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Customer Experience

Keeping Score with Sportable Scoreboards

Thirty three years ago, Mike Cowen was sitting in the bleachers watching his son’s baseball game, when he noticed the diamond didn’t have a scoreboard. In fact, many of the places where his kids played sports lacked score-keeping devices. As a self-professed data geek, Cowen decided to invent a battery-powered, portable contraption that he could bring along to games. And with that, Sportable Scoreboards was born. From its start in a California garage to today’s 40,000 square foot facility in Murray, Kentucky, Sportable Scoreboards is home to 60 dedicated employees who are eager to see exciting numbers on the board. Their commitment to the company’s success has propelled Sportable to become one of the major players in the youth and high school market over the last three decades. To continue this momentum, Cowen, now chairman of the board, recently challenged his team to double its growth over the next five years. Sportable manufactures 6,000 made-to-order scoreboards each year for every indoor and outdoor sport imaginable. By doubling its production, Sportable hopes to positively impact twice as many communities across America. “There are hundreds of thousands of young people that are able to compete on an athletic field with a scoreboard that validates their experience and says ‘what you’re doing matters,’” Mike Daniel, Sportable’s president explained. “And quite frankly, that tells us that what we’re doing matters as well.” Sportable’s customers are our country’s communities. They are high school athletic directors and coaches with limited or non-existent budgets. They are parks and recreation departments who rely on government funding for their sports programs. They are parents and Little League officials who put on bake sales and car washes to raise money for a scoreboard. So how does a business plan to double in size in a market that may not be able to afford the product it sells? Sportable takes pride in meeting its customers on their own playing fields. To do so, the company created a Score Rewards program that helps schools sell advertising space on their scoreboard to offset costs. They also implemented a long-term finance program for more expensive models. But in order to double down on growth, Sportable realized it had to transform the way it operated, in hopes of finding efficiencies and cost savings that it could pass on to its customers. “We had to make radical change and radical improvements to get from where we are currently to where we want to be,” Daniel said. “We don’t want incremental change, we want to transform the way we address our business very fundamentally. There are inefficiencies, there are opportunities, and there are ways for us to reach our customers that we’ve never focused on before.” Sportable Scoreboards Grows and Transforms with Oracle SaaS Sportable recognized the need to up its game. Its front and back office software was outdated. The company was maintaining a dozen disparate, legacy systems that didn’t talk to each other. Costly to manage, the customized integrations between each weren’t sustainable for future growth. Each line of business was operating with duplicate records, process inefficiencies, and manual data entry. Cowen’s challenge to take Sportable to the next level led the company to retire its on-premises systems and overhaul its entire business – from marketing, sales, quoting, and customer service to finance, accounting, procurement, and order management – in a move to Oracle Cloud. “Our owner and leadership team decided that it was time for us to make a bid toward growth, and what we were seeking was a single source of truth,” recalled Micah Sugg, director of IT. This data transparency and accuracy has had an immediate impact at Sportable. By integrating Oracle Marketing Cloud and Oracle Engagement Cloud, website traffic increased and sales reps are pursuing higher quality leads. Order precision improved with Oracle CPQ Cloud and Oracle ERP Cloud, reducing waste and required man power. Oracle Order Management Cloud, Oracle Manufacturing Cloud, and Oracle Supply Chain Cloud help ease order fulfillment, shipping the right product to the right customer, quickly. For the first time ever, accounting and financial teams can access the same data as their colleagues in sales and service with Oracle Financials Cloud, eliminating confusion caused by thousands of duplicate records. Sugg’s IT department is also reducing costs, no longer relying on a third party for server maintenance and set-up. Freed from the day-to-day business system maintenance, Sugg’s team is increasingly focusing on product development, exploring IoT-enabled scoreboards among other emerging technologies. Additionally, this single source of truth enables Sportable’s management team to quickly generate reports for strategic planning. “We’ve really freed up time to be more intentional about where we’re going and what we’re going to do, because that intentionality takes time,” Sugg explained. Sportable has also transformed its customer experience, removing the barriers and complexity of finding a product that meets its customers’ unique needs at an affordable price point. The company can now guide each school or parks director through a simple quoting and order process, shipping a scoreboard–configured for lights, horns, and team colors–to the field or arena in just 10 days. (Its competitors take twice as long to deliver a product.) Should the customer encounter any issues with set-up or maintenance, Sportable’s service department is on hand 24/7 so the inquiring coach or parent can get back to what’s really important–game day. At the end of the day, there’s no higher priority than Friday’s hockey game or Saturday’s soccer tournament. A scoreboard is just one part of that experience, but it’s a profound one. “There's nothing better than going past a football game on a Friday night and seeing our scoreboard in front of thousands of people,” Cowen said. “We’re united by the fact that we all love kids, we love sports, and we want the best programs that we can offer. Sportable is a part of that. We feel very proud about that.” Learn more about Sportable Scoreboard’s business transformation amidst a growing youth sports market on Forbes.    

