Floyd Teter

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Watching the current trends and future direction of Oracle's Applicationsfteterhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11221041028141787708noreply@blogger.comBlogger440125
Updated: 5 hours 54 min ago

Checking Out Chatbots

Wed, 2017-07-12 12:38
I recently spent a day with the Oracle Applications UX team in a Conversational UI for Enterprise SaaS workshop.  Let’s be clear…in the context of this workshop, “Conversational UI” is a spiffy term meaning chatbots for enterprise applications.  Amazing workshop put on by the UX team.  Made even better by including a mix of attendees ranging from neophytes like me up to experienced experts sharing their tips and tricks.

I learned quite a bit about what Oracle is currently doing with chatbots, how to design a chatbot and how to build a chatbot.  I was inspired to the point of staying up all night to build a chatbot from scratch.  Hey, I’m on the road with little to do at night other than stare at hotel room walls, so what are ya gonna do if you don’t geek out?  Some takeaways from the workshop and my own research on chatbots:
  • Messaging apps are growing at insane rates.  For example, consider Facebook Messenger.  It’s used by over 1 billion people every month and is outpacing the growth of Facebook itself.
  • Getting things done with a bot is much faster than working through a website or mobile app.  While websites and mobile apps have to be loaded and navigated, bots load instantly…and people will consistently choose the path that loads the quickest.
  • Bots win on the ease of use front as well.  No navigation needed with a bot…just start the conversation. And…this is key…language is the interface people understand best, and it’s the interface used by a bot.
  • We’re at the very beginning of developing and applying bots.  But think of the potential:  would you rather navigate Amazon’s website looking for red posthole plugs, or simply ask for red posthole plugs and have them shown to you?  There are millions of simply tasks better performed by bots than through a website or mobile app…which could mean that bots will greatly reduce our current reliance on websites and mobile apps.  You can get more of an idea here 
  • Learning to code a chatbot is easy.  Lots of choices for coding languages, along with drag-n-drop IDEs.  I think it took me about 15 minutes to pick it up.
  • While the coding is easy, the underlying logic is not.  Lots of variables in regards to different terms that mean the same thing, providing easy exits to users who find the bot frustrating or unusable for their particular purpose.  Even very simple tasks require some substantial brain power for laying out the logic involved in completing a task through a conversational interface.  We’re talking about some complex decision trees.
  • To keep your underlying logic simple and to keep your users on track, build chatbots for very basic and focused tasks:  open a service request, buy a pair of shoes, add a dependent to an employee’s benefits plan…that kind of thing.
I came away from the workshop with a pretty substantial list of use cases for chatbots in the enterprise.  I’ll just share one example here.  

In the Oracle HCM Cloud Center of Excellence team, we have a group of experts who help strategic customers with technical issues.  We take in requests for their help through the COE Request Applications, which is a service request database created in Oracle APEX.  I’m thinking that a chatbot for creating requests would be a better user experience than the current data entry form that requestors must complete for each request.  So I spent part of yesterday’s workshop creating a low fidelity wireframe for such a chatbot, which I’m sharing here (note the phrase “low fidelity” - no taking potshots at the appearance of a wireframe I put together in about 20 minutes):




The upshot is that I walked away from the workshop pretty excited about chatbots.  And I’m hoping that my takeaways might whet your appetite.  If you want to know more, you can look here.

So I'm admittedly a neophyte beginning my exploration of chatbots.  What about you?  Any experiences?  Feedback?  Thoughts?  Show some comment love and share with the rest of us.

Web Services: REST vs SOAP

Tue, 2017-06-27 14:54
I was in the middle of a discussion earlier today about service-based integration for Oracle HCM Cloud.  In that conversation, someone asked me why anyone would ever use SOAP over REST.  My answer was pretty lengthy but, when I was done, someone said I ought to share it on my blog. 

Well, here's the thing:  my thinking on the subject is not original.  I simply communicate fundamentals I learned elsewhere.  And I'm big on giving credit where credit is due.  So when asked about REST vs SOAP, I simply regurgitate the very best summary of REST vs SOAP that I've ever read.  That summary can be found here.  It's a little dated now, having been written in 2010, but it's still accurate.  Feel free to use it yourself.  But do take a moment every now and then to give credit where credit is due.


