leadership, innovation, and teamwork. Personality fit. Different people thrive in different conditions: some enjoy the fast-paced and flexible world of startups, others prefer working for a more role-defined enterprise. Who thrives where often comes down to personality.  A candidate who thrives on rules and defined roles won’t be comfortable in a start-up where people are expected to wear different hats and pitch in wherever they’re needed. Candidates who prefer working independently won’t be happy in a close-knit team where personal and professional relationships are closely intertwined. People who like doing a “little bit of this and a little bit of that” will struggle to stay in their lane when working for a large corporation. You can assess these aspects of personality fit by asking questions like: Describe your ideal working environment or a culture where you would be most likely to thrive? Have you ever been part of an organization where you weren’t a good fit? Why was it a bad fit? What three aspects of our culture do you find most attractive? What aspects of our culture do you feel might be a challenge for you? How would you overcome those challenges? Managerial fit. It’s said that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. But even the best managers can have different styles that may not mesh with every employee. Some are hands-off delegators, others like to train and coach their employees. Others may tend to supervise or even micromanage. Employees who are seeking an organization where they’ll be coached and mentored won’t be happy with a hands-off manager, and may not be happy with a micromanager either.  So it’s important to assess whether the candidate will be a fit with the management style that’s prevalent in your organization, and the manager they’ll work for in particular. Assess managerial fit by asking questions like: Tell me about a manager with whom you meshed well. What did you like best about him or her? What qualities are you seeking from your next manager? What managerial style do you feel works best for you? In a job market where 51 percent of employed adults and 60 percent of millennials are seeking new opportunities, it’s not enough to simply attract skilled candidates to fill open positions. The key is to attract, retain and engage the people most likely to thrive within your organization. By focusing on culture fit during the recruiting process, employers can identify, recruit and engage these individuals and drive remarkable results for their organization. If your organization has overcome the plateau effect, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for contributors for a new book “Beyond the Plateau Effect.” If you can answer the question, “What role does culture play in your success?” visit our website to share your story. We would love to hear from you.

What’s more important during recruiting—culture fit or skills? As unemployment dips below 4 percent, this question is a critical one for employers that want to attract and retain the best people. The...

Human Resources

3 Ways to Solve Your Hiring Problem

As of April 2018, the national unemployment rate was just 3.9%. A National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey identified finding qualified employees as the single most important problem facing small business owners right now. In this competitive job market, signs in windows can be found up and down Main Street saying “hiring” and “opening available.” So, how can small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) compete with larger companies for talent in the current job market? What can SMBs do to fill their openings and get work done? Here are three ideas: 1. Offer Incentives to Compete for Talent As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowering the corporate tax rate to 21%, many large employers have been able to offer cash bonuses, increase employee compensation, and offer an expanded menu of benefits to their staff. SMBs, which are largely pass-through entities, find themselves at a tax disadvantage, which makes it difficult to compete with large companies to attract and retain qualified workers. SMB owners pay tax on their share of profits based on graduated individual tax rates up to 37%; they may or may not qualify for a personal tax deduction of 20% of their share of business profits. They likely can’t afford to match what large companies are doing compensation-wise. SMB employers should consider workplace strategies that don’t involve big outlays to appeal to workers. Consider arrangements that enhance employees’ work-life balance and boost employee loyalty without busting the company’s budget, such as: Compressed work week (e.g., 9 hours per day for 4 days) Flextime Job-sharing Ability to work remotely SMBs may also want to revise requirements for some positions within the company. Perhaps you don’t need someone with years of experience or an advanced degree and are willing to engage someone who you think can handle the position with less experience or education. 2. Get Creative in Your Talent Search Expanding your business often means adding more employees to make it happen. If you’re falling short in finding the talent you need to grow, here are some options: Temporary workers. You may bring on workers through a temporary agency (workers are employees of the agency) to focus on specific projects or fill openings while you look for a permanent solution. You may even find a temp worker who would be a great fit for your company as a full-time, permanent employee. Independent contractors. Consider hiring self-employed individuals. This can be done by finding independent contractors directly (e.g., through referrals from your staff or position postings on your company website) or through a number of freelance sites, such as Upwork, Hubstaff Talent, and Freelancer. Developing your existing staff. Professional development and training are highly-valued fringe benefits. Enabling your current employees to grow into greater responsibility won’t add to the number of workers needed, but will help you retain those that you have now. On-the-job training. Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may want to start an apprenticeship program to develop the talent you need. The U.S. Department of Labor can help you get started. 3. Leverage Tax Incentives You may be able to favorably impact your bottom line by taking advantage of tax incentives for hiring certain people to fill open positions. For example, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) rewards employers for hiring someone from any of the following categories: Qualified IV-A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients Unemployed veterans, including disabled veterans Ex-felons Designated community residents living in Empowerment Zones or Rural Renewal Counties Vocational rehabilitation referrals Summer youth employees living in Empowerment Zones Food stamp (SNAP) recipients Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients Long-term family assistance recipients Qualified long-term unemployment recipients If you hire anyone from one of these targeted categories, be sure to note this requirement. You must first request certification by filing IRS Form 8850 with your state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins work. Additionally, offering certain types of benefits to employees, such as health insurance or a qualified retirement plan, can cut your out-of-pocket costs by claiming tax credits. Examples: Small employer health insurance credit for paying at least half the cost of coverage Retirement plan startup costs tax credit to defray the costs of administering the new plan and educating employees; the credit runs for first three years of the plan Want more insights from Barbara Weltman? Check out her other article, What the New Tax Law Means for Business Owners.

As of April 2018, the national unemployment rate was just 3.9%. A National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey identified finding qualified employees as the single most important problem...

Emerging Technologies

3 Awesome Emerging Technologies That Will Revolutionize HR

Oracle HCM Cloud has been working with emerging technologies—namely predictive analytics— for almost a decade. Recently though, we have taken another large step forward by incorporating artificial intelligence - powered chatbots, machine learning (ML), knowledge management, smart onboarding, etc. into our Oracle HCM Cloud applications. The goal is to provide HR professionals, recruiters, and candidates with the same easy, intuitive user experience that they receive through their personal digital devices. Artificial Intelligence Specifically, Oracle has added powerful, built-in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to improve one of the most important focal points for high-growth companies—recruiting. New AI-enabled chatbots let candidates search for jobs and get questions answered directly through channels like Facebook Messenger.  In addition, the chatbot connects with Facebook Messenger to direct job seekers from the company’s Facebook page to their job portal, where they can submit applications. Artificial intelligence is also helping recruiters gain a complete picture of a candidate. They no longer have to do a quick vetting of hundreds of candidates, based on competencies and (perhaps) recent jobs. Artificial intelligence can help recruiters identify the needed skills (which are important), but also help with determinations regarding longevity, performance, etc. Recruiters can quickly locate top candidates vs. only those with the best fit in terms of the competency list. In addition, Oracle HCM Cloud is using emerging technologies to help with: Hiring: Advanced machine learning (ML) capabilities can reduce the time it takes to fill open positions by highlighting best-fit candidates and proactively identifying candidates and employees who should be invited to apply. Onboarding: New smart-onboarding features enhance collaboration between the new employee, hiring manager, and the HR team to make it faster and easier for employees to move from “new hire” to an engaged, productive contributor to the team. Promotion Process: A “self-driving” promotion process helps employees reach their objectives and succeed in their current positions by providing proactive alerts. But the improvements do not stop there.  AI-powered business processes provide amazing benefits for your growing company’s HR staff: HR Help Desk in the Cloud: Helps with compliance by optimizing the management and security of sensitive employee relations cases through configurable actions, such as managing data collection by category and queue. Extended knowledge management capabilities ensure consistent search and content based on security and versioning.  Advanced HCM Controls: A pre-built library of best practice controls, security dashboards, and workbench capabilities to help organizations stop unauthorized access to sensitive HCM functions and data. With the ability to also manage exception and policy violations, HR departments can keep classified employee data protected, while lowering compliance costs (GDPR, SOX etc.), by automating audit procedures and analysis. Watch the video with Oracle Group VP Nagaraj Nadendla: Machine Learning Machine learning (ML) has been incorporated into Oracle HCM Cloud as a key component to the recommendation engine. This opens up many possibilities, all designed to improve employee engagement, career advancement, and succession planning. For example, managers are now able to make: Learning recommendations based on the employee’s profile. For example, if employees in similar positions have watched a certain video or taken certain courses, then the recommendation could be made for similar employee to do the same. Recommendations based on the work that the employee is doing. Does the employee need to take a class to upgrade their skills or get recertified? Recommendations for succession planning and/or career planning. For example, employees could be presented with a list of recommended roles based on their performance, background, or current role. For succession planning, management is able to eliminate all bias out of the process. They can use technology to determine who would really be the best fit out of a slate of possible successors. All of these features could prove to be very helpful to a small-to-medium business’s (SMB) HR department as it competes with larger companies for top talent. Learn how Oracle HCM Cloud can help your high-growth company.

Oracle HCM Cloud has been working with emerging technologies—namely predictive analytics— for almost a decade. Recently though, we have taken another large step forward by incorporating artificial...

Emerging Technologies

The Future of Enterprise Productivity and Innovation in the Cloud

Growing up, my imagination about artificial intelligence (AI) was limited to sci-fi novels and movies. Today, AI is ubiquitous, lives and breathes among us. Conversational AIs have become part and parcel of our daily lives. Whether it is listening to music or management of work calendar, recommended TV programs, requesting a rideshare AI is the underlining technology.  Given the presence of AI in our lives today, one would imagine that their applications will be limited to entertainment and play, but that indeed is not the case. More and more of us are interacting with AI on a daily basis and more and more small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are embracing AI as part of their technology strategy to reinvent new business models, to become productive, to help make smarter business decisions, and to deliver on the promise of exceptional customer service. According to Accenture, the impact of AI technologies on business is projected to increase labor productivity by up to 40% and enable people to make more efficient use of their time. Voice assistants are being incorporated into a wide range of consumer products; nearly 46% of U.S. adults said they use AI based applications to interact with smartphones and other devices (Pew Research Center).  More than 80% of executives surveyed by MIT Sloan Management Review view AI as a strategic opportunity. AI Augments Cloud Technology Exponentially Enterprises have already come to realization that Cloud is the way to go to stay relevant in this digital age. Cloud provides necessary business agility that businesses need to succeed to drive innovation to stay competitive. On the other side, AI and machine learning (ML) further help organizations to analyze and decipher data faster, learn from historic and real-time data to help make smarter decisions. AI/ML systems continuously learn from old and new datasets: batch or streaming data on continuous basis with ability to churn optimized solutions fast with high level of efficiency. Cloud coupled with AI delivers greater value to businesses now since businesses can achieve agility that cloud has to offer with exceptional intelligence – further accelerating innovation, providing insights with reduced risk, lower costs due to automation of the mundane tasks and reduction of human errors. Combined these forceful technologies are paving way for enterprise productivity, innovation, exceptional customer services and operational excellence. Learn more about Oracle Autonomous Cloud Services. Oracle Autonomous Cloud: Where AI Meets Enterprise Grade, Open, Secure & Integrated Cloud Platform The very word “autonomous” gives the meaning away; intelligence that can manage and take care of itself without outside help. In simple words AI + Cloud = Autonomous Cloud. Oracle Autonomous Cloud uses AI and built-in machine learning algorithms to deliver a cloud platform to developers, IT professional and business leaders to develop, extend, connect and secure cloud applications that are self-driving, self-securing and self-repairing helping organizations lower cost, reduce risk, accelerate innovation, and get predictive insights. Let us define what each of these foundational capabilities of Oracle Autonomous Cloud really mean Self-driving: automatically provisions, secures, monitors, tunes, and upgrades Self-securing: automatically applying security patches with no downtime Self-repairing: maximizing uptime and productivity with 99.995% availability; which is less than 2.5 minutes of both planned AND unplanned downtime a month. What makes Oracle Autonomous Cloud Platform exceptional is comprehensive set of services and technologies that any enterprise will need to drive successful transformations. Autonomous capabilities are available across the enterprise software stack – Analytics, Data management, App dev, App & Data Integration, Mobile & Bots, Security and Management. Let us discuss few functional capabilities of the platform that makes it exceptional: Oracle Analytics Cloud combines the power of AI/ML, and service automation to deliver a capability that helps break down the silos and bridge the gap between number of data sources and data types, business processes, people and things helping organizations discover insights to make better business decisions. It is a known fact that organizations are marred by integration challenges. With Oracle autonomous integration cloud businesses have access to pre-built application integration and process automation accelerating organization integration initiatives across cloud and on-premises applications. Business agility and digital transformation are on top of the minds of business executives to help drive innovation fast and stay relevant in today's digital economy. They can achieve both with Oracle Autonomous Visual Builder Cloud with built-in adaptive intelligence and machine learning algorithms that help to accelerate application development and deployment for web and mobile apps, providing business analysts and code developers with the ability to extend existing apps or build new custom apps with simple drag and drop & low code capabilities. Autonomous Cloud is the Strategy of the Future and that Future is Here Yes, AI has long been pinned as the strategy of the future and that future happens to be here. With a robust enterprise, AI strategy enterprises can expect to see operational excellence, product innovation and generation of new revenue models and delivery of exceptional customer experience. To make sure businesses are able to deliver on these business outcomes they need to look into solution provider who can provide comprehensive, integrated, AI-based secure, open enterprise-grade solutions which can help transform their business environment quickly and efficiently. Join us on June 7th for a live webcast covering the Oracle Autonomous Cloud vision.   By Savita Raina, Director Product Marketing, Oracle | @sraina03 | LinkedIn This article was first published on LinkedIn.

Growing up, my imagination about artificial intelligence (AI) was limited to sci-fi novels and movies. Today, AI is ubiquitous, lives and breathes among us. Conversational AIs have become part and...

Customer Experience

Can AI Help Hone Your Marketing Strategy? It Did For DocuSign

As part of its efforts to grow its customer base and continue its rapid pace of expansion, DocuSign’s marketing team is using Oracle Eloqua to see exactly who the platform’s users are, understand how they’re using the platform, and then quickly prioritize how to market to them, says Robin Joy, senior vice president of digital demand and web sales. Because DocuSign has a range of customers, from self-employed real estate agents to large global enterprises, “the key is to tailor the experience that’s right for each user,” Joy says. Related: How Tech is Empowering Businesses to Create Exceptional Customer Experiences The lead-scoring module of Oracle Eloqua, part of Oracle Marketing Cloud, lets Joy’s team tailor its marketing to specific customer profiles. If a customer is, say, a procurement director at a major bank or a partner in a small law firm, Joy’s team can then help those individuals find a white paper or attend a webinar tailored to their role, sector, and company size. Oracle Eloqua’s artificial intelligence technology also lets DocuSign analyze how users went from exploring the platform’s features to buying a subscription, helping the company modify its lead-scoring algorithms “to determine the best engagement model for each type of prospect,” says Andrew Stafford, director of marketing operations. Robin Joy, right, senior vice president of digital demand and web sales, consults with members of her team at DocuSign’s San Francisco headquarters. Read the full article on Forbes.

As part of its efforts to grow its customer base and continue its rapid pace of expansion, DocuSign’s marketing team is using Oracle Eloqua to see exactly who the platform’s users are, understand how...

Growth Corner

Why Comfort Zones Are Business Killers

A comfort zone is a place that many people spend their entire lives trying to establish and inhabit. They design their comfort zones around material items, décor, foods, and people—and once a comfort zone is completed, almost no one ever wants to leave it. For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), comfort zones can be deadly. The 500+ members of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, an organization that helps business owners grow their companies at accelerated rates, are not allowed to build comfort zones. In fact, one of my daily responsibilities is to make sure our entrepreneurs never entertain the idea of building a place that allows them to rest on their laurels. This may sound harsh, but it’s for good reason. Fast-growth entrepreneurs are among the most high-risk people in the world. If my organization allowed our members to get comfortable, they would become stale—they would lose the edge they need to succeed in business. Like a nagging middle-school teacher, I’m constantly asking them questions to make sure they stay sharp. The questions I ask prepare entrepreneurs for the headwinds they will inevitably hit as they enter uncharted waters. We prepare them to survive without getting blown off course or losing valuable assets on their journey. One of the questions I ask is, “When is it time to pivot your business because of an obstacle in front of you vs. staying the course and simply moving past whatever is in front of you?” In most discussions, I tell them the answer can be found in three parts: Understand that there rarely is one answer to a question. You must explore all options to make sure you can choose the best one for your business. Your curiosity in turning over every possible stone for clues will greatly increase your chances for success. Read everything you can about your industry, market trends, and how events happening around the world can impact your business. This information, and examples of what other companies did in similar situations, will help entrepreneurs determine the best path for their company. Don’t waste money and resources trying to figure out the answers to your problems; countless companies have already dealt with similar issues and documented their results in industry publications or blog posts. If you’re curious and well-read, then you will know whether to pivot your business because the headwinds are too strong, or you will know you can get around the obstacle in front of you and keep pushing ahead. This knowledge helps reinforce the decision to never, ever quit. A curious, well-read entrepreneur understands that a comfort zone may protect them from headwinds in the short-term, but it will ultimately lead to the death of their company. They must always move forward, never allowing success to soften their competitive edges or take their eyes off the road ahead. For more insights from Cliff Oxford, listen to the latest SMB Experts podcast episode, How Technology is Disrupting Everything, where Cliff discusses the latest technologies and how businesses can benefit from them.

A comfort zone is a place that many people spend their entire lives trying to establish and inhabit. They design their comfort zones around material items, décor, foods, and people—and once a comfort...

Customer Experience

6 Myths About Configure-Price-Quote Debunked

By Graham McInnes, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) is more than just a sales tool, it's a path for business transformation. It gets sales teams out into the field, in front of customers, and closes deals faster. It can be used as a self-service tool for the end-user; it can support a robust partner/distributor ecosystem, and it can be used to speed sales cycles and ensure that promises become realities. The CPQ vendor ecosystem has exploded in recent years and with that growth so has the noise and misinformation. So let’s take a moment to debunk some of the myths that are floating around about Oracle CPQ Cloud. Myth: CPQ vendors are all the same. Truth: It is a crazy market now full of new upstarts, tentative alliances, crumbling partnerships, assurances/exaggeration, over simplification, and one-size-fits-all offers. A CPQ solution touches many facets of an organization, so not vetting a vendor thoroughly could lead to a spectacular failure. And this could mean many things, not just situation where the customer refused to sign off on the go-live. It could very well mean low user adoption by the sales team or that the data and the reports produced by the news are not trusted. The fact of the matter is that CPQ solutions are different—very different. Oracle CPQ is trusted by over 400 well-known brand names and used by more than 400,000 employees. You can trust us. Myth: Other vendors say CPQ projects are easy. Truth: Signing the contract is easy. Initializing an instance of the software is easy. Other CPQ vendors may minimize the importance of implementation and integration and then come back and attempt to rescope the project. This is the same thing as them providing you with a square peg and asking you to smash it through a round hole. Beware; sometimes the simplicity of the purchase leads you down the wrong path.   See how CPQ can benefit your growing business.   Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud implementations are lengthy. Truth: Implementation can take as little as four weeks. The reality is that companies, systems, and processes can be complex, especially if a variety of solutions have been cobbled together to solve problems as they arise. We acknowledge this. Simplification and integration is what we are good at. Actual go-live timing depends on the scope of the rollout; what products are covered, which processes are included, what documents/reports need to be created, and what parts of the ecosystem need to be connected to gain value. We will work with you to determine what roll out plan is best for you. It may be a multi-phased approach with quick hits along the way or more of a “big-bang” approach. Whatever works for your business needs. Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud is complex. Truth: We have a loyal customer base with ultra-complex product variations and world-class pricing complexity. But the reason Oracle CPQ is used by these businesses is not because the product is complex, it’s because the solution easily handles complexity. That doesn’t mean Oracle CPQ Cloud is complex. Our solution can comfortably handle both simple products/simple pricing scenarios and complicated products/complicated pricing structures. How you implement is your choice; you can start simple to achieve an early ROI and build up the use of CPQ as your business grows. It’s up to you. Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud will force fit business process changes. Truth: You should never change your business to fit the capabilities of a particular application. If our competition is guiding you towards ‘Best Practices’ it may be that their CPQ cannot handle your particular business processes or needs. Rolling out a CPQ Cloud solution isn’t just “automating” certain specific process with a new tool. That only serves to shift your bottlenecks elsewhere because that process is a little faster. You need a CPQ tool that can communicate and share data with all your systems, supporting your company in how you want to do business, not the other way around. Myth: Oracle CPQ Cloud is a challenging product. Truth: A well-executed CPQ Cloud implementation introduces process efficiencies that touch many parts of the company. For many organizations, a CPQ project is the first time they have had the opportunity to map out their entire process flow including all parties involved, system challenges, approval points, wild card dependencies, integration and transition points, and commonly accepted process disturbances unique to the organization. This usually means organizational changes and that is challenging.  That doesn’t mean that CPQ is challenging or complex. In fact, CPQ is often the first part of a larger ‘get going, get better, get ahead’ initiatives at growing companies. Gartner positions Oracle CPQ Cloud as a leader. Read the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Configure, Price and Quote Application Suites report.    