Thirty three years ago, Mike Cowen was sitting in the bleachers watching his son’s baseball game, when he noticed the diamond didn’t have a scoreboard. In fact, many of the places where his kids...

Supply Chain Management

Top Takeaways: What the Analysts are Saying After Modern Business Experience

Now that the smoke has cleared after Modern Business Experience, Oracle SCM, PLM, ERP and HCM’s new flagship event, many research and analyst firms have been keen to divulge their assessments. Their outside perspective not only shows an in depth analysis of Oracle’s commitment to their customers success across the organization, but also how Oracle is delivering new industry fit technology and solutions that match tomorrow’s business needs. Tom Comstock, a principal analyst from LNS Research, wrote, “Oracle has rewritten its supply chain, ERP, and HR applications from the ground up to maximize performance in the Cloud.  Oracle quietly became the first company to have a comprehensive Supply Chain solution in the Cloud”. He went on to mention that “The fundamental advantage of moving to the Cloud was innovation and the speed of innovation” and “several Oracle presenters noted that cost savings were not the primary driver for a Cloud deployment but instead it was innovation”. Furthermore, Comstock ended by stating, “the real story is its Quality 4.0 tech. Oracle has launched a Global Traceability and Track solution, IoT Production App, Connected Innovation App, Connected Experience App, and Adaptive Digital Manufacturing solution. These Apps provide scalable approaches to deliver many Quality 4.0 use cases, include predictive quality in manufacturing, and digital voice of the customer connected back to product requirements and product definition…Oracle’s robust approaches in this area will ease the transition to Quality 4.0 for the next generation of adopters. All in all, LNS views Oracle as a solid partner for companies on their Industrial Transformation journey well beyond their apparent capabilities in the Cloud.” In addition to LNS Research, CIMdata, a leading PLM research and analyst consulting company, released their post-event commentary which highlights the key capabilities of Oracle PLM and SCM Cloud solutions and emphasizes the importance of having a digitally connected innovation platform. CIMdata writes, Oracle’s “vision of Digitally Connected PLM is coming to fruition” and “They have some good customer stories to date, with big names putting their businesses in Oracle’s hands and on their cloud.” The importance of the digital thread and having a completely connected digital supply chain are clear takeaways from CIMdata’s piece. They explain that Oracle’s “digital thread extends from the fuzzy frontend of innovation, supported by Oracle Innovation Management Cloud, all the way to fielded connected products/assets and back. In developing their Oracle Quality Management Cloud offering, Oracle brought together the development teams from Oracle Agile PLM, Oracle E-Business Suite, and other Oracle enterprise applications to ensure that the new cloud-native offering could meet or exceed the capabilities of their existing on-premise solutions.” They go on to note that Oracle "also extended Oracle Quality Management Cloud to span product development, change management, IoT, AI/ML, inspection processes, manufacturing, supplier management, and monitoring the voice of the customer using Oracle Social Cloud for sentiment monitoring. This will help Oracle connect the digital thread from idea through life and provide feedback that can enhance continuous improvement activities.” It’s quite apparent that Modern Business Experience showcased how industry fit technology and solutions are allowing companies of all sizes to adapt and thrive in the digital age.  If you missed the chance to attend the event, don’t worry! You can catch a recap of some of the great content here. If you’re looking for more information on Oracle PLM and SCM solutions, visit oracle.com/SCM and oracle.com/PLM. Check out these other Supply Chain blogs you may find interesting: Your Innovation Platform for the Digital Thread The Oracle PLM to Cloud Strategy Combine IoT and PLM to tie the Digital Thread What is SCM and Why is it Important?

