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Expert Advice for High-Growth Businesses

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Finance

Finance Relies on Technology – More Than You Think

According to a McKinsey Special Collection, “The Role of the CFO,” today’s CFOs are responsible for much more than just finance. For example, 38 percent of CFOs are responsible for IT. So what can finance leaders do to step into the future and transform their businesses? As companies grow in size and complexity, finance departments are having to adapt to the growth as well. The future of finance relies on technology to pave the way for efficient and innovative ways of working. Piecemeal ERP software will no longer deliver the needed results for finance professionals, and more advanced digital technologies will be what companies lean on for success. Finance department tasks such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, expense management, month-end close, and procurement continue to grow in difficulty. The solution to this growth is moving ERP to the cloud. It is no longer “cloud when?” It’s “cloud now.” Oracle ERP Cloud gives finance leaders the ability to see all financial data, in its most accurate, up-to-date form, at any given time. According to our research, 76 percent of finance professional respondents said they have plans to run ERP in the cloud. They also showed a strong interest in or are already exploring adaptive and artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotic process automation, and blockchain. When utilizing these new transformative technologies, many growing companies choose process automations as their first step. With AI and machine learning, finance leaders can automatically detect patterns in large, varied data sets. Significant tactical and strategic decisions can then be made from those insights. Financial assets can now be safely transferred and traced through blockchain. By automating processes, finance departments can now leave basic manual work behind and focus on strategic planning and analysis. This is an excerpt from “Digital Transformation for High-Growth Companies.” Learn more about digitally transforming your company, and read the full ebook.

According to a McKinsey Special Collection, “The Role of the CFO,” today’s CFOs are responsible for much more than just finance. For example, 38 percent of CFOs are responsible for IT. So what can...

SMB Experts

The State of SMB Policy Moving Into 2019

Small-to-medium business (SMB) optimism continues to ride high. The strong economy, which grew at 3.5% in the third quarter (following 4.2% growth in the second quarter), is helping to sustain this historic optimism. Since policy can have a significant impact on the economy and business health, here’s a rundown on some key issues that may affect both as we move into 2019. Access to Capital The Democratic majority in the House following the 2018 mid-term elections has the potential to be very active on a number of bipartisan bills that could make their way to the President’s desk. One in particular, the JOBS and Investor Confidence Act (JOBS Act 3.0), is a package of more than 20 bills that modernizes and fixes various securities laws and capital-related regulations. The reforms will help to improve capital access for startups and small businesses, reduce the burden of buying or selling a business, and target research in key areas that will inform the direction of future policy. JOBS Act 3.0 passed the House in mid-July with a huge bipartisan vote of 406-4.   The bill needs 60 votes in the Senate to pass, and one might think that would be easy, given the bipartisan outcome in the House. The results of the 2018 mid-term elections will affect the political environment, but deals will be made on a variety of bills. JOBS Act 3.0 is one that will be in the mix. Having this bill signed into law by the end of 2018 would be a big boost to U.S. capital markets, which will directly benefit startup activity and SMB growth in 2019.  Regulatory Reform for SMBs How federal government agencies make regulations is very outdated—in fact, the process is more than 70-years-old! Several pieces of legislation to update that process have passed the House and a key Senate Committee, which means they are poised for a full Senate vote. The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (S. 584), for example, would give small businesses a bigger and earlier voice in the regulatory process, require cost-benefit analysis (including “indirect” costs), and waive first-time paperwork violations for small businesses, among other changes.  While the regulatory burden has eased somewhat over the past two years, business owners want a process that is fair and transparent when new regulations are being made. It will be very tough to obtain 60 votes on these broad regulatory reform bills (including S. 584) during the new session, which means the effort will be pursued again in the new Congress.  But progress can be made on individual regulations, like revising the “joint employer” standard. The National Labor Relations Board is already moving forward on a clear and more traditional standard, while the Department of Labor (DOL) is expected to release their proposed rule before the end of the year. This is good news for many types of businesses and for entrepreneurs who wish to franchise their businesses. Having certainty and predictability on “joint employer” is critical for many who want to move forward with expansion plans.     One issue where SMBs will have to continue to wait is on the revised “overtime regulation.” The Obama-era rule that doubled the wage threshold (from $23,660 to $47,476) was blocked by a court from taking effect in 2017, but the DOL still must develop a new rule and that is taking a long time. The proposed rule could come early in 2019, and it may mean an increase, as DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta said during his confirmation hearings that mandated overtime pay “should” increase to $33,000.  Unfortunately, the uncertainty continues on this issue for business owners going into 2019. By the end of 2018, tax rules from the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” should be done, but there will be other uncertainties in key areas for business owners as the New Year kicks off. Tariffs and healthcare costs are two issues that come to mind, and we will take a closer look at these (and other issues) in a future blog post. Business owners can also receive timely updates by visiting the SBE Council website or by following us on Twitter at @SBECouncil.    For the latest SMB news and insights from Karen Kerrigan, 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.

Small-to-medium business (SMB) optimism continues to ride high. The strong economy, which grew at 3.5% in the third quarter (following 4.2% growth in the second quarter), is helping to sustain this...

Finance

What Happens When Trust (in Data) is Gone?

When data lives in many different systems, finance has to rely on spreadsheets and manual processes to fill information gaps. People end up spending more time searching for the right spreadsheet with the correct data (or even building their own, tapping into their own particular data sources) than actually analyzing and making decisions. This tendency (in turn) leads to bad decisions, maybe even catastrophic decisions. Bad decisions are made in companies every day – from enterprise to small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) to start-ups.  However, as departments, executives, and outside stakeholders begin to lose trust in the data, no one is sure if any decision is the right decision, or (even worse) they may put off deciding at all.   The Fragile Nature of Trust When multiple manual steps are used to supplement a flawed process (supported by a less-than-optimal infrastructure), employees have to rekey payment information, manually calculate discount percentages, reconcile customer information, or log into multiple systems to see purchase or payment histories. These manual steps inevitably chip away at trust, in terms of slow-downs, reporting errors, and bad decisions. Trust is a very fragile thing. With spreadsheets, errors run rampant. Company size does not matter; industry does not matter. For example, during the 2012 Olympics, a single keystroke error caused tickets for 10,000 imaginary seats to be sold. Keystroke errors, broken links, incorrect formulas cause delays, reporting errors, and bad decisions that are based on that incomplete and inaccurate data. And let’s face it, trust is destroyed if reports are filled with mistakes, potentially setting employees up for embarrassment (or worse) if they provide incorrect information to their management. And this affects the entire company. Growth depends on companies being able to keep investors, regulators, and executives informed―with better transparency. Transparency turns data into a competitive advantage. Chief finance officers (CFOs) and chief information officers (CIOs) have to work together to improve decision-making. CFOs and their finance teams can no longer wait until the end of the month (when IT runs a report) to get the data they need. The competition will already be too far in the lead. Getting access to consolidated views and up-to-the-minute reporting cannot happen if data is scattered across a variety of point solutions or spreadsheets, or if everything is held in multiple general ledgers (GL). And that can mean the difference between growth and shutting the doors for good. A Lack of Trust Does Have Costs The direct costs of inconsistent data include the support of multiple data sources as well as the systems used to manage them. Indirect costs are higher. They include all the labor required to connect these systems (and keep them connected). Any many of the costs are not quantifiable. Significant but hard to quantify. Firms that invest in trusted data achieve a corresponding return, and those returns can be extensive. Trust brings peace of mind, and it helps reduce costs and improve efficiency. Trusted data streamlines any/all troubleshooting. A reliable data foundation speeds time-to-market for new products and time-to-entry for new geographies. Trusted data allows the executive team to make better, faster decisions about investments, risk, infrastructure, and resource allocation—all to pursue and realize new opportunities faster. They change from market laggards to market leaders. They become innovators instead of followers, and they get new products to the right markets quicker and cost-effectively. ERP Cloud to the Rescue Unlike fragmented spreadsheets, ERP cloud solutions provide that central source of truth—no manual aggregation and no waiting around for IT to deliver a report that is out-of-date on the day it is produced.  But the journey for many companies is not complete. A recent survey reveals that only 35 percent of CFOs are confident that they have access to the financial and operational data that they need to make critical business decisions promptly. Over three-fourths (77 percent) admit that they have had to delay decisions due to lack of information. This is where ERP Cloud can come to the rescue. With better reporting, complete integration, self-service features, and collaborative planning solutions, the right ERP cloud can provide the on-demand data access and the single system of record that CFOs want. In addition, only 45 percent see their groups serving in strategic, thought-leadership role based on data analytics. In fact, 51 percent spend the majority of their time on transactional (vs. analytical processes). They seem to be working more on putting together the data vs. analyzing and acting on the data. Does this mean that some CFOs who started the process of migrating to the cloud have quit the process? Or do some finance professionals still hold lingering concerns about the cloud regarding security and data loss? Or do they view the migration to the cloud as cost-prohibitive? But the news is not all bad. While some CFOs still struggle with the reality of putting financial and operational data in the cloud, the vast majority (73 percent) now say they trust the cloud for storing their sensitive financial and operational data. This reflects an understanding of the fundamental shift needed for SMBs (and their larger and smaller counterparts) to gain both timely access to, and trust in, their data. Want to learn more?  Read our ebook to see what the right ERP Cloud can do for your SMB.

When data lives in many different systems, finance has to rely on spreadsheets and manual processes to fill information gaps. People end up spending more time searching for the right spreadsheet with...

Customer Experience

Same Place, Same Time, Two Different Events!

Limitless I March 19–21, 2019 I Las Vegas Be Part of Defining Your Company’s Future At Limitless, presented by Oracle, finance, HR, and supply chain teams will converge and define the future of their business in Las Vegas March 19-21, 2019. Combining the power of individual Oracle cloud conferences (Modern Finance Experience, HCM World, and Modern Supply Chain Experience) into a larger platform empowers attendees to address challenges and opportunities holistically. This is your opportunity to learn and collaborate with community of over 6,000 professionals focused on the latest digital advances and trends with industry experts, innovators, and cloud users. The call for papers has been extended! Submit a session idea through November 16th.  Customer stories are amongst the most popular session types, so submit your session proposal and inspire your peers in finance, HR, and supply chain. Accepted speakers receive a complimentary conference pass. Nominations are now open for the Oracle Change Agents of Finance Awards and Oracle HCM Cloud Rubies Awards. Nominate your team, your colleagues—or even yourself! Nominations will be accepted until December 7, 2018. Register by November 30th and save 50% off the onsite rate.  Learn more and register to attend Limitless.   Modern Customer Experience I March 19–21, 2019 I Las Vegas Make plans to join your CX tribe in Las Vegas March 19-21, 2019 at Modern Customer Experience 2019. Aspiring CX heroes from marketing, service, sales, and commerce will be surrounded by experts who share their knowledge and help you achieve legendary results. You’ll leave after three days with new innovations to differentiate your company with consistent, connected customer experiences. Don’t forget, the 13th annual Markie Awards, expanding in 2019 to include sales and service organizations, will be announced later this month. Register by November 30th and save 50% off the onsite rate.  Learn more and register to attend Modern Customer Experience. By Kristin Gudenrath, Senior Field Marketing Manager, Oracle

Limitless I March 19–21, 2019 I Las Vegas Be Part of Defining Your Company’s Future At Limitless, presented by Oracle, finance, HR, and supply chain teams will converge and define the future of...