By Graham McInnes, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) is more than just a sales tool, it's a path for business transformation. It gets sales teams out into the field,...

Human Resources

Two Steps to Build Your Brand

A vital component of entrepreneurial business growth is the development of your brand. A company’s brand is all encompassing; it’s used to identify and differentiate your products or services from everything and everybody else. It can be a word, symbol, slogan, acronym, packaging, color, etc. The first step in building your brand is to determine the role that it will play in communicating your corporate message to consumers, employees, and suppliers. What is your brand’s unique message or goal? These questions can help you reach your answer: What is your mission, purpose, or value? The brand is the corporate rallying flag and represents the culture of the company. How can you build brand loyalty? The goal of your brand is to capture customers early in their lifetime and hold onto them forever. For example, consider Starbucks, Coke, or Apple—each of these companies have established large followings of committed brand advocates. How can you best convey your message or commitment? The brand’s promise is to build trust with the customer; for example, Allstate’s “In Good Hands” slogan. Brand-Planning Meeting After you determine how your brand fits into your corporate strategy, your next step is to schedule a brand-planning meeting to develop your positioning. The exact attendees needed for this meeting will vary based on your product or service, but it typically involves your CEO, senior sales and marketing teams, outside sales and marketing consultants and advisors, trademark counsel, and maybe even some of your biggest target customers. Here’s a sample agenda you can use during a brand evaluation and positioning meeting: What is the history of perceptions and uses of the company’s brand(s)? What have been consistencies (or inconsistencies) in the application or usage of the brand(s) – i.e., the brand(s) as a manifestation of the company’s character and personality? How do different departments within the organization see the vision and strategy for the brand? Consider the views from leadership, down. What are the strategic, financial, and marketing goals for the brand(s)? What are the current core and extended customer perceptions of the company’s current brand(s)? What value proposition(s) do the brand(s) represent? Are the goals for the brand(s) aligned with current internal and external perceptions? What role does the brand play in decision making of current and targeted customers or channel partners? What tools are being used to convey and maintain the branding message(s)? How does the branding strategy fit into other programs in place to increase customer loyalty and drive new revenue streams? How can the company brand(s) be managed as corporate assets (brands as standalone assets versus mere marketing tools)? In what form(s) does the brand(s) manifest itself (e.g., words, symbols, slogans, shapes, spokesperson, sounds, jingles, etc)? The amount of information bombarding customers daily has grown exponentially over the last decade. Your brand has a very short window to capture the attention of customers and prospects—and you have even less time to share your message with them. Make sure your brand identity is strong enough to get the job done. Want more insights from Andrew Sherman? Check out the latest SMB Experts podcast episode, Are Your Employees Happy, where Andrew discusses how to keep your workforce engaged and performing at their best.

A vital component of entrepreneurial business growth is the development of your brand. A company’s brand is all encompassing; it’s used to identify and differentiate your products or services from...

Customer Experience

How to Build More Spaceships in the Oracle CX Cloud

AirBorn is using an Oracle Customer Experience Cloud Service application stack to create a self-service platform that customers use to easily configure products, request quotes, and submit orders with little or no help from the vendor’s staff. What’s more, “we’re no longer forced to spend hours sifting through spreadsheets and emails in search of customer contacts and order histories,” says Mike Kramer, director of software integration and web applications. AirBorn sales reps can now log into Oracle Service Cloud and see, for example, exactly what everyone from a Raytheon division has configured, ordered, and purchased. Digital image displays help AirBorn customers configure products for multiple scenarios. “What we’re trying to do is take these billions of combinations and help guide a customer, in a very easy way, to the right set of products they need,” Kramer says. In the next phase of the project, AirBorn will migrate its print catalog to Oracle Commerce Cloud Service. Using the application’s built-in search engine optimization capabilities, the company has created a huge library of key phrases that match natural language descriptions for each of its product families. Related: How to Do Battle With Big Manufacturers–and Win Oracle Commerce Cloud will also allow AirBorn to get into the parts-testing business. “Now we have a platform that can customize different tests for individual missions on demand,” Kramer says. The last pillar of Airborn’s customer experience platform is anchored in Oracle CPQ Cloud Service.  This cloud-based quoting tool integrates with both Oracle Commerce Cloud and AirBorn’s ERPs, automating the process for listing the quantities of each part needed and then costing out the work to make and deliver the finished system, says Rommel Bayola, AirBorn’s director of digital transformation. Once AirBorn’s customers have configured their products and provided special instructions in Oracle Commerce Cloud, the application automatically notifies one of the company’s ERPs, which creates a bill of material, calculates a cost, determines the production lead time, and works up a price. “Nobody in the company needs to touch the quote,” Bayola says. “It’s all handled in the cloud.” Read the full Airborn article on Forbes.

AirBorn is using an Oracle Customer Experience Cloud Serviceapplication stack to create a self-service platform that customers use to easily configure products, request quotes, and submit orders with...

Growth Corner

5 Areas High-Growth Companies Are Spending Cash on in 2018

Expansion will be the focal point for America’s fastest-growing companies (as represented by the Inc. 5000) in 2018. This includes: expanding sales, hiring more employees, growing market share, and entering new geographies. As you may know, Inc. Media and Oracle partnered last year to get into the heads of the leaders of these high-growth companies. The results were thought-provoking; 2017 was the year of “talent and tech.” Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) were looking for both the people and the right technology to help them grow. So we thought we would revisit the subject and see what (if anything) has changed for 2018. Well, the results are in, and (as I mentioned in the opening paragraph) it is all about growth, expansion, and trying to get a bigger piece of the pie. So enough of me blathering on. Let’s get to the results: 57 percent plan to move into new market segments. Not surprising. If you have saturated your current market, then the time has come to move into new ones. And (in reality) in today’s globalized world, companies have to move beyond their starting point if they want to survive and grow. By doing so, they will (of course) acquire new customers, spread out risk, and provide a market with more choice, which actually can increase consumer per-capita spend. In fact, international growth is a focus in 2018; 46 percent of the respondents are currently doing business internationally. Over three-quarters of those (76 percent) expect to increase their international efforts, while another seven percent intend to start doing business abroad in 2018. 56 percent plan to increase the output of their current product line. Sales and growth are direct variables. The Inc. 5000 companies are taking the initiative, and instead of waiting for their customers to place larger orders, they are focusing on selling to those who have the potential for the highest customer lifetime value (CLV)—for a quick ROI.  50 percent plan to offer new products. One of the best ways to expand your business is to be the first to go to market with a new product. Instant competitive advantage. The key is to establish a culture of innovation. Easier said than done, yeah I know, but that can be an article for another blog. Innovation can come from anywhere. It does not have to be from your competitors (or you lose that competitive advantage), and it does not have to come from your industry. Sometimes the greatest ideas are based on products from other sectors, rotating 360-degree surge protectors, citrus spritzers, and even hourglass LED traffic lights are just a couple of examples. 30 percent plan to open new facilities. Growth often requires facility expansion, especially if you are in the manufacturing or retail industry. Having a facility that you either create or sell the product in is vital.  However, no matter the industry, there are some common things you need to be cognizant about. If you are retail, what makes your current location(s) a success? The site, the employees, or you? That is an important point, because to succeed you need to be able to duplicate what was special about that facility. If you are manufacturing, figure out what your options are. Do you need a new facility to support a new customer (ala Walmart) or do you need to be closer to raw materials, or is the talent you need located in a specific area (for example, close to a well-known trade school)?  Look at the reasons why you need a new facility, and figure out the best course. 30 percent plan to undergo a merger or acquisition. Perhaps the most aggressive expansion strategy is to buy or merge with a company that makes products that are either complementary to yours or fills a gap you need to fill. A merger or acquisition, done right, can expand your customer base, increase intellectual capital (thanks to an influx of new talent), and provide operational efficiencies. The trick is finding the right company at the right price.   Find out what the leaders of the Inc. 5000 say the secrets of success are for 2018!   Optimistic Outlook Our study also showed that these same leaders are very confident about their business prospects this year.  Not only are they confident, but they are channeling that confidence with key actions and investments: Thanks to their rapid growth, 80 percent intend to hire more employees and invest in the programs needed to help retain them. Their focus? People with the necessary leadership skills to handle the demands of a fast-growing business. 85 percent are looking to invest in growing their customer base and then retaining those customers, by 1) supporting multiple channels for customer service, including a heavy emphasis on self-service options and 2) focusing on new markets that they had not previously been able to address aggressively enough.  One-third intend to invest in technology, including cloud solutions, as a top spending priority in 2018. One-quarter intend to focus on having real-time information on their financial position. They plan to focus on delivering better inputs for planning/budgeting, managing cash flow better, and closing their books quicker and more accurately. One Million Dollars! On a more whimsical point, we asked the Inc. 5000 what they would do with an extra $1 million if it fell into their lap. SMB leaders said that they would focus their windfall on those things that helped their fast-growing companies land on the Inc. 5000 in the first place. Over two-fifths (41 percent) said they would use it to expand and upgrade marketing efforts; 39 percent said they would spend the money to improve business operations; 36 percent would upgrade and expand their sales teams.  Want to know more about the survey results? Download them now, and see what the top market disruptors in your space are looking to do in 2018!

Expansion will be the focal point for America’s fastest-growing companies (as represented by the Inc. 5000) in 2018. This includes: expanding sales, hiring more employees, growing market share,...

Customer Experience

How Duel Increases Conversion Rates with Customer Advocacy

By So young Park, Director of Customer and Product Strategy, Oracle and Stephanie Hlavin, Senior Content Strategist Integrated Marketing, Oracle When it comes to trying something new, or making a purchase you’re not entirely certain about, being first can up the anxiety even further. Duel, a hot startup – and member of the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator Program, understands this. Naio Tsarouchis, the Co-Founder and CTO of Duel explains, “Duel is a Customer Advocacy Marketing Platform that allows brands and retailers to turn their customers into their most valuable marketing and sales channel.” As brands and retailers compete in a perfect, uniform and monster of a market, Tsarouchis says, the prime challenge facing retailers is differentiation. “They (retailers) almost all have the same indistinguishable, clinical look, providing only basic information and generic professional pictures. This results in low conversion rates - a race to the bottom of similar offerings where only price (and Amazon’s ultra fast delivery) decides.” Consumer trust in marketing, he adds, is also at an all-time low. Duel Helps Retailers Increase Conversion Rates The platform works by acquiring visual testimonials from happy customers once they’ve received a product or service, then uses them to increase conversion rates in ecommerce, drive traffic, and supercharge marketing and advertising. Customer advocacy and testimonials on product pages and in marketing (advertising, social etc.) provide social proof, add authenticity, and create emotional connections, which drives up conversion rates by 25% as well as boosts click-through rate and sales. Machine Learning, AI and Automation Play Important Roles Duel’s unique approach and automation technology means it’s the only platform that truly scales customer advocacy, collecting testimonials across tens of thousands of products and millions of customers. It then connects those to every product SKU across the enterprise marketing stack. “We use Machine Vision for automatic moderation and keyword tagging for every submitted visual customer testimonial,” explains Tsarouchis. First, every piece of content gets scanned and analysed whether it is safe for work (with violent and explicit content being automatically banned by Duel). Then tags are added automatically to every image, including a product SKU for an easy but advanced search. Automatic moderation saves a mountain of time if you’ve have thousands of products in your store. Same goes for the keyword tagging—our automation enables retailers to repurpose visual customer testimonials from the growing database in a new campaign swiftly. This results in more than 10x the engagement achieved through conventional hashtag scrapers and social-focused user generated content tools. Paul Archer, CEO at Duel, Keynote Highlights from Modern CX 2018 A small and medium-size business (SMB) themselves, Duel’s offerings are appropriate for any size organization. A relaunch of their dashboard was designed to suit the requirements of enterprise retailers. And their most recent release is a new version of their extension that makes the set-up for clients entirely turnkey. Tsarouchis said the release is specially made for Oracle Commerce Cloud and Responsys and, “automates the entire process of the catalog connection and the distribution of the galleries on each product page. In essence, every customer will be contacted after each purchase to be converted into an advocate. Then, every product page will display sku-specific advocate content as it’s gathered and approved, automatically boosting your sales at the flip of a switch!” Duel recently launched its Oracle Commerce Cloud (OCC) integration which is live in Oracle Cloud Marketplace. With it, OCC customers can automatically display Duel-created visual customer testimonial galleries for individual products without having to aggregate content from social media. Read the full interview with Duel.

By So young Park, Director of Customer and Product Strategy, Oracle and Stephanie Hlavin, Senior Content Strategist Integrated Marketing, Oracle When it comes to trying something new, or making a...

Supply Chain Management

Why Now is the Time to Prepare Your Supply Chain for the Holidays

By Joan Lim, Product Marketing, Supply Chain Management Cloud, Oracle For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), a busy holiday season can make—or break—the year. A rush of product orders can provide a welcome revenue boost, if you’re prepared. But if not? You may run out of popular items, and be forced to either expedite orders, which can be an expensive proposition, or lose customers and business. The key to making this holiday season (and any other busy time, for that matter) a great one: Preparing your supply chain early. Thoughtful supply chain management and planning for everything from spikes in product demand, to increased website traffic, to treacherous weather can ensure that your business sails smoothly through the holidays. When Should SMBs Begin Their Holiday Prep? According to a new report from retail analyst IHL group, out-of-stock items, overstocked product and returns cost retailers around the world $1.75 trillion each year. Forecasting your customers’ demands for say the hottest toy or your newest ice cream flavor and preparing to meet them can prevent your SMB from losing money, especially during the holidays. But when should that planning start? Many companies review their forecasts for the next holiday season in the first quarter of the year – and when you put your plan into motion varies depending on your business and industry. For example, if you’re manufacturing toys or electronics, the production/distribution timeline is typically three months. That means if you want your product in the warehouse by November 1 to be ready for Black Friday business, then you need to start the process of acquiring materials, assembling the product and have it ready to ship by August. Several factors come into play when it comes to how far out your planning should start, including your product shelf-life and warehouse requirements, where your products are manufactured, and the availability of raw materials at certain times of the year. Regardless of what timeline works best for your SMB, the point remains the same—planning to plan is always smart. Download the iPaper: Oracle Modern Supply Chain Solutions Empower the Age of the Individual.     Anticipating the Unexpected  Evaluating and preparing your supply chain for a spike in demand goes far beyond simply ordering more product. The most effective plans address your end-to-end process from the materials needed to make the product to the customer experience. Here are several key areas to consider: Historical Data Look back over your previous holiday or summer peaks and identify trends across the business, from increased shipping costs, shortage of warehouse space to extended delivery times and demand for specific products. For many SMB retailers, inventory is often the largest asset on your balance sheet. In these situations, a cloud-based SCM platform can be invaluable by providing analytics as well as a customizable dashboard that makes identifying and tracking what’s important to your business. Supplier Relationships For SMBs, close coordination with suppliers is critical to handling increases in demand, while minimizing costs. When planning for the holidays, connect with your third-party suppliers to ensure they have access to raw materials and the capacity for additional production. If you have only one supplier, create a contingency plan that accounts for the worst case business process scenarios— such as the supplier going bankrupt, having a finite source, or choosing to end your contract. Production Line Readiness If you’re manufacturing your own products, then preparation should include evaluating the logistics and readiness of your production line. For example, you’ll want to plan for increased maintenance before and during peaks to avoid any disruptions. For SMBs looking to gain a competitive advantage, IoT solutions provide an array of opportunities for remotely monitoring your equipment and connecting that information to your SCM software. Workforce Training You also want your staff to be ready for a surge in orders. Whether it’s teaching seasonal hires how to properly package and deliver a product or how to manage detailed customer requests, early planning ensures that your products remain high-quality even as you’re ramping up production. Warehouse Storage Capacity If you plan to have additional inventory, you’ll need a place to store it. Supply chain management software such as Oracle SCM Cloud provides warehouse management tools that track how you’re currently using your space and what’s available for overflow. A cloud-based solution offers small businesses better value at a lower cost, minimizing fixed costs, and makes it easier to scale your supply chain as your company grows. Transportation Plans In an Amazon-driven e-commerce era, consumers expect to order their products and track them through delivery, which is ideally within a few days. Sorting out your SMB’s transportation needs prior to the holidays is critical to meeting these expectations. Knowing where your products are any time and anywhere, from manufacturing to delivery, will help you understand what types of timeline guarantees you provide customers. Marketing Campaigns You’ll want to take any planned promotions into account so that your supply chain is ready to support them. Coordinate with your marketing team early about holiday plans and what products they want to feature. For instance, a food products company may have seasonal flavors that they want to push around specific times of year. Weather and Transportation While you can’t precisely predict the weather, you can create backup plans for traffic jams, road closures and even delayed shipments. In fact, Oracle’s SCM cloud platform includes a transportation planning app that provides drivers and other logistics staff with real-time data and alternate route suggestions. Customer Experience Maintaining product quality and timely delivery logistics throughout a busy season certainly contributes to a better customer experience. But when you’re planning for the holidays, also consider other aspects of the customer experience such as improved options for returns, sourcing faster delivery options and increased availability of customer service reps.  Putting Your Best Foot Forward The holidays happen, whether you’re prepared or playing catch up. For small-to-medium businesses, the goal is to minimize cost, while maximizing on the opportunities that a busy season can offer. Prepare a supply chain management plan that takes into account these key aspects and tap into an SCM solution that streamlines your planning process and you’ll set your company up for busy season success. Learn more about how Oracle SCM Cloud provides small businesses with an affordable, scalable solution that improves supply chain visibility, analytics and more.

By Joan Lim, Product Marketing, Supply Chain Management Cloud, Oracle For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), a busy holiday season can make—or break—the year. A rush of product orders can provide...

Customer Experience

How One SMB Is Extinguishing Business Risk in the Cloud

Fike, a Missouri-based manufacturer of industrial fire-, explosion-, and over-pressure protection systems, just completed a global rollout of Oracle Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Cloud helping its salespeople and distributors walk customers through the product-configuration process (70 percent of company sales come from custom configurations) and submit their quote requests. Previously, Fike’s salespeople used spreadsheets to capture orders, re-entering the information into an on-premises quoting system and then checking it against product prices and production schedules in its enterprise resource planning systems. It took 30 to 60 days to complete an order, says CIO Michael Lehman says. As a result, Fike had to rush production and pay premium freight prices to expedite product shipments. “This was completely unsustainable,” Lehman says. By uploading engineering rules, product descriptions, and configuration guidelines into Oracle CPQ Cloud, customers now get a completed work order in a few minutes, continues Lehman. Fike is also processing customer orders faster by using Oracle Sales Cloud, sometimes eliminating the configuration process altogether. “When a customer that’s headquartered in Hungary expands to Brazil or China, it typically wants the same type of product configuration and service contracts worldwide,” explains Jeannie Foster, Fike director of business systems. Before using Oracle Sales Cloud, none of Fike’s hundreds of sales reps worldwide had a complete picture of a customer’s history. Because each rep manages different product lines and sells into different divisions of a single account, “we often had zero insight into what was configured and shipped to a customer’s refinery in North America or its control room in Latin America or its data center in Europe,” Foster says. With Oracle Sales Cloud, all customer information is consolidated into one place. And now that Oracle Sales Cloud is linked to Oracle CPQ Cloud, Fike’s sales teams not only can see the company’s entire history with each customer, but also “the activities going on in all their facilities,” she says. Meanwhile, using the cross-selling feature of Oracle Sales Cloud, Fike’s sales teams can better explain how to complement each customer’s current portfolio of products, says Penny Ursino, director of sales operations. “Our sales teams used to spend their time fixing spreadsheet errors,” Ursino says. “In the cloud, we’re spending more time understanding business requirements and helping our customers protect their employees and capital investments.” Read the full article on Forbes: Industrial Safety Products Vendor Looks To Extinguish Business Risk.

Fike, a Missouri-based manufacturer of industrial fire-, explosion-, and over-pressure protection systems, just completed a global rollout of Oracle Configure Price Quote (CPQ) Cloud helping its...

IT

What is Visual Builder and Why Is It Important for Your Business?

Shay Shmeltzer, Director, Product Management and Strategy, Oracle Cloud Platform For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), developing engaging interfaces for your applications is a key step in the way to getting customers to adopt your solution. While new technologies are constantly providing new ways for growing companies to create better interfaces, developers sometimes struggle to keep up to speed with the latest emerging technology. In many SMBs with limited IT resources, developers can become a bottleneck for as they try to produce new applications at the speed of changing business needs. Add to this challenge the fact that it is no longer enough to provide just web interfaces, and that customers are also expecting great experience from mobile devices and your challenges just doubled. New Oracle Autonomous Cloud Platform Services The new Oracle Autonomous Visual Builder Cloud Service, released this month, aims to elevate these roadblocks by providing a visual development experience that accelerates and simplifies the creation of both mobile and web application – with zero installs thanks to a cloud based architecture. Visual Builder Cloud Service (VBCS) provides a browser based development environment that focuses on visual development techniques to create user interfaces, business objects, and business logic. With drag and drop UI creation, visual logic definition, and declarative business object creation – development is streamlined. The service is not just a development platform – it is also the hosting and publishing platform for your apps. Making it easy to host a cloud web interface, or deliver a mobile optimize iOS and Android experience with a click of a button. Applications built with VBCS are based on industry standards such as JavaScript, HTML5 and REST. This allows you to leverage existing resources and bring them into the extensible platform. Whether these will be existing UI components or data collections from external systems – integration is easy. Read more about what’s new in Oracle Visual Builder Cloud Service. Check out these quick 10 minute demos showing you how to start from scratch and produce a complete application.

