It’s an interesting time in the marketplace for mainstream Oracle enterprise applications. You will, of course, have heard about Oracle‘s Cloud Applications, the very latest in enterprise application software, deployed in Oracle‘s Cloud. There is also a large and very established set of customers using Oracle E-Business as their enterprise applications backbone.
Looking at another dimension, customers are demanding better service from their software vendors and managed services providers, to help them achieve the most out of their investments in technology. A recent piece from Gartner asserted that “service&” is often missing from Software as a Service: “To deliver is not to serve. Services makes delivery meaningful. Passive capability provision is not enough!”.
As an established Oracle Partner, we’re working with a growing portfolio of Oracle customers. Each customer has their own unique set of drivers and challenges, but the overall landscape that we’re seeing currently emerging breaks down into 3 broad parts:
Those Jumping to Oracle Cloud Applications
Many organisations have already decided to make the leap to Oracle Cloud Applications and enjoy the benefits of the very latest in enterprise applications software across CRM, HCM and more recently ERP. Firstly, you inherit the generic benefits of moving to a subscription, Cloud based solution, so there are no up-front licence costs. Contrary to many misconceptions about the Cloud, your data is secure; Oracle has invested significantly in ensuring that their customer’s data is secure. Being a modern enterprise application, Oracle Cloud Applications also benefits from a contemporary user interface. A further strength is that Oracle‘s offering is multi-pillar, that is to say that you can have Finance, HCM and CRM together in a single application, as distinct from some of the niche single-pillar cloud offerings.
The ability to customise is more limited though, and therefore those that have moved to the Oracle Applications Cloud have implemented “vanilla” business processes, which means that there is often a business change element to deployments, and this should not to be underestimated. Be prepared for implementation projects to take 3-6 months as a result of this, as it’s often not just about the configuration of the software. Perhaps something to bear in mind as well is that not everything previously implemented in the breadth of Oracle E-Business has made it into the Oracle Applications Cloud product set yet, but Oracle has stated that anything that exists in Oracle E-Business today will be replicated over the fullness of time. In the interim, there are options to adopt a co-existence approach with a mixture of Oracle E-Business and Cloud Applications modules integrated together.
Another benefit of being on the Oracle Cloud platform is that you will be patched every month and upgraded every 6 months as a matter of course, so that your application will be at the latest release, and will therefore never become outdated. You will need a services partner, not only to help you implement the solution, but also to assist with ongoing support of the Oracle Cloud Applications. The regular patching and patching cadence across your pods (Cloud environments) means that you will need someone to help you understand and implement the functionality coming down the tracks in future releases, and you may also need assistance with testing those releases.
Those Optimising Oracle E-Business R12
There are many organisations who have made an investment in Oracle E-Business and are looking for it to underpin their business for the foreseeable future. With Release 12.2 in Premier Support until at least 2023 and Release 12.3 already mooted on Oracle‘s roadmap, there is plenty of life in it yet! Oracle is committed to continuing to develop and support the product. An example is that a number of the user interface features available with Oracle Cloud Applications are being included in the latest releases of the product.
Often, Oracle E-Business implementations are heavily customised in order to support company-specific business requirements, and are therefore not ripe to re-implement in the Cloud where standard functionality and optimised business processes are key. Many have spent time and money upgrading Oracle E-Business (and these customisations) to Release 12 in the last few years. There are a group that are also in the process of expanding their footprint to implement additional modules in the suite (modules not currently available in Oracle Cloud) to support business growth (e.g. Service Contracts, Enterprise Asset Management and Property Management). Some are investigating and embarking on a co-existence strategy, which means that new Cloud Applications modules (e.g. Taleo for Talent Management) are implemented alongside and integrated with existing Oracle E-Business installations.
What we’re also seeing is that organisations are using 3rd party products to help them leverage more value from their existing Oracle E-Business investment. We have helped a number of our customers to implement Applaud (www.applaudsolutions.com), a modern user front end for Oracle E-Business HCM, and these customers have benefitted from improved user engagement and the consequent improvement in data quality. Applaud projects are also seeing a good return on investment in terms of the elimination of labour intensive manual processes, and savings made from proper absence management as examples.
In the search for greater insight from the data in their systems, we’ve also seen customers implementing a range of 3rd party business analytics tools, which include Splash BI (www.splashbi.com) and Hubble (www.gohubble.com).
What is clear though, is that users of Oracle E-Business can benefit from the services of a good Managed Services Provider; not just to help them “keep the lights on”, but also to work proactively with them to help maximise their investment in Oracle E-Business technology and aid them to develop a future roadmap that is correct for their business.
Those Continuing on 11i: Sweating the Assets
There are a third group of organisations who have implemented Oracle E-Business on releases prior to Release 12 who are currently on Release 11i, and have made a conscious decision to stay there for a variety of reasons. Typically, these are enterprises with a stable business model, which means that they are therefore not looking to make any changes to their systems in the foreseeable future.
Some of these customers have taken the decision not to continue with the Oracle support & maintenance, making cost savings by moving to a 3rd party Managed Service Provider to deliver the support service instead. It’s not a decision to take lightly as once taken, you will not have access to new versions of software, patches or Oracle support, and it is expensive to reinstate at a subsequent date.
The benefits provided by the 3rd party add-ons to help businesses get value out of E-Business, such as Applaud, Splash BI & Hubble mentioned above, all work against this earlier release of the product.
In many cases, these old software releases are on similarly old versions of hardware. Some companies are therefore taking the opportunity to migrate these systems into Oracle‘s PaaS Cloud or to 3rd party hosting provider.
Customers who are sweating the assets are not just looking to cut the costs of the ongoing support of their applications, they are typically seeking to improve levels of service at the same time to help guide them and effect this change.
Bringing it together
This is a complex landscape and no one size fits all in terms of product fit, particularly for those that need to see further value out of their existing Oracle E-Business version before considering what the next technology refresh looks like.
There are only a small number of Oracle service providers that can help you wherever you are on the journey. There are fewer still that truly have the in-depth product knowledge and service excellence ethos to provide what you need throughout that lifecycle.