IT

SMBs Beware: 4 Hidden Costs of Cloud Infrastructure

Most cloud infrastructure vendors offer companies a stable and secure environment on which to build and run their applications without having to manage a data center, invest in hardware, or install and update software. While most cloud vendors provide the same types of services, they differ in how they charge for and deliver those services. Thinking of migrating your data center to the cloud? Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) can prevent runaway spending for their cloud infrastructures by evaluating vendors based on four hidden costs: 1. Compute Services Prices That Don’t ‘Autoscale’ Among the most essential elements of cloud infrastructure, compute services provide companies with the raw CPUs/GPUs they need to process data and workloads. What makes the cost of compute so difficult to estimate is that companies need varying degrees of capacity at different times. Small variations in cloud vendors’ pricing models can mean huge differences in customer costs. Bay Area adtech firm Widget learned that lesson the hard way. “We were spending enormous sums of money with Amazon Web Services on server capacity that we weren’t using,” says Vik Mehta, cloud evangelist at VastEdge, Widget’s software implementation partner. To get truly “elastic” capacity, the pricing of cloud-based servers needs to reflect the exact capacity a company actually consumes, says Brent Juelich, director of business development at Oracle. But many cloud vendors price their compute services based on estimated capacity ranges. With AWS, “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.” 2. Bulk Storage ‘Discounts’ That Don’t Render Savings Cloud storage is becoming increasingly attractive as companies collect ever-greater amounts of data. But selecting the right type of cloud storage can be tricky.   That’s because some vendors peddle bulk discounts for block and object storage, often locking companies into capacity they won’t need. “Our storage needs are based on our customers’ storage needs, which can expand or contract quickly, making it difficult for us to forecast,” says Michael Seidler, vice president of business development for V5 Systems, an outdoor security platform startup. Read about the two other hidden costs in the full story on Forbes: 4 Hidden Costs Of Cloud Infrastructure

Most cloud infrastructure vendors offer companies a stable and secure environment on which to build and run their applications without having to manage a data center, invest in hardware, or install...

Finance

10 Financial Moves to Make Before the End of 2018

The end of the fourth quarter of 2018 is coming up soon, but it’s not too late to make financial moves before the end of the year to improve your bottom line. Here are 10 important actions small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) should consider doing now: Review where you stand for 2018. In order to decide what actions to take, you need to know whether your SMB is having a good year or a bad one. Just because your customers are buying does not necessarily mean you’re in a solid financial position. Review your financial statements year to date to determine if 2018 is shaping up to be a good year or a bad year. Think about tax savings. If you use the cash method of accounting—which can now be used by all businesses with average annual gross receipts of no more than $25 million in the three prior years—think carefully about how you want to handle your income and expenses between now and the end of the year. For example, if you reviewed your financials and see a good year, you may want to minimize income and optimize expenses to keep your taxes down. This can be done by delaying billing until late in the year so payment won’t be received until 2019. Conversely, increase deductible expenses by paying outstanding invoices, stocking up on supplies, and prepaying items such as insurance, rent, subscriptions (as long as you don’t prepay more than 12 months in advance, which limits deductibility). Consider giving year-end bonuses. If this is a good year, share your hard work and good fortune with your employees by giving year-end bonuses. Determine how much the company can afford to give, factoring in payroll taxes on the bonuses. Manage your inventory. Inventory may take up considerable capital. As the year winds down, take a hard look at what’s on the shelves so you can take appropriate action. This may include re-marketing items, holding sales (perhaps after the holiday season), returning merchandise to vendors for new items or a credit, or selling to liquidation companies. Select health coverage for 2019. If your SMB offers this benefit to employees, shop for coverage for the coming year. Look for coverage offerings through Association Health Plans (AHPs)—group health plans available through trade associations and chambers of commerce—to lower your costs. If you are a small employer without a plan, you can consider a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA) to reimburse employees for their individually-obtained health coverage (up to set limits). Set up a qualified retirement plan. If you don’t yet have a qualified retirement plan, consider setting one up now. It’s a good benefit that will help with employee retention. What’s more, employer contributions are tax deductible, and you may even get a tax credit for setting up the plan. As long as you sign the paperwork for a 401(k) or other plan, you can make contributions up to the extended due date of your return. Of course, if you miss the deadline, you can still set up and fund a SEP by your extended due date. But because a SEP may not be the optimal plan for your situation, consider all plan choices now. Make charitable donations. Being generous helps charitable organizations; it also helps your business financially. For example, if you support a local charity, your company likely will gain visibility and appreciation in the community, which, in the long run, translates into sales. Also, the cost of donations usually entitles you to a charitable contribution deduction, subject to various limitations. Or in some cases, you may be able to fully write off the cost as an advertising or marketing expense. Make your budget for 2019. Look ahead and plan now for 2019. Factor in rising costs (e.g., pay raises for your staff, higher gasoline and travel costs, etc.). Keep in mind that there’s a higher Social Security wage base that will impact FICA costs for the company. Schedule an appointment with your CPA. If you don’t meet regularly with your CPA, be sure to schedule an appointment now to review your tax position for 2018. This will give you time to take action before the end of the year to optimize your tax position. Continue to monitor legislative and regulatory developments. Various measures pending on the federal, state, and local levels could impact your cost of doing business. Keep watch for possible changes requiring action before the end of the year. According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Finish up your 2018 on a high note! For the latest SMB news and insights from Barbara Weltman, 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.

The end of the fourth quarter of 2018 is coming up soon, but it’s not too late to make financial moves before the end of the year to improve your bottom line. Here are 10 important actions...

Supply Chain Management

6 Features You Need to Support Tomorrow’s Supply Chain

Effective supply chain management is one of the most important parts of your business. It is vital to company success (in terms of increased profits, decreased fixed assets, and improved cash flow) and customer satisfaction (which also crucial to company success).  Your ability to wiggle out of mistakes is shrinking. Customers expect the right product assortment and quantity to be delivered on time and to the correct location. Your partners depend on you to provide what they need when they need it to reduce inventory costs and meet customer service goals. With that being said, take a fresh look at your supply chain management software for six features that are needed to innovate it to support the ever-changing dynamics of today’s (and tomorrow’s) world. Agility. Often an over-used term, supply chain agility is merely the ability to respond rapidly to changes in the environment, customer preferences, and competitors’ actions. And it is imperative for growing small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) to have an agile supply chain. Scalable and agile supply chains support expansion and contractions (as business needs demand). This is very hard to do without the support of technology. To get the agility you need, look for cloud-based supply chain management software that will let you quickly and securely deploy new services and capabilities as needed to meet demand. Ease of Use. In the last twenty years, supply chains have become increasingly complex. Therefore, the system that manages your supply chain should not be. The right SCM Cloud solution can be deployed easily, upgraded seamlessly, and support outsourced system management, maintenance, and upgrades. So all the time and resources that may have had to be pulled from other areas in order to address issues and "keep the lights on" can now return and focus on other key parts of the business. Additionally, the right SCM Cloud solution makes the user experience more intuitive. There are efficiency benefits as well, including quick access to accurate and timely analytics, social collaboration tools, which can be used anywhere, at any time, and from virtually any device. Completeness and Connectivity. As in other parts of the business, integration is one of the biggest challenges SCM professionals have to deal with. The right SCM Cloud solution enables comprehensive integration with a variety of other systems/devices (including financial systems, mobile devices, RFID, and IoT devices, to name a few) to support a single data model, which in turns supports real-time collaboration. Cost and Efficiency. The right SCM Cloud solutions offer numerous financial advantages to growing SMBs. Subscription-based pricing with low upfront costs appeals to small-to-medium businesses for two reasons: 1) less capital is needed at the beginning and 2) upgrades and new capability rollouts make adapting to changes far less expensive than with a traditional SCM solution. Security. Your supply chain data is critical, so you want to know that it is secure. Therefore, the right SCM Cloud solution will support best-in-class security features, such as encryption, virus scanning, and whitelist support; the data center you leverage must also offer embassy-grade physical and logical security. Flexible Deployment Options. The most significant (and overlooked) benefits of supply chain management in the cloud is that your SMB’s transformation does not need to happen all at once. By being able to select particular solutions that will deliver the greatest value at a specific time (warehouse management, transportation management, supply chain planning, production scheduling, etc.), you can prioritize the steps needed to move forward― at a pace that aligns perfectly with your growth curve. So ensure a seamless transition to tomorrow’s SCM.  Read more in our newest ebook. 

Effective supply chain management is one of the most important parts of your business. It is vital to company success (in terms of increased profits, decreased fixed assets, and improved cash...

Finance

3 Reasons to Move ERP to the Cloud

As your company grows, you will have to move to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Not only that, but you will need to decide how you will deploy this new ERP system―on-premises or in the cloud. ERP Cloud solutions are becoming more common for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). They have a lower cost of entry compared to on-premises solutions. They provide a flexible, agile, up-to-date ERP software solution that is configurable, quickly implemented, and scalable, allowing SMBs to support their expansion and growth strategies. But there are still several small-to-medium businesses that have gone the on-premises route, and their reasons are valid. So how do you know which ERP solution is right for your growing company?  Here are three reasons why ERP Cloud may be a better choice. 1. Makes Digital Transformation Easy So You Can Keep Up with an Ever-Changing Marketplace. While legacy ERP applications have been vexing users and distracting IT departments, the world has changed. A flurry of new business, pricing, and usage models have emerged. The sharing economy, a workforce that demands flexibility, subscription-based pricing, transformative technologies (IoT, AI, machine learning, blockchain), the quick path to ubiquitousness of mobile devices, etc. all require a level of functionality (and their corresponding KPIs) that on-premises ERP solutions don’t support and may require a long wait to get. In addition, ever-evolving accounting standards and regulations call for new processes and calculations. Moreover, a new generation of financial professionals expects that the digital tools that they have at their disposal in their personal lives will be available in their work tools as well. The right ERP Cloud can deliver the same level of mobile and social collaboration that employees are accustomed to, plus all the functionality required to address quickly changing business models. This is the real value proposition of an always up-to-date modern ERP Cloud. 2. Achieve Sustainable and Profitable Growth. Connectivity causes markets to both shrink and expand. All markets are now reachable to even the smallest of companies, and your company’s reach has grown exponentially. SMBs can quickly expand into new markets both domestically and globally—if they have the right foundation. This is where on-premises ERP solutions can gum up the cogs in the growth machine; many don’t offer the localizations to support the distinct accounting, reporting, and compliance requirements of new geographies. And you may wait a long time to get that functionality out-of-box. With ERP Cloud, companies gain access to new functionality every 90 days (or so), and the release process is seamless. ERP Cloud can scale to keep pace with your company’s growth, letting you enter new markets quickly and easily—without an oversized upfront investment and time-consuming implementations. Add to this the ease with which they allow you to align with demand, the way they handle the impact of mergers and/or acquisitions, and the transparency they afford if your firm is considering going public. All this (and more) is why smart finance professionals turn to ERP Cloud to “future-proof” their organizations, allowing them to grow with confidence and sustain that growth in a way their business can support. 3. Realizing Operational Efficiency. While finance departments have been struggling to extend the life of legacy ERP solutions—and are using multiple point solutions to plug functionality gaps—the rest of the company has been reaping the benefits of cloud software, infrastructure, and/or platform delivery. It is time for the finance department to catch up. By moving to ERP Cloud, growing companies can gain a reliable, unified, end-to-end view of operations, standardize on a single solution with a single data model, avoid time-consuming and expensive on-premises upgrades and patches, and (if desired) establish a shared services model that provides core financial and operational support to the entire organization. Best of all, they can do so with confidence that critical financial data will remain secure since the best cloud vendors 1) spend far more to ensure safe environments and 2) provide patches and upgrades almost seamlessly to plug those gaps. Interested in learning about the seven “must-haves” every growing SMB should have in an ERP Cloud solution? Download our newest ebook and find out.

As your company grows, you will have to move to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Not only that, but you will need to decide how you will deploy this new ERP system―on-premises or in the...