Shay Shmeltzer, Director, Product Management and Strategy, Oracle Cloud Platform For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), developing engaging interfaces for your applications is a key step in the way...

Finance

The Best Planning Methods for Strategic Growth

By Jennifer Toomey, Senior Director, Cloud Business Group, Oracle Technology has made it possible for companies in virtually every industry to operate with greater speed and efficiency at every stage of the business cycle, from product design to supply-chain management, finance, sales, customer marketing and distribution. Yet, remarkably, many companies continue to rely on old-school systems and processes for what is arguably the basis of successful business growth: planning. More than a formality, smart budgeting and forecasting make it possible for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) to think strategically and respond quickly to opportunities and risks in the marketplace. Of course, these days it isn’t enough to simply have a plan. SMBs also need to think progressively about how they plan. In today’s fast-paced environment, annual budgets and projections built on spreadsheets are often out-of-date before finance teams even finish them – assuming they were even accurate to begin with. Fortunately, cloud-based planning solutions make it possible for SMBs to approach planning from an entirely different angle (or many different angles, as it were), and in a way that doesn’t just keep pace with the rest of the business but makes it possible for small businesses to stay one step ahead and have a competitive advantage. Here are planning methods that agile finance teams have put into play: Driver-Based Planning As the name suggests, this method of planning goes beyond basic revenue or cost inputs of a standard financial plan and looks at the factors – the drivers – that ultimately determine the trajectory of a business. For example, whereas many companies build sales forecasts based on trends from previous years, driver-based planning starts with key variables that influence sales, and then business models are built based on that financial data insight. For an enterprise software company, that might include the number of sales representatives, quotas, renewal rates and changes in market share, to name a handful of common drivers. The same is true when it comes to expenses. Rather than base projections on last year’s numbers, driver-based planning looks both at internal factors – for example, an increase in employee headcount – as well as external factors, such as the impact of gas prices on transportation costs or supply-chain trends, to create more accurate models.  Even a decade ago, planning with this kind of granularity would have been a tall order for most SMBs. Now, thanks to cloud-based solutions, finance teams can easily access data coming from across their organizations to create and update their plans and forecasts with more precision, streamlining the business planning process. Rolling Forecasts Whereas driver-based planning focuses on improving the planning inputs, rolling forecasts are all about timing. Rather than building business plans around budgets and projections based on a single point in time – as is the case for the quarterly and annual estimates of old – rolling forecasts make it possible for companies to quickly adjust their plans based on real-time information. Rolling forecasts are now a best practice among larger organizations, where the typical forecast cycle is now a couple of weeks; leading organizations have condensed it to a matter of days. Many SMBs and entrepreneurs, meanwhile, are quickly adopting this planning method to help keep pace with the growth of their businesses, and adjust their strategies as new information rolls in. Although rolling forecasts are powerful in and of themselves, they are also an important precursor for taking planning a step ahead, such as with predictive analytics, machine learning and strategic modeling. Zero-Based Budgeting The traditional approach to budgeting is based on a combination of how much a department spent in the previous budget cycle and how much is available to spend in the next. This approach is often flawed for many reasons, including that it often incentivizes managers to spend more than necessary at the end of a budget cycle simply so they can ensure a reasonable money-back budget going forward. Increasingly, companies are adopting what is arguably a more rational process: zero-based budgeting (ZBB). In doing so, they effectively wipe the slate clean each budget cycle – to zero – and create a new budget plan based on what is actually needed. No saving, no spending unnecessarily: Just smart business planning. Among other benefits, zero-based budgeting requires managers to routinely revisit costs and spending, and justify how they fit into the business plan. This encourages employees to think more like owners, which in turn helps fund and improve profitability from the ground up.  Zero-based budgeting has been around since the 1970s, but it gained newfound attention in recent years because, among other reasons, many of the original drawbacks – including that it was time-consuming and labor intensive – no longer hold true in an era of cloud-based planning and resources. While zero-based budgeting is just starting to gain attention among SMBs, any organization looking to improve budgeting accountability can embrace some of its key principles to improve the planning process. To be sure, Zero-based budgeting isn’t just about cutting costs. It’s about improving accountability, empowering employees and managers, and putting the pieces in place for more sustainable, scalable and attainable growth. Learn more about how Oracle Enterprise Performance Management  Cloud helps SMBs adopt modern planning methods in our ebook, “Confessions of a Finance Manager.”

By Jennifer Toomey, Senior Director, Cloud Business Group, Oracle Technology has made it possible for companies in virtually every industry to operate with greater speed and efficiency at every stage...

Best Practices

Need Top Talent? How to Attract Better People With Culture Stories

Culture is becoming increasingly important to a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. And that means that recruiters must be adept at communicating effectively about their culture to prospective employees. In short, they must be able to create and communicate compelling culture stories. Why Culture Stories Matter to Today’s Talent So what’s a culture story? It’s the story of what matters to your organization, told from the perspective of its people. Once upon a time, it didn’t matter so much whether an organization had a compelling story to tell prospects. A good paycheck and benefits package was usually enough to attract and keep an employee bound—by “golden handcuffs”—to the company for most of their careers. But today, employees are more mobile. They’re digitally connected to opportunity through social media and professional networks that span industries across the globe. That’s part of what’s causing employee retention rates to fall with each generation, even at the best companies. They are also more digitally connected to work through mobile phones, email, direct messaging, and collaborative chat platforms and are asked to give more of themselves to their work. “Nine to five” has turned into “24/7.” In return for giving more, employees want more in return. They want a purpose that aligns with their personal purpose. They want opportunities to be part of something larger than themselves. They want to do work that matters, in a place that treats them like they matter.  They want a culture that makes them want to get up and work every day. Your culture story is how you communicate that sense of purpose and belonging. Identify Your Culture Story To tell an your culture story effectively, you first have to identify what that story is. Culture is how your organization operates: it’s a combination of purpose, values, people, and habits. Culture stories reflect what matters to your organization, and what makes your culture unique. In any story, it’s important to include the “5 W’s - Who, What, Where, When and Why.” In a culture story, those are the questions that you must clearly answer. The “W’s” for your organization’s culture story include: Why do your people do what they do - what’s your organization’s guiding purpose? What do people believe? What are they inspired by - what matters? What do they value? Does it (or can it) align with your organization’s beliefs. Who do you hire? What personal attributes are needed for success? It’s important to point out that the “who” aspect of your culture story does not mean you should hire people that all look, think, and act the same. But there may be some overarching traits that will be more successful at your company than others. Hiring managers need to know what these are and how to screen for them. Where are your offices located? Is it a suburb or an urban area? What is the actual office space like? Workplaces that value openness and collaboration, for example, may be able to demonstrate those values in the way their space has been designed. In addition, candidates even want to know about logistical concerns that might affect their experience such as parking and transportation. How does your organization work? What habits are shared in your organization? These might be reflected in things like hierarchy (or lack thereof), management principles, or approaches to business challenges. Your current employees can help create your culture story. Online surveys can be used to gather insights, but generally, to avoid coming up with answers that sound rote and boilerplate, you’ll need to dig a bit deeper. One-on-one conversations with employees around the company can help flesh out answers to tough questions about purpose and values. Some organizations hold a “purpose jam”—an organization-wide project to discover purpose. The key is to get a variety of viewpoints. Broad participation is needed to truly understand how to tell a culture story that will engage the various types of talent you’re looking to hire.   Learn how you can add value to your talent strategy to find and keep great employees.   Share your Culture Story Many times, organizations talk about vision, mission, and culture in ways that seem dry and corporate. Other times, the story might sound great, but isn’t realistic. Your culture story should never be boring, nor should it be fictional. Fiction may work to attract talent, but it’s doomed to failure when employees discover that your organization’s culture has been oversold. This inevitably leads to issues with retention, or worse yet, hiring an employee who doesn’t really bring value to the organization. That’s why it’s essential that these stories reflect the actual experience of working in your organization. According to the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends survey, honest perspectives are very important to candidates, along with employee views. Candidates want to hear the truth—both the positive and the negative—about working for your organization. Finally, it’s not just what you say in your culture story, it’s also how you say it. Don’t just hand candidates a brochure or a booklet. Tell your culture story using the media that candidates find most engaging. Use social media, blog posts, videos and behind-the-scenes vignettes that demonstrate the employees’ viewpoint around what makes your organization a unique and rewarding place to work. The Last Word Just as every company has a culture, they also have a culture story. It’s crucial to communicate that story, using your employees as your star storytellers. Ultimately, your culture is an amalgamation of what your employees experience. When you uncover the culture stories your people are living and share them with prospects, you’ll be able to answer the number one question today’s talent wants answered: “Why should I work for this company?” If your organization has overcome the plateau effect, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for contributors for a new book “Beyond the Plateau Effect.” If you can answer the question, “What role does culture play in your success?” visit our website to share your story. We would love to hear from you.

Culture is becoming increasingly important to a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. And that means that recruiters must be adept at communicating effectively about their culture to...

Emerging Technologies

Where Do SMBs Start with a Digital Vision?

In a recent SMB Group study, 57 percent of small-to-medium business (SMB) leaders, with revenues of $50 million to $1 billion, stated they think their revenues will increase in the next 12 months.1 Furthermore, 76 percent believe that digital technologies are ‘reshaping’ their industry.  From these stats, we can see that growing businesses understand the impact of digital technologies on their success. Yet, only 23 percent of SMB leaders ‘strongly agree’ that their company has a well-defined digital business strategy. Now is the opportunity, while the economy is favorable, for SMBs to introduce digital products, to establish a vision for how new technology—like cloud, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence—will secure long-term market growth. Embracing a Digital Business Vision The report found that SMBs without a digital business vision have not embraced one for various reasons. Leaders say: Digital technologies are too difficult to integrate with existing systems (34%) We don’t have enough money to adequately fund it (34%) Top decision-makers have not set specific goals (33%) We don’t have adequate IT skills/staff to support new technology (33%) It’s difficult to determine which solutions will best help us (31%) So, where to start? The responses from SMB leaders regarding their top drivers for investing in digital technologies to support their business are key: Attract new customers (35%) Improve employee productivity (33%) Streamline operations (33%) Reduce costs (32%) An SMB does not have to start ramping up digital business to simply attract new customers. Rather, by deploying cloud-based solutions internally, companies can enhance organizational capabilities that then transfer to customer-facing goals in the future. For example, Neil Martucci, Senior Vice President and Controller at ConnectOne Bank, explained that because they implemented cloud-based financials, they now operate in a more flexible and scalable environment that allows them to make business decisions that reduce risk, cut costs, and drive increased profitability as the company continues to grow. But perhaps most importantly, their customers benefit from their more tailored, personalized services.” If your SMB does not have a complete vision for digital transformation, there are multiple onramps to choose from. Cloud-based applications allow for digital technologies to drive scale and speed. In turn, positioning an organization to adapt and take on future growth-oriented digital transformation projects. Learn how to drive business growth by digitally transforming your customer experience. Don’t miss Entrepreneur and Oracle’s upcoming webinar, 3 Ways to Supercharge Business Growth with Customer Experience, on May 21st at 12 pm ET. Register now! 1 SMB Group, 2017 Digital Transformation Study: Executive Summary, November 2017

In a recent SMB Group study, 57 percent of small-to-medium business (SMB) leaders, with revenues of $50 million to $1 billion, stated they think their revenues will increase in the next 12 months.1 Fur...

Best Practices

6 Tips That Will Ease Your Search for the Right Short-Term Talent

Many more businesses than you may think experience some level of seasonality. Some examples include: The week before the Super Bowl, the sales of flat-screen TV increase substantially        Higher sun-care sales to retailers occur during the late winter through mid-summer months Accounting firms are at their busiest in the winter months—from January to April—as companies close out their fiscal years and individuals prepare their tax returns The overwhelming majority of 7-UP sales happen during the Christmas holidays That does not mean that sales screech to a grinding halt, it just means that the majority of your sales (and profits) occur in a much smaller window. When your “busy “season  descends upon you, you need to bring on more help, but if manual processes slow down the manner in which you find the right combination of workers, then your profit during that window will plummet. And for a seasonal business, that combined with the fact the unemployment rate remains low, means that acquiring the people and skills you need could be very difficult.   So sourcing, hiring, training, and creating a work environment that will incent key workers to return will be one of the most important things you do every year.  Quality vs. Quantity Many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) focus on quantity vs. quality when it comes to seasonal hiring, which can lead to trouble. If you do not take the time to properly source, hire, and onboard your seasonal workers, you could isolate your customers, lose business, lower productivity and lose money.      Learn how you can add value to your talent strategy to find and keep great employees.   Six Tips to Hire Great Seasonal Employees – No Matter the Season So if your growing business has any level of seasonality (and most do), ensure that you make the transition into your “busy season” effectively. Here are six tips to help you do just that. Take the time to write and maintain quality job descriptions for seasonal jobs. Just because a person will work for you for only a short period of time does not mean that their job description should only be verbally conveyed to them during the interview. They need to fully understand the job that they are being hired to do.  Recruit early and continuously. Plan seasonal hiring needs in advance to locate, recruit, and effectively onboard your seasonal workers. For example, if your busy season coincides with the holiday shopping period, do not wait to begin looking for seasonal help in October. The same holds true for summer help; waiting until April will make it almost impossible to effectively recruit, hire, and fully train your summer help.      Look for channels that can provide candidates who only want to work for a particular season. Today, college placement offices are extremely underutilized and can work with you to attract college students, whose schedules naturally fit with many summer and holiday seasonal hiring times. In fact, many of these students are working towards degrees that could apply directly to your needs, and they are off much longer than younger (i.e. high school students). This makes them excellent seasonal employees for both winter and summer positions.        Focus on having the best seasonal workers return. The unique aspect of seasonal work is that most of your employees will leave after a couple of months, and that is OK.  However, you would like the best to return. So keep this in mind during the hiring process. Many people look for seasonal work strictly for extra money or to keep their skills up-to-date. At the end of one season, determine which top-notch employees might want to return for the following season. By leveraging these workers, you will streamline your hiring process; thereby, reducing costs.      Onboard, onboard, onboard. Onboarding is not orientation. A  very common mistake is to have your seasonal workforce start working with only a simple overview of the facilities, breakroom, quick one-hour meeting to go through the handbook (if there is one). It is true that most seasonal work is about flexibility vs. highly technical skills, but (at some level) these employees (as ambassadors of your brand and business) need to be “onboarded” and trained in the exact same manner as your full-time hires. Customers will hold them to the same high standards as your employees, so train them to do so.  Do not forget the law.  If you are hiring employees (seasonal or otherwise), you must still provide certain benefits by law. These benefits vary by state but can include unemployment benefits, FICA, FUTA and workers’ compensation. Also, seasonal employees are subject to the same tax withholding rules as other employees. Finally, do not forget that a variety of labor laws covering harassment, discrimination, and workplace health and safety apply to seasonal workers just as they do to any other employee.      Hiring the right staff is crucial to success, and the process can use up all of your precious time. However, if you have the right talent acquisition software to automate and streamline much of the process, you can put your focus on other things, such as mapping out expansion goals, establishing cash management strategies, and inventory management, and finding new revenue streams for slower periods.  Oracle Talent Acquisition Cloud for SMBs could be precisely what you need to take your seasonal business to the next level.

Many more businesses than you may think experience some level of seasonality. Some examples include: The week before the Super Bowl, the sales of flat-screen TV increase substantially        Higher...

Best Practices

3 Ideas to Make Your Financial Close More Efficient

If you’ve ever been involved in a financial close, you’re probably aware that it can be a painful process—especially for a small-to-medium business (SMB). What is it that makes the period close so painful? There are a number of reasons, which can be grouped into internal and external factors. Externally, new accounting literature has imposed more complexity on financial statements and reporting. Changes in U.S. GAAP—especially new rules around revenue recognition and lease accounting—have accelerated the move away from simple cash reporting to increasingly more complex accrual and revenue deferrals. Tax reporting issues can be equally complicated; every business must collect, submit and report sales tax, as well as filing state and local income taxes. If your SMB operates in more than one state, the challenge is that much more complicated. SMBs typically don’t have large finance staffs to deal with these issues. Internally, there is often a lack of alignment between how financial statements are produced and how the business uses those statements. Take payroll processing, for example. If your business is set up on monthly reporting cycles, but you pay your staff bi-weekly, then payroll and the reporting period cut off on different dates. You end up having to account for accruals and reversals, which leads to more work for everyone. On top of that, SMBs often capture data in their general ledgers that are never used for anything. My favorite example is around travel. Most CFOs want to see travel costs in totality. Yet SMBs continue to capture micro-level data for things like taxi fares, airline tickets, mileage reimbursement, offsite meals, and so on—data that is never used for any value-added purpose.   Put it altogether, and it drags out and delays the time required to close the books. The overall impact on the business is that you’re not getting timely information to make the right decisions. It becomes harder to determine whether you’re on track with your business plan. And it puts a lot of stress on accounting teams, burning them out and creating high turnover, which can sometimes spread to other parts of the business. With all of this in mind, here are three ideas to help make your financial close process more efficient. 1. Simplify Your Chart of Accounts Look at your CoA and ask yourself, “Is it more complicated than it needs to be?” If there are accounts that the CFO, CEO and investors don’t care about, consolidate them. Don’t waste time reporting on income and expenses at a granular level when your stakeholders only care about the big picture. Having said that, make sure there are controls in place to prevent fraudulent spend, misclassifications and mistakes. If you need to track travel expenses and enforce policies but don’t have the staff to do it, consider an ERP cloud application that uses workflow to enforce rules and capture receipts, automating the process without adding extra staff. 2. Clearly Define the Close Process, and Make It Repeatable Is your financial close process clearly defined? Is it mapped out for everyone to follow on a consistent basis? Does everyone on the team understand their role in the process? I’m always amazed at how often finance teams scramble at the end of the period, relying on post-it notes, spreadsheets, emails, and hand-written instructions that they scribbled down when they first trained for the job. The financial close should follow the same process, every time. Have a checklist, and share it with your entire finance team. Some tasks can be completed 10 days prior to close; others can’t be done until after the period ends. You can’t change the order in which steps are performed, but there are certain steps that you can do early. And you can often take out manual steps using cloud applications that automate the financial close as much as possible. 3. Align Reporting Cycles with Business Needs Financial statements can’t be avoided, but they can often be timed to better meet the needs of the business. Many SMBs report on a quarterly basis (every 13 weeks)—which can make things more difficult, because the system cuts off entries at odd dates. Simply changing to a month-end close and paying your employees twice a month (instead of bi-weekly) can add a lot of efficiencies. In addition, look at all the disparate systems that feed into the close process, and take out as much manual work as you can. For example, if you outsource payroll, can you integrate their system with your own financial system? Does project billing feed directly into your accounting system of record? Look for an automatic flow of data to avoid manual re-entry and reconciliations. Some teams spend days (or even weeks) wrestling with spreadsheets to reconcile transactions—and spreadsheets are a notoriously unreliable way to run a business. A cloud application that automates account reconciliation can not only save your team time every month, but prevent potentially disastrous mistakes. The financial close isn’t going away any time soon, but SMBs often make the process more complicated and less efficient than in needs to be. By following these three steps, you can reduce staff burnout, get accurate information faster, and use that information to make better decisions for your business. Find out more in our ebook, “Confessions of a Finance Manager.”  

If you’ve ever been involved in a financial close, you’re probably aware that it can be a painful process—especially for a small-to-medium business (SMB). What is it that makes the period close so...

Emerging Technologies

How to Transform Your Growing Business with Emerging Technologies

Many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are exploring the use of digital platforms, big data, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to create new forms of value for their customers. The core goal is to create a value proposition that competitors are hard-pressed to imitate. One important aspect involves collecting very large amounts of data and using advanced techniques to analyze them and inform product/service development. Marketing and sales directors in these SMBs are also using this modus operandi to discern and respond quickly to marketplace trends in their infancy. SMBs that want a practical path to AI adoption have been turning to a technology platform called Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS allows your organization to transform organizational structures, cultures, and knowledge building by securing connections among data, information, employees, customers, and other ecosystem participants. With digitized and automated processes, PaaS connects decision makers and systems to all pertinent information and drives interactions across channels, including to and from customers. With those connections firmly in place, SMBs can tap the power of AI and discover new ways to grow revenue sources. SMBs can leverage information channels that range from Twitter, the internet of things (IOT), and intelligent bots to websites and mobile devices. This Harvard Business Review report explores new ways of thinking about competitive strategy that spring from digitized connections across different ecosystems. You will find examples of successful SMBs already using smart strategies to enable artificial intelligence and machine learning, reinvent their business models, and create winning relationships with their customers. Let’s face it – artificial intelligence is a game changer. So, it is no surprise that SMBs looking to transform their businesses and create new revenue sources are eagerly looking at practical approaches to adopting AI. Download the Harvard Business Review Research - Using Digital Platforms and Artificial Intelligence to Outpace Rivals and learn how you can transform and grow your business.