Notes From Orlando

Wed, 2017-06-14 17:13
I thought y'all would appreciate some notes from last week's OHUG conference in Orlando Florida.  So, in no particular order, my observations...
  • The sessions were pretty evenly divided between Oracle E-Business, PeopleSoft and HCM Cloud.  Right around 1/3 of total sessions for each track.
  • The mix of attendees, from what I could tell, were about half HCM Cloud users and half on either EBS or PeopleSoft.  And out of those on EBS or Peoplesoft, about half of them were exploring the transformation of moving to HCM Cloud.
  • Attendance for this year's conference seems a little light; maybe down 10 or 15 percent from prior years.  I'm guessing that was caused by a combination of following so closely on the heels of Oracle HCM Cloud World and the fact that it's always tough for a user group conference to get a big draw in Orlando (I don't know why, just know from experience that it's generally true).
  • I did not run into many decision makers this year...very few upper management executives.  But tons of influencers: people who implement and use the products.  I suspect most decision makers are going to Oracle HCM Cloud World while most of those responsible for executing those decisions attend OHUG.
  • A follow on to the prior point.  Attendees were focused on the fundamentals of implementation and use; "how do I do...".  Not many strategic discussions.
  • You couldn't  walk more than 10 feet without encountering a Taleo session or a hallway discussion about Taleo.  Maybe the top topic of the conference.
  • I tried several times to catch Oracle's Justin Challenger, who ran the conference Report Jam this year.  But every time I tried, he was heads down with a group of users designing reports. So I have to thin that the Report Jam was a big hit.
  • Likewise, the UX Lab was abuzz with activity whenever I stopped by there.
  • When the folks in Orlando say they're going to get rain, they're not messing around.  It rained hard...and usually more than once...every day I was there.
  • There may not be anyone who understands global implementations of HCM Cloud better than Oracle's Jon McGoy.  The breadth and depth of the material he presented, plus his off-the-cuff answers to questions, was pretty amazing.
So, overall, I think the OHUG conference is in the midst of a transition.  First, it's becoming more cloud-centric.  You can see it in both the session tracks and the focus of the attendees.  Second, it's become a "how to" type of conference.  More emphasis on using, integrating, and extending the applications.  Less emphasis on strategic decisions.   Third, the type of attendee is changing.  More influencers and users, fewer decision makers (hot tip:  some folks think that's a good thing).

I'm already looking forward to next year's OHUG conference.  Can't wait to see how the transition continues to shake out.

OHUG 2017 - What Looks Good To Me

Wed, 2017-05-31 14:01
So I’m headed to the OHUG 2017 conference next week.  As it is one of the few conferences I attend anymore, I’m pretty excited about going.  I’m particularly interested in information related to the implementation of Oracle HCM Cloud.  So, in  preparation for the conference, I thought I’d share some events and sessions that look good to me.

First, a few caveats about the following list.   I’m presenting twice myself, so I’m breaking my sessions out as a blatant plug rather than including them on the list:
  • Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud User Experience Extensibility: From Mystery To Magic, Wednesday, 1:45 pm, Salon 1
  • An Update: The Oracle HCM Cloud Solution Library, Friday, 10:15 am, Salon 8
It's worth stating here that, although I'm an Oracle employee, the opinions here and mine and mine alone - this should not be interpreted in any way as official Oracle information or direction.  Nor am I speaking for OHUG in any way.  In addition, keep in mind that I’m focused on Oracle HCM Cloud Applications.  OHUG tracks cover HCM Cloud, PeopleSoft, and E-Business.  As I make my living these days by working on HCM Cloud Applications, I can’t render any opinions on PeopleSoft or EBS sessions…so you will only see HCM Cloud entries on my list.  Also keep in mind that I won’t list SIG sessions:  you know better than I the SIGs you should attend.  But I will say that the SIG sessions are often the best part of a user conference…be sure you don’t miss out.  And finally, some of the sessions I list will have schedule conflicts with other sessions I list.  But that’s an indicator of a great conference…making difficult choices about where to burn your calories. 
 
So, with all that said, let’s get to the list.  Sessions are listed in no particular order.  And, for the presenters that did not make this list…it’s not that your presentation did not look interesting (almost all of the sessions have something that I’d love to check out), it’s just that I’m digging into other subject areas this year and my own focus had definitely driven this list.

Digital HR Transformation  First and Foremost Managing The Challenge of Change
Tuesday
4:45 pm
Salon 12
Product Vision and Roadmap:  Oracle HCM Cloud
Tuesday
3:30 pm
Ballroom
The Current State of Human Capital Management
Tuesday
1:30 pm
Executive Ballroom
User Experience: Best Practices to Ensure a Positive Experience for Candidates and Users
Wednesday
9:00 am
Salon 15

Oracle HCM Cloud Leading Practice - Cloud Rapid Start Implementation with Tools
Wednesday
10:30 am
Salon 12
Meet The Experts:  HCM Cloud Center of Excellence
Wednesday
3:15 pm
Salon 19
How To Get The Best Out of OTBI
Thursday
9:00 am
Salon 12
Cloud Global Deployments - Leading Practices and Things That Make You Go Hmmm
Thursday
11:00 am
Salon 3
Cloud Payroll:  What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You or At Least Your Project
Thursday
2:30 pm
Salon 3
Adopting A Testing Strategy Fit For The Latest Oracle HCM Cloud
Friday
11:30 am
Salon 3
HCM Cloud Extracts Made Easy!
Wednesday
3:15 pm
Salon 9
Decision Is Made:  Going To HCM Cloud. Now, What’s The Best Strategy For Data Conversion?
Friday
10:15 am
Salon 13
Patching - Where’s The Beef?
Thursday
9:00 am
Salon 4