Growth Corner

Successful SMBs Don’t Make These 5 Common Mistakes

After following thousands of startups, small, and medium size businesses, Oracle’s JD Weinstein says the ones that succeed steer clear of five common pitfalls. The cold, hard fact is that within a decade of their launch, 70 percent of companies go out of business. And those failed companies tend to make the same mistakes, notes JD Weinstein, head of the Oracle Global Startup Ecosystem, in Austin, Texas. Throughout his career, Weinstein has managed multiple venture capital funds, run an early-stage accelerator program, and followed thousands of young companies. Below, Weinstein shares the top five common mistakes startups make, and how to avoid them: 1. They Choose the Wrong Kind of Leadership Team The most common mistake founders make when starting out is hiring people just like themselves. The most successful startups hire people who bring a diversity of ideas, backgrounds and (complementary) skillsets, Weinstein says. 2. They Raise Venture Capital Without the Right Expectations Not every startup should be a venture-backed company.  That’s because VC funding can force some startups to make poor decisions, Weinstein warns. To prevent falling into that trap, Weinstein advises companies to first “bootstrap their businesses with the money and resources they already have. JD Weinstein heads the Oracle Global Startup Ecosystem, in Austin, Texas. 3. They Develop Products in a Vacuum Too often founders get overly enthusiastic about their own ideas for a product or service and believe that if they build it, customers will come. But building products without any customer validation or A/B testing can be disastrous, Weinstein says. Instead, he urges each startup to find an alpha customer and configure its product to solve the customer’s biggest pain point. 4. They Don’t Have a Clear Go-to-Market Strategy Startups are notorious for overestimating the demand for their products but not knowing how to bring their big ideas to market. Weinstein urges B2B startups, in particular, to document their “paths to profitability,” conducting rigorous analyses that challenge their initial market estimates. That analysis requires a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of competitors and, above all, determining the company’s proprietary advantage in each market segment it’s looking to penetrate. > The first class of startups joins Oracle’s Global Startup Ecosystem in Texas. 5. They Don’t Form ‘Strategic’ Partnerships Many startups look for partners that can supply cheaper parts or expedite shipments. But startups also need partners that will help them refine their business models and reach new customers. By partnering with larger, established companies, startups can tap into R&D resources as well as the expertise of business and technology mentors, Weinstein says. As part of its Austin-based startup ecosystem program, for example, Oracle not only gives its fledgling partners access to its market expertise, but also to its cloud services and global customers. Read the full article on The Wall Street Journal: 5 Mistakes Startups Make and How to Avoid Them.

After following thousands of startups, small, and medium size businesses, Oracle’s JD Weinstein says the ones that succeed steer clear of five common pitfalls. The cold, hard fact is that within a...

Finance

Financials in the Cloud: With the Right Solution, No Longer Business as Usual

Flexibility, cost, ease of use, and speedy deployment have lured many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) to cloud computing. In fact, cloud deployments are becoming the norm in order to support collaboration, better data management, and new product development.   But businesses have been slower to move financials to the cloud. Many growing companies still use the same on-premises financials applications they did five or 10 years ago. In today’s business climate, where change is the only constant, it’s time for a reality check. Is your business ready to capitalize on change? And will your current financials solution help you to shift gears, or will it get in the way? Complacency Can Make Your Business Obsolete For years, many businesses looked at technology as nothing more than a way to support what they were already doing. They used financial software to manage cash flow and to automate recurring tasks such as payroll checking, billing, and expense management. But in an age where any business can be “Amazoned,” supporting and automating current business practices is just the first step to ensure your business will survive and thrive. Customers expect better, faster, more personalized service. Employees want the tools they need to get their work done anytime, anywhere, and on the device of their choice. Businesses must be ready and able to innovate—or they risk getting side-swiped by more agile competitors. Most SMBs understand this. About three-quarters agree that technology is reshaping their industries and businesses—and that survival and growth depends on their ability to use technology effectively (Figure 1). With major disruptions happening in every industry, SMBs know they need to use technology to help them increase employee productivity, improve decision-making, personalize customer experience—and more. Figure 1 SMB Attitudes About Technology and Change Businesses need a flexible technology foundation to facilitate change—one that helps them remove obstacles and capitalize on change. But increasingly, businesses are hitting a wall as they try to upgrade older, on-premises financials systems to accommodate new requirements. Cloud Financials: Your Springboard to Innovation Cloud-based financials solutions have offered economies of scale and scalability to SMBs for years. Cloud vendors have built the infrastructure and expertise to provision and support thousands or tens of thousands of customers—providing them with speed, cost, and flexibility advantages over on-premises software. Now, cloud financials systems are also becoming the on-ramp that businesses need for innovation and growth. Because financials applications are the primary system of record for most companies, the right solution can serve as the technology backbone for your business. Today’s top cloud financials solutions are built with an open architecture that makes it easier to develop and connect new applications and functionality—for human resources, logistics, sales, FP&A and more—and unify information across them to provide a clear, consistent view of the business.  Transformative Technologies This same open framework also enables cloud vendors to bake new technologies—such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), IoT, blockchain and more—right into their solutions. Instead of having to learn about, select and integrate these new capabilities on your own, you gain immediate access to them as they become available—through the financials solution you already use every day. For instance, some cloud-based financials solution vendors are embedding AI and ML technologies into their financials solutions to spot and flag anomalies, predict customer buying behavior and identify potential issues. They’re also adding NLP into the mix so users can both input and request information from the system in more intuitive, contextual ways. Get Ahead of The Curve Instead of Falling Behind Businesses can no longer afford to think that what works for the business today will work tomorrow. You need to make sure your financials solution can provide you with the visibility and insights you need to get ahead of the curve instead of falling behind. The benefits of moving to a cloud-based financials solution now extend well beyond cost reduction, flexibility, and speedy deployments. Today, these solutions can help you more identify gaps, problems and opportunities for the business and to plan and execute on the changes necessary to sustain and grow your business.  Find out why it's the right time for ERP Cloud.

Flexibility, cost, ease of use, and speedy deployment have lured many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) to cloud computing. In fact, cloud deployments are becoming the norm in order to...

Emerging Technologies

8 Scary Tricks Sold as Treats to Be Wary Of

This week millions of youngsters (and even a few adults) will be knocking on neighbors’ doors asking for Halloween treats. Typically proclaiming “trick or treat” when a door opens, the soliciting ghouls and goblins are optimistic they’ll receive candy and not be forced into doing something negative. Yet, even though Halloween happens only once a year, for many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) every day presents legitimate “trick or treat” scenarios. Just as Halloween’s roaming participants wear a myriad of disguises, the doorway to every SMB is visited regularly by apparitions who also hide behind a disguise of “sales speak” and do not always take your company’s best interests to heart. This year, after your neighborhood’s witching season ends, take a moment to understand these scary solution sales and consulting creatures who: Promote Fake Clouds – Knowing the difference between fake and true clouds is critical in understanding the right solution for your growing company. Fake clouds are usually legacy on-premises solutions ported and then hosted onto a cloud platform. A true and real cloud solution is purpose built from the ground up on a robust cloud platform. This approach still requires most of the staff intensive and expensive frequent on-premises tasks of managing updates, upgrades, patches and licenses. Reinforce On-Premises Stagnation – Too often consultants downplay the importance of using true cloud solutions. Their business model is built around on-premises products, so it is not in their best interest to do the right thing for your SMB. In every industry, stagnation is a nothing more than an early off ramp to the graveyard. Highlight Multiple Vendor Solutions – A popular siren’s song sung to SMBs uses a refrain of independent best-in-class single point solutions. This plays in nicely with a fast-growing company’s desire to quickly solve problems as they arise. The tune may be catchy, but the outcome is frightening. Follow this song and your SMB will face endless nightmares of integrations, data synchronization, and armies of consultants. Hide Weak Vendor Metrics – The complexities of corporate finance may appear daunting, but the bottom line is simple to evaluate. If a vendor is regularly losing money and carries massive debt, their chances of long-term survival are like the lifespan of an over-ripe pumpkin carved in hot weather. Migrating to cloud solutions involves long-term commitments with vendors who will be around for the long haul. Promote Outsourced Platforms – Sometimes solution vendors spin their inability to deliver a complete solution by suggesting the use of third-party cloud platforms as a benefit. Don’t be fooled. Only cloud solutions designed and delivered as one bottom-to-top system from one vendor provide a true cloud experience for your employees and customers. Downplay the Importance of Transformative Technologies – Another trick is to downplay emerging technologies when their bag is empty. It is easy to dismiss artificial intelligence, blockchain, chatbots, machine learning and other emerging technologies when there is nothing to sell, but again don’t be fooled. These emerging technologies are real and are increasingly being used by SMBs; they are not fake initiatives. Not understanding and deploying these technologies today puts SMBs at risk. Discount the Need for a Vibrant and Large Vendor Ecosystems – Solution providers downplay the importance of their ecosystem – partners, consultants, customers, and global footprint – when they have little to show. Yet, SMBs are served best with broad, diverse, and far reaching ecosystems focused on their current and future aspirations. Locking into a small ecosystem limits an SMB’s opportunities and perspectives. Downplay or Overstate Solution Investments – Troubled vendors, especially those with debt and funding issues, hide or avoid product and platform investment discussions. Be very wary when investment appears weak. Staying current with future technologies is not inexpensive and requires large regular investments to develop, design and deploy into game-changing applications. If there is a common theme, it can be summarized as “diverting attention from the realities of the future in exchange for status quo solutions”. Getting tricked into a foggy landscape of “it is not broken, so why fix it” doesn’t deliver any treats for an SMB. Rather, it puts an SMB at a scary risk of turning into skeletons or zombies. While Halloween is focused on fun and games, in real life SMBs need to avoid the make-believe ghostly worlds promulgated by bewitched solution vendors who promote fake clouds, status quo constructs and other tricks sold as immediate sugar-high treats. Like the parade of costumed Halloween characters who will trick-or-treat at your house, use a keen eye to recognize the tricks presented as treats so that your SMB has a safe and successful experience with cloud solutions. Happy Halloween! Learn how your high-growth company can take advantage of transformative technologies with Oracle Cloud.

This week millions of youngsters (and even a few adults) will be knocking on neighbors’ doors asking for Halloween treats. Typically proclaiming “trick or treat” when a door opens, the...

Product News

Missed Oracle OpenWorld? Here Are the Top 6 Announcements

Another successful Oracle OpenWorld has come and gone. Over 60,000 customers and partners from 175 countries descended on San Francisco for most of last week. They came, they saw, they learned.  In fact, there was more to see and learn than any one person could possibly handle—the keynotes, the sessions, the demos, the exhibition hall. Choices had to be made. If you were like me during several possible time slots, you had to choose which one of multiple sessions you wanted/needed/should attend. It was indeed a juggling act. So if you were not able to see (or hear) everything you wanted, here is a rundown of the top six announcements in regards to Oracle Cloud applications and their benefits to high-growth small-to-medium businesses (SMBs): Future-Ready ERP and EPM To keep up with the pace of change, companies have to start looking at “tomorrow’s” technologies (those that are built on machine learning, chatbots, intelligent process automation, etc.) to immediately start automating as many back-office functions as possible. In the finance function, for example, too much time is spent on non-value-add work: transaction processing, reconciling numbers, chasing and waiting for information. If this sounds familiar, your finance team is not able to provide the level of insight, speed, or automation required to keep up with today’s pace of change. Growing companies need an enterprise resource planning (ERP) cloud with features like expense reporting assistants, supplier recommendation engines, intelligent payments, and data pattern recognition. And because it’s built in the cloud, future-ready ERP is updated every 90 days with the latest functionality. It is literally the last upgrade you will ever need. Integration Many fast-growing SMBs are dealing with a “cloud hairball.” They have implemented several point solutions from multiple cloud providers that aren’t fully integrated with each other. The hairball is an issue on two fronts: it hinders the flow of information between solutions, and it prevents process automation, keeping costs high. In fact, research firm IDC advises companies to reassess cloud vendors based on a proven ability to deliver full SaaS integration, as well as their ability to provide a head start with innovation and digital transformation. Engagement Cloud Sales and service is a continuous process, and the wall that companies have built between them is artificial. Nothing happens in a sales interaction that does not benefit from service interactions and resolutions (and the other way around as well). Therefore, Oracle has introduced Engagement Cloud, providing our customers with everything that was in sales cloud as well as some service capabilities. It is the perfect solution for those growing companies that recognize that sales must be a service organization and service can also be a sales organization.    View all of the Oracle OpenWorld announcements.   Subscription Management Cloud Today, nearly every consumer-facing industry offers a subscription model, from tires to gas to automobiles. It just makes good business sense, by providing customers with the purchasing models they desire and allowing companies to create new revenue streams. This move to recurring relationships can be very profitable, but companies must tweak their internal systems and processes to manage subscription consumption effectively. Oracle Subscription Management Cloud brings together the back-office and front-office to help high-growth SMBs manage recurring revenue, subscription billing and revenue recognition, and provides front-office employees with a full view of their customers’ buying behavior. CX Unity Companies that are looking to truly transform customer experiences need customer data, and they need to be able to make sense of all that data. Pre-integrated with Oracle Customer Experience (CX) Cloud, CX Unity is a unique approach to managing all the behavioral, transactional, financial, and demographical customer data that resides in a variety of systems inside and outside the company. CX Unity solves this data challenge, by helping growing companies connect their data sources and enrich the data (using AI and machine learning) to gain the insights needed to deliver highly personalized experiences at every single touchpoint of the customer journey. No more data siloes. No more customer blind spots. Just increased sales, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and growing customer lifetime value. HR and AI Your employees have expectations (and so do your candidates). To help small-to-medium businesses effectively compete (and retain) the talent they need, Oracle has added new AI-powered innovations to Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud. The goal? To make work smarter (smart sourcing that includes factors such as likelihood to accept, performance predictions, and expected tenure), make work simpler (for example, employees can use an HR-trained bot to get answers quickly and easily), and make work more agile (for example, strategic workforce planning). Want to know more about Oracle Cloud applications for high-growth companies? Check out our newest digibook.