Many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are exploring the use of digital platforms, big data, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to create new forms of value...

IT

GDPR: The High Cost (and Risk) for Noncompliance

By Vidhi Desai, Senior Principal Product Marketing Director, Cloud GTM Security, Oracle With the May 25 deadline for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fast approaching, the reality is starting to hit home for companies of all sizes. There are hefty fines for noncompliance from the European Commission, but that is only part of the story. The ultimate toll for failing to adopt these important data security measures is arguably far greater, particularly for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). No Flying Under the Radar By this point, most companies, regardless of size, location or industry, have heard about GDPR. While this regulation is aimed at giving European Union (EU) citizens more control over their personal data and identifiable information, GDPR has far-reaching implications not just for large European companies and multi-nationals, but for SMBs based outside of the EU. Nevertheless, many non-EU SMBs still assume that GDPR doesn’t apply to their business – when in fact even indirect connections to EU citizens, such as an employee's spouse, put companies in the purview of this regulation. Have no mistake: The EU-U.S. cross-border connection is strong when it comes to GDPR requirements! Other misconceptions abound. One that comes up frequently, for example, is that regulators will initially focus on the largest companies, buying smaller enterprises more time to comply with GDPR requirements. The reality is that enforcement of GDPR will be coming from many different angles and include various data subjects, including individual consumers who suspect and report data security concerns. Meanwhile, any security breach would immediately raise the question of compliance. Given that cybersecurity attacks against SMBs have become more prevalent and data protection has become more important than ever, no organization should assume that it is absolved from the new EU regulation – all SMBs should be GDPR-compliant. For a more detailed overview of GDPR, download the white paper, Accelerate Your Response to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with Oracle Cloud Applications.   More Than a Slap on the Wrist In a global economy where data is a valuable resource, more companies have come around to the idea that GDPR compliance is more than just a regulation – it's an opportunity. Moreover, the cost of non-compliance is significant, whether infractions come to light via a routine audit of data protection, or a data breach. GDPR fines will be issued under two levels, based on the nature of the infringement, the type of data, and the history of infractions, among other criteria. The lowest level of GDPR fines will be up to €10 million, or 2% of worldwide annual revenue of the prior financial year, whichever is higher. The highest level of GDPR fines, meanwhile, can go up to €20 million, or 4% of annual revenue turnover. In addition to these penalties, EU and U.S. companies will need to contend with the cost of legal counsel, mitigation, customer relations, and public relations if they don't prepare for GDPR readiness. Finally, and perhaps most worrisome, is the potential damage to a brand’s reputation. While the impact of reputation is often impossible to quantify, it is arguably one that matters most of all. For growing SMBs, the loss of customer trust – via personal data breach, fines GDPR fines, or otherwise – could be the death knell of a business. Given everything that is at stake, updating security practices and infrastructure for GDPR before the end of May 2018 is a small price to pay for ensuring the ongoing success of your organization. To learn more about getting your organization on the path to GDPR compliance, download the paper, “Helping Address GDPR Compliance Using Oracle Security Solutions.”

By Vidhi Desai, Senior Principal Product Marketing Director, Cloud GTM Security, Oracle With the May 25 deadline for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fast approaching, the...

Customer Experience

A Necessary Checklist to Finding and Fixing Your Weakest Link

Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the expression, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” In business, the weakest link can mean the difference between winning and losing customers, and money. A company can have the best products or services, but if they have disengaged employees, a poor marketing campaign, or less than adequate technology, customers will buy elsewhere. To strengthen the weak links, I tell my clients to create a checklist to test each area of their business at least every six months. I also advise that they do spot inspections in the event that sales start to dip or there are noticeable changes in customer feedback. Below is a list to help you start this process too. Feel free to add your own areas and then use it to start strengthening your company’s chain: Company Culture Are your employees excited to come to work every day? Do they understand and buy into the vision you’ve created for your business? This is arguably the most important link in your entire company. If your employees are disengaged, apathetic and/or unmotivated, it will be impossible to achieve the objectives you laid out at the beginning of the year. Define your company’s culture for your employees and allow them to help you reinforce it through suggestions and company programs. If you want to win, you need their support. Management Is your management team all rowing in the same direction? Are they engaged? Your team leaders must exemplify your company’s culture and help execute the business strategy while dealing with any obstacles that pop up to prevent or block your path to success. Sales In most cases, your sales team is the face of your company. How well do they know your products and services? Do they understand the needs of your customers? How about the competitive landscape? Can they articulate your unique selling proposition vs. the other players in the market? Ensure your company is investing to properly onboarding new salespeople and give them the training they need—don’t simply throw them into the deep end. Marketing Today, most buyers have done all their research BEFORE they first reach out to your company. Are you having the necessary discussions online with prospects and customers to make sure they’re receiving the correct information? Being on social media, on the platforms your customers and prospects are using, is critical. Otherwise, you allow outside “strangers” (people and companies) to tell your story. Separately, how robust is your digital presence? Have you looked at your website from your own smartphone? Tablet? Desktop? How is the user experience across these different devices? Is it easy to read and navigate on all devices? Customer Service Customer experience happens when a company delivers on its promise without any glitches. Customer service happens when something goes wrong. The ability of your customer service department to timely rectify an experience gone wrong is usually the weakest link in most growing, entrepreneurial companies. It’s often viewed as an expense within companies, which means minimal staff and training. Things go wrong in business; companies are imperfect. But, help a customer successfully deal with a miscue (e.g. broken product, error on their billing statement), and you have a happy customer that sings your praises. Ignore the same customer or under-deliver on your promises, and they will tell everyone they know about how poorly you treated them. IT New technology is being introduced to industries and marketplaces almost daily. Your challenge is to keep up with the changes and figure out which tech tools make sense for your business. Are you running an efficient and productive company, or are you falling behind the competition? The right technology is a competitive advantage; the wrong technology can put you either behind the 8-ball or out of business completely. Take time to make sure it’s the former and not the latter.  Your Customers Customers control today’s conversations, not the business. Customers are posting pictures, reviews, and recommendations online, any time they want, to anyone that will look. Influential customers are telling massive audiences about which products and services they love, and which ones to avoid. Your customers must be one of the strongest links in your chain. If it isn’t, fix it. Talk to your customers and prospects. Ask them for honest feedback, and then follow up with them to show that you are listening to them. Customers want recognition and love. Give it to them every day. As I mentioned above, you can and should add to these to make your own checklist. Your next step is to schedule time regularly to review and update the list—you don’t want to find a weak link after the chain is broken. For daily insights and advice from Brian Moran and other SMB Experts, join our LinkedIn group, Ask the SMB Experts. The Ask the SMB Experts group is a forum for growing businesses to come together with industry experts to discuss key issues, trends and more.

Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the expression, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” In business, the weakest link can mean the difference between winning and losing customers, and...

IT

Oracle Two Time Leader in Gartner Enterprise Integration PaaS

By Vika Mlonchina, Product Marketing Manager, Oracle Oracle announced in a recent press release that it has been named a Leader in Gartner’s 2018 “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service” report for the second consecutive year. Oracle believes that the recognition is testament to the continued momentum and growth of Oracle Cloud Platform in the past year. Straightforward, reliable cloud integration is a must for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs), who cannot risk any setbacks that will put them behind competitors. According to a recent Inc /Oracle study, The Talent and Technology Driving America’s Fastest Growing Companies, 44% of the INC 5000 are concerned about their ability to achieve complete integration across all functional/product areas. A study by Dynamic Markets also found that 55% of SMBs said they missed project deadlines over a six-month period due to cloud integration problems. Gartner views integration platform as a service (iPaaS) as having the “capabilities to enable subscribers (aka "tenants") to implement data, application, API and process integration projects involving any combination of cloud-resident and on-premises endpoints.” The report adds, “This is achieved by developing, deploying, executing, managing and monitoring integration processes/flows that connect multiple endpoints so that they can work together.” As explained by Gartner, the Magic Quadrant positions vendors within a particular quadrant based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision separating into the following four categories: Leaders execute well against their current vision and are well positioned for tomorrow. Visionaries understand where the market is going or have a vision for changing market rules, but do not yet execute well. Niche Players focus successfully on a small segment, or are unfocused and do not out-innovate or outperform others. Challengers execute well today or may dominate a large segment, but do not demonstrate an understanding of market direction. “GE leverages Oracle Integration Cloud to streamline commercial, fulfilment, operations and financial processes of our Digital unit across multiple systems and tools, while providing a seamless experience for our employees and customers,” said Kamil Litman, Vice President of Software Engineering, GE Digital. “Our investment with Oracle has enabled us to significantly reduce time to market for new projects, and we look forward to the autonomous capabilities that Oracle plans to soon introduce.” Download the 2018 Gartner Report, Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service. Oracle recently announced autonomous capabilities across its entire Oracle Cloud Platform portfolio, including application and data integration. Autonomous capabilities include self-defining integrations that help customers rapidly automate business processes across different SaaS and on-premises applications, as well as self-defining data flows with automated data lake and data prep pipeline creation for ingesting data (streaming and batch). Oracle also recently introduced Oracle Self-Service Integration, enabling business users to improve productivity and streamline daily tasks by connecting cloud applications to automate processes. Thousands of customers use Oracle Cloud Platform, including global enterprises, along with SMBs and ISVs to build, test, and deploy modern applications and leverage the latest emerging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and bots, to deliver enhanced experiences. In particular, SSI provides a huge benefit for SMBs who likely might not have a large IT department to lean on. A Few Reasons Why Oracle Autonomous Integration Cloud is Exciting  Oracle Autonomous Integration Cloud accelerates the path to digital transformation by eliminating barriers between business applications through a combination of machine learning, embedded best-practice guidance, and prebuilt application integration and process automation. Here are a few key features that are essential to your SMB’s integration success: Pre-Integrated with Applications – A large library of pre-integration with Oracle and 3rd Party SaaS and on-premises applications through application adapters eliminates the slow and error prone process of configuring and manually updating Web service and other styles of application integration.  Pre-Built Integration Flows – Instead of recreating the most commonly used integration flows, such as between sales applications (CRM) and configure, price, quoting (CPQ) applications, Oracle provides pre-built integration flows between applications spanning CX, ERP, HCM and more to take the guesswork out of integration.  Unified Process, Integration, and Analytics – Oracle Autonomous Integration Cloud merges the solution components of application integration, business process automation, and the associated analytics into a single seamlessly unified business integration solution to shrink the time to complete end-to-end business process lifecycles.   Autonomous – It is self-driving, self-securing, and self-repairing, providing recommendations and best next actions, removing security risks resulting from manual patching, and sensing application integration connectivity issues for corrective action. Discover OAIC for yourself by taking advantage of this limited time offer to start for free with Oracle Autonomous Integration Cloud. Check out the Oracle Autonomous Cloud Integration customer stories. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

By Vika Mlonchina, Product Marketing Manager, Oracle Oracle announced in a recent press release that it has been named a Leader in Gartner’s 2018 “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Integration Platform as...

Customer Experience

How Tech is Empowering Businesses to Create Exceptional Customer Experiences

In April, I attended Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience (CX) 2018 in Chicago. By the time I boarded my flight home, my notebook was filled with insights, takeaways from breakout sessions, a list of tech tools that can help my clients run better companies, and much more. Throughout the three-day event, I noticed a common theme was how technology is empowering businesses, large and small, to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Here are my three biggest observations: 1. The technology revolution has arrived – Today’s world is connected more than ever before. Now, it’s just as easy to speak with someone in India as it is in Indiana. From augmented reality to blockchain to big data and more, innovative technologies are being introduced almost daily—and we’re doing everything possible to keep up with the pace of change. As I walked the conference show floor, I heard from Oracle partners about their new products disrupting industries for the better. I also watched demonstrations on how to use big data to enhance customer experience in every type of business—from retail to healthcare. What we’ve been calling “the future” of technology is here, with customer expectations still one step ahead. It’s up to companies to make sure they don’t fall behind. 2. Artificial intelligence is coming, and it’s not a bad thing – When I ask business owners about artificial intelligence (AI), they often respond with, “you mean the robots that are going to take away jobs from humans?” The reality is AI will do more to supplement or complement the work being done by humans. I saw firsthand how Pepper the Robot can handle simple, mundane customer tasks, which can then free up a company’s resources to create personalized interactions, address complicated inquiries, and focus on the bigger picture within the business. Entrepreneurial companies looking for a competitive advantage, along with running more cost-efficient businesses, are researching AI tools within their industries today. My advice is for your company to do the same.   3. Despite tech innovations, don’t forget that we still live in a human world – Bryan Kramer gave an informative, educational workshop to remind business owners of the importance of creating and nurturing a human-to-human (H2H) customer experience. He talked about companies embracing their mistakes and imperfections with humor and sincerity to reinforce relationships with customers. AI and other advanced technology will definitely play an important role in allowing businesses to run more effectively, but the personalization and customization offered by H2H relationships will be a company’s competitive advantage and their unique selling proposition.  Learn more about how your company can benefit from an H2H CX.   The best part of attending Modern Customer Experience for me was seeing their technology in action. Now, I can share what I learned with my small- and midsize-business clients so that they’re prepared for what’s already here, as well as what’s ahead. For daily insights and advice from Brian Moran and other SMB Experts, join our LinkedIn group, Ask the SMB Experts. The Ask the SMB Experts group is a forum for growing businesses to come together with industry experts to discuss key issues, trends and more.

In April, I attended Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience (CX) 2018in Chicago. By the time I boarded my flight home, my notebook was filled with insights, takeaways from breakout sessions, a list...

IT

FBI Recommends: How to Build a Cybersecurity Emergency Plan

No one wants to think that their business will be the target of a ransomware attack or cybersecurity breach. But, with more than 4,000 ransomware attacks reported daily since the start of 2016 the odds are not in your small-to-medium-sized business’ (SMB) favor. The question isn’t if, but when. However, while it may be impossible to fully prevent a network attack, you can be prepared. Creating an incident response plan and then practicing it before anything ever goes wrong ensures that your SMB knows what to do if you become a victim. “You don’t want to wait until you are in the middle of an incident, running in emergency mode, to figure out how to react,” says Jay Patel, supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division. By having a security plan ready, your SMB can act quickly to remedy the situation—and hopefully, reduce the damage. When Do You Need to Build a Plan? (Answer: Yesterday) As soon as you have more than a couple of employees, and more than one software system, you should probably create an incident response plan. That’s because, from ransomware threats to business email compromise scams, cyberattacks aren’t just inconvenient—they can put your entire business at risk. “If you think it’s important enough to have a business, you should also think it’s important enough to protect it,” Patel says. Creating an incident response plan gives you the chance to think through and address multiple important issues. Not all businesses and data are equal. As the value and pace of data creation accelerates, the layers of complexity have grown exponentially. One of the biggest challenges is determining the amount of resources to allocate to a cybersecurity plan, through quantifying the costs associated with the risks to the business. “These are hard, but important, discussions,” Patel says. “You definitely want to have them before an event takes place.” As part of the process, your SMB leadership team must identify its sensitive information as well as the networks and files critical to the business function; they will need to discuss the hard costs, the potential impact on the brand, and disruption to the business. Cybersecurity spending is on the rise, “89 percent surveyed expect their organization to increase cybersecurity investments in the next fiscal year,” according to a recent Oracle and KPMG Cloud report.  Find out what the FBI recommends you do to protect your business from cyberattacks.   The Key Ingredients Every SMB’s cyber incident response plan is unique. However, most plans include some common security components. These include: Business critical information As noted previously, your plan will outline the operating systems and information that the business needs to function. This can include customer information, intellectual property, employee information, etc. In addition, understanding the value of the data shouldn’t be limited to one person. If they depart the business, it’s immediately at risk. Detection and containment methods Unfortunately, planning to 100% prevent a cyber attack isn’t really possible. Instead, an incident response plan will determine whether your SMB will detect an access breach or attack, and then how it will contain the security threat. Internal and external stakeholders Response plans also map out who may be affected by an attack, both within and also outside the organization and network. The security plan then denotes how you should notify these stakeholders. Outside vendors should be a part of a successful security plan. Often smaller companies will use Security-as-a-Service system. Circle of trust Ensure your vendors are trusted technology partners. The USA is a trust-based country, where companies and citizens take for granted that businesses are held to national security standards. But, the internet easily crosses borders, so it’s important to know where the vendor protecting your data is based.  SMBs should be wary accepting cybersecurity services from foreign or lesser-known companies, especially for penetration testing.  Fight bad tech with good tech The bad guys only need to get it right once, the good guys have to get it right all of the time. Each team member needs to be an amplifier of response, which can only be done by leveraging technology and making security part of a company’s DNA. Invest in advanced technology that automates event analysis and response, freeing up the human capital to focus on more complex issues. Cybersecurity is a growing area where technology and people can complement each other. Also, ensure that all of your systems are always-up-to-date. Cyberthreats are continuously evolving and your systems need to as well. Recovery and mitigation strategies A comprehensive incident response plan will prepare your SMB to recover lost files and information from the network, and lay out a plan for how to resume business after a cybercrime. Patel notes that plans should also address how to preserve evidence along the way, so that law enforcement can investigate what happened and who was behind the security attack.  Fortunately, you don’t need to create a cybersecurity plan from scratch. Both the National Institutes of Standards and Technology and the ISO 270001 provide frameworks that organizations can use to prepare an access incident response plan for computer systems. “Even a small business with five employees can utilize these guidelines,” Patel says. Plan, Practice, Repeat Incident response plans can’t be relegated just to your SMB’s information systems or one IT employee. For your plan to be effective, Patel notes that the organization’s senior leadership need to not only support the plan but also participate in its creation. “This is a business issue, and the business needs to be involved,” he says. In fact, Patel recommends that IT meet with their senior leadership regularly to discuss critical technology issues, network security, and educate the business side about what IT does and its resources. That way, when it comes time to create or update your incident response plan, non-technical leaders aren’t overwhelmed by the information. Once you’ve created your plan, the FBI suggests that SMBs practice it at least once a year as a general protocol. You may take your team offsite or find ways to make it fun. But ultimately, you want to run through the document to see what the response looks like in real life. Experiment with role-playing. That way you can identify holes in the security plan and discover what works and what doesn’t. Get in touch with your local FBI office to participate in local security events or host an information security day. The FBI has a number of resources to support SMB's. Build a relationship with them as part of your education and emergency plan, so you know who to go to in case of an emergency.  “Most organizations that practice a plan realize that many of their components fail,” Patel says. As part of your drill, your SMB should also preemptively reach out to your local FBI division to introduce your business and make sure you know whom to contact if something goes awry or a data breach arises. A cybersecurity incident response plan is a living file—one that requires at least annual review and updating. Take the time to make one, practice your emergency security plan and keep it current. If you do this, your SMB will be prepared for a cyberattack that hopefully never happens. For more information on the FBI's cyber security efforts, read their brochure, Addressing Threats to the Nation’s Cybersecurity.  Source: FBI.gov

No one wants to think that their business will be the target of a ransomware attack or cybersecurity breach. But, with more than 4,000 ransomware attacks reported daily since the start of 2016 the...