Now that the smoke has cleared after Modern Business Experience, Oracle SCM, PLM, ERP and HCM’s new flagship event, many research and analyst firms have been keen to divulge their assessments. Their...

Customer Experience

5 Fascinating Cross-CX Sessions at Oracle Modern Customer Experience

By Corie McHugh Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019 will take place March 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, with 200+ planned sessions focusing on the hottest topics in customer experience. Over 25 of these sessions will focus specifically on cross-CX trends and technologies. **Ready to register for Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019? Visit the registration page and use discount code “CXINSIDER” to get a rate of $1,295 on a full conference pass now through March 1, 2019.** Here are 5 of the upcoming, fascinating cross-CX sessions. You can also view the full cross-CX session catalog here. Bring Intelligent Chatbots and Digital Assistants to Your Business Breakout session featuring Joe Huang, Product Management, Oracle Digital Assistant and Mobile Cloud, Oracle and Suhas Uliyar, Vice President, Product Management, Oracle AI Bots and Mobile, Oracle Over the past few years, AI technologies have transformed the way we interact with systems and devices across multiple channels. Chatbots in customer service, ecommerce, and sales have become widely accepted and adopted. Oracle’s Sales Digital Assistant and Service Digital Assistant leverage AI and can do many things: initiate conversations, make recommendations, detect/process sentiments, and handle advanced conversations. Attend to this session to learn how your enterprise can benefit. Deliver Personalized Experiences with Oracle Content and Experience Breakout session featuring Kiran Bellare, Senior Director, Product Management, Oracle Content teams spend millions on manual authoring, curating, and targeting content, and yet fall short on driving engagement. Smart content is an initiative from Oracle Content and Experience that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve content management efficiencies by automating the authoring, curation, and classification of content. Attend this session and learn more. How Master Lock Adopted Oracle CX Analytics for Better Business Intelligence Breakout session featuring Alex Dye, Director Business Applications, Master Lock Company, Shantanu Goswami, Senior Business Analyst – CRM, Master Lock Company and Naren Chawla, Senior Director, Product Management, CX Analytics, Oracle Which Oracle tools can you leverage to solve your descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics CX use cases to supercharge your business? What are the next-generation CX analytical business applications that you can adopt to deliver immediate value to business users? Attend this session to hear from Master Lock Company as they share their OTBI for Sales story. The session will also walk through real CX customer use cases and highlight ways to adopt your own business value through CX analytics. How to Be a Storytelling Marketer General session featuring Ellen Green, Director, Marketing Communications, GHA Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with customers. In this session, learn how to use marketing to tell a story to your customers that enhances your relationship. Understand how to leverage Oracle Responsys to tell that story through the tools and functionality in the platform, and find ways to create a conversation with customers to build upon the story. Oracle Customer Experience Unity: Connecting Tomorrow’s Customer Experience, Today Breakout session featuring Steve Earl, Senior Director Product Marketing, Oracle and Abbas Makhdum, Director Product Marketing, Oracle As the data fabric of Oracle’s market-leading customer experience cloud, Oracle Customer Experience Unity delivers timely intelligence about known customers in order to optimize their complete brand experience across marketing, sales, and service. Attend this session to learn more. **Ready to register for Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019? Visit the registration page and use discount code “CXINSIDER” to get a rate of $1,295 on a full conference pass now through March 1, 2019.** Note that event details are subject to change. *Originally published on smartercx.com    

By Corie McHugh Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019 will take place March 19-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, with 200+ planned sessions focusing on the hottest topics in...