Another successful Oracle OpenWorld has come and gone. Over 60,000 customers and partners from 175 countries descended on San Francisco for most of last week. They came, they saw, they learned.  In...

Human Resources

The Winning Formulas of Collaborative Teams

With an incredibly integrated society, the ability to effectively work on a team, especially a large team, is important to businesses and organizations of all sizes. From specialized internal-practice groups to cross-sector collaborations, teamwork and peer-to-peer interactions are not just frequent, they are inevitable. Our ability to feel a sense of teamwork and trust of our various teammates drives engagement and ultimately our company’s success. The impact on engagement is significant—while we all work for organizations, most of our work is spent day-to-day working on a set of smaller work teams on various projects. As the complexity of technology continues to increase and the amount of information available advances, many individual workers are honing their skills into narrower specializations. Simultaneously, there is only a finite amount of knowledge that one person can reasonably know, so to ameliorate what has been coined as this “personbyte” deficiency, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are increasing the size of their teams (teamwork gives us added personbyte). This term, created by MIT physicist Cesar Hidalgo, is utilized in his argument to emphasize that this tacit knowledge in teams is a critical component to the modern economy. The individual has been a celebrated figure in Western society for centuries, but with the increase in technology and narrowing of specialties, we may be at the point in time where teamwork is celebrated, and the work done in a collaborative effort is the new normal (and why we must rethink how we build relationships).   Andrew Sherman explains how SMBs can use technology to boost employee engagement.     Although there is clearly strength in teams, vulnerabilities manifest in weak links that can be detrimental to the overall success of an organization. Economist and author Tim Harford highlights the importance of extracting weak links and illustrates how harmful they potentially can be by giving several poignant examples: the simple seal that destroyed the Challenger space shuttle when it failed to serve its purpose, resulting in the deaths of seven astronauts; string quartets ruined by one offbeat player; gourmet meals thrown off by one ingredient. As economies become increasingly more dependent, so, too, do collaborations of individuals, and teamwork becomes increasingly more integral. MIT Professor Alex Pentland is one of the researchers who has provided the greatest insight into this question. His Human Dynamics Laboratory invented the sociometric badge, an unobtrusive device that people in a group wear on their clothing. It typically measures the tone of voice a person uses, how often they gesture, and how much they talk, listen, and interrupt one another. It does not record what people say; in explaining team performance, the words themselves turn out to be practically irrelevant. While researching groups, Pentland and his lab found that the members of the very best teams interact in three distinctive ways. First, they generate a lot of ideas in short contributions to conversations; no one went on at great length. Second, they engage in what Pentland calls “dense interactions,” with group members constantly alternating between advancing their own ideas and responding to the contributions of others with “good,” “right,” “what?” and other concise comments. Third, everyone contributes ideas and reactions, taking turns, ensuring a wide diversity of ideas. The most important factor in group effectiveness turned out not to be what everybody thinks, but rather the social sensitivity of the team members. That’s what encourages the patterns of “idea flow” according to Pentland. The three elements of interaction were about as important as all other factors—individual intelligence, technical skills, and members’ personalities combined. Watch Now: Maximize Engagement to Build an "A" Team

With an incredibly integrated society, the ability to effectively work on a team, especially a large team, is important to businesses and organizations of all sizes. From specialized internal-practice...

Emerging Technologies

Must Attend Artificial Intelligence Sessions at Oracle OpenWorld

Fraud detection, personalized customer experiences, intelligent payments, and supplier recommendations are a few of the use cases that artificial intelligence (AI) has to offer. Today, AI is no longer a buzzword but a reality. It’s viewed as a transformational technology that is going to have wide implications on a multitude of industries while changing the dynamics between man and the machine. AI truly is augmenting human intelligence and paving the way for new avenues of human exploration. By 2020, 85% of CIOs will be piloting AI programs through a combination of buy, build, and outsource efforts, according to Gartner. As growing small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) continue to embrace the cloud, they also have the opportunity to benefit from emerging technologies, like AI. And by doing so, they can both better their customer experience and achieve the operational excellence they need to stay competitive in this new digital economy. Oracle AI – Ready to Build, Ready to Use At Oracle, we’ve been investing in transformative technologies to help fuel new growth, productivity, and efficiency for our customers for a long time. With our continued investments in transformative technologies, such as AI, customers of all kinds are able to explore new revenue opportunities and innovations while lowering their cost of operations. We offer a comprehensive set of AI-based solutions that are open and integrated, with broad and rich data management platforms. The goal of Oracle AI strategy is to serve the needs of wide range of audiences from developer to data scientist, from IT management to lines of business. Oracle offers Oracle Artificial Intelligence Cloud, Adaptive Intelligent Apps (CX, HCM, MFG, and ERP), and an ecosystem of value-added and trained partners and educational resources to help you get started with your organization’s AI journey. With pride, we can say we have you covered. Join us at Oracle OpenWorld 2018 Oracle OpenWorld is kicking off in a few days, and we are preparing to welcome over 50,000 customers, employees, and Oracle partners to San Francisco’s Moscone Center the week of October 22-25, 2018.  It’s a perfect opportunity to learn about the latest technologies, especially transformational technology like AI. This conference offers a host of opportunities for attendees not only to go to technology-related sessions, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to get first-hand experience with hands-on labs, demos, and, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to have interesting and engaging conversations with peers, industry experts, and thought leaders. Browse the entire list of 55-plus AI-related sessions at Oracle OpenWorld. Here are few interesting AI sessions to watch out for: Beyond the Screen: from Chatbots to Your Own Digital Assistant [PRM4587] Monday, October 22, 2018 | 3:45 p.m. | Moscone West, Room 3020 In this session, see how Oracle Digital Assistant Cloud can transform your business with next-generation, conversational AI technologies. Startups Using AI to Disrupt Every Industry [THT6727] Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 11:15 - 11:35 a.m. | The Exchange @ Moscone South - Theater 3 In this session, hear how startups from the Oracle Global Startup ecosystem are leveraging AI to drive new and innovative ways to solve problems in some of the biggest, most impactful industries across the globe. Enterprise AI 101: A Practical Introduction [CAS2955] Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 11:15 a.m. | Moscone West - Room 3000 In this session, get introduced to AI and machine learning, and see how you can adopt them. This session will provide a practical introduction to these transformational technologies for a business audience from companies of any size. See the challenges of and requirements for an AI platform, real-world adoption patterns among customers, and how you can easily adopt these technologies. A Deep Dive into Oracle's Artificial Intelligence Platform [TRN4631] Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 3:45 p.m. | Moscone West - Room 3024 This session takes a deep dive into how Oracle’s data science platform helps data scientists collaborate on building, training, and deploying models on Oracle Cloud. See the platform's ease of use, project-based workflows, and other features that help data scientists be more productive in helping application developers and business analysts consume more artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Next Big Things for Oracle Cloud Platform [PKN5770] Wednesday, October 24, 2018 | 11:15 a.m. | The Exchange @ Moscone South – The Arena Attend this session to learn about cutting-edge solutions that Oracle is developing, such as speech-based analytics, trust fabric, automated application development (leveraging AR and VR), and digital assistants. These transformational solutions will enhance productivity, lower costs, and accelerate innovation across the entire business. Learn more about Oracle AI Strategy. Register Now for Oracle OpenWorld 2018. By Savita Raina, Director Product Marketing, Oracle | @sraina03 | LinkedIn

Fraud detection, personalized customer experiences, intelligent payments, and supplier recommendations are a few of the use cases that artificial intelligence (AI) has to offer. Today, AI is no longer...

Supply Chain Management

Oracle Logistics Cloud Sessions You Don't Want to Miss at Oracle OpenWorld

Only a few days until Oracle OpenWorld 2018 kicks off! If you are a supply chain professional for a growing small-to-medium business (SMB), this is the perfect place to find the information you need to improve your company’s logistics processes. Check out the Oracle Logistics Cloud sessions at Oracle OpenWorld that highlight customer successes, business use cases, product overviews, and product roadmaps. Customer case studies and business use case sessions highlighting the success of Oracle Logistics Cloud sessions at OOW18 include: Digital Supply Chain: Transportation and Global Trade Management Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 3:45 p.m. ― 4:30 p.m. Oracle has adopted our own cloud applications to manage our expansive multi-divisional global business. Hear about the expected benefits and essential lessons from Oracle’s ongoing order-to-cash journey to help formulate of your own cloud migration strategy. Digital Supply Chain: Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud Service Wednesday, October 24, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. ― 1:15 p.m. Three Oracle customers share why they selected Oracle Warehouse Management Cloud to meet their fulfillment needs, how the product is used in their business, lessons learned from their implementation, and the business value provided. Optimize Your Logistics with Oracle Cloud Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 11:15 a.m. ― 12:00 p.m. Learn how Oracle Logistics Cloud allows companies to improve global visibility, optimize operations, orchestrate processes in a coordinated manner, and achieve better business outcomes. Industry 4.0: Digital Logistics and Order Management with Disruptive Technology Thursday, October 25, 2018 | 10:00 a.m. ― 10:45 a.m. See the newest innovations in decision science and machine learning, adaptive intelligence, and IoT in Oracle Logistics Cloud and Oracle Order Management Cloud Service; learn to leverage these transformative technologies to support a new digital business model. Industry 4.0: Designing and Operating the Warehouse of the Future Thursday, October 25, 2018 | 11:00 a.m. ― 11:45 a.m. Learn how to improve your warehousing productivity while reducing costs by leveraging the foundation that Oracle has been laying down for the warehouse of the future. Tomorrow's Supply Chain, Today: Oracle Order Management Cloud Service Monday, October 22, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. ― 1:15 p.m. Hear about future product enhancements including how emerging technologies such as chatbots, AI, and Blockchain can increase automation intelligence, offer new opportunities for process innovation, and empower order management users. Tomorrow's Supply Chain, Today: Transportation and Global Trade Management Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 12:30 p.m. ― 1:15 p.m. Get a sneak peek at the roadmap of Oracle Transportation and Global Trade Management Additional Storage Cloud. Learn about advances to existing capabilities and expansion to new areas such as trade agreements and logistics network modeling. Tomorrow's Supply Chain, Today: Inventory and Warehouse Management in the Cloud Wednesday, October 24, 2018 | 11:15 a.m. ― 12:00 p.m. Learn about the latest updates and product roadmaps to allow companies to thrive in a multichannel world where manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and 3PLs have to be ready and able to fulfill orders along any point of the supply chain. So, sign up to attend Oracle OpenWorld. Learn more about how you can optimize warehouse operations and transportation routing, ensure compliance, streamline and manage your operations centrally, and support omnichannel fulfillment. Register Now for Oracle OpenWorld 2018. By Joan Lim, Sr Product Marketing Manager, Oracle

Only a few days until Oracle OpenWorld 2018 kicks off! If you are a supply chain professional for a growing small-to-medium business (SMB), this is the perfect place to find the information you need...