Best Practices in Attracting Top Talent Through Oracle Taleo Cloud Suite
Thursday
9:00 am
Salon 2
Cloud Portal:  Self-Service Management For The HCM Cloud
Wednesday
9:00 am
Salon 3

Note that this information is current as of May 31st.  Dates, times and locations could change at anytime leading up to or during the conference.  Your best bet for staying current is the OHUG application for your phone.

In addition to the sessions, there are a few conference events you may want to consider:
  • Meet The Experts:  a place to meet and chat with the people who build and deliver Oracle HCM products.  Watch the schedule for the times and locations of those you’d care to meet.  I have listed one Meet The Experts session in the above list - the session for the HCM Cloud Center of Excellence.  Oracle’s John Cafolla will be the expert at this particular session.  John has his fingers on the pulse of HCM Cloud implementations around the globe.  If you want to talk implementation, John is your guy.  You can find the full schedule for Meet The Experts here.
  • Report Jam:  Oracle’s Julian Challenger conducts a series of pretty cool workshops focused on building reports using OTBI.  If you have reports you’d like to build or report-related questions, you’ll get a hands-on opportunity to collaborate with Oracle’s best OTBI gurus here.  Sign up for a time slot in advance at the Empire foyer.
  • Usability Lab: you’ll have the opportunity to see and provide feedback on HCM-related features and applications still in development.  Great for getting a sneak peek and influencing future direction of Oracle products.  The Lab only happens on Wednesday and requires signing up in advance by sending an email to jeannette.chadwick@oracle.com.
  • Oracle Support Central:  Bring your toughest HCM-related questions here. Whether it’s HR, Payroll, Benefits, Compensation, Taleo or whatever, this is the place to get answers.

Let’s wrap this up with an invitation from me to you:  if you’d like to get together with me at the conference to talk or ask questions about anything related to HCM Cloud (or if you’d just like to hang out), hit me up on Twitter @fteter.  I'm happy to talk to customers, partners, old friends and potential new friends.  Hope to see you there! 

Building and Buying

Wed, 2017-05-03 14:22
A few days ago, Vinnie Mirchandani wrote on his Deal Architect blog about a new era dawning in IT. The premise of the article is that more enterprises are building more than buying new IT.  As usual, Vinnie made me think.  In this cause, he made me pause and think about what I'm seeing from my worm's eye view of the Oracle ecosystem.

The trend of building new IT is certainly on the upswing.  As part of the HCM Cloud Center of Excellence, we see plenty of customers building things.  But the builds are a bit different these days. Integration, custom applications on PaaS, UX extensions are all standard fare.  Much of it has to do with optimizing the fit between an enterprise and their cloud applications.  Even more so when the enterprise opts for a hybrid cloud approach, mixing SaaS applications with on-premise applications.

But, in my little corner of the Oracle universe, we're also seeing an upswing in buying. SaaS applications and PaaS purchasing is growing.  In the HCM Cloud, we're having issues keeping up with the volume as the buying trend continues this upswing.

So, at least from my perspective, it's an interesting time.  Both the building and buying trends in IT are on the rise. What are you seeing?  Let us know in the comments.

HCM Cloud R12 - 3 Cool Things

Mon, 2017-04-17 12:34
Just to give y'all a taste for HCM Cloud R12 as it rolls out, here are 3 new features I find really cool.

1.  Home Page with Quick Actions 


The coolness here comes from being able to easily initiate an action without requiring the user to have any knowledge of the application structure, navigation, or work area organization.  Simply find what you want to do and do it.  And, for the security geeks out there, access control is based on functional security for roles.

2.  Personalized Email Notifications


This is a feature folks have been requesting for some time:  personalizing email notifications.  You can apply your brand and preferred content as well as...wait for it...define custom templates for life cycle events.  And the scope of approval/rejections and requests for more information has been expanded for R12.

3.  UX Consistency Across Devices


For a long time, we've been working toward user experience ("UX") consistency across devices; the idea that the cloud is a platform that works the same way regardless of the device used for access.  We've nailed that concept in R12.  Look, feel, and work processes across devices are as consistent.  Your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, your phone...use what you want wherever you are.  The UX will remain the same.

So there you have it...3 cool things about R12.  You have others?  Tell us about them.  Find the comments.