Customer Experience

Sales Professionals Tune In!

Sales Professionals Tune In! Here’s your opportunity to embrace change in the New Year by registering for Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas, March 18-21, 2019! Attend MCX and interact with transformation leaders in the CX Exchange. Better yet, absorb everything about new trends or drill down in the conference breakout sessions. Hear from industry leaders including special guest Jacob Hayden at Parker Hannifin in the CX Sales general session as they share how they are optimizing sales strategies and explain how they’ve integrated sales with marketing and service to improve their bottom line. Experience cutting-edge features including visual Configure, Price and Quote integration from development partners, predictive sales planning tools, AI for Sales and Oracle’s new Digital Sales Assistant. Come away refreshed, re-energized, and ready to conquer the world after a week of making new friends, learning, and well, of course, partying in America’s hottest entertainment city!  Hear about global marketing dynamics and trends and then roll up your sleeves and get into the weeds to understand efficiencies for sales operations with a diverse array of CX Sales breakout sessions. What will our world of artificial intelligence and machine learning bring? How will you determine the proper balance of high-touch human interactions with the inevitable automation that surrounds us? We’re also bringing you some unique Collective Learning-style sessions. These are audience-led and interactive facilitated group activities that apply the science of learning with an appreciation for the collective intelligence of multiple people. Hear from Gerry Murray about the interaction between sales and marketing. Or, participate in “Make Your Case”, “Brain Snacks”, or “Flipped” sessions. We all bring knowledge and expertise to every interaction and Collective Learning harnesses the power of a group. Come a day early and take advantage of all that Las Vegas has to offer such as the Shark Reef at the host hotel, the Mandalay Bay. Experience one of its famous restaurants like the award-winning Aureole or the Rivera Las Vegas at the Delano by famous chef Alain Ducasse.  But before you dine, start the week with a Pre-Conference Education course to warm up your intellectual abilities and set the stage for a week of learning and professional networking. At these Pre-Conference courses, in smaller more intimate groups, you can get learn how to configure a report using powerful Oracle Transactional Business Intelligence (OTBI), or tailor your applications to your specific needs with the Oracle Application Composer, or maybe you just want to learn the basics of Engagement Cloud and see how sales and service are synergizing customer experience for reps and agents. There’s no substitute for being there in person, so register now for Modern Customer Experience with the code CXINSIDER for a discounted rate of $1295 through March 1, 2019. Claim your place at this premier conference in Las Vegas, without a doubt the entertainment capital of the world!

Sales Professionals Tune In! Here’s your opportunity to embrace change in the New Year by registering for Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas, March 18-21, 2019! Attend MCX and interact with...