Customer Experience

6 Ways to Say Thank You This Holiday Season

As small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) head into the last quarter of 2018, the drive to hit year-end numbers can be all-consuming. As a result, other priorities are sometimes shelved until the last minute. It happens, I get it. But one priority that should never be overlooked is letting your clients and customers know how truly grateful you are for their support during the past year. If you haven’t started to think about how you’re going to thank them—start now. Here are a few suggestions to consider. Be Thoughtful. Some businesses may only be able to afford to send cards. That’s ok, but take the time to include a personal handwritten note and not just auto-signatures.  Also, keep in mind not everyone celebrates Christmas. Make your message more about giving thanks or celebrating the joy of the holidays. If you have a bigger budget and plan to send gifts, consider selecting personalized gifts for your customers by taking their interests into account. The idea is to send a gift that shows you put some actual thought into it. This could mean anything from sending special bottle of wine to a golf-themed gift basket, a Fitbit or tickets to a sporting event. If they’re passionate about a particular cause, make a charitable donation in their name. It’s Not About Promoting Your Business. Sending branded items may be interpreted as more of a promotion, than a gift. If that’s all you can afford, go ahead, but try to select more unique branded gifts and not the usual pens or pads with your logo emblazoned on them. If the products have a connection to your business, all the better. Spotlight Their Support on Social Media. Show how much you appreciate your clients by highlighting their businesses on your social media platforms. Consider developing a month or season-long customer appreciation campaign, and drive traffic to their websites by including a link in your posts. Gift an Experience. You can purchase gift cards for nearly everything these days. So, get creative. While most folks appreciate you financing a few of their morning Venti lattes, break the mold and consider experiential or activity-based gift cards for things like movie nights, spa services, restaurants, cooking or yoga classes. Make a Personal Call. Sometimes the best way to say “thank you” to customers is by calling to let them know how much you appreciate their business. If you’re located in the same city, offer to take them to lunch or dinner. Doing so affirms you care about the relationship, not just the transaction. Host an Event. You can invite clients to a cooking class or offer them an evening of relaxation with a yoga and meditation session. When the event is over, send them home with something appropriate to the theme (e.g. a cookbook or calming candle). Finally, don’t forget to thank your team for all they’ve done to contribute to your success this year. While that may take the form of a year-end bonus and/or office party, a handwritten note personally acknowledging their individual contributions can go a long way to inspiring loyalty and continued good work. Learn Tips to Keep Your Business Growing in the new ebook, 9 Steps to Gain & Retain Customers.

As small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) head into the last quarter of 2018, the drive to hit year-end numbers can be all-consuming. As a result, other priorities are sometimes shelved until the...

Finance

How to Get the Most Out of Oracle OpenWorld as a Financial Professional

Business strategies that focus on the designing products first and customers second will not ensure growth.  This is not the movie Field of Dreams; if you build it, “they” probably will not come. Today, your strategy needs to invert by focusing on using all the data available to you to anticipate customer needs and then fulfill them 1) before they even realize they have a need and 2) in ways never before possible.     The finance role plays a part in this, and it is being disrupted as well; finance models and skillsets are evolving to support customer-centric business strategies. Transformative technologies like IoT, blockchain, machine learning, etc. are behind the shift toward customer centricity. They are helping humans sift through the massive collection of data to identify patterns, understand behaviors, get to know their customers better than ever before. This does not mean that the human element is leaving finance. No, it is just shifting beyond interpreting data trends to proactively monetizing these insights to create new sources of revenue and growth.   This new role of finance will be one of the key subjects explored at Oracle OpenWorld this October 22-25, 2018 in San Francisco. There are many sessions that small-to-medium (SMB) finance professionals will want to attend to learn more about finance and technology trends, change management and implementation best practices, and methods to support finance modernization. Some not-to-be-missed sessions include: ERP/EPM Product Keynote - Thriving in the Age of Business Model Disruption Monday, October 22, 2018, 11:00-12:15 pm Hosted by Oracle Applications Development SVPs Rondy Ng and Matt Bradley, this general session is open to all OpenWorld attendees. Rondy and Matt will examine dynamic and disruptive business models powering the shift toward a service-driven economy, and how upcoming releases of Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle EPM Cloud will support these new, recurring revenue streams. Highlights include: new product demonstrations, a development expert panel focused on AI and UX. In addition, hear from Dropbox Chief Accountant Tim Regan and Office Depot Senior Director Damon Venger, who will share their business strategies and how Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle EPM Cloud are helping to power their business models. Tomorrow’s ERP, Today: The Last Upgrade You’ll Ever Need Monday, October 22, 2018, 4:45-5:30 pm The leader for this session is Steve Cox, Group Vice President, ERP and EPM Product Marketing at Oracle. Steve will discuss the key findings of a survey of organizations that have implemented cloud ERP and EPM systems. These customers were drawn to the cloud for cost savings, but found that the innovation-related benefits are the more meaningful and longer-lasting gains. Attendees will come away with a vision of where their businesses need to go next to compete, grow, and thrive. The Future of Finance and How to Get Ahead of It with Oracle ERP Cloud Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 4:45-5:30 pm See how Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle EPM Cloud are driving increased productivity and how finance teams can position their companies to take advantage of the huge opportunities that emerging technologies offer. Join Di Seghposs, Senior Director, ERP EPM Cloud Product Marketing at Oracle and see how you can position your company to get ahead of the future of finance and realize tomorrow’s finance, today.Explore ERP and EPM Cloud at Two Focus Groups and Have a Meal on Us! Explore ERP Cloud at Two Focus Groups and Have a Meal on Us! Executive Focus Group Breakfast: Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 7:30-8:45 am General Focus Group Luncheon: Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 12:15-1:45 pm If you are considering an upgrade or finance modernization initiative, these two focus groups are just the ticket you need to get on the cloud fast track. Designed to debunk many of the myths around finance in the cloud, these sessions will answer all your questions or concerns in a confidential, interactive environment.  Tomorrow’s ERP, Today ― Hear From Those Who Came Before But Oracle OpenWorld is not just keynotes, luncheons and focus groups. There are dozens and dozens of sessions you can attend to learn more how to take your growing company to the next level. Some of these sessions include 1) Oracle EPM Cloud: What’s New and What’s Coming in Financial Close, 2) Learn How to Fuel Growth with Successful Zero-Based Budgeting, 3) Emerging Technologies in EPM, and 4) Connected Planning: Integrate Budgets and Capital to Drive Growth, Connect Strategy to name just a few. Want to discover more? Visit the OpenWorld session catalog to view the complete list of ERP and EPM sessions, specifically for growing companies that are looking to embrace the cloud and all it has to offer. It's not too late! Register Now for Oracle OpenWorld 2018.   By Anne Ozzimo, Senior Director, Oracle ERP/EPM Cloud Business Group, Oracle

Business strategies that focus on the designing products first and customers second will not ensure growth.  This is not the movie Field of Dreams; if you build it, “they” probably will not come....

Finance

Financial Planning and Analysis Drives Business Results, If Done Right

Recently, Gartner positioned Oracle in the Leaders Quadrant of its 2018 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions, with the highest position for the ability to execute. In the report, Gartner stated, “Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) solutions support the office of finance's budgeting, planning and forecasting efforts. Many also supplement the office's budgeting and planning process support with modeling, collaboration analytics and performance-reporting capabilities, to increase its ability to manage performance by linking corporate strategy and execution.” Gartner is right. FP&A is more than just budgeting and forecasting sales and expenses. It could be argued that no other process within finance has as much power to create or destroy business value as financial planning and analysis. Top performing small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) use FP&A to assist their leadership in problem-solving, risk management, and growth planning. When River Meets Mountain Given this claim, I became curious at precisely what results could be achieved by companies that fully embrace the FP&A process. To fully embrace the FP&A process requires a company-wide focus to support complete, real-time visibility into your growing company’s financial and operational data as well as the relationships and patterns among data points. In other words, SMB decisions-makers need the right information at the right time in order to make the right decisions. If your company is like most, a large amount of financial, sales, and operational data flows into your systems every day.  If your company is like many, you might actually be trying to analyze this data with spreadsheets that are passed around to different departments and reporting levels. Reports, budgets, and forecasts get done but on a monthly, quarterly, and/or yearly basis.  Decisions cannot wait for month-end or quarter-end close. A high-growth company’s path is like a boat on a fast-moving river. A spreadsheet is similar to a mountain that appears on the horizon every month or quarter or year. What does the flowing river do when it reaches the mountain? It flows around it, taking the boat with it. It does not stop to wait for account reconciliations, consolidations, and reports to be processed so that the boat can decide what path to take. Companies that are able to break free of spreadsheets and analyze all their data in real-time do see benefits. They make better strategic decisions, improve processes, understand their customers, and slash costs. In fact in a recent survey, companies that are effectively able to manage the FP&A process to analyze all data, gain broad levels of visibility and report (on average) an eight percent increase in revenues and a 10 percent reduction in costs.    Learn the power of ERP and EPM together.     A Look at More Numbers Real-time financial planning and analysis happens in the cloud. And when FP&A is part of an integrated cloud, the benefits multiply. For example, the number of days to produce: Monthly consolidated financial statements drop from 10 to 4.8 Annual budget is reduced by 57% Management reports drop from 11 to 5 Financial forecasts is cut in half When financial planning and analysis remains as a spreadsheet-based process, SMB leadership cannot use FP&A to its full potential. Chances are decision makers (deep down) do not trust the data, have a poor understanding on how to interpret and apply the data and are used to making decisions based on “their gut” or hunches. What Top Performers Do Right So how did these best-in-class companies realize these gains? Well, the top 8 percent did many things right. They make real-time, internal, and external data readily accessible across all departments based on need. The data is also integrated real-time so users can access, manipulate, and visualize data as needed. Technology can support best practices within financial planning and analysis by acting as the hub to FP&A’s functional “spokes.”  In just the same way that the hub and spokes are joined together, when enterprise performance management (EPM) cloud software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) cloud software work together, the costs to perform financial reporting drop from $4.22 to $0.78 per $100,000 in revenue. Oracle Enterprise Resource Management (EPM) Cloud Oracle EPM Cloud delivers a comprehensive FP&A portfolio, a large and growing global customer base, and commitment to continuous innovation in the cloud. Oracle EPM Cloud provides a complete, connected and intelligent suite of applications offering best-in-class capabilities for high-growth companies. Small-to-medium size businesses (SMBs) all over the world have already made the move to Oracle EPM Cloud and reaping the rewards. Make sure you do not get left behind. Download the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions.   Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions, Christopher Iervolino, John E. Van Decker, 24 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.

Recently, Gartner positioned Oracle in the Leaders Quadrant of its 2018 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions, with the highest position for the ability to execute. In the...

Emerging Technologies

The One Reason You Can Easily Transform Just Like That

High-growth small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have the opportunity to transform in ways that large corporations can’t. Large enterprises are burdened with complex, sprawling legacy systems, while SMBs have one significant advantage: the agility and nimbleness to get ahead. They are like a fleet of tugboats in a harbor full of cargo ships. SMBs can easily begin their digital conversion from the inside out by combining the connective capabilities of cloud applications with transformative technologies built in from the very beginning. But what is a digital transformation, and why should SMBs care? Digital transformation is merely a business transformation; it changes every aspect of your processes, customer interactions, and innovation. “Transformation” is a scary term for many; it indicates a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. But it doesn’t have to be.  As with anything, if you have the right partner and the right tools, your SMB can easily transform, combining what makes you different with new digital connections and platforms to build seamless, interconnected experiences (for both customers and employees).   Why Digitally Transform? That status quo in business has changed, and it will continue to change again and again. In 1958, the lifespan of a typical company was approximately 60 years. That number has dropped to just under 20 years. Blockbuster celebrated their 25th anniversary in bankruptcy. Compaq only existed for 20 years before being bought by HP. Like most things, there is no single reason for this shift, but technology has played a significant role. Instant gratification is the norm. The power has shifted from business to customer, and disruption is now the new normal. But there are ways SMBs can keep up (and even pull ahead) through the powerful combination of cloud and transformative technologies by economizing, enabling, and equalizing. How Ready Are You? Only 23 percent of SMB leaders strongly agree that their company has a well-defined digital business strategy. And that is the first step on the path to transformation. Here are 5 areas to look at as you start the process of digitally transforming your growth company: 1. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Carefully managing your financial resources is vital for businesses of any size, but especially for smaller, high-growth companies. 2. Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Accurately (and quickly) budget, plan, and forecast to ensure that work is getting done as efficiently and profitably as possible. 3. Customer Experience (CX) Deliver consistent, personalized customer experiences, and set the bar very high for your competitors. 4. Human Capital Management (HCM) Driven, talented people got the business this far, but to continue growing and innovating, you’ll need to attract, hire, and retain the talent needed for every growth stage. 5. Supply Chain Management (SCM) Today’s logistics and procurement processes require more―detailed data, integrated systems, automated workflows, and end-to-end visibility for all parties involved. Moving your foundational business to the cloud will set the stage for continuous innovation as you will be ready to take advantage of the most significant and promising new technologies. So what are you waiting for? To learn more about digitally transforming your growing SMB, read “Digital Transformation for High-Growth Companies.”