Emerging Technologies

6 Ways to Automate Your SMB with AI

Time is something no business owner ever has enough of. While you can’t add more hours to your day, you can pack more into your hours by using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to make your small-to-medium business (SMB) more efficient. Here are six areas to consider automating: 1. Administrative Automation One of the easiest ways to get started with automation is by tapping into the AI tools available on smartphones. There are thousands of downloadable apps—many free—to handle administrative tasks, such as calendaring, scheduling meetings, sending notifications, and setting reminders. You can also explore built-in voice-activated apps on your smartphone whether it be Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant. Just say the word (literally), and these assistants can help you search the web, schedule out your days, and handle other daily tasks. These assistants also have more advanced features you can set up to have your voice commands handle more complex tasks. Learn more about virtual assistants and how they can benefit your business. 2. Marketing Automation Automating lead generation and management tasks, such as capturing, scoring, tracking and nurturing leads, frees your marketing team to spend more time actually building out memorable, targeted campaigns instead of handling busywork. For example, you can automate responses to prospects and leads and set up drip nurtures, while automatically tracking all of their interactions to find out what elicits engagement. AI tools can also improve conversion by analyzing and synthesizing information about a prospect’s behavior to deliver relevant, personalized marketing messages at on the right channel at the right time. 3. Sales Automation AI takes sales automation to new levels. For instance, AI-powered “virtual sales assistants” can increase salespeople’s productivity immensely. They use machine learning capabilities to determine the best steps to take and make recommendations to the salesperson, such as when to contact a customer or the best wording to use to close the sale. Thanks to natural language processing, salespeople can talk to their virtual assistants conversationally—they can ask to pull up customer records, show daily calendar information, set reminders, organize meetings, and more. Imagine having an assistant on your team who is available around the clock and never needs time off. Listen to the podcast, Solving the Business Problems Keeping You Up at Night. 4. E-commerce Automation For an e-commerce website, an AI-powered agent or chatbot can boost customer satisfaction and get people to complete their shopping cart. Chatbots can answer customer questions in real-time, make suggestions, and up-sell or cross-sell customers by learning from their past behavior to predict new needs. Enhanced product recommendations and personalized experiences build customer loyalty and create repeat purchases. 5. Customer Service Automation Is handling customer service calls, emails, and online chats a big part of your business? Then customer service automation can be a real game changer. Automated customer service chat is not new, but today’s AI tools are even more sophisticated, using natural language processing to respond to voice commands, questions, or searches. Your business can use AI to prioritize customers in the queue and route them to the appropriate department or representative. Simple questions can be handed off to AI, giving live agents more time to handle complex customer service issues. 6. Accounting Automation Accounting and bookkeeping involve lots of time-consuming, tedious tasks that frequently lead to human error. The more you can automate your accounting and bookkeeping functions, the better. For example, syncing your business bank account with your accounting software saves time and reduces errors, while automating scheduled payments helps to better manage your cash flow. But, AI can go way beyond this to achieve “continuous accounting,” where transactions flow into your accounting system automatically in real-time. Machine learning identifies patterns, makes forecasts, and automates activities, such as adjusting payroll or routing invoices to the correct person. All of this gives your accounting staff more time to add value instead of doing “grunt work.” To make automation work for your business: Start small, automating processes that are not mission-critical. Expand automation as you become more comfortable with the concept. Educate employees on how automation will give them more time to focus on the most interesting aspects of their jobs. Set goals for automation and measure KPIs on a regular basis, striving for continual improvement. For more insights from Rieva, check out her SMB Experts page.

Time is something no business owner ever has enough of. While you can’t add more hours to your day, you can pack more into your hours by using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to make...

SMB Experts

New Podcast Provides Expert Advice to Growing Businesses

As the owner or leader of a small- or medium-sized business (SMB), you probably possess some knowledge and experience in a few areas—finance, sales, human resources, etc.—but it’s impossible to be an expert in all of them. Thankfully, the Small Business Edge podcast can get you there. The Small Business Edge Podcast, sponsored by Oracle, was designed to help owners, leaders, and executives overcome business challenges and achieve success. The podcast, hosted by Brian Moran, CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, will feature a different business strategist, advisor, or thought leader each episode. Together, Brian and his guests discuss business challenges of all kinds and their solutions to address them. Learn about the first two episodes of the Small Business Edge podcast—then be sure to listen to them! Solving the Business Problems Keeping You up at Night Featuring Rieva Lesonsky, Founder of SmallBizDaily.com and Founder/CEO of GrowBizMedia In this episode of the Small Business Edge podcast, Brian Moran sits down with Rieva Lesonsky. Rieva is founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and consulting company specializing in SMBs. She is also a founder and contributing writer at SmallBizDaily.com, and a regular contributor to a number of publications, including Small Business Trends and the U.S. Small Business Administration.  Listen to the full episode, Solving the Business Problems Keeping You Up at Night, featuring Rieva. Taxes, Interest Rates, and Insurance Featuring Barbara Weltman, Author of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2018 In this episode of the Small Business Edge podcast, Brian sits down with Barbara Weltman, a renowned attorney and small business consultant, who specializes in tax, law, and finance. She is also a best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes and J.K. Lasser’s Guide to Self-Employment.  Listen to the full episode, Talking Taxes, Interest Rates, and Insurance, where Brian and Barbara discuss the new tax laws of 2018 and their impact on business owners.

As the owner or leader of a small- or medium-sized business (SMB), you probably possess some knowledge and experience in a few areas—finance, sales, human resources, etc.—but it’s impossible to be an...

Best Practices

3 Demands You Must Embrace to Make Your Customers Happy

Today customers have influence, and their influence is forcing companies—of all sizes—to disrupt their traditional ways of doing business. They want your small-to-medium business (SMB) to evolve as fast as they are in their personal lives. And it is, in large part, thanks to the smartphone. The smartphone has had a monumental impact on the way we live. It has changed the way people behave, the way people see the world, and their expectations. Their expectations have gone digital, with an additional demand of “dead-simple usability.” But that is not all. Companies are not just expected to utilize digital technologies in an effort to offer this “dead-simple usability;” they are expected to do so in a personalized way for every single user group (from customers to partners to employees). This means continuously reworking business processes (while embracing a continually evolving stream of disruptive technologies) in order to gain customers, retain customers, improve market share, and boost wallet share. So what does a high-growth SMB, with limited resources, need to do to make this happen? Well, if you listen, your customers are telling you what they want. They want the most efficient way to interact with your business. They want instant access to information, and they want prompt resolutions to their problems. Therefore what you need to "do" is focus on these three areas: Use mobile as a primary engagement tool Provide instant answers Become proactive with customer service Mobile as a Primary Engagement Tool Mobile has the unique ability to improve the customer experience and the business processes that support that experience. Thanks to the cloud, your customer probably has at least three connected devices. Time spent on mobile devices accessing the Internet has skyrocketed. By the end of 2017, 51 percent of website traffic came from mobile phones (up from 38 percent two years earlier). However, many SMBs have been slow to move to a mobile-first mindset. In a recent study, half of all small and medium businesses had (at best): a simple website (not mobile-responsive and with no e-commerce capabilities) limited social media presence basic online marketing toolset These companies have a long way to go. Having a mobile-first mindset is much more than changing the image and text sizes so that website content “fits” correctly on a palm-sized screen screen. It requires an effort be put in place so that the customer’s experience remains consistent across all devices. At minimum: the mobile website should be optimized and incorporate the same favorite (and most heavily used) features as the desktop version every touchpoint should be simplified, by utilizing checkboxes and dropdown lists users should be able to log in via their social media accounts to help with password fatigue    Provide Instant Answers Your customers will disconnect from you for the most basic of reasons.  If they cannot find what they need in the most frictionless and convenient manner, they will leave. If they have to wait on hold for a certain period of time, they will leave. If they engage with your brand and walk away without an answer, they will leave. This is where self-service plays a huge part in boosting customer satisfaction. When CX Cloud software is fully integrated to ERP Cloud software, many back-office processes can be pushed out to the customer. This includes updating customer records, making payment, submitting paperwork, downloading information, checking inventory, viewing transaction history, processing returns, setting appointments, etc. If employees are involved in the customer service process, they need to be able to quickly access and share relevant content (pricing, product specs, searchable knowledge base, etc.). That allows them to effectively address customers’ pain points, provide a value-add service, and maybe even create an upsell or cross-sell opportunity.       Proactive Customer Service It is easy to react to an issue, but today’s customers expect more. They expect companies to anticipate and solve problems and only reach out to them once the solution is in hand. And they do not care how big the company is. This requires that companies embrace IoT technologies, wireless/mobile technologies, data analytics, and integrated cloud software suites to identify potential issues and proactively reach out to those who are potentially impacted.   Companies have historically built customer service groups to deal with problems. The time has now come to not only think two to three steps ahead of customers and anticipate their needs but to establish new processes to identify problems, long before they become problems. When customers are connected to the right resources, companies can anticipate needs and initiate actions as required….before anyone even realizes that they have a need.   And this is where the cloud, mobile, and slew of new, “hot” technologies (IoT, augmented reality, cloud software with embedded machine learning and AI capabilities, and cloud-based tools/platforms) can help. So the big question for high-growth companies is, do you want to be the leading force of disruption or one of the disrupted? Read 3 ways digital technologies are giving life to companies in the ebook, Why the SMB Label Doesn't Fit Digital Business.

Today customers have influence, and their influence is forcing companies—of all sizes—to disrupt their traditional ways of doing business. They want your small-to-medium business (SMB) to evolve as...

Customer Experience

Win Customers and Increase Brand Loyalty in a Disruptive World

At Modern Customer Experience, presented by Oracle, we held a live Twitter tweetchat to bring together the top thought leaders in the customer experience (CX) space. We asked for their insights on how to win customers and increase brand loyalty in a disruptive world—and we received incredible feedback. To learn how your small- or medium-sized business (SMB) can attract and retain customers, and effectively compete with your larger counterparts, continue reading. Where should SMBs start in the process of winning customers? What's the first thing they should focus on? Understanding what their customers’ journey looks like and who’s involved. When you begin with empathy for your customers, they’ll see that you 1) know them and 2) care deeply. That builds trust. — Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson), Keynote Speaker and Author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing Focus your marketing messaging entirely on solving your prospects’ and customers’ problems, instead of focusing on the solutions your product or service provides. Many brands make the fatal mistake of falling in love with their offering, and it’s a trap. Be passionate about serving. Serve the needs of others. — Tamara McCleary (@TamaraMcCleary), Founder and CEO of Thulium It starts with understanding your customers. Who are they? What do they want? Need? It used to be easier. Demo groups tended to act the same. Today, that’s changed. So you need to dig deep individually. — Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), Founder and Contributing Writer of SmallBizDaily.com You can find your clients as an SMB by being human and reaching out to them personally. Ask questions, get involved in their world. As an SMB, it’s important that you work hard to build relationships at first. When first starting out, watch out for Founders Death. Sometimes, the founders have too much invested and it clouds their judgement to take smarter risks. — Bryan Kramer (@BryanKramer), Keynote Speaker and Best-Selling Author of There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H. Having a customer-first mindset in everything you do as a business simplifies and keeps your efforts focused. “We think of the user in everything we do,” says Google. It works! — Zen Yinger (@ZenYinger), CEO of ZenSocial What’s their journey? In this age, we say we have to be storytellers, but we need to listen to the story of the customer. — Del Williams (@DelWilliams) How can SMBs win customers if they have smaller budgets and fewer resources than their larger competitors? Big budgets don’t win customers, big hearts do. Be human, make your brand approachable and relatable. Be real. — Tamara McCleary (@TamaraMcCleary), Founder and CEO of Thulium Smaller budgets give SMBs the opportunity to be more creative. Creativity is what makes a company stand out. — Carla Johnson (@CarlaJohnson), Keynote Speaker and Author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing Personalization. You have the chance to really know your customer, to understand them, to establish a one-on-one relationship. Back in the day, my dad had a retail store in a neighborhood. He knew the customers and he took care of them. Approach customers as a person, not a business. — Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), Founder and Contributing Writer of SmallBizDaily.com Many businesses forget it costs more to get a new customer, plus you have to know your customer lifetime value. If you are a dentist and give away a toothbrush, your consumer will know [who] they need to call when the brush is done. — Shashi Bellamkonda (@ShashiB), CMO of Surefire Local It’s your heart, not your wallet, that shows you care. Show your customers you genuinely care and go above and beyond when they least expect it. You’ll keep that relationship for life, long after they stop being your client. — Zen Yinger (@ZenYinger), CEO of ZenSocial When brands project genuine humanity, people are drawn to them no matter their budget. I think that rests with commitment and a consistent brand voice. — Kathleen Hessert (@KathleenHessert), Founder and CEO of Sports Media Challenge Just reaching out and thanking the customer is huge. I love it when a brand sees my check-in or comment and just sends me a gratitweet. — Melissa Stewart (@MelissaOnline), Founder of She Owns It For a complete recap of the tweetchat, Win Customers and Increase Brand Loyalty in a Disruptive World, check out our post on Storify.

At Modern Customer Experience, presented by Oracle, we held a live Twitter tweetchat to bring together the top thought leaders in the customer experience (CX) space. We asked for their insights on how...

IT

FBI Recommends: How to Protect Your SMB from Cyberattacks

For small and medium size businesses (SMBs), the risk of a cyberattack is no small matter. In fact, the average total financial impact of a data breach to SMBs is $117,000. The damages include everything from extra staff time and the hiring of outside consultants to lost business, personal information and public relations to help remedy the trouble. The far-reaching implications of a security incident can leave an SMB reeling. That’s why Trent Teyema, Chief of Cyber Readiness at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, says the most forward-looking small businesses not only focus on being prepared for an attack but also integrate that readiness into the fabric of their business. Today, cyberattacks aren’t a matter of if, but when. There are two types of businesses – proactive and reactive. Historically, cybersecurity followed a castle with a moat approach. We put the security around the technology, and nothing went in or out. But in today's, everything-connected world where systems are increasingly decentralized, cybersecurity needs to continuously evolve and be a top of mind consideration for everyone within an organization. Business leaders must constantly be weighing the risks and costs (both financially and loss of convenience) associated with their security plan. Here’s how you can make cybersecurity part of your SMB’s DNA: 1. Make information security a company priority. Gone are the days when your SMB’s cybersecurity efforts could be relegated to the IT team. With the threats multiplying, the most successful businesses now recognize that reducing the risk of cyberattacks is an operating effort that spans teams and encompasses the whole company. “You can’t think of security as a cost center anymore,” Teyema says. “Instead it’s about protecting the integrity of your brand—it’s an investment in your company’s future.” A recent Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2018 found that 90 percent of information security professionals classify more than half of their cloud data as sensitive. Furthermore, 97 percent have defined cloud-approval policies, however, the vast majority (82 percent) noted they are concerned about employees following these policies. So what does that look like exactly? Teyema notes that different companies take different approaches. But broadly, he recommends identifying positions in the business that are specifically responsible for information security, and then also creating cross-functional teams—including people from marketing and legal—who are also involved in security efforts. Because the brand is ultimately at stake, Teyema says some SMBs are even housing their cybersecurity initiatives under the Chief Marketing Officer. The takeaway: Cybersecurity can’t be an afterthought, but instead requires proactive action and attention from multiple teams and systems. Ironically, as technology accelerates, people become more important. This is a situation where technology and people can truly complement each other. An increasing number of organizations are creating positions within the line of business to help bridge business expertise with IT. For example, companies using SaaS ERP and EPM applications, are beginning to create positions within the finance function that support the CFO and manage the evolving financial planning needs of the business as the finance function evolves to a more strategic partner within the business. Learn about the Top 6 security tips for SMB’s.     2. Train up young talent. New opportunities.  The tiny silver lining: The rise of cybercrime is actually generating jobs in the tech field. In one recent survey, IT professionals from across North America and Europe cited cybersecurity as the biggest area of skills shortage at their organization. SMBs may not have the budget or resources to compete for lots of high-level cybersecurity talent with bigger organizations. But Teyema says training up less experienced people can also help fill the need. “You want to do a little of both,” he says. “Hire one senior individual who has done this before, and then find some less experienced people who you are willing to invest in.” New programs are developing to meet the talent shortage. For example, at the new Merritt College cybersecurity program faculty includes industry CIO’s who instruct students using interactive scenarios built on virtual infrastructures and compete in National Cyber League events. These activities reflect the direct experience and collaborative mentality required to address the ever-evolving cyber risks. Additionally, through private, academic and public partnerships the school has established programs with the county that may help supplement internship costs, benefiting both students and business. Graduates often have previous work experience in private business or military training which helps them to identify what assets need to be protected and prioritize security spending; effectively bridging the evolving business and technology security needs. By growing your own talent, you’ll eventually end up with a mature information security team that deeply understands not just the cybersecurity landscape, but also the inner workings of your business. 3. Get creative to get to fill your cybersecurity needs. The number of people that your SMB can afford to dedicate to cybersecurity and attacks may likely be in the single digits. However, Teyema says that doesn’t mean that has to be the extent of your security efforts. SMBs working on a budget can supplement their own internal security efforts by hiring a cybersecurity consultant or firm. Such Security-as-a-Service companies can provide a range of assistance, from providing ongoing training for your staff to identifying network vulnerabilities to being on-call for incident response. In some cases, Teyema says that SMBs choose to use Security-as-a-Service for the vast majority of their cybersecurity needs. 4. Identify your sensitive data—and protect it. Creating a wide-reaching cybersecurity plan can be overwhelming. Get your arms around the issue by first identifying the sensitive data that your SMB is handling on a regular basis. As noted, a network security firm can help with this task. Such data might include your customer information, intellectual property, payment or billing data, employee tax information and more. “You protect the most sensitive data first, then broaden the circles out to protect more as you can,” Teyema says. In addition to your own team and outside consultants, your SMB software can play a key role in protecting this data as well. Cloud-based software products can offer smaller businesses access to enterprise-level security expertise and protocols. These systems have built on capabilities that leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain, to keep users always up to date on the most recent strategies to combat hacking.  As you investigate software products, ask the vendor what technologies they use to secure client data and computer systems, how many of their employees work exclusively on security and whether you’ll have access to security audits and reports.  5. Understand the cybersecurity ecosystem. There are many players in the world of cybersecurity. Understanding the resources available can ensure that your SMB has access to knowledge, education and help when you need it. For instance, consider becoming part of information security or certification associations. Such organizations typically provide access to cybersecurity research and trainings to their members. Cybersecurity training companies can provide similar benefits. Also keep up with the research coming out of academia about cyber threats, how they’re handled and who is affected. Teyema recommends that every business connect with the cyber units of the local and federal law enforcement in their area. Connect with the FBI's cyber squad in the field office nearest you. An outreach coordinator can outline what the agency is doing to protect businesses, threats you should be aware of and how to respond if your suffer a breach. “Establish that contact proactively, then you’ll know who to call when an event happens—and it will.” The agency is also regularly distributing cybersecurity information on its website. You can also go to this site to find out how to contact your local office.  The threat of a cyber attack isn't something that just affects your IT team. It's a threat to your brand, your business and the existence of your SMB. Incorporate cybersecurity efforts into the core of what you do, your social engineering and who you hire, and you'll ensure that you're ready for whatever cyber threat comes your way. Learn the key findings of cloud security challenges, threats, and insights in the Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2018.

For small and medium size businesses (SMBs), the risk of a cyberattack is no small matter. In fact, the average total financial impact of a data breach to SMBs is $117,000. The damages include...

Customer Experience

3 Keys to Winning Customers in a Disruptive World

“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus Heraclitus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who walked this earth and died in 475 B.C., at the ripe old age of 60. We talk about our modern time as if it is so unique and yet, some things remain the same. Here we are in 2018, a much different appearing world than the one Heraclitus would have recognized; however, his truth is still our truth in business today. Like Heraclitus said, the one constant is things change. Customers change, competitors come and go, and products and services become obsolete as newer, improved versions are brought to market. But, it’s not as if everything “out there” is evolving while people remain static. We’ve also changed. Our needs, wants, desires, and expectations as a culture have evolved as technology has expanded the landscape of what is possible. My current role is CEO of a global digital marketing agency, working in 170 countries. Are we growing? Yes. Am I sleeping? Not much. But, it’s a thrill to be expanding a global organization in what feels to be the Wild West. Scaling, funding, managing explosive growth, IT concerns, HR issues with up-skilling, GDP—the list goes on—are all things we’re charged to lead in order to take our organizations into the future. Am I pivoting my business strategy? Only if I want to keep my organization vibrant and alive for the future. I’m encouraging our use of technology to be better at the edge, for our customers, in real time. Today’s business climate demands agility and the proper integration and implementation of technology if you want to remain relevant to your customers. Small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) that fail to iterate on themselves will ultimately fail in the marketplace. There’s no room for “good enough” or getting comfy with our offering. Instead, we should be in a climate of “this is great, but what’s next?” Get news and insights from the SMB Experts. Join the LinkedIn group, Ask the SMB Experts. It’s hard enough to keep the market share you currently claim. To win customers in a highly disruptive marketplace, it takes more than fresh ideas. It takes owning and executing on the following 3 keys to winning customers in a disruptive world: 1. Customer Obsession Being customer obsessed means going beyond the often impotent, banal, and bland boardroom conversation of “customer centricity.” It means passionately and hungrily understanding your target market so intimately that you know what they need before they do. It’s the power of anticipation, of future casting, and iterating which keeps SMBs on the innovative cutting edge. True customer obsession shifts company-facing culture profoundly, but only if every corner of an organization is empowered to understand the customer’s “why.” There is nothing healthier for an organization than embracing customer obsession—throughout every department of the company. It fuels efficiency, productivity and innovation. To be customer obsessed means falling out of love with your own products and services and falling in-love with serving the people that your products and services ultimately impact. 2. Self-Disruption for Innovation and Growth The biggest barrier to success in business is the inability to forecast the future. We all have our blind spots, and even some of the most brilliant minds in business have grossly missed the mark. Contemplate these quotes to give you pause and question your own firmly established, often unquestioned, rigid beliefs that might be holding you and your organization back: “It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space… But in terms of a sort of sea-changing for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it,” said Jim Balsillie, RIM’s co-CEO, as he wrote off the iPhone “Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition,” said Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes Before we scoff, I say we all have the potential to miss the mark if we’re not careful to check our “already know” mindset at the door. Winning customers in such a disruptive world means we must question everything and everyone, including ourselves. Ultimate success comes when we realize we don’t really know anything for certain, and all we have are guesses and past learnings to lead us along a path that is rife with unexpected hurdles, barriers, and traps. If you’re leading an SMB, a group, or a department, today’s marketplace puts us smack dab in the ring of a business gauntlet that we must face and move through swiftly and adeptly. You and I are the trailblazers, the warriors, and gladiators of our business times. Ask yourself, “what outmoded or stuck ways of being/thinking might be holding me or my SMB back?” Apply some self-awareness and humility, and much will be revealed to you, thereby strengthening your leadership. 3. Creating a Powerful Ecosystem of Partners I recently delivered a keynote at SXSW. One piece of my talk was quoted, retweeted, and shared liberally: “Small businesses can substantially gain competitive advantage, and scale rapidly through building a powerful ecosystem of partners.” A strategic network of partners can help SMBs overcome limitations of internal resources to build out new solutions. Enterprise has already coalesced around this potent truth, and it’s time for the SMB market to wake-up to the power of pulling in greater opportunity and winning market share through strategical creation of an ecosystem of partners that enables them to scale bigger, better, and be more competitive than is achievable on their own. It’s hard to compete with enterprise when the SMB budget is a fraction of that of a global enterprise. However, what can level the playing field is creating a powerful ecosystem of partners that enables the small business to function, and serve its customers as if it were a large enterprise. The phrase “we are better together than we are alone” was never more actualized than in the facilitation of an ecosystem of partners to work together to compete on a larger scale, and win the business through innovative thinking past “me and mine” to “we and ours.” For more insights from Tamara McCleary, take a look at her customer experience tips to conquer 2018 and her recent article, 3 Things Leaders Must Realize for Business Success.