Emerging Technologies

6 Ways AI Can Help a CEO

In the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about AI innovating and improving our lifestyles. Remember when Waze first came out and it shortened your commute? Siri is pretty cool too. As AI becomes more developed, it’s becoming less about “cool” new innovations and more about business impact.   I recently attended the AI Summit in San Francisco where Melissa Boxer, Oracle’s VP of Adaptive Intelligent Applications, gave her keynote on Practical AI. In her session, Melissa tapped into the perspective of the CEO by addressing 6 challenges of running her business and how “Pragmatic AI” can help. Are you in full control of your data? Customer trust is everything in today’s digital world.Hacking remains a major threat. As a CEO, the data you manage contains powerful customer insights but also carries a great deal of responsibility to ensure data privacy and security. Autonomous Cloud is an example where AI and machine learning automate processes that address security concerns and increase productivity so the IT department can focus on more important and bigger business decisions. Are you relevant to customers? It’s no secret how important customers are to any business owner. What we didn’t realize was how difficult it is to personalize engagements with customers across every interaction with us, in real-time. Oracle AI Apps provide convenient capabilities that help you deliver intelligent recommendations and interactions to Marketing, Sales, Commerce and Service teams to personalize each engagement with customers at the right time. Are your employees engaged? “It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs. As a CEO, leading an organization means leading people. However, hiring and retaining the best match remains difficult. With Oracle AI Apps for HCM, the goal is to help recruiters identify and rank candidates based on their likelihood to satisfy the requirements of the role, fit-in with company culture and ultimately thrive at the company over a long tenure. How effective is your salesforce? In a Harvard Business Review study, it was found that “Two thirds of sales people are average or worse.” Being a top seller is extremely difficult. When revenue growth is a top priority for a CEO, how can sellers, sell more? Today, Oracle AI apps for CX can minimize pipeline risk and drive deals toward closure with intelligent ranking of opportunities through AI-powered win probabilities, and recommended next best actions. Are you optimizing cash flow? Is your supply chain risky? Traditionally, supply chain was considered a connected, linear system that involved everything from planning to delivering a finished product. But in the digital age, supply chain has morphed into an” interconnected web, with the customer in the center”. As a CEO, you need to strategically look at your entire business at all times necessary. Oracle AI Apps for ERP uses AI to classify your supply base across a number of factors including strategic importance and financial stability as well as identifying organizations most suited to initiatives such as discount programs that offer early payment in exchange for discounts which in turn increases working capital. Are my teams efficiently developing AI innovations for my business? As the world continues to innovate and AI becomes a part of our realities, it’s important to remain competitive with leveraging technologies that will allow you to accelerate your business. As a business leader, investing in the right tools, frameworks and infrastructure can be the backbone to leverage machine learning quickly to drive positive business outcomes before your competition. As Melissa asked the audience these 6 questions, I realized how valuable AI can be to an entire business strategy. AI is not just “cool.” It is practical and touches the entire business. If you want to learn more about Adaptive Intelligent Apps, I would encourage anyone who’s interested to attend the AI Summit in New York on December 5-6. Further Reading Autonomous and Secure – Oracle magazine article discusses how Oracle technology protects your most valuable investment—your data.

In the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about AI innovating and improving our lifestyles. Remember when Waze first came out and it shortened your commute? Siri is pretty cool too. As AI...

Growth Corner

Soar to the Cloud with Oracle

Moving to the cloud just got a lot easier—and faster. On June 5, Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison announced the “Soar to the Cloud” solution, the world’s first automated enterprise cloud application upgrade product. What does that mean for Oracle’s on-premises customers? It will enable them to reduce the time and cost of cloud migration by up to 30 percent by leveraging a complete set of automated tools and proven methodologies. And, it’s the last upgrade they will ever need, as Larry stated during the launch event. I was excited to be a part of that event—but I’m even more excited to be a part of Oracle Soar. It will drive a fast, predictable, and cost-effective cloud journey because it applies the same power of automation that is infused in every Oracle Cloud application. As a result, Oracle customers can quickly enhance their finance, HR, and supply chain applications—and take advantage of machine learning. It’s the combination of tools, methods, and people that makes Soar work. I’m proud that many of those people are part of my Oracle Applications Consulting team, and they are intimately familiar with the tools and methodology that drive Soar. The solution includes a discovery assessment, process analyzer, automated data and configuration migration tools, and rapid integration tools. Guided by a dedicated Oracle concierge service, the Soar automated process is fueled by True Cloud Method, Oracle’s proprietary approach to support customers throughout the cloud journey. True Cloud Method is the underpinning of every Oracle Applications Consulting implementation project. So, we know that it ensures a rapid, “no surprises” migration that aligns with industry modern best practices because we’ve proven it time and again. One of the coolest parts of the Soar solution is the fact that customers can monitor the status of their cloud journey with a mobile application that includes a step-by-step implementation guide. The intuitive app lets customers know what needs to be done daily to ensure the project stays on course. And without a doubt, staying the course will be driven by an experienced Oracle launch team. The people behind the development, direction, and deployment of Soar represent the best in the business. I’m thrilled to call them colleagues and friends. Oracle Applications Consulting is excited to dig into the work of catapulting our clients to success with the hottest cloud technology on the market. Are you ready to Soar to the Cloud with Oracle? Your launch team is ready for you. Learn more here.  