High-growth small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) have the opportunity to transform in ways that large corporations can’t. Large enterprises are burdened with complex, sprawling legacy systems, while SMBs...

Human Resources

How Your SMB Can Build the Next Generation of Women Leaders

Fewer than 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women, according to Pew Research. But lack of female representation at the senior level isn’t limited to America’s biggest companies. Overall, just one in five C-level executives is a woman, according to a 2017 McKinsey study. This despite multiple studies suggesting that more diverse companies enjoy better financial returns. If you’re not encouraging (and teaching) your female employees to become leaders, you’re going to sacrifice future opportunity, innovation and profitability. Here are three ways your small-to-medium business (SMB) can develop the next generation of women leaders. 1. Be Vigilant Against Unconscious Bias On average, women are less likely to be promoted than men, according to McKinsey. The discrepancy begins early on—women are 18% less likely than men to be promoted from entry level to management positions. Unconscious bias against women as leaders can prevent them from getting equal consideration for promotions. (Almost half of the men in McKinsey’s study believe women are well represented in leadership roles in companies where just one in 10 senior leaders are women.) Examine your SMB’s hiring and promotion process for signs of bias. For example, does a job description use gendered terms like “team player”? Are assertive women considered “abrasive” while men who exhibit the same behavior are labeled “take-charge”? (Catalyst has some good resources on eliminating unconscious bias.) When interviewing for management positions, have a diverse group of interviewers talk to the candidates to get a fuller picture of their abilities. During employee reviews, get input from a wide range of co-workers and supervisors about an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. 2. Provide Leadership Training and Support Women are sorely underrepresented in workplace programs designed to encourage leadership, such as mentoring or professional development, according to the Diversity Best Practices 2017 Inclusion Index. Just because women in your business aren’t asking for such programs doesn’t mean they don’t want them: 79% of women in the KMPG Women’s Leadership Study don’t feel confident seeking mentors, 73% don’t feel confident pursuing a position that’s beyond their experience, and 69% don’t feel confident asking for a career path plan. Create a mentorship program in your company that pairs female employees with women in leadership roles. KPMG found being able to network with women leaders is key to building women’s leadership skills. 3. Design a Workplace Where Women Can Succeed Work-life balance, parental and/or family leave, flexible hours and pay equity have all been portrayed as “women’s issues,” but are becoming increasingly important to all employees. Workplace flexibility and fair pay are among the top reasons employees remain loyal to employers, KPMG reports. In a recent Gallup poll, “greater work-life balance/better personal well-being” is No. 2 on the list of the most important things employees want from a job. When women know their employers support them in balancing their jobs and their families, they’re more likely to embrace leadership roles. And by providing perks such as flextime, remote work and parental leave, your SMB can keep both talented women and men on board. A rising tide lifts all boats Building the next generation of women leaders can lead to: Greater employee loyalty: Diverse businesses are more successful at retaining talent. Reduced risk of sexual harassment claims: Equal gender representation in job levels can reduce the likelihood of harassment in the workplace. A better public image for your business: Almost eight in 10 U.S. adults say gender diversity in the workplace is important. With so many benefits to your employees, your business and your community, what are you waiting for? For more insights from Rieva, check out her SMB Experts page.

Fewer than 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women, according to Pew Research. But lack of female representation at the senior level isn’t limited to America’s biggest companies. Overall, just...

Finance

There is a Simple Reason Spreadsheets Are Not Good for Planning

In 2017, two-thirds of global companies had cloud-based ERP software. It is the natural progression of growth. Companies outgrow siloed bookkeeping and accounting software and move to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system when they need something that is more robust, adaptable, with better controls, and can integrate other departments to finance. ERP handles day-to-day transactions and tracks company resources. It can perform some actual vs. budget reporting, but that is not what it was designed to do. That functionality falls in the realm of enterprise performance management (EPM), which supports planning, budgeting, forecasting, consolidation, reporting, and other management processes. EPM becomes an essential component of growth for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) when business leaders need to make sense of the numbers, execute on strategy, and pivot as required. There is overlap between ERP and EPM, but ERP is not a substitute for EPM, which is more strategic and can work across multiple ERP systems. But many growing companies do not (yet) embrace EPM. Instead, they continue using their ERP Cloud solution and use spreadsheets to manage budgeting, forecasting, and financial reporting. In many places, spreadsheets still rule supreme. In fact, 69 percent of companies report still using spreadsheets to track spending and build budgets. There is no denying the impact that spreadsheets have had on business. Since they appeared on desktop computers, they have become the finance professional’s go-to for pretty much everything. However, today they are one of the slowest, most error-prone, least flexible ways to do financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting.  Using ERP Cloud plus spreadsheets is not a sustainable solution as the company grows, for one simple reason. They are discrete documents, and the planning, budgeting, and forecasting process is anything but. It is fluid, has a high number of dependencies, and requires input from a very diverse group of stakeholders. Therefore, when process and tool collide, many finance professionals are left with data that is rife with errors, hard to audit, and difficult to keep updated. This makes version control a nightmare when spreadsheets are shared between finance and line-of-business leaders. Sure, it might seem simple to modify the file name to indicate a new version exists, but inevitably, all versions do not make it back to all stakeholders. This leaves executives with data that they are not quite sure about, making decisions that could be (or not be) based on bad data. It is only when accurate data is accessible to all stakeholders in real time—something that is extremely hard to pull off with spreadsheets—better, faster decisions are made that strategically move the company up the growth curve. Decisions cannot wait for month end, quarter end, or the annual close process to be completed. The chances are that today, you will have to make a decision that will impact the future of your growing company―a decision you did not see coming yesterday. When working with spreadsheets, the need to make a quick, accurate decision necessitates a large number of employees have to stop the work they are doing and start compiling the right information. There is an opportunity cost to this planning style, in terms of employee productivity and projects/tasks that have fallen by the wayside. But when Oracle ERP and EPM Cloud are combined, SMBs can meet their planning, budgeting, and forecasting needs and make that information available to stakeholders, in real time. To learn more about how Oracle ERP and EPM Cloud are Better Together, download our ebook today.

In 2017, two-thirds of global companies had cloud-based ERP software. It is the natural progression of growth. Companies outgrow siloed bookkeeping and accounting software and move to an enterprise...

Customer Experience

The Importance of CX and Digital Experience Technologies in the Banking Industry

Your customers are the foundation of growth. Without customers, there would be no bank. And if you cannot retain customers, your growing bank would shut its doors.  Basic service is not enough anymore. They came to you because your regional bank had a value proposition that was appealing to them, but without great customer experiences, they will leave. So to survive and grow, you need to provide those experiences and build loyalty. Why? Because loyal customers are more profitable. They stay with you, and over time, they will begin to use your institution for higher margin products. In addition, people will just pay more for great experiences than for great products. So focus on fully addressing the needs of your specific target audience. Know their habits so you can predict their actions and anticipate their needs. Doing so will create the loyalty you need to grow in your market (and beyond). Great Customer Service is the Key to Differentiation. Differentiation is the Key to Stable Growth.   The banking industry is extremely competitive, especially so for regional banks. Banking is primarily a customer-oriented business and good customer service can be a sole differentiating factor. There are several reasons for this: It is easier to gain net new customers than nab customers away from other banks. Long-term customers are more profitable. If a customer has a poor experience with normal transactions, they will be much less likely to apply for higher-margin product, like a mortgage or auto loan. Share of wallet is directly determined by the customer experience. The better (and more consistent) the experience, the greater the chances of getting a larger percentage of the customers’ financial banking needs. A great digital experience is key for your digital savvy customers. Many people are forsaking a checkbook and are reducing the number of visits to ATMs. For them, their online experience cannot be separated from the overall customer experience. If customers cannot do business with a bank on their terms, they will eventually start moving portions of “their wallet” to other banks.  Over time, you will lose those customers. Digital Is King, And, Therefore, Technology Is Mandatory The customer experience for banks (at least on the consumer side of things) has transitioned to the digital. Therefore, there will be problems if a customer’s digital expectations are not met If you find your bank out of sync with customer expectations, investing in the right customer experience technologies is mandatory. It can differentiate your bank from the competitions. Community and regional banks grew a toehold in the market because of their “personal touch” (i.e. the branch experience) they provided. But that has changed. A large percentage of consumers do not see any difference between banks. They are not interested in the “personal touch” anymore. They do not want to enter a branch. Now an awesome customer experience depends on digital technologies. Customers want three things: They want innovative solutions that allow them to interact with your bank, when, where and how they want. They expect immediate resolution to their problems. They want you to know who they are, and they want recognition for their loyalty. Interaction Right Now, Wherever I Am Most of today’s digital-savvy customers want to what channel they use to interact with your bank, and (in most cases) they do have preferences.  When customers can't use the channel of their choice, they are less satisfied with their experience than customers who are able to use their preferred channel. They are also less engaged with the bank overall than customers who used their preferred channel. Have a question or need more information?  Start a live chat with an Oracle CX Cloud expert. Solve My Problem—Now Customers want to be heard, and (trust us) you want to hear them. They are a great source of information and can help you anticipate needs (and maybe even spur some innovation) and resolve issues before they become business problems. Quite frankly, if technology can help you solve customers’ problems before they even realize there is a problem, you are well on your way to gaining a loyal customer.   Banks that pay attention and offer a variety of open and inviting channels—branch, ATM, website, mobile app, call center, or chatbot—will increase customer loyalty. It is all about making it easy to engage (with the help of technology), demonstrating a willingness to listen, anticipating a problem, and then solving the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Recognize Me Banks need loyal customers. Margins depend on it. And customer loyalty is one interaction at a time. The customer service, convenience, speed to resolution, and overall experience must serve to strengthen the bank’s reputation and build emotional bonds with consumers over time. For banks, the ultimate message is that consistently great customer experiences are crucial to consumer loyalty. For example, a recent study found that the loyal bank customers made 10 positive comments for every negative one. And thanks to social media, keeping positive commentary going is of utmost importance to counter any negative comments. Summary The landscape is changing ― quickly ― within the banking industry. Competition is getting tough as other industry players (including financial technology firms, mobile payments companies, and startups) offer similar historical banking functions. Banks have to differentiate themselves by improving the digital customer experience. Regional banks that recognized early on that the value is shifting away from simple transactional banking services to nurturing deep customer relationships don’t remain regional banks for long. Therefore, banks have two choices. They can pretend that nothing will ever change and keep doing what they are doing. They will be cannibalized by their more agile competitors. Or they can recognize the incredible value in their customer relationships and build a powerful ecosystem around them. To support this needed customer experience strategy, you need the right CX cloud. When you provide customers and front-line employees with the tools and technology they need to provide the best experience possible, your bank has what it needs to not only keep up with but take the lead in terms of changing industry and customer demands. Learn more about how you can transform your business with Oracle Banking Solutions for Customer Experience.  

Your customers are the foundation of growth. Without customers, there would be no bank. And if you cannot retain customers, your growing bank would shut its doors.  Basic service is not enough...