“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus Heraclitus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who walked this earth and died in 475 B.C., at the ripe old age of 60. We talk about our modern...

Growth Corner

3 Reasons to Visit Oracle at DIG SOUTH

By Prasuj Loganathan, Solution Engineering Leader for Startups and Growing Enterprises, Oracle Corporation Think Oracle and small, high-growth companies have nothing in common? You’d be surprised. Here, at Oracle, we’re gearing up to soak in the energy and innovation coming out of this year’s DIG SOUTH Tech Conference in Charleston, South Carolina on April 25-27. For the uninitiated, conference organizers bill DIG SOUTH as the event that “connects leading global brands to the smartest, scalable startups for knowledge + networking and to get deals done.” But others have described it as “SxSW for the Southeast” in what many consider to be the United States’ friendliest city. Those who are ready to talk tech in the glow of Southern charm will be in good company. The conference boasts attendance from the top 1,000 tech companies in the South, including folks like Fortune 500 executives, growth-stage startup leaders, business capital and service providers, and marketers. Oracle will be there in force with a booth full of great information, as the sponsor of a limited-seating fireside chat between Kiran Kodithala, founder and CEO of N2N Inc., and Forbes senior editor Loren Feldman, and as the host of a pitch competition. But with all the excitement going on at DIG SOUTH, why should you make it a point to stop by and check out what Oracle has to offer? Here are three reasons. 1. Smaller companies and enterprises need each other. Startups and high-growth smaller companies crave the resources, vast knowledge base, and market access that large enterprises have. And larger companies long to inject the agility and innovative spirit that’s part of startup culture. But unfortunately, while 95% of startups wish to develop long-term corporate partnerships, only 57% of them have done so, according to BCG. Oracle is working to improve these stats with its Oracle Global Startup programs. As part of these programs, chosen startups get free Oracle Cloud access, world-class mentorship and advising, engagement opportunities with Oracle’s 430,000+ customers, and much more. But unlike other programs, Oracle’s startup programs are run by our R&D team and don’t take equity as part of the partnership. That alone is worth a stop by our booth. 2. Startups need to prepare for rapid growth. Oracle can provide a solid foundation. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a startup. Today, maybe more than any other time in history, you have easy access to technology that simplifies or eliminates routine tasks and gives you the opportunity to concentrate on your business. The key is taking advantage of this technology so you’re prepared to scale when success comes your way. For startups, growth doesn’t happen gradually. When it rains, it usually ours. And you need to be prepared for the flood. Automated business processes and systems in HR, finance, and sales and service can boost productivity, increase capacity, and help you continue to delight customers when things get crazy. We’ll have experts on hand at the Oracle booth to discuss how we can help your company significantly reduce the amount of time it spends on rote tasks. Speaking of scaling, there’s a reason why 80 percent of small and medium businesses (SMBs) will have adopted the cloud by 2020 (Note: This is in the ebook, From Survive to Thrive: 5 Actions You Can Take Right Now to Help Your SMB Grow). The cloud offers unprecedented advantages to high-growth startups in the way of increased flexibility, integration, and collaboration and lower costs. And Oracle Cloud is the only solution that can support your business with a fully integrated cloud solution, as well as a variety of deployment options to fit your needs. Tap an Oracle expert at our booth to see what Oracle Cloud can do for your business. 3. Let’s face it. You need to update that headshot. We understand. You were scavenging for a badge/website/LinkedIn profile picture, and the only acceptable photo was the one where you had to crop out your partner/significant other/best friend. We get it. But why not take advantage of the chance to get a professional, and complimentary, headshot taken at the Oracle booth? You came dressed to impress. Kill two birds with one stone by capturing yourself looking good and getting rid of that phantom arm in your current profile picture. This year’s DIG SOUTH Tech Conference promises to be full of great people and great information. We hope you’re one of the people we get to connect with this year! Come by and see us. Learn how Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator will provide the platform to help you grow your startup the way you envision it.

By Prasuj Loganathan, Solution Engineering Leader for Startups and Growing Enterprises, Oracle Corporation Think Oracle and small, high-growth companies have nothing in common? You’d be surprised....

Growth Corner

Confessions of a Startup: How To Win Enterprise Customers

Startup Toonimo launched its audio-visual “guidance platform” in 2013, with the promise of making it easier for consumers to complete complex tasks on websites without human assistance. Early adopters included small and midsize insurance companies and banks that lacked the support staff to guide their customers through complex policies, claim forms, and credit applications. But Toonimo struggled to attract large enterprise customers—a segment essential to its long-term growth, says CEO Dan Kotlicki. To further help build that base, Toonimo joined the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator program in 2017, getting access to Oracle’s huge network of bank, telecom, and insurance company customers worldwide. And because the program offers Toonimo free credits for Oracle cloud services, the company was able to migrate its cloud software services onto Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. “Oracle’s startup program not only gives us access to more enterprise customers,” Kotlicki says, “but it also provides us with an enterprise-grade infrastructure to help us scale our business.” Toonimo CEO Dan Kotlicki Toonimo’s platform can also capture user data, such as which web pages were visited and what feedback was provided. After each user session, the platform pushes the encrypted data through an API and stores it in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. Customers can then pull that cloud-based user data into a dashboard so they can see how many users completed a walkthrough, how many abandoned it, and how long those users remained on a particular page. “These analytics teach us how to improve our platform, while informing our clients how they can reconfigure their walkthroughs for all sorts of different scenarios,” Kotlicki says. One of the biggest benefits of running Toonimo on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, he says, is its compliance with many standard security protocols and certifications, making it easier for the company to land enterprise accounts, particularly in the highly regulated financial services, healthcare, and telecom industries. Among Toonimo’s enterprise customers are HSBC, BNY Mellon, and Stanford University. “With Oracle’s built-in security features,” Kotlicki says, “we have a lot more confidence in our ability to attract enterprise customers, and a greater capacity to keep their trust.” Read the full article on Forbes: UX Startup Goes For Big Customers With Move To Cloud Accelerator

Startup Toonimo launched its audio-visual “guidance platform” in 2013, with the promise of making it easier for consumers to complete complex tasks on websites without human assistance. Early adopters...

Finance

3 Ways Planning Leads to Your Successful Business Growth

By Jennifer Toomey, Senior Director, Cloud Business Group, Oracle Yogi Berra’s wisdom that "if you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else" wasn’t just an observation for baseball. Planning is a key step for growth in the business world, and particularly for small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) that are undergoing rapid change. Unfortunately, many organizations still approach planning and budgeting as a necessary evil (a box to check to appease the finance department) rather than an opportunity to think strategically and act proactively when it comes to growth rate. Some of this stems from not having the right processes and technology in place. Indeed, even larger organizations are still relying on manual processes and spreadsheets for planning and budgeting. This not only creates extra work: spreadsheets are prone to manual error and do not scale effectively.  They also create information silos between finance teams and other departments. For example, finance teams may not be aware of a sudden change in plans to add new employees in a department, and yet that decision can have a ripple effect not just on budgeting for payroll, but for planning across the organization. This is only the half of it. True planning requires connecting the dots across all business functions, and not just year-over-year or even once a quarter. In fact, this is one of the many reasons that cloud technology has reached an inflection point.  In Oracle’s most recent Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Trends Report, more than half of respondents indicated that they have moved to EPM cloud or plan to do so within the next year. A cloud solution is not only a cost-effective way to scale revenue growth. It also eliminates many of the pain points of budgeting, and makes it possible to plan for what’s on the road ahead, rather than in the rear-view mirror. Here are three ways that planning helps pave the way for business growth: Get a Holistic View of the Business Here’s how planning works at many organizations: Finance teams make sales and expense projections based on previous performance and feedback from relevant business functions. There are myriad problems with this approach, including: critical information falls through the cracks; estimates are often guesstimates; and information can be out-of-date by the time it lands on a finance team’s spreadsheet.   By moving to an EPM cloud model, agile finance teams are able to look at businesses holistically and in real-time. Among organizations surveyed for our trend report, 55% of EPM cloud users ranked financial planning and budgeting as a key function to move to the cloud, followed closely by financial consolidation and close (54%), financial reporting (47%), sales planning and forecasting (40%) and profitability and cost management (39%). Notably, these functions work together to align financial plans with operational plans, and vice versa.     Learn why this is the right time to modernize your EPM. Download Your Complete Guide to the Modern EPM.     Expand with an Eye on Profitability Organizations of all sizes sometimes make the mistake of looking at growth with a narrow focus on top-line revenue opportunities. In reality, planning for growth requires a deep understanding of the bottom line: What are the costs associated with specific products, geographies or segments? More sophisticated planning via cloud makes it possible to get a better handle on profitability and, in turn, make more informed decisions on where to grow and where to trim. This requires calculating costs not just at the company level – as is often the case – but looking at individual groups, classes and, increasingly individual products, services or customers. This is particularly key with shared and indirect costs. Our trends report found that 43% of respondents plan to change their practices to provide a more transparent view of profitability and cost management. Avoid Tech Obsolescence Technology should be a tool for growth, and yet growing companies can be hindered by technology obsolescence. In fact, this year’s EPM trend report showed a noticeable increase in companies indicating that a top benefit of moving to a modern EPM system is staying current on technology – with 89% of respondents indicating this as a key reason, up from 75% last year. Indeed, companies that rely on on-premises systems are responsible for making sure their technology can keep pace with their growth – not to mention changing standards or compliance. Consequently, they face the direct cost of maintaining on-premises technology, as well as an opportunity cost: Not planning to their fullest potential. Learn the New EPM Trends for 2018.

By Jennifer Toomey, Senior Director, Cloud Business Group, Oracle Yogi Berra’s wisdom that "if you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else" wasn’t just an observation for baseball. Pl...

IT

How Complying with GDPR Will Help Your SMB

By Troy Kitch, Senior Director, Product Marketing and GTM, Security, Oracle The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect on May 25, 2018. For many companies – particularly those based in or doing significant business in the EU – it has created a sense of urgency that might rival that of Y2K. Put simply, GDPR seeks to give European Union citizens more control over their personal data and requires that companies adopt appropriate security measures designed to protect EU citizens whose data is being collected and to help mitigate the risk of a data breach. It applies to any personal information that can be directly or indirectly tied back to an individual; that includes everything from biometrics to credit card numbers, photographs and device IDs, to name a handful of examples. GDPR is focused on shoring up privacy and security for consumers, but the upshot is better digital business. After all, data breaches and data loss can negatively impact digital businesses. For a more detailed overview of GDPR, download the white paper, Accelerate Your Response to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with Oracle Cloud Applications.   Though it is rooted in Europe, GDPR can have far-reaching implications on how organizations, government agencies and companies globally – regardless of size – handle personal data. In addition to impacting companies operating in Europe, it extends to entities providing goods or services to European citizens.  For example, a US-based company that sells goods online to services to EU citizens could fall under the purview of GDPR. The cost of non-compliance? In addition to potential fines of up to 4% of annual revenue turnover, organizations that don’t comply also risk facing legal fees as well as indirect costs, such as negative publicity. While many larger enterprises outside of the EU have been grappling with this new data protection regulation, more small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) around the world are also taking note. In the most recent Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2018, 38% of SMBs surveyed indicated that they are required to comply with GDPR. Among that group, 48% indicated that the regulation materially impacts their cloud strategy and cloud service provider (CSP) evaluation process; a full 25% noted that it significantly impacts their strategy and evaluation. Safeguarding a Key Asset To be sure, organizations of all sizes and across all industries are dealing with increasing amounts of personal data and data security issues. So pervasive is data that, according to The Economist, its global value has surpassed that of oil. With the rise of data comes a whole new level of responsibility for companies to comply with and protect this precious resource. GDPR aims to do this by promoting the use of best practices and well-established security concepts. It requires “controllers” (such as a customer contracting for services) and “processors” (such as cloud services providers) to adopt appropriate security measures designed to ensure a level of security appropriate to the level of risk that might affect the rights and freedoms of the individuals whose data is being collected and used by the controller (“data subjects”). There are many facets to GDPR, which contains 99 articles and 173 recitals, but the IT systems that are used to collect, store and handle personal data are the foundation of data protection. Among other things, organizations need to know where data resides, understand their risk exposure, know when it is necessary to modify existing applications, and integrate security into their IT architecture. As with any new regulation, GDPR has its share of complexities and ambiguities. Nevertheless, the benefits of adopting strong data protection go beyond protecting individuals. In the long-run, SMBs that embrace good security practices are less vulnerable to cyber security incidents, such as espionage, organized crime and insider-related breaches. GDPR is aimed squarely at protecting personal data, but organizations that take steps to shore up their security and rethink their other data security practices and policies to address their GDPR compliance needs may ultimately come out ahead. To learn more about getting your organization on the path to GDPR security compliance, download the paper, “Helping Address GDPR Compliance Using Oracle Security Solutions.”

By Troy Kitch, Senior Director, Product Marketing and GTM, Security, Oracle The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect on May 25, 2018. For many companies –...

Finance

3 Keys to Successfully Access Capital in 2018

Access to startup or growth capital is an enduring challenge for many small to medium-size businesses (SMBs). The capital markets have been slow to heal from the financial crisis, and bank lending has not returned to pre-recession levels. The deep gap in financing spawned alternative and online lending, which have experienced solid growth over the past five years. Online lending and equity and debt-based crowdfunding are now mainstream with many more SMBs becoming attracted to these platforms. Sustained economic growth will provide business owners with the confidence they need to take risks and repay investors to expand their firms. A growing economy will also produce more “quality” businesses making them more viable candidates for bank lending. This brings me to the first key to successfully raising capital in 2018. #1 Key to Raising Capital: SMB Readiness and Realism Banks of all sizes are under far-reaching government regulations (Dodd-Frank) as a result of the financial crises. While regulatory relief may be on the way, government red tape continues to inhibit lending. That means only the strongest businesses–those with collateral, capital and a solid financial track record—generally qualify for a loan. Banks, on average, only approve 25 percent of SMB loans. That means business owners have to be realistic about approaching banks for a loan. They have to demonstrate supreme “readiness.”   If you know you have fallen short in the financial management area, it’s never too late to improve, strengthen, or better organize your financial condition.  Start by developing a profit and loss statement, getting a true handle on your cash flow, and better managing (or mastering) the art of budgeting, basic accounting, payroll, tax changes for 2018, and revenue forecasting. Of course, technology makes all of this so much easier for today’s business owners. The Small Business Association (SBA) has a self-paced online course, Financing Options for Small Businesses, which covers the host of issues and options for business financing. The bottom line: Your SMB needs to be poised to take advantage of the growing economy. Embed best practices now so you can better track performance and get the financing you need quickly when the opportunity arises.  There are many resources you can turn to for lending options. I like the Best Small Business Loans of 2018 list from US News, which includes online lenders that have more flexibility than banks in terms of funding new businesses, invoice financing, credit scores, and more. For loans under $350k, here is a list of the best SBA loan providers. #2 Key to Raising Capital: Look to Alternatives The concepts of readiness and realism apply when seeking online lending. Business owners especially have to be realistic about the cost of capital, given the speed and flexibility at which it is being deployed. Business owners must educate themselves about the terms of borrowing. Thankfully, many online lenders are very transparent in providing this information. Equity crowdfunding is beginning to take off—especially “Title III” or Regulated Crowdfunding, which allows ordinary Americans to invest in startups and businesses on regulated platforms. It took four long years for regulators to write the rules on this type of crowdfunding, so it has only just started. As of March 2018, 834 SMBs have raised more than $111 million dollars, averaging $376,584 per SMB. More than 112,000 individuals have invested in these businesses, which come from a range of industries including technology, restaurants, entertainment, personnel services, beverages, and more. In my opinion, equity crowdfunding is poised for explosive growth. But entrepreneurs must understand that raising capital via online crowdfunding is not easy. To be successful, entrepreneurs must showcase their businesses online just like live presenters do on Shark Tank. Entrepreneurs must also be prepared to comply with government regulations. You may want to visit the most active crowdfunding platforms—Wefunder, SeedInvest or Start Engine—to learn more, or see how successful entrepreneurs have raised capital. For mature, profitable companies looking for investment capital, check out a Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) licensed by the SBA. Each SBIC is privately-owned and invests in small to mid-size businesses in the form of debt or equity.   #3 Key to Raising Capital: Policy Matters There is good news from Capitol Hill on bipartisan efforts to free up needed capital. The House and Senate have each passed bills that will provide regulatory relief to small and mid-size banks, which should improve small business lending. My organization is also supporting about a dozen bipartisan bills (most passed the House with unanimous support) that will improve the capital markets and make it less costly and complicated for SMBs to raise money from investors. The policy piece is key as the track of legislation and Administration-led initiatives impact economic performance, which impacts business confidence, the strength of investment and consumer sentiment.  All of these impact the health of SMBs.  Our economy appears to be on track. Make sure your business is organized and ready to take advantage of growth opportunities, which may require growth capital to leverage those opportunities.      For daily insights and advice from Brian Moran and other SMB Experts, join our LinkedIn group, Ask the SMB Experts. The Ask the SMB Experts group is a forum for growing businesses to come together with industry experts to discuss key issues, trends and more.        

Access to startup or growth capital is an enduring challenge for many small to medium-size businesses (SMBs). The capital markets have been slow to heal from the financial crisis, and bank lending has...

Growth Corner

12 Reasons Small-to-Medium Businesses Fail

Many people start businesses because they have a great idea, and they hope that great idea will take off and (maybe, just maybe) make them some money. However, (and we have all heard this statistic before) 70 percent of all businesses fail within 10 years. But this is not the interesting part of the statistic. There is more.  Four-fifths (80 percent) of new companies survive their first year Two-thirds (66 percent) survive their second year About one-half (50 percent) survive their fifth year But by year 10, only 30 percent will have made it.  It seems that this might have less to do with the business climate (the numbers stay consistent through recessions and recovery periods). In most cases, a business’s failure comes back to decisions that founders and their executive teams make. Jessie Hagen, an SBA and USDA specialist, looked at a large number of business failures (in many different industries and geographies) and developed a comprehensive list of why only thirty percent of businesses last longer than a decade. Several of the reasons include: General Business Factors               78 percent—a lack of a well-developed business plan, including insufficient research on the business idea before starting the company. This can snowball into a variety of issues, including that there just simply might not be a market for the product or service, or (if there is) that the business model will not scale. 73 percent— being overly optimistic about achievable sales, money required, and what they need to do to be successful.  Now small business owners are an optimistic bunch, but optimism can be taken too far. There needs to be a healthy balance between optimism and realism as the company starts to exponentially grow. 70 percent—not recognizing (or choosing to ignore) what they don't do well and not seeking help from those who do. Delegation and humility fit together like bread and butter. 63 percent—insufficient relevant and applicable business experience.  Do what you know, and if you don’t know the market, customers, or business model of the industry you want to break into/improve, investigate the possibilities of working in that industry for a bit to get some experience under your belt.  Financial Factors               82 percent—poor cash flow management skills/poor understanding of cash flow. For small and medium businesses (SMBs), cash and working capital is king.  Revenue is important, but if you do not have the money to keep the lights on, pay your vendors, and issue paychecks, you will not survive. And if you are unable to recognize that finances are not quite your thing, and refuse to bring on a qualified financial expert, you will fail. 79 percent—starting out with too little money. Again, cash is king, and you need to have an adequate amount of money to cover the bills, salaries, and expansion issues. We have heard stories of successful companies who started out because the founder maxed out his/her credit cards. But have you also heard that the majority of those companies also failed? The old adage is true; it does take money to make money. 77 percent—not pricing properly and failing to include all necessary items when setting prices. What you sell your products/services for is the basis of your business. If you do not make a healthy margin, you run the risk of commoditizing your offering (in the eyes of the customer) since the only way you will be competing is price. And price is the easiest way for competitors (with deeper monetary pockets) to crush you. Sales/ Marketing Factors            64 percent—not promoting the business properly. Growth plateaus happen for a variety of reasons. A big reason is that once you have sold to everyone in your phone’s contact list, you will likely run out of net new sales. Now the hard work will begin. You need to reach out into a population that does not know you or your company. You will have to promote yourself. 55 percent—not understanding who your competition is or ignoring competition. In addition to knowing your competition, you also need to understand why their loyal customers are loyal. This will provide insight on how to grab market share. For example, if your competitors’ customers are not price sensitive, then having a BOGO sale is not going to work. 47 percent—too much focus and reliance on one customer/client. Are you too dependent on just a few customers?  If 50 percent of your business comes from 30 percent (or less) of your customers, it is time to promote your business and expand your customer base.    Human Resource Factors 58 percent—inability to delegate properly; micro-managing work given to others. In order to scale your business, you have to delegate.  You cannot have relationships with all your customers. You cannot personally hire every employee. You cannot negotiate every contract or sales agreement. 56 percent—hiring the wrong people. Many founders make the big mistake of hiring people who are clones of themselves or hiring friends and relatives. Sycophants and innovation (and growth) do not mix. You need people with other viewpoints, different experiences, different backgrounds, and complementary skill sets. It may be harder, but the results can be spectacular.   Something happens between year five and year 10 within growing small and medium businesses. It gets harder and harder to find net new customers. It becomes obvious that the business model will not scale to find those net new customers. Cash flow may become a huge problem. And, finally, management may not be able to make the transition from start-up to established company.  It does take a different set of skills to make that shift. Now this list is not designed to decimate peoples’ desires to start their own companies.  It is intended to highlight common traps that are easy to fall once executives get comfortable with their growth and have to start managing a very different type of company than the one they may have started in their living room. So take a look at this list, and look deep within yourself.  How many of these mistakes are you making? Find out how Oracle can help your growing SMB succeed.