Moving to the cloud just got a lot easier—and faster. On June 5, Oracle Executive Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison announced the “Soar to the Cloud” solution, the world’s first automated enterprise cloud...


With Right-Time Data, You Can Make Right-Time Decisions

Spreadsheets have been the backbone of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise performance management (EPM) processes for years, but the speed they offered in the past is no longer keeping up with the demands of growing businesses. Since spreadsheets are manual, it makes them error-prone in nature, and they put businesses at risk with inaccurate outputs. According to an article published in the Enterprise Times, 60 percent of businesses in the US are still relying on spreadsheets, while around 21 percent are moving toward other software solutions. As small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) grow, there is the need to have effective planning, budgeting, and forecasting systems in place. The right tools are needed to build an accurate picture of where you are, where you’re going, and what you need to do to get there. An effective EPM solution automates basic tasks and streamlines complicated processes. With Oracle Enterprise Performance Management Cloud, a spreadsheet-like environment can be retained, while at the same time producing realistic, useful plans and budgets for your company’s future. Oracle EPM Cloud is comprehensive and can be connected to other vital systems. Here are six ways Oracle EPM Cloud can give your decision-makers the tools they need to easily support digital transformation and growth: Identify products/services that are profit winners or profit losers Support narrative reporting for a more attractive and differentiated picture of the business Speed up and optimize the financial close process Construct accurate workforce planning models to ensure strategy is supported by the right talent Run a variety of “what-if” financial models Forecast, plan, and budget effectively to stay steady on the growth curve Learn more about digitally transforming your company by reading the ebook “Digital Transformation for High-Growth Companies.”

Spreadsheets have been the backbone of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise performance management (EPM) processes for years, but the speed they offered in the past is no longer keeping...

Customer Experience

Why Customer Experience is Your SMB’s BFF

Customer experience (CX), once a fashionable buzzword, has now become a key competitive differentiator. A great CX is created through the combination of online and offline interactions—including messaging, content, sales, product, and support—and how well they all fit together. CX isn’t just about how fast you respond to a question or how quickly you address a problem. It’s the perception your audience has developed about your brand, based off of their interactions, over time, with your small-to-medium business (SMB). In the past, the CX was mainly post-sale. Product teams and support centers handled all questions and service calls. Measurement for success hinged on minimally-sized phone trees and short wait times—these were the experiences that mattered most. However, these isolated touchpoints didn’t tell the whole story of how customers felt about a brand or how likely they were to do repeat business. Today, SMBs understand they have to look at the entire lifecycle of a customer in order to create a great CX. This starts with pre-sale education (identifying a customer’s need before they realize it themselves) and continues beyond the sale, to ensure your customers remain your customers. All of this means you have to close the gap between what brands typically create (product-focused content) and what customers really want (customer-centered experiences). But where do you begin? 1. Know your customer. While companies collect massive amounts of information on customers and their behaviors, they really don’t know them. What motivates them? What keeps them up at night? Who do they trust for information? What messages resonate with them? These are all part of building the foundation for your CX. 2. Know where they go for information. Let’s face it, if you’re going to show up and be a part of a conversation, you have to know where the conversation actually happens. While it’s easy and convenient for brands to distribute content in specific places, (i.e. website, social channels, and through sales teams), that doesn’t mean it’s where your customers look for their answers. Knowing your customer means knowing how they search for answers, wherever they are in their customer journey. Don't miss Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas March 19-21, 2019.     3. Know what makes them come back. People return to places where they find value. Your experience should be exactly that. How value is defined depends on what matters to your customers. Is it knowing they can trust you with anything that comes their way? Is it that you deliver the exact support they need in a critical moment? Converting a prospect to a customer is one thing, but it’s the CX that keeps then in the buying loop. 4. Know how to make it easy. This is important throughout the entire customer relationship. If your top-of-funnel visitors have to dig to find relevant information on your website, you are driving a huge wedge between you and them. If they call a help line and have to wait on hold for 40 minutes, they’ll end up frustrated and angry. The best experience you can give any customer is one that simplifies their life and makes it easy for them to do business with you. When it comes to CX, today’s buyers expect you to anticipate what they need, when and how—even before they realize it themselves. Which is why customers are no longer won or lost based on the price of your product. Instead, the biggest influencer comes down to the quality of the experience your SMB consistently delivers to customers. Read our new ebook to learn how you can sharpen CX and drive growth with technology.  