Customer Experience

Mythbusting: Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Ecommerce

No one likes to be stereotyped. Not men, not women, not people who wear glasses or who have blond hair, and definitely not the generational groupings we call millennials, generation X, and boomers. However, to segment markets that seems to be what a lot of companies do. They put people into groups based on arbitrary standards (such as year of birth). They design advertising campaigns that target boomers; they create service and commerce channels to appeal to millennials. However, by segmenting a market based on generalizations (and even stereotypes), many companies inadvertently isolate a large segment of their customer base. You see, the generations are not as different as you might think. Sure, there are differences (that is inherent in society as a whole), but there are boomers who are addicted to their mobile devices, and there are millennials who read actual paper books. In fact, research conducted by Jennifer Deal, PhD., Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership found that people (across all generations) share many of the same values and viewpoints. However, the way they express those values is different. For example, approximately 1/3 of both millennials and boomers make purchases from their mobile devices; however, how and when and why they do can be different.  Both groups research before making (what they consider to be) a large purchase.  However, the actual research usually takes on a different form. The overwhelming majority of millennials trust online user-generated content, whereas boomers rely on advice from family and friends; they put the least value on social media posts regarding purchased products. Are your relationships (or non-relationships) with your customers keeping you up at night?  Find out how to fix and start getting some ZZZZs.   There are differences among members of the same generation. People are not alike just because their year of their birth happens to fall within a specific range. Life experiences play a huge role in making people who they are. For example, the “Baby Boom generation” spans three decades. Those who were born at the beginning of that period experienced the Kennedy assassination, the British invasion, and Woodstock; those who were born in the last decade of the “baby boom” are more familiar with the Bee Gees, Studio 54, and Watergate. They did not attend Woodstock simply because it ran past their bedtime (and they would have needed a chaperone). The same holds true for millennials. Those millennials who were born in 1983 are much different than those born in 1997. The older millennials are not digital natives. Like Baby Boomers and Generation X, they are digital adopters.  And like others digital adopters, their embrace of mobile and digital technologies runs the gamut from “take it” to “leave it.” So what is a growing small-to-medium business (SMB) to do?  First, understand your audience by digging deeper than broad generalizations. When you know who your customer is (based on habits and action, not age), you can provide the right purchasing mechanism, support the right service channel, and create the correct customer experience for that customer.   Want to know more about how Oracle CX Cloud can help you do that? Oracle Sales Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Service Cloud are all designed to provide multiple ways for you to digitally sell, service, and interact with your customers – in whatever way they choose. Download the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce.  

No one likes to be stereotyped. Not men, not women, not people who wear glasses or who have blond hair, and definitely not the generational groupings we call millennials, generation X, and boomers. Howe...

Emerging Technologies

6 Fast-Growing Businesses Achieve Success with Oracle Cloud

Digital is disrupting every industry and organizations of any size. Automation is helping small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) rise to the challenge of doing more with shrinking resources and budgets. The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and mobile technologies are changing the way we work and connect with businesses. Digital transformation results from connecting your disparate network of on-premises apps, data, APIs, and content across SaaS clouds. Some of the smallest and fastest-growing organizations have embarked on their journey to innovation. They are leveraging a new era of computing powered by AI and machine learning in Oracle Cloud Platform. We have enabled them to migrate and modernize applications, lower costs, improve security, and increase speed to market. Oracle Cloud Platform offers SMBs the best possible experience, accelerating a path through a minefield of data and process. This book celebrates the success of our customers and highlights the capabilities that were part of their digital journeys. Learn how customers including AFG, City of San Jose, StitchFix, Turning Point, University of Western Australia and Western Digital have found success with the Oracle Cloud Platform.

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

Finance

5 Clues You Have a Human Error Problem

One of the most significant risks to the success of your small-to-medium business (SMB) is human error. And no error impacts a growing business more than those contained within your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. No employee wants to make a mistake, but errors are part of being human. With that in mind, many companies don’t even try for 100 percent accuracy. In some industries, a 70 percent accuracy rate is considered “good enough.” But is it? Your ERP system supports end-to-end processes, and if data is continually being transferred back and forth between emails, spreadsheets, and even chats, the greater the risk for mistakes. And mistakes are costly, especially if they show up once a customer becomes involved.  1-10-100 Rule The 1-10-100 rule states that the cost of data entry errors multiplies exponentially depending on when those errors are identified and corrected. So, if it costs a company $1 to check the data at the first point of entry, it will cost $10 to correct that error if it was missed. If the error was missed yet again and impacts operations or even customers, it could cost $100 on top of all the issues around customer retention and damage to the brand. But given that you might be dealing with thousands of data points (customer record creation, invoice processing, purchase order creation, inventory updates, etc.), it could take a while for mistakes to show up.  If “only” 30 percent of your data is incorrect, that could be hard to find, but wreak havoc all the same. So here are five subtle clues to help you identify that you might have a human error problem with your ERP systems. 1. Finance Employees Are Staying Late No matter how efficient or capable the employees in your finance group are, they have their limits. If they are consistently working late, long after everyone has gone home, that is a big indication that your staffing level is not where it should be. When overworked or pushed past their capacity, any employee is more likely to commit mistakes. The longer your employees are overworked, the more mistakes they will make, and not only because they are tired. Constant overload can make employees resentful and is a massive contributor to employee disengagement levels. 2. Finance Must Use Several Different Applications to Get the Job Done As a firm’s finance and accounting requirements become more complex, gaps appear and are filled with other solutions—spreadsheets, point solutions, or even home-grown applications. Integration is problematic at best, so an additional layer is usually added to vet errors, slowing processes even more, and increasing the risk of serious delays and unhappy customers. 3. Employees Struggle to Find Needed Data When different pieces of information reside in different systems, your finance staff could spend the majority of their time looking down various rabbit holes for the correct information. Once they find it, there is no clear way to know what is current, accurate, and reliable. When ERP moves to an integrated cloud and can extend its core financial architecture to include integrated customer experience (CX), supply chain management (SCM), human capital management (HCM), and enterprise performance management (EPM), all applications work together. Also all departments have improved visibility and can collaborate—as one. 4. Over-Reliance on Manual Data Entry When employees have to export data onto spreadsheets to upload that data into another siloed system is the norm, mistakes are going to slip through the cracks. When this happens, records become corrupted, import/export numbers won’t align, transcription errors and transposition errors will be the norm.   5. No One Trusts the Data Anymore When multiple manual steps are used to augment a less-than-optimal infrastructure, employees have to rekey payment information into financial systems, manually calculate discount percentages, reconcile customer information, or log into multiple systems to see complete purchase/payment histories. These manual steps inevitably lead to slow-downs, reporting errors, and bad decisions that are based on inaccurate, incomplete, and old data. If any of this sounds familiar, your growing business may have a human error problem. In fact, 61 percent of companies list human error as the cause of inaccurate data. And inaccurate data leads to workarounds, more manual entry, the addition of more point solutions, leading finally to a complete lack of visibility into the health of your (hopefully) growing company. To learn more, download our newest ebook to learn how to tell if your ERP system is limiting your sales and profitability.

One of the most significant risks to the success of your small-to-medium business (SMB) is human error. And no error impacts a growing business more than those contained within your enterprise...

Emerging Technologies

A 3-Step Approach to Bringing Blockchain Ideas into Practice

Blockchain is one of today’s most disruptive emerging technologies. The World Economic Forum estimates that 10 percent of global GDP transactions will be recorded in blockchain technology within the next 10 years1.  But do you know how to get started? Few people really understand blockchain technology, and examples in the public domain usually consist of high-level views with little clarity on core aspects and potential tradeoffs of an implementation. This is an issue given that there are many technological elements required to build a blockchain solution, and, as of now, specific solutions do not come as off-the-shelf products. To help make blockchain plans a reality, growing small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) should consider a three-step approach to help familiarize themselves with the technology, understand potential use cases, and evaluate technical implementation options and pitfalls. 1. Understanding Blockchain Blockchain is a fundamentally disruptive approach to storing transactional records. Today’s cheap storage and highly available networks allow complete information sets to be collected at every node of a network and not just in a central database. Called a distributed ledger, this practice of storing identical datasets guarantees an immutable transaction record. Blockchain also provides a unique solution to data-conflict resolution for simultaneous transactions without the need for a central clearing agent. While all blockchain technologies are made up of distributed ledgers, other aspects vary greatly. For instance, the method for finding consensus (so proposed transactions can be added as a new block) can be different. Most current, business-oriented blockchain examples, where ledgers are shared privately among approved members of an enterprise-grade network, target a known group of participants. These permissioned blockchains require approval from a certain minimum number of nodes to achieve consensus, typically using an algorithm such as Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT). Public or permissionless blockchains on the other hand, including cryptocurrencies, have very different requirements because the network participants don’t know each other. As a result, trust is low, so there needs to be safeguards against fraudulent transactions, like double spending. In this example, new blocks can enter the shared ledger only after a very resource-intensive process, where the nodes compete on solving complex cryptographic problems. This is called a proof of work protocol. In addition, the complexity is regularly adjusted to ensure that even the combined computational power of the nodes only generate (or mine) a new block after a certain time, typically every 10 minutes, which allows the transactions to synchronize globally. With that much complexity, somebody would need to control at least 51 percent of the computational power of the network to place a fraudulent transaction in the blockchain. These very different consensus methods have huge implications on the blockchain implementation’s functionality and performance and suitable for different uses (for example, tracking the number of transactions per second that can be handled). Have a question or need more information?  Start a live chat with an Oracle expert. 2. Evaluate Your Needs To ensure success, blockchain applications need to start with a solid understanding of the problem.  For each new situation, consider the following questions to evaluate whether blockchain technology or a centralized database is most appropriate: Are there multiple parties that share or update common data? What is the requirement for trust and verification? Are there intermediaries required to execute a transaction and would there be benefits to removing them? Are the interactions time-sensitive? Does the situation demand “rich” data and is there value-added data available beyond the immediate transaction? Does the situation require decision-making or information handling that can be executed automatically according to rules (for example, “smart contracts”)? Not all of these questions will hold equal weight. Some criteria will be more important than others, so you’ll need to define the value of each criterion. 3. Evaluate the Implementation Options and Understand the Pitfalls After evaluating your needs and determining that blockchain is the correct path, other key variables must be assessed. For instance, what level of trust do you need to have in the network? And what kind of complexity are you looking at given the necessary functionality and the richness of the required feature set? The level of trust typically determines whether you need a permissioned or permissionless blockchain and which consensus protocols you need to use. Currently, most business-oriented frameworks are “permissioned,” but there are also implementations that use a “proof-of-elapsed-time” consensus protocol. These require less trust than a fully permissioned implementation, instead using trusted hardware modules at each node, which can be sufficient for certain applications. Similarly, most modern, business-oriented blockchain frameworks are feature-rich to support the implementation of smart contracts, as well as requiring automatically executing business logic based on external input and verified by all nodes. Other considerations for choosing a blockchain framework deal with implementation and interoperability. Although blockchain technology has a high level of intrinsic security, flaws in implementation can have massive impact. For example: Mistakes in smart contracts can lead to unwanted behaviour. For instance, if malicious contract parties are the first to find a flaw in a contract, they can exploit it without formally breaching the contract. Very high potential gains from breaking through safety barriers for cryptocurrencies are attracting massive attacks. Attackers have gained hundreds of millions of dollars by exploiting security flaws in coin storage, in cryptocurrency exchanges for example. No “master key”: Both data security as well as accessibility depends on sufficiently securing cryptographic keys but also having them at hand when needed. The complexity of the cryptography involved, as well as, the uncommon programming languages used in some smart contract implementations, require particular attention here. For many applications, the value of blockchain lies in interoperability between different parties. Unfortunately, there is currently little standardization in blockchain, hence interoperability is mainly driven by all parties choosing the same technology stack. This means organizations need to take a forward-looking approach to anticipate how additional partners can be integrated, especially if those partners don’t have the same implementation capabilities or less technological flexibility. Bringing blockchain ideas into practice requires a solid understanding of the technology and a thorough use case evaluation, but long-term success is particularly dependent on early decisions regarding the implementation framework. The complexity needs to be understood and securing the right skills and capabilities is key, especially for a secure and future-proof implementation. Learn about Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service. 1 Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact. Survey Report. World Economic Forum, 2015.