Many people start businesses because they have a great idea, and they hope that great idea will take off and (maybe, just maybe) make them some money. However, (and we have all heard this statistic...

Human Resources

Learn How to Shrink the Generation Gap with a Focus on Values

We hear a lot these days about millennials in the workforce; how many there are, how different their values and approach to work are from other generations. I made a similar observation in a past post about How Culture Can Unify—or Divide—Your Workforce.  But are the generations (and their values) really so different in the workplace? Or does the generation gap have less to do with the different generations’ values and more to do with their approach to living out those values? Same Values, New Approach Gallup has surveyed thousands of millennials to learn what they seek in the workplace and how that compares to other generations of workers. According to their survey: 93 percent of millennials left their companies the last time they changed roles 87 percent say that development is important in a job, compared to 69% of non—millennials 59 percent say that the opportunity to grow is important when deciding where to apply. By contrast, only 44 percent of Gen Xers and 41 percent of baby boomers said the same. What statistics like these tell us about millennials is that they want to succeed and are looking to people they respect within their organizations to help them do it. When those organizations fail them, they seek out other avenues. Is this really so different from other generations, especially when those generations were the age that millennials are now? If your organization has overcome the plateau effect, be a contributor for the new book “Beyond the Plateau Effect.” Alike, Yet Different Perhaps not, when it comes to their mid—career GenX coworkers. GenXers are a significantly smaller generation than millennials but share many traits. Both generations are digitally savvy, according to a recent poll by DDI Global Leadership, with only a two point difference in tech adoption between the two groups. They have not resisted change. GenXers have adapted quickly, leading the charge in finding ways to work faster, better and smarter with technology. This attitude is something they share with their millennial coworkers. However, there are also some significant differences between the generations. DDI found that GenX leaders have been slower to advance in their careers, perhaps because of where they are in their personal lives (sandwiched between two generations that depend on them…their kids and their parents). GenXers receive an average of 1.2 promotions every 5 years, compared to 1.6 for millennials and 1.4 for boomers. They are also 50 percent more likely to seek coaching and mentoring from people outside their organizations. Millennials say they want regular coaching from managers, but only 19 percent claim to receive it, and even less (17 percent) find it useful. These differences tell us that how the generations get their needs met may differ in approach, the needs themselves are not all that different. No generation wants a dead-end job with no opportunity for advancement. And they all realize that their career progression is closely tied to coaching and the support/leadership of people invested in their success. But who those coaches and mentors should be is the crucial difference between generations. The key for employers is to help each generation fulfill these needs within organizations. Stymied GenXers might stay with an employer but seek mentoring elsewhere when they can’t find it internally. This will keep them in your employment but may negatively impact their engagement and development. Millennials, on the other hand, will just leave. Size Impacts Approach Why are these generations’ approach to the workplace so different? Generational size and what it says about the world they were raised in may be one reason. Generation X, born between 1964 and 1980, was the smallest group born in the 20th century; the first born after the advent of the birth control pill. This, and the skyrocketing divorce rate — which peaked in 1981— accounts (in part) for their small size. GenXers grew up in a world that was changing rapidly. Divorce, stagflation, recession, and layoffs impacted many GenXers’ families in the late 70s and 80s. These had a long term impact on how Xers felt about work and the world around them, diminishing trust in authority figures, destroying company loyalty, and creating a more individualistic rather than collaborative mindset. This individualism may be one reason why Xers are so successful as entrepreneurs— Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Sergey Brin are just a few famous Gen X entrepreneurs. In a recent study, Gen Xers were found to make up more than 50 percent of startup founders, compared to just 17 percent of millennial founders. For Gen Xers, security vies with freedom as the motivating factors in how they approach their careers. Xers believe careers provide security but also may see themselves as solely responsible for their own success or failure. This perspective puts them at odds with millennials and many boomers, who are also looking for the path to success, but try to get there through collaboration and hard work (respectively). Millennials, on the other hand, grew up in a time of relative peace and stability. From the mid—80s through the 90s, only one recession interrupted economic growth. Divorce rates fell, allowing many millennials to enjoy closer relationships with their parents and more security at home than their Gen X coworkers. As a result, millennials look to authority figures for help with their careers, while Gen Xers are more likely to seek advice from a trusted third—party. Millennials are also idealists, having been raised by boomers, a generation known for their idealism. Millennials believe they have a responsibility to make the world a better place. Gen Xers see their primary responsibility as taking care of themselves, their families, and friends. All of this creates an interesting dynamic in the workplace. Each generation values opportunity. Each values their careers, if not always for the same reasons. And each wants to feel value —both as individuals and for the work that they perform. Yet, what makes them feel valued may be entirely different. Trust and expectations seem to be crucial issues. Millennials expect employers to develop them; they are disappointed when this doesn’t happen, which may cause them to leave an organization. Gen Xers do not expect this kind of help, believing they can go it alone. This makes them more likely to stay in roles where they are not progressing as well as preventing them from developing the relationships they need to move ahead. As leaders, it’s important to see that each generation really is looking for the same thing, just that their expectations around meeting those needs are different. The employer’s role is to find creative ways to create a culture that allows those expectations to exist in harmony. By focusing on the values that each generation shares, companies can fulfill the expectations each generation brings to the table regarding their approach to work and life. An Inc. / Oracle study found talent is a main concern for SMB execs. Download our new ebook to learn how to solve key talent concerns.

We hear a lot these days about millennials in the workforce; how many there are, how different their values and approach to work are from other generations. I made a similar observation in a past...

IT

How to Increase Productivity with Self-Service Integration

By Kellsey Ruppel, Principal Product Marketing Director, Oracle One of the most exciting innovations in integration over the last decade is arriving just in time to address the surge of productivity apps that need to be integrated into enterprises, including small-to medium-size businesses (SMBs). On a general scale, there are approximately 2,300 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) apps that SMBs use that need to be integrated. Line of business (LOB) users such as marketing campaign managers and sales managers are looking to perform quick and simple self-service integration of these apps themselves without the need for IT involvement – a huge benefit for SMBs who likely might not have a large IT department to lean on. Oracle Self-Service Integration Cloud Service (SSI) provides the right tools for anyone that wants to connect productivity apps such as Slack or Eventbrite into their SMBs. For example, perhaps you are a Marketing Campaign Manager and want to receive an alert each time a new digital asset is ready for your campaign. Or you are a Customer Support Representative trying to automate the deployment of survey links when an incident is closed. Or maybe you are a Sales Manager who wants to feed your event attendees and survey respondents into your CRM. SSI has the tools to address all these needs and more for your SMB. Oracle Self-Service Integration is solving these business challenges by: Connecting productivity with enterprise apps - Addressing the quick growth of social and productivity apps that need to be integrated with enterprise apps. Enabling Self-service Integration - Providing line of business (LOB) users the ability to self-service connect applications with no coding to automate repetitive tasks. Recipe-based Integration - Making it easier to work faster and smarter with modern cloud apps with an easy to use interface, library of cloud application connectors, and ready to use recipes. For a comprehensive overview of Oracle Self-Service Integration Cloud Service, take a look at our ebook: Make Your Cloud Work for You. SSI increases productivity by bringing together collaborative applications such as Slack with traditional enterprise applications, reduces IT workloads allowing IT to deliver initial set-up and any required advanced integration and then offloading basic integration updates to LOB, and delivers faster integration and integration updates. There is no training required to use SSI.  Simply ‘activate’ ready-to-run recipes and customer added events will automatically trigger the flow of integration. To learn more, we invite you to attend the webcast, Introducing Oracle Self-Service Integration, on April 18th at 10:00am PT. Vikas Anand, Oracle Vice President of Product Management, will discuss: Integration trends such as self-service, blockchain, and artificial intelligence the solutions available in Oracle Self-Service Integration Cloud Service Register today!

By Kellsey Ruppel, Principal Product Marketing Director, Oracle One of the most exciting innovations in integration over the last decade is arriving just in time to address the surge of productivity...

Growth Corner

Embrace a Spring Renaissance with Revolutionary Technology

Even though parts of the northern hemisphere are still covered in snow and apparently missed the memo noting the official arrival of spring, the season of renewal arrived last week. From secular and scientific to pagan and religious celebrations and observations, there are a plethora of words and phrases that highlight the equinox. Personally, my favorite word for spring is renaissance. Connecting this season with the concept of renaissance is particularly powerful for small-to medium-size businesses (SMBs). In so many ways, SMBs in all industries deliver the next generation of ideas and innovations for powering local and global economies forward. Statistics greatly vary, but overall SMBs create more opportunities for employment, growth and products than large enterprise firms collectively. In fact, SMBs are in many cases leading industry renaissances in places and fields where large firms have abandoned hope or presence, or often are simply unable to deliver for a myriad of reasons. The Season for a Modern Renaissance Which reinforces my association of the word renaissance with this season. The most common use of the word is associated with last part of the Middle Ages that bridged Europe to the Age of Enlightenment. Perhaps by sheer coincidence, the accounting structure of debits and credits was documented near the middle of this historical period. Though the historical origins of double accounting with debits and credits are uncertain, in 1494 a religious Franciscan friar in Venice – the “Father of Accounting” Luca Pacioli –  described and published the system used today as the operational basis for finance management. Yet, until finance systems were embedded into modern computing systems at the end of the last century, accounting was essentially trapped into an over 500-year-old paradigm of financial values ensconced across columnar paper. Early computing systems did little more than deliver digital versions of the paper-based tabular sheets used by finance professionals for centuries. The old on-premises systems did nothing more than cement the past into an electronic foundation. Today we are experiencing a remarkable enterprise renaissance for every aspect of every modern business operation. From finance and human resources to supply chains and customer experiences, no task is immune from this spring-like renaissance infused with cloud solutions and emerging technologies. This renaissance embodies the shift from tactical tasks to strategic activities. For example, instead of SMBs consuming budgets on maintaining, updating, and protecting on-premises systems, with cloud solutions the focus shifts almost immediately to business planning, market expansion and customer innovation. Another typical scenario involves reporting. Rather than trying to extract data from the business, well-designed cloud systems deliver – in real-time with embedded reports in applications – enterprise data in stunning graphical and detailed tabular displays. No more time and money lost designing, building, testing and deploying reports. Find out how you can take your business from surviving to thriving.       The Historical Transformation of Business So today, while accounting still uses debits and credits, cloud solutions are delivering configurable dashboards, revolutionary multi-dimensional real-time reporting, and structural flexibility unimaginable less than ten years ago. The metaphorical step function of this change is figuratively bigger than a common step; it is leap equivalent to a rocket launch. Every SMB can harness this historical and profound transformation.  SMBs are always best positioned to embrace this digital renaissance. Like other springtime metaphors including baby birds breaking out of their eggs or trees sprouting new green leaves from long dormant winter buds, for SMBs spring can deliver fresh approaches to meet their challenges and capture opportunities. This springtime metaphor goes well beyond finance and other core ERP components including procurement, risk, and project portfolio management. There are many fresh opportunities across human resources (HCM), supply chains (SCM), enterprise performance management (EPM) and customer experience (CX) solutions for marketing, sales and services. In addition, consider all the new and emerging technologies now becoming commercial viable. With artificial intelligence, blockchains, machine learning, augmented and virtual realities, and chatbots now increasing interwoven across the digital fabrics that encompass our personal and professional lives, it is hard to bet anymore against their importance. Just like two years ago when companies asked, “what is the cloud?” and now only ponder “how do I get to the cloud?”, SMBs are similarly skipping the “why” question and going straight to “how do I leverage emerging technologies?” Renaissance. An SMB Perspective this Spring. Which brings me back to “renaissance”. When reading history, I have always imagined how exciting the Renaissance period must have been when viewed from the ending years of the Middle Ages. The exploding inventory of art, scientific discovery, exploration, and overall knowledge alone was remarkable as the earlier Dark Ages were overtaken. But I have always thought the real excitement would have involved discussions about potential opportunities. Which reinforces my connection of the word renaissance with this season of birth and hope. While boundaries and challenges will always exist, SMBs are learning how these are diminished with cloud solutions and emerging technologies. The underlying theme of better days ahead is universal. The best part is, with so many modern solutions arriving at the door stoops of SMBs, every organization can pick their own path to a spring-like renaissance. A renaissance bristling with enthusiastic energies and business opportunities. Simply stated, every SMB this spring can define their tomorrow, today.  Learn 5 actions you can take right now to help your SMB grow.

Even though parts of the northern hemisphere are still covered in snow and apparently missed the memo noting the official arrival of spring, the season of renewal arrived last week. From secular and...

IT

FBI Cybersecurity Tips: How SMBs Can Prevent Ransomware Attacks

From WannaCry to NotPetya to Bad Rabbit to LeakerLocker, it can seem like new ransomware attacks make the news weekly. In fact, those four represent just a sliver of the widespread ransomware attacks that happened last year. What is ransomware, you may ask? It is malware that typically locks up sensitive data and systems via encryption, and then demands money—ransom—for users to get it back.  The FBI estimates that more than 4,000 ransomware attacks have occurred daily since the beginning of 2016. That’s a 300% increase from the previous year. This is due in part to the thriving sector of “ransomware-as-a-service.” Individuals don’t need to possess a certain skillset, rather malware developers advertise their ransomware on the dark web to be distributed by less sophisticated attackers, and then the developers/advertisers take their cut from the ransom amount paid. The cyber criminals behind these attacks aren’t necessarily picky; they target big companies, small businesses, government entities and individuals. But the damage they cause to small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) is particularly alarming. A recent report by a security firm last year noted that 22% of SMBs affected by ransomware had to cease operations immediately. One-third had suffered a ransomware attack in the previous year. “If you haven’t been a victim of ransomware or any other type of computer attack, you have to operate as if it’s just a matter of time before you are—and take the steps to protect yourself and mitigate the resulting damage or loss,” says Sheraun Howard, supervisory special agent with the FBI’s Cyber Division in Washington, D.C. The Ransomware Landscape  The FBI notes that ransomware is the fastest growing malware threat. While the names, details, and entry points of each attack vary, the concept remains the same. First, the bad actors deliver the ransomware. This is often done by spearphishing emails— targeted phishing emails aimed at specific employees and containing personal details to perpetuate the fraud. These emails or email attachments will contain an exploit for a particular software application vulnerability that provides the attacker access to your computer.  After the attacker has access to your computer, they then typically use additional malware to propagate throughout your network and drop their ransomware on to your environment, as was the case with the WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya attacks last year. Those malware took advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft’s OS to spread throughout organizations’ computers. Howard notes that Microsoft had released a patch for the particular vulnerability exploited in those attacks. In other cases, criminals gain access through brute force attacks against open remote desktop protocol (RDP) ports. Once the ransomware has been delivered in one way or another, it then prevents the targeted user from accessing their data or systems by encrypting their files. The targets receive an email, text file, or screen message demanding that they pay a ransom in order to regain that access. While blanket attacks across many organizations are common, ransomware incidents can also be very targeted to specific companies, Howard says. Cyber criminals sometimes gain access to a business’ network days or months earlier to gather financial information. Then use that insight to tailor the ransom note to the company. The resulting malware attacks, though, are not stealthy and you’ll know immediately when you’re in trouble. “It’s very in your face,” Howard says. “The purpose is to alert the victim that you’ve been compromised and by then it’s too late.” Defending Your SMB  Given the prevalence of ransomware threats and attacks, Howard and the FBI advise that SMBs take preventative measures to reduce their risk of becoming a victim. Here’s how: Educate your employees. Ensure that your employees are aware of the risks of ransomware and how it infects small businesses. Encourage them to never click on links in unsolicited emails and input their information, or to open unknown attachments. The FBI notes that you can also test your employees’ knowledge with simulated emails that look like phishing scams. Only download software from sites you know and trust. Keep your systems patched and updated. Because criminals often target vulnerabilities in existing systems, develop a regular plan for updating, encrypting, and patching your software and firmware on any company devices. The FBI recommends that companies consider using a centralized patch management system to streamline this process. Take a quick quiz to see how at risk you are.     Create a security incident response plan. These plans include steps for how your organization will respond to a ransom demand and ensure the continuity of your business. Such a plan may include isolating an infected computer, contacting law enforcement, collecting available portions of important files that still exist, securing backup systems and changing account passwords. Manage privileged accounts. SMBs need to be aware of who has access to what when it comes to their software applications and operating systems, Howard says. No users should be granted administrative access unless they really need it. He also recommends changing the default passwords on all administrative accounts, which tend to be weak and easily brute forced. Be aware of the external applications your employees are connecting to with their computers by implementing a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB). Audit user access. “One of the most common things we see is companies not auditing themselves properly,” Howard says. For instance, be sure to remove old user accounts for software and other systems created for employees who no longer work at your company. Keeping your list user accounts up-to-date is good practice for preventing data breaches or malware infections in general. Employ firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus programs. All of these tools are aimed at identifying, and then protecting your organization from potentially malicious emails and attacks. Setting up firewalls and filters, for instance, provides an easy way to reduce the risk of less-sophisticated ransomware. Respond and Recover If you’ve been a victim of a ransomware attack, contact the FBI to report the incident. Law enforcement may be able to use legal authorities and tools that are not available to most organizations. This can increase the odds of apprehending the criminal, thereby preventing future losses. Cyber attacker communities are growing and reporting an incident helps law enforcement fight ongoing threats and protect other businesses. Pay it forward. If your business does fall victim to a ransomware attack, Howard says the FBI does not support victims paying the ransom. There is no guarantee the decryption keys will be provided after the ransom is paid and there have been cases where businesses were extorted for additional money after payment. While the FBI does not support paying the ransom, it recognizes executives, when faced with inoperability issues, will evaluate all options to protect their shareholders, employees, and customers. If you’re prepared, ideally you’ll have backups of your systems and data. Howard says that after contacting law enforcement, the next step is to wipe your system and rebuild it. Take the time to learn as much as you can about how your system was compromised and how you can protect your SMB going forward.  How SMBs Can Reduce the Ransomware Risk Ransomware attacks have been on the rise, and small businesses often suffer the most damage. The FBI recommends SMBs take the following steps to reduce their risk of a ransomware attack. Educate your employees about the risks. Create a security incident response plan. Update and patch software and firmware. Manage privileged accounts. Audit user access to your systems. Use firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus programs. Ransomware attacks are a disruptive, malicious reality of running an SMB in the modern era. But take the right steps to prevent attacks, and you’ll reduce risk and suffer less damage if you do face a security breach. Download the FBIs full guide to learn more. Source: IC3.gov

From WannaCry to NotPetya to Bad Rabbit to LeakerLocker, it can seem like new ransomware attacks make the news weekly. In fact, those four represent just a sliver of the widespread ransomware attacks...