Customer experience (CX), once a fashionable buzzword, has now become a key competitive differentiator. A great CX is created through the combination of online and offline interactions—including...

Customer Experience

7 Ways Integration Makes Advocates Out of Customers

Growth requires customers. Continuous growth requires advocates. Customer advocates are your biggest marketing asset; people trust them. They bring in more revenue, and they are more willing to forgive mistakes. So to get more customers and build the relationships to make those customers into advocates, your growing small-to-medium business (SMB) needs more customer-facing (i.e., front-office) employees, including sales, customer/field service, and marketing talent. What can stop growth in its tracks is a lack of integrated cloud applications these employees use to support a top-notch customer experience and create the much-needed customer advocates. Integration is the key but not just integration between front-office applications (for example, sales, service, commerce, social). There needs to be seamless data connectivity between your front-office and back-office systems (i.e. enterprise resource planning [ERP]). Integration is the glue that allows every employee to be on the same page. Cobbled together point solutions only serve to create data silos, destroy trust in the data, and provide little value to anyone. A seamlessly integrated solution in the cloud offers a number of benefits, including: 1. Acquiring the much-sought-after 360-degree view. Your ERP Cloud solution does not hold details about your relationship with customers. That information is found (and rightly so) in the CRM (customer relationship management) cloud solution. It is only through complete, seamless integration that a full three-dimensional view (ERP, SCM, CX) becomes possible, helping you build lasting customer relationships (which is the first step toward gaining an advocate) and determine where there is potential for future growth. 2. Real-time access to needed information. When your front-office and back-office systems are fully integrated, your employees can access needed information (such as order status, inventory levels, shipments, customer financials/credit, order history, return status, payments, and pricing) in real time. They will know that the information is current, and they will not have to toggle back and forth between multiple systems or hunt down other employees. This provides better customer experiences, and excellent customer experiences create advocates.   3. Recognition based on more than tenure. Customer service reps (CSR) can see more than just orders and can provide a level of service that is appropriate. For example, if a CSR has access to a customer’s billing status and notes that that customer has always made payments on time, she can be recognized. Recognition is the basis of any worthwhile advocacy program. 4. Self-service becomes a reality. Many back-office processes can be pushed out to the customer as self-service features. Some examples include updating customer records, making payments, submitting applications, searching a knowledge base, or requesting/ downloading information. Providing customers with the communication channels of their choice (including self-service) can turn a customer into an advocate. 5. Streamline e-commerce. Integration allows customers to select and modify shipping methods, check inventory levels, and securely handle all credit card transactions (yet, again…more self-service). This ease of use creates a “wow” shopping experience and makes customers take notice.   6. Viable Order configurations. When systems are integrated, operations, finance, procurement, and other back-office employees will receive properly configured and priced orders from sales reps who (in turn) will be able to build orders in the field, with the customer. Reps can see accurate pricing and availability of materials. Promotional or discount pricing will be available via their CRM software as well. Accurate orders that arrive quicker build customer advocates.   7. Renewals and repeat orders. As mentioned above, your ERP system does not hold information about your relationships with your customers. It is almost entirely focused on the facts around “done deals” – customer addresses, placed orders, signed contracts, etc. In contrast, the sales force automation (SFA) solution holds information about (hopefully) future transactions―prospects, potential orders, pipeline, etc.   So if your growing SMB is large enough for financials software (which I am entirely sure it is), it is large enough to need more than just basic integration with your front-office solutions (namely SFA). The output from your front-office is an input for your order management systems, invoicing systems, procurement systems, transportation management systems, etc. In addition, front-office employees need read-only access to shipments, promise dates, invoices, outstanding balances and other information that customers reach out about. To learn more, register to attend Modern Customer Experience in Las Vegas March 19-21, 2019.  