Blockchain is one of today’s most disruptive emerging technologies. The World Economic Forum estimates that 10 percent of global GDP transactions will be recorded in blockchain technology within the...

Human Resources

6 Ways to Build the Best Culture for Productive Remote Work

The workplace of today is not your father’s (or mother’s) workplace.  Change is so rapid it may not even be your older sibling’s workplace. The rapid advance of technology and the millennial generation’s rise into management positions have opened up immense opportunities. But they are opportunities that also bring a whole new set of challenges. For employees, the benefits go beyond no longer being tethered to a desk and no longer forced to endure long commutes on traffic-snarled freeways. The freedom and flexibility provide an enhanced lifestyle. For businesses, the benefits are not only reduced overhead but access to a more diverse and qualified talent pool. Remote working has become an ever-more-attractive option for both companies and employees. So much so that the number of people who work from home has dramatically increased by 115 percent in a little over a decade, according to a report created by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs. Nearly four million people, work from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005. It’s a trend that’s only going in one direction and one that I see with my clients every day in spite of the fact that in 2014 Marissa Mayer, CEO of tech giant Yahoo, famously led an about-face and turned against remote working partly citing the decisions and insights that come from hallway and cafeteria discussions. Her stand was soon followed by Best Buy and Reddit and last year by IBM. (Ironically, IBM is a major player selling the infrastructure that enables secure remote working.) These companies are bucking the trend. Citrix Systems, in fact, forecasts that half the American workforce will be remote within three years, a statistic that’s unimaginable. But what if it’s only half right? The much-talked-about millennial generation is at the forefront of this trend. Another survey shows that remote working is such an attractive proposition for millennials. In fact, when evaluating a job prospect the factors members of this generation rated more important were work-life balance (84 percent) and work flexibility (82 percent) vs. salary (80 percent) and benefits (48 percent). Almost half of employees say they are more productive at home or remotely than in the office. Just think about that and its implications for corporate culture. The work environment has a much greater influence than money. A corporate culture that recognizes and honors the fact that employees have a life outside of the office is one that is a magnet for talent. In the same survey, 82 percent said they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options. Sixty percent felt they would be more productive working from home rather than the confines of an office. And 35 percent claimed they would be willing to take a pay cut of 10 percent—even 20 percent—if given the option of remote working. It’s hard enough to establish the right kind of culture in a traditional workplace environment, so how do you do it when your team is spread across miles, time zones, and maybe even continents? Let’s look at some of the challenges before I offer the solutions. In a study of 1,153 employees conducted by corporate training and leadership development company, VitalSmarts, those who worked from home consistently felt ‘penalized.’ Compared with in-office workers more of them felt colleagues didn’t fight for their priorities, said bad things about them behind their backs, made changes to a project without warning them and even lobbied against them along with others. There’s also a danger of being out of sight and out of mind. So, what can you do? 1. Take It Seriously Switching employees to remote working is a significant undertaking and cannot be implemented casually; it should be established after careful consideration of all of the ramifications and how it will operate in practice. Plan the new workstyle. Put systems in place. Make sure online connections are secure. Don’t just jump into it. 2. Celebrate Remote Once a small-to-medium business (SMB) decides to increase its remote workforce it’s a strategy that needs to be embraced wholeheartedly. It has to become a vital element of the corporate DNA—something that managers and employees alike live and breathe day in and day out. Even more than that, it needs to be acclaimed and celebrated for the benefits it brings to the company and the employees. 3. Keep In Touch Communication is one of the keys to organizational success for every size company in every industry, and especially if there is a growing force of home workers.  Those who operate remotely miss out on water cooler banter and spontaneous brainstorming meetings. They’re not there to share the cake when it’s someone’s birthday or say yes to a last-minute after work social invite. These are the kind of things that build camaraderie and team spirit. The answer is to work harder to communicate with remote workers so they never feel left out. A corporate culture only becomes fully effective when a steady stream of information flows throughout the entire organization no matter where everyone is located. And someone needs to be in charge to coordinate the effort. Look at it like the biggest orchestra you’ve ever seen with so many different musicians playing so many different instruments. Who’s the maestro with the baton who will keep everyone performing flawlessly and harmoniously together? 4. Make Use of Tech Fortunately, there’s a growing number of tools that can bring remote workers together with one click. These can be formal and informal; business-like and casual; informational and instructive; or just entertaining. Recreate the environment of an office to the extent that you can for everyone no matter where they are. Check out Slack. It’s a virtual office for many companies. Communication takes place in channels, organized by project, topic, team, or whatever works in your situation. For many, it also facilitates the water cooler environment where everyone feels free to open up with news, humor and pop culture stories. GoToMeeting works well for larger groups to collaborate in real time. 5. Get Together Online communication is a wonderful tool that allows us to see and talk to each other across the world. It enables us to work faster and more efficiently. But it cannot and should not completely replace in-person get-togethers. You can’t feel a handshake through your computer screen (well, not yet). You can’t share a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the ambience of a nice restaurant, even if you can toast yourselves long-distance. The most thoughtful advocates of remote working know this and are also proponents of hosting retreats, seminars, conventions, summits, meet-ups—call them what you will—which physically bring remote workers together, and as often as they can. They budget for it. Plan for it. Face-to-face and in-person engenders stronger relationships and the building of an enduring corporate culture. I don’t see that ever going away. 6. Stay Flexible The technology that enabled remote working in the first place is going to change. And if recent history is any indicator, it will change rapidly. That’s as sure as death and taxes. If your SMB was flexible enough to introduce remote working, it needs to stay flexible enough to adopt the newest technologies to make it even more productive and employee-friendly. To Be Remote or Not to Be Remote? Are you holding out against the trend with grim determination convinced there’s nothing wrong with running your business at all of your bricks and mortar locations? After all, you’ve been successful. Why not just continue the way that you are? Ask yourself these questions.  When a new generation of highly-qualified workers tells you it wants to work remotely is that something to be disregarded? Do you feel that the best talent pool resides right there within 25 miles of your office location, or does it exist elsewhere in the world? Why wouldn’t you want to be part of the future instead of stuck in the past? Jason’s first book “Beyond the Plateau” is getting ready for publication. It’s an enlightening and entertaining take on what it takes to build the right kind of corporate culture to rise above the plateau that stifles growth. Powerful advice for both startups and seasoned company executives.

The workplace of today is not your father’s (or mother’s) workplace.  Change is so rapid it may not even be your older sibling’s workplace. The rapid advance of technology and the millennial...

Supply Chain Management

How SMB’s Can Tackle Indirect Purchasing

Imagine a perfect purchasing world. In this world, employees are able to purchase the items and supplies they need in order to get their jobs done at the best-negotiated prices.  Purchase orders would be automatically created and the finance team would be able to easily match an order with an invoice. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, particularly in small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). What happens instead is that employees will purchase items through suppliers that are not even on contract – meaning businesses pay more for products that may already have lower negotiated prices, increasing costs to the business and impacting the bottom line. Ardent Partners – a research and advisory firm – could attest to that. According to their recent 2017 CPO Rising Survey, only 54% of spend is on contract. It’s becoming increasingly hard for companies to ensure that their employees are staying compliant and purchasing from approved suppliers that are within policy. For SMBs, procurement costs such as inventory and supplies could be the largest cost below rent and employee salaries. In my previous roles, I know I would be guilty as charged. There were several times I would go “rogue” and place orders with outside vendors. Not because I wanted to, but because the spend management tools provided to employees were always extremely complicated to use. When it comes down to it, spend management isn’t just about reducing company costs, but also ensuring a user friendly internal customer experience as well. Quickly Adapting to the Change When I arrived at Oracle I was told I was required to use our Self Service Procurement Cloud to order my monitors and standing desk. Just the thought of using another spend management application filled me with complete frustration. In the past I’ve had painful experiences with various spend management software (won’t name any names). I always had a hard time navigating through the software, I could never find the products that I needed, and of course the interface wasn’t intuitive. You can’t blame me for expecting the same complexities with this new application. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I first used Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud as it takes the employee shopping experience to another level.  The fact is, the more intuitive and easy it is for employees to follow the rules, the more likely it is that they will. The first thing I noticed while using Oracle software was its easy, user-friendly, interface. When looking at the main page, there is a “Top Categories” section, as well as a drop-down category menu that allows users to choose what products it is that they are exactly looking for. The software also has powerful search capabilities that allowed me to quickly locate the right products that I needed within seconds. Furthermore, the catalog range on Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud is quite extensive. Users can pick from several different products to order such as laptops, office supplies, headsets and even mobile phones. If I was stuck between which items to order, users have the ability to compare and contrast products from different vendors. Also, I was able to “punchout” to the supplier’s e-commerce website, add items to my shopping cart, and then complete the transaction in the Oracle application. Find out how SMBs are moving supply chain to the cloud.   Advanced Features Enhance Your Procurement Once I was done looking for what I needed, with the click of a button I added the products to my shopping cart and seamlessly checked out. With the application’s advanced capabilities, I was able to choose a one-time delivery to a different office location. After submitting my order, my requisition was sent to my manager for approval. Requisitions within Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud are always routed through workflows for approval before they are processed (these workflows are completely configurable to your organization’s policies). Within minutes after placing my order, I received an email stating that my requisition had been “approved.” What was most surprising was how expedient my requisition was able to be approved by my manager. Additionally, since the application runs on mobile devices I was also able to keep track of my requisitions’ status from the palm of my hand. I truly was impressed with how easy it was to manage my requisitions. Spend Management Made Easy Within a matter of days, I received several packages at my cubicle and the first thought that crossed my mind was “Well…that was quick!” At my previous employer, it would take several weeks before I received my order, making it much more convenient for me to order from a huge online retailer (you know the one) and have it delivered the next day. Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud put a positive buying experience well within my reach. Most importantly it provided a compliant, streamlined, frictionless buying experience.  Learn more about Oracle Self Service Procurement Cloud. By Ana Galindo, SCM Product Marketing Manager, Oracle

Imagine a perfect purchasing world. In this world, employees are able to purchase the items and supplies they need in order to get their jobs done at the best-negotiated prices.  Purchase orders would...

Customer Experience

Why SMBs Should Integrate Customer Service Into Their Sales Force Automation Apps

Combining sales and service onto a single platform helps reps have more meaningful conversations with customers, make more intelligent selling decisions, and ultimately speed deal conversions. Sales force automation (SFA) software has come a long way in the last 15 years, helping sales teams get a better handle on their pipelines, prospects, and performance. But because most of these SFA applications were designed for sales managers, not sales reps, “the reps don’t always take the time to properly update the system, so neither reps nor managers get the information they need out of it,” says Stephen Fioretti, vice president of product management at Oracle. Just forcing salespeople to use these applications won’t fix the problem. Instead, by integrating these standalone SFA apps with customer service apps, salespeople can get more insights into their accounts, understand how (and when) to approach them, and ultimately close more deals—giving reps a lot more incentive to use them, Fioretti says. He encourages businesses to combine sales and service onto a single platform in order to help reps have more meaningful conversations with customers, embed AI-based apps to make sales reps smarter and speed deal conversions. Read the full story on Forbes: Go Beyond Sales Force Automation: 3 Reasons To Integrate Customer Service.

Combining sales and service onto a single platform helps reps have more meaningful conversations with customers, make more intelligent selling decisions, and ultimately speed deal conversions. Sales...

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. Find out how Oracle can help you take your business to the next level so you can meet tomorrow's needs, today.   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. To learn more, read the new ebook: 7 Must-Haves for a Future-Proof ERP Cloud.

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. Read our ebook to learn how you can build tomorrow's finance, today: 4 Signs It's Time for the ERP Cloud.

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 more by reading the digibook: Digital Transformation for High-Growth Companies.  

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 how to transform finance with ERP and EPM Cloud in our ebook: When ERP and Spreadsheets Struggle.

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...

Oracle

Integrated Cloud Applications & Platform Services