Finance

Spring Cleaning for Your SMB’s Financial Matters

For you and your family, spring is a time to sweep out the cobwebs from the garage and clear out any unused or unwanted items from the attic and cellar. It’s the same for your small or medium-sized business (SMB). Spring is an ideal time to review your financial matters and get your SMB’s financial house in shape. Financial Statements Financial statements should be reviewed regularly (monthly, quarterly), but if you aren’t in the habit of doing so, spring is a great time to get started. Here are two key statements to review now: Your balance sheet, which is a snapshot in time of your business’ assets and liabilities. It can be used as an indicator of financial trouble if the ratio of your liabilities to assets is greater than one to one. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to take immediate action. And if you’re looking for additional funding, your balance sheet is one of the financial statements used by investors and lenders to make their decisions on whether to help you out. Your income statement, also called profit and loss (P&E) statement, is another key financial document you should review. In simple terms, it shows the revenue coming in and what expenses are going out, and whether you’re profitable or experiencing a loss. This financial statement helps you make decisions about running your business (e.g., pricing, expansion, cutting overhead). And, like the balance sheet, you need it when seeking funding. Insurance Many SMB owners routinely renew their basic policies year after year, without giving thought to whether they have the appropriate coverage at the most favorable cost. Be sure you address these concerns: Does your policy match your business size? The extent of coverage in your existing policy may not reflect your business growth and may leave you underinsured if you experience a loss. Do you have all of the types of coverage you need? Disaster can strike at any time from many different sources. Work with a knowledgeable insurance agent to review potential risks. For example, if your business is within a flood zone, you may need a separate flood insurance policy. If a storm or other occurrence befalls you (remember hurricane season begins June 1) and forces you to close for a time, consider carrying business continuation coverage to pay your overhead and see you through. With the growing cyber threats, decide whether you want cyberliability insurance. This coverage (the extent of which varies by policy) protects you in case you’re hacked, experience ransomware, or need data recovery. Have you adopted business practices to minimize liability exposure? For example, do you have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place to protect your employees and avoid possible legal action against your company? Have you adopted safety measures to minimize workers’ compensation claims, which can keep down the cost of your premiums. Debt With interest rates on the rise (the Federal Reserve hinted that there may be as many as three rate hikes in 2018), you should review your existing line of credit and the interest rates on business credit cards. Here are some actions to consider: Pay down outstanding debt bearing adjustable interest before rates rise to the extent that you can. Obtain different credit cards best suited to your business. Consider not only interest rates if you typically run a balance, but using credit cards for other purposes (e.g., cash rewards, travel benefits). Credit In order to grow, you need access to capital. This depends not only on your current financial situation, as reflected in the financial statements discussed earlier, but also credit scores for owners as well as for businesses. What to do? Check your personal FICO score to make sure there aren’t any errors. You can do an annual free credit check. If you detect anything that isn’t yours (an account, a lawsuit), you can rectify the error through the credit reporting company that made the listing. Monitor your business credit rating through such services as Experian, NAV, and CreditSignal. These services offer a free check. Improve your credit ratings. If your FICO score is low, be proactive in improving it. Fundera suggests that you have a 700 score to obtain the most favorable terms and rates. Like your personal score, you should take steps to continually improve your business credit rating. Spring may also be a great time to make other business decisions, such as hiring new employees, buying new equipment and machinery, or expanding operations to an additional location. All of these activities can be facilitated by having your financial matters in good order. Want more finance tips and insights from the SMB Experts? See what they had to say in our recent tweetchat, Financial Intelligence for Business Owners.

For you and your family, spring is a time to sweep out the cobwebs from the garage and clear out any unused or unwanted items from the attic and cellar. It’s the same for your small or medium-sized...

Human Resources

Sustaining Company Culture in a Changing World

A strong company culture offers unlimited benefits. It helps attract top talent, it decreases turnover, it enhances your company’s brand identity (which helps appeal to customers and increase customer loyalty), and it strengthens chemistry among your team, among many other things. But how can small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) create and sustain company culture in today’s changing world? How can SMBs deliver a culture that’s capable of competing with today’s corporate giants, who have unlimited budgets and cool perks? To learn how business owners and leaders can create a company culture that successfully engages and retains their workforce, Oracle SMB asked our Twitter community to weigh in during a recent Tweetchat, Sustaining Company Culture in a Changing World. Continue reading to see the answers we received. Why is company culture so important today, especially for SMBs? A great culture can help SMBs attract and retain the quality employees the need to compete. A big challenge for every biz! Also helps SMBs grow faster, be more productive, weather downturns. There’s obviously no downside. – Karen Kerrigan (@KarenKerrigan), CEO and President, U.S. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council Company culture is especially important at a small business. It can be your “lure” to attract and retain staff. – Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), Founder and Contributing Writer, SmallBizDaily.com Growth, productivity and customer satisfaction are all linked to culture. There are all positive outcomes with a great culture. – Gwendolyn Turner (@GwenFTurner), President, Princeton Proper A good company culture creates an emotional connection and represents specific values. People are loyal to what they feel emotionally connected to and feel they have shared values with. – Ali Davies (@Ali_Davies) Because, contrary to what is often assumed, a company’s greatest asset is not its product or service. Its greatest asset is its PEOPLE. – Joel Peterson (@Joelyoh), Society of Human Resources Senior Certified Professional Think of Ben & Jerry’s, Harley Davidson or Starbucks. They were all once small businesses that grew by having unique company culture. It is part of their DNA. – @UrbanSuccess Fill in the blank: The key to a great company culture is ___________. The key to a great company culture is commitment, trust, and authentic engagement. Also, consistency. – Karen Kerrigan (@KarenKerrigan), CEO and President, U.S. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council Three words: Clearly defined values. Values offer a roadmap, they demonstrate what’s important to your company. What does your company believe? Write it down and create a culture that supports it! – Gwendolyn Turner (@GwenFTurner), President, Princeton Proper The key to a great company culture is open and transparent communication, trust and integrity from the top down, and a sense of purpose. – Carrie Maslen (@Carrie Maslen), Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Gilroy Associates Great question. Open mindedness. Willing to listen to all ideas. Gratitude. Most important, live your mission. Stand behind what you say. Do as you say. It’s about authenticity. – Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), Founder and Contributing Writer, SmallBizDaily.com I think the key to a great company culture is gratitude. From the top down, everyone being thankful that they are part of a winning team and formula. It will make employees run to work every day. – Brian Moran (@BrianMoran), CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Award-winning Business Strategist The key to a great company culture is trust. Trust in the people you hired, to do what you hired them for. Transparency. Being transparent, upfront, frank, honest with your employees is key to having a great company culture. – Joel Peterson (@Joelyoh), Society of Human Resources Senior Certified Professional The key to a great company culture is clarity, commitment, and communication, and every person in the company living and working by the core values that create that culture. – Ali Davies (@Ali_Davies) Are there any immediate steps SMBs can take to improve culture and keep employees engaged? Start planting seeds and put in consistent effort. Get the communications going. Share goals and priorities and how each employee is critical to those. Ask: Do you have the tools you need to do your job/work? – Karen Kerrigan (@KarenKerrigan), CEO and President, U.S. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council A low cost way to improve culture is to lead a focus group. Ask questions, solicit advice and create a small team to implement changes. Summer is coming up. Plan a group outing that’s a mix of business and social. June is always a great time to review mid-year results and enjoy cold drinks! Create a culture plan. Determine your vision, then create the steps to get there. A great culture is a journey. Start small and work your way up! – Gwendolyn Turner (@GwenFTurner), President, Princeton Proper Walk around. Talk to your staff. Do you actually know how they feel? What they think? Can you hold a town hall? – Rieva Lesonsky (@Rieva), Founder and Contributing Writer, SmallBizDaily.com When you see something (wrong or otherwise off), say something immediately. Call it out. Flush it out. Fix it! Communicate! Act on concerns/issues raised AND risk over communicating about it as you do. Don’t assume your people know and trust that you’re fixing what’s wrong. Be present! Absence does not make the heart grow fonder in this case. When there is an issue, your people need to see you working with them, that you’re present and engaged along with them. Break down the barriers! As the leader of your business, one of your key roles is the removal of the obstacles that impede your people from succeeding. Break down the barriers. Remove the roadblocks. Toss out the bad apples. – Joel Peterson (@Joelyoh), Society of Human Resources Senior Certified Professional Read the full recap of the Tweetchat: Sustaining Company Culture in a Changing World

A strong company culture offers unlimited benefits. It helps attract top talent, it decreases turnover, it enhances your company’s brand identity (which helps appeal to customers and increase customer...

Finance

Supporting Future Growth in the Cloud

Sim International prides itself on being a full-service production house for some big players in the entertainment game. Their motto, “From first frame to finishing,” covers everything a TV show or movie might need during and after a shoot: studios, cameras, lights, dailies, editing bays, special effects and post-production—even freelance talent. With studios in major locales including Toronto, Vancouver and Los Angeles, Sim’s clients include big names like Netflix, Universal, Warner Brothers, and many more. But despite its global cultural clout, the entertainment industry is a small world. Relationships matter, and landing the business requires cultivating close connections with the power players holding the purse strings. Since 2010, Sim has set about expanding this network—acquiring seven different companies, each with its own culture, leadership, and carefully nurtured client list. That created a hodgepodge of financial systems, accounts and processes—and a lot of visibility challenges for Sim International executives. “Our old individual legacy brands managed their own books with their individual chart of account and separate policies,” said Julie Anne Mong, vice president of financial technology services at Sim International. “We originally had seven systems with separate chart of accounts; in aggregate, we had approximately 5,000 accounts.” The acquired companies were using a variety of software packages to manage their finances, from Quickbooks to Great Plains. During the financial close, each entity had to run its own trial balance on its own software. “These seven individual trial balances would then be aligned as accurately as possible to each other and consolidated in Excel,” Mong continued. “This was very labor intensive and typically took many weeks. If there was any other unusual activity during that period, such as M&A or audits, the close could take months.” In addition to a painful period close, these disparate systems stymied efforts to further grow the business; without a single chart of accounts, it was a labor-intensive process for Sim to look at potential acquisitions and run “what-if” scenarios with any confidence in the numbers. “Typically, by the time the results were available, the data was stale and any agile response opportunities were lost,” said Mong. Julie Mong and Richard Kadeg of Sim International turned to Oracle Financials Cloud to adapt to financial complexity.   Breaking Down Silos to Support Growth To support its growth strategy, Sim International decided to turn to the cloud to manage its finances. With help from Gold Standard Management Consulting, Sim International implemented Oracle ERP Cloud as the system of record across its entire business, replacing the siloed financial software from its seven acquisitions. “The big win here is the standardization,” said Mong. “The system forced better fiscal discipline and unification across the divisions. We have adopted unified policies and have improved our internal controls.” Sim implemented a single CoA, reducing the number of accounts from about 5,000 down to 400. “We are on one set of books that aggregates the company data in subledgers and ledgers in a way that allows us to look at information strategically.” That strategic view has proven critical in supporting Sim’s future growth plans. With Oracle EPM Cloud, “we’re able to align to and measure against our corporate strategy to be a full-service entertainment brand. Planning and budgeting allows us to measure our successes, as well as model new opportunities. We have far more data points to leverage and are able to access this information far faster than before.  Both will support our growth strategies.” From an IT perspective, Sim International can now take advantage of world-class security, hardware, availability and redundancy—at a cost available to small-to medium-size businesses (SMBs). “Sim does not need to have multiple database administrators on staff to support the system,” said Richard Kadeg, president of Gold Standard Management Consulting, Sim’s implementation partner. “Monthly security patching is now part of business testing between Oracle and Sim. The environments are always current on patches and the process is rigorously managed to minimize downtime.” This helps Sim International scale easily, adding more transactions without adding more staff or hardware. The Importance of Change Management Mong said that the technology was the easy part of the project. The toughest challenge was the change management. Leaders from the acquired companies, who were used to running their own businesses on their own software, found it a tough adjustment. For example, simple control changes—such as purchase order requirements for non-capital expenditures—were processes that some found unfamiliar. “We prepared for the changes through frequent communication about the goals of the project, highlighting the alignment with our company strategy,” Mong said about Sim’s change management strategy. They brought key financial stakeholders into the system early to acclimate them. They spoke to stakeholders about why the company needed to standardize and adopt best practices. And, when the cloud went live, they immediately decommissioned the old legacy applications—forcing users to adopt the new system.  Mong notes that change management is still a struggle, but “the system is bringing the discipline.” And it’s supporting the goals that Sim’s CEO laid down at the outset: supporting future growth and absorbing new acquisitions in weeks, rather than months. “The company is maturing by leaps and bounds every month,” Mong notes. “These types of changes require constant vocal and visible executive sponsorship to be successful.” Learn how SMBs are moving to more intelligent finance. Read our latest research.

Sim International prides itself on being a full-service production house for some big players in the entertainment game. Their motto, “From first frame to finishing,” covers everything a TV show...

IT

FBI Cybersecurity Tips: How to Protect Your SMB from Email Impersonation

We’ve all received an email that seemed a little suspicious or made an unusual request for financial or personal information. Most consumers know to delete these emails right away because they’re likely a scam. But what if you received an email from your CEO or CFO, and it sounded just like them? What if they asked you do something you were expecting to do anyway—such as pay a bill? What if they mentioned their children’s names and other personal details? Welcome to the new world of Business Email Compromise (BEC). In this growing form of cybercrime, fraudsters impersonate a business email—usually someone in an executive position—and then contact an employee to ask for a wire transfer or employee information. These phishing scams increased an astounding 2,370% between 2015 and 2016, and caused $5.3 billion in losses, according to the FBI.  “The group at largest risk are small-to medium-size businesses (SMBs),” says Cary Scardina, a supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Division in Washington, D.C. “I’ve seen small businesses get hit with losses from $45,000 to several million; it can be devastating, depending on the size of the company.” Fortunately, there are steps businesses can take to reduce their risk of becoming a BEC victim—and the work starts with simply being aware. Beyond the Usual Threats  When Scardina describes BEC, he narrows the crime down to one word: Impersonation. At the core of the scam, cybercriminals are simply impersonating an employee’s boss or company finance executive. “But it’s now of a higher quality than in years past,” Scardina says. These are not emails from far-away royalty who need your employees’ help. Instead, BEC fraudsters are hacking into employee email accounts and then conducting sophisticated surveillance, sometimes for weeks or more. The attacker will track email traffic to learn how a person talks, how wire transfers and other requests are made—even what nicknames employees might use for each other.  When it comes time to conduct the actual crime, a fraudulent email may come from either an authentic or spoofed account. With a spoofed account the domain is slightly off. For example, a business name may contain an extra letter or an email might add a period between the first and last name. The attackers then ask the recipient to make a wire transfer payment—and include instructions for how to do so. Learn about the Top 6 security tips for SMB’s.     SMBs are Prime Targets Increasingly, the cybercriminals are phishing for company W-2 information, which they use to file fraudulent tax returns. The IRS noted that more than 200 companies—which translates to hundreds of thousands of employees—were compromised by such scams last year. Scardina says that SMBs are prime candidates for business email compromise wire transfer and W-2 email fraud. “That’s where you can have the intersection of high-dollar amounts and lower IT security,” he says. The real estate industry has witnessed much of the BEC activity, largely because of the transactions realtors and others involved are conducting. But the criminals aren’t picky. Scardina has also seen medical offices, law firms and even pig farms targeted by these spoofed email schemes. In many cases, the companies don’t catch the fraudulent transfer for a few days. These issues are time-sensitive: And by then, it can be hard to reverse the transfer or trace the money before it is broken up and divided into multiple overseas accounts.  Get Ahead of Scammers So how do you keep your SMB safe from BEC scams? As with many things, the best defense is a good offense. Scardina and the FBI offered the following guidance for reducing your risk of becoming a BEC victim: 1. Verify money transfer requests.  Institute a company policy that requires employees to verify requests for wire transfers—ideally with a phone call authentication. This is especially vital if the transfer request is deemed urgent by the email sender, Scardina says. In addition, advise employees to not discuss the details of wire transfers or bank accounts over email and to confirm any changes in the process with the bank or vendor. 2. Implement detection systems.  Task your IT team with creating a system that flags emails from domains that are similar to your own and could be used to create a look-alike domain. Other helpful tips include adding a rule in your email account that automatically flags emails in which the reply address is different from the “from” address. Also, be aware of the external applications your employees are connecting to with their computers by implementing a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)  application. 3. Educate your employees.  Execute some social engineering, and ensure that your employees are aware of BEC warning signs. Red flags that an email may be fraudulent include: Any email that provides wire information or requests changes to existing information, requests for expedited payments, asks for W-2 information. “Flagging these should just be automatic,” Scardina says. “Employers should have a policy for how to do so.”   If you do suspect you’ve been a victim of BEC, Scardina says the first thing to do is to call the financial institution that sent the wire. In some cases, the bank can initiate a recall of the funds. Then call the FBI and file a report at IC3.gov. That way the FBI can track the details of your case. Lastly, have your employees change their passwords to their email and any other company networks. 4. Adopt a passphrase.   Using longer passwords and changing them on a regular basis seems like a given. But, the traditional standards for passwords encourage people to use a single, difficult to remember password across all of their accounts. Great news! New research shows that rather than having a complicated mixture of special characters, numerals and capitalizations, using a passphrase is more secure and easer to remember. Longer passwords containing multiple upper and lower-case words are more secure. Consider choosing something relevant to you (like a book title) that wouldn’t be public knowledge. This lightens the “memory burden” on users, making them more inclined to follow this security best practice.  Change your passphrases on a regular basis. The new version can be similar to the previous phrase, for example from “thesunalsorisesinJAN” to “thesunalsorisesinFEB.” Business email compromise remains on the rise—and the cyber criminals are only getting smarter. Take these precautions to educate your employees against threats and prevent your business from losing time, money and more to an email scam.  4 Ways to Protect Your SMB from BEC Business email compromise scams are on the rise, costing $5.3 billion in losses since 2013. To reduce your risk: Verify email wire transfers and PII requests, even from people you know. Create fraudulent email detection systems if you have an IT security team. Educate your employees. Use long passwords, change them routinely, and do not reuse them for multiple accounts. Source: IC3.gov

We’ve all received an email that seemed a little suspicious or made an unusual request for financial or personal information. Most consumers know to delete these emails right away because...

Customer Experience

3 Reasons You Need to Attend Modern Customer Experience

I’ve been going to conferences, large and small, for more than 25 years. I’ve seen and heard some amazing speakers, made life-long connections, and learned so much about business—and life. As the world becomes more connected and almost everything can be done virtually, it begs the question, “Do conferences and in-person events still matter?” My answer: absolutely. As I plan out my year, I’ll be sharing with you some of the events that I refuse to miss, and think are important for ALL leaders and employees of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to attend. One conference I’m particularly jazzed to be attending is Modern Customer Experience, presented by Oracle, from April 10-12 in Chicago. If your job touches any area of customer experience (CX)—which, there aren’t many jobs today that don’t—this is one conference you need to be at. Here are three reasons you’ll want to book your ticket to Modern Customer Experience now: The People: As my good friend Bryan Kramer often says, “Business is no longer B2B or B2C; it’s all H2H (Human to Human).” Behind the computers, smartphones, and social media profiles are real people. The intangible benefits of meeting someone face-to-face allow you to make connections that help fill in the blanks for conversations that started via email or on social media. In fact, I met Bryan Kramer at a business event in Colorado (he was the moderator; I was on the panel), and he’s since introduced me to at least two of my clients and a whole new way to look at CX. He and I are joining forces again at Modern Customer Experience, where he's leading a session called Drive Business Growth with a Human to Human Customer Experience on April 11 at 5:15PM CDT. The Content: CX expectations are rapidly changing—and with so much technology driving its evolution, it can be hard to keep up. Where else can you learn about the latest tech tools available to help your business? At Modern Customer Experience, attendees can see new and emerging technologies on display, side-by-side, and then talk to the people who are actually building them. In 2017, Modern Customer Experience honed in on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data, and the roles they’re playing in transforming businesses and industries. Next month, the conference goes even deeper to make sure you know what to do with these technologies in 2018. At Modern Customer Experience, I’ll take my knowledge of SMB tech and learn how to add the CX component to it. I’ll listen to entrepreneurs and executives at Fortune 100 companies talk about what businesses can do to stay connected to their prospects and customers in a customer-centric world. To me, Modern Customer Experience is akin to getting my Executive MBA degree. The venue is a college campus, and the speakers are my professors. The final exam is how I implement the knowledge into my own company. The Benchmark for Your Business and Brand: Chances are, your competitors will be at Modern Customer Experience. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to see what they are doing—from the booth they set up, to the collateral they hand out, to what they say or ask in sessions. When it comes to competition, conferences are the arenas; a place to measure your business and brand against other companies in your industry. How do you measure up? What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the other companies? Who are they talking to, and what are they saying? Further, what are they writing on social media while at the event? For example, a tweet might say “We had a great meeting with XYZ company. Looking forward to doing business with them this year.” Yes, I’ve seen companies write that message on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. And yes, XYZ company was one of my client’s largest customers. By attending Modern Customer Experience this April, you can stay close to your clients while meeting with prospects. You can also keep an eye on the competition and defend your business in real-time. If you want to talk more about business and technology, let’s meet there. We can attend sessions, walk the aisles, and spy on your competitors. If you are planning to be there, send me an email at brian@smallbusinessedge.com. Don’t miss Modern Customer Experience, April 10-12 in Chicago. Use code CONNECT18 for $500 off.

I’ve been going to conferences, large and small, for more than 25 years. I’ve seen and heard some amazing speakers, made life-long connections, and learned so much about business—and life. As...

Oracle

Integrated Cloud Applications & Platform Services