Growth requires customers. Continuous growth requires advocates. Customer advocates are your biggest marketing asset; people trust them. They bring in more revenue, and they are more willing...

Emerging Technologies

How Bots Are Changing the Way Finance Works

By Steve Cox, Group Vice President, Oracle ERP EPM Product Marketing How many times have you visited a company’s web site, only to be greeted by a small pop-up window asking, “How can I help?” Such a greeting is becoming more and more common. Often, it’s our first interaction with an organization, and can influence how we perceive their customer service. But that helpful greeting is rarely given by a human being. It’s nearly always a chatbot.   So we’re on the same page: chatbots are text-based (we’re counting emojis as text) and designed to work within a single-purpose application (like Slack, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or a web site). There are also virtual assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa), which are voice-activated and generally connect to a mobile device. We’ve been so comfortable with the QWERTY (or AZERTI) keyboard that we’ve maybe forgotten that they were designed to slow humans down (because we type too fast). Bots can make it easier for us to interact with software—to move us into the fast lane when it comes to transaction processing or decision-making. Today, companies like Oracle are embedding voice bots into business software, to help with tasks like recommending suppliers, filing expense reports—even advising which invoices to pay first. We don’t have to double-click or tap anymore; we ask a question and get an immediate answer. Bots Can Automate the Mundane Soon you’re going to see bots help your organization speed period close, manage budgets, and perform financial forecasting. You’ll use these intelligent assistants to eliminate redundancy in work previously performed by people, liberating your team to use their knowledge and experience to provide insights and enable better decisions across the entire business. Imagine, for example, being able to ask, “What is customer X’s credit status?” and receiving a response instantaneously. Or, think about when your company makes a new hire; that person will need a laptop. In the near future, all they’ll have to do is say, “I need a laptop.” The voice bot will check the employee's profile and respond with something like, “Employees performing your job function generally choose this laptop.” The bot might next suggest another accessory or two needed for the laptop, and the new hire will say, “Great, let me purchase the laptop and the two accessories you recommend.” The transaction will complete automatically, the bot will generate a purchase order, manage any approvals needed, and advise the new employee of the laptop’s arrival date. A function that could consume hours will take just a few minutes.  In finance departments, bots can perform similar functions to automate repetitive processes that consume employee hours—time that could be better spent on higher-level tasks such as faster decision-making and architecting a new financial strategy. Bots will be able to provide an immediate and informed answer to a question like, “How much have we spent on travel and expenses this year?” Then, a manager can instantly determine if there is room in the budget to send employees to an overseas conference. Oracle Is Ahead of the Curve At Oracle, we are embedding intelligent bots into our products and applications. At this year’s Oracle OpenWorld, we introduced an array of new AI updates to our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud and  Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud offerings—including a bot that serves as an expense reporting assistant and intelligent algorithms that recommend suppliers and vendor-specific discounts. We’re also building bots into Oracle Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Cloud for more efficient task assignment and tracking. It wasn’t that long ago that getting insights from financial data was a massive task requiring hours, if not days, of a financial analyst’s time. With intelligent chatbots and voice bots, it will be possible to get those insights from real-time financial data without information overload. The Future of Finance Is Here We expect that bots will soon be able to automate the entire financial close, only asking a human to step in when an exception arises. Increasingly, finance employees will be freed from performing rote tasks, and will be able to spend their time on truly challenging and critical work. This isn’t just good for the business in terms of having more minds working on long-term financial strategy; it’s also good for keeping employees engaged, challenged, and enthusiastic at work. Intelligent bots will be a critical part of unleashing the power of people in the organization to do amazing things. Learn more at Modern Business Experience, presented by Oracle. Register now.

By Steve Cox, Group Vice President, Oracle ERP EPM Product Marketing How many times have you visited a company’s web site, only to be greeted by a small pop-up window asking, “How can I help?” Such a...