Oracle HCM Cloud Extensibility - The Easiest Win

Mon, 2017-03-20 16:09
I've been doing quite a bit of work lately with Oracle HCM Cloud user experience extensibility...presenting, helping partners and customers, etc.  Seems like a hot subject of late, with lots of folks wanting to know more.  So let's get into it a bit.

Working in the Oracle HCM Cloud Center of Excellence, I see quite a few opportunities for wins that come up repeatedly.  You know what kind of win I mean: something that's easy to do and scores big points with your customer/boss/fellow users.

The one I see with almost every HCM Cloud implementation is actually pretty simple to deliver:  an organization wants to extend the user interface appearance and structure.  You'll hear requirements like the following:

  • Appearance:  We want the UI to reflect our brand and identity (which typically means show our logo and use our color scheme).
  • Structure:  We want the home page (aka springboard) to show actions and information in a structure relevant to the way we work.  The structure out of the box doesn't fit us.
  • Text:  We have our own terminology and we want that terminology in the UI.

So you'll hear about one or more of these types of requirements.  And they're important to that organization - sometimes they're deal breakers.  And the solutions are easy to deliver.  Most can be delivered and ready for review in 15 to 30 minutes.  Let's take each of these use cases individual and walk through how it works.

Appearance

As an administrator, I can define the logo, background image, icon style, and color scheme here.  Note that I can pull both the logo and the background image from a URL, which may eliminate the need to recreate the image altogether.  Even better, with the exception of the logo and image URLs, you can utilize drop down lists for your entire appearance design.


And yes, as a matter of fact, you can see the colors before you make your choices.


Easy peasy.  Responsive to the device you're using for access...including some nifty enhancements for your phone in R12, like this:



Structure

Editing the UI information and action presentation structure in HCM Cloud is pretty simple.  You're presented with a list of information and action choices.  Do you want it visible for all roles or a particular role?  Do you want it visible on the Welcome Springboard (aka the home page)?  In what order to you want the visible items to appear? 


By the way, you can also click on the Names to drill down make edits to lower-level pages.  You can also create new pages from here.  So you are the master of your structure.

Text

In all honesty, Text is so easy that there is no need for a dedicated administration page.  That Structure administration page just above?  Click on the Name and make your text edits.  Done.  Or drill down to the appropriate page and make your text edits.  Done.  Now you've included terminology specific to an organizational culture.   That's one change management issue you can cross off the list.  No fuss, no muss.  Done.

So, with a little bit of effort, you can move the UI from something like this:



... to something with a little more corporate and seasonal context like this:



A Few More Thoughts

First, because I know you're going to ask, the changes we've discussed here survive upgrades for the most part.  I've seen a few glitches regarding text changes, but they're easily fixed without much effort.

Second, I know this all appears to be pretty easy stuff.  But you'd be amazed how often I find myself helping customers and partners in tailoring their Appearance and/or Structure and/or Text.  So it seemed like a good idea to share some of this here.  So now you know.

Third, note that all the screen shots of changes I've made are deployed to a sandbox.  Best practice, folks...deploy to a sandbox, let the customer/end users review (and rest assured they'll change it a bit), and deploy to production after you obtain approval.

UI extensibility is the easiest win...small effort leading to big value for your users.  And this is about as easy as it gets.

As always, your comments are appreciated.  Let me know what you're thinking.


It's A Matter Of Perspective

Tue, 2017-03-14 14:09
So I suppose that if I'm going to blow the trumpet and announce the resurrection of this blog, I'd better write something meaningful...

I'm in Northern California at Oracle HQ this week. It's always fun to observe what's happening here in Silicon Valley.  For example, I can see the tech market is still good...lots of employment ads on billboards between the San Jose and San Francisco airports.  And the highly-publicized drought is clearly broken:  the area is as green as I've ever seen it.

I will say that I've also seen some divergent behavior in response to the breaking of the drought.  On one hand, I see lots of recently-installed xeriscape landscaping.  But on the other hand, I also see a bunch of recently repaired lawn grass - with lawn sprinklers watering every day.  I guess whether you're adapting with new water-wise landscaping or salvaging your lawn depends on your perspective.  Are drought-like conditions the new norm or is the weather in Northern California returning to normal after a long anomaly of dry weather?  I suppose it's all a matter of your perspective.

I see the same type of divergent behavior among SaaS customers.

Some customers see SaaS as driving a new business norm.  They embrace the trade-off of increasing simplicity to lower operational costs with the reduction in flexibility through business process customization.  Those customers see that they get more value from SaaS by accepting less flexibility in customizing the way they do business.

Other customers seem to simply look at SaaS as the latest trend to arrive in the enterprise tech world.  They're willing to have a vendor host their technology platform, but still want the flexibility to customize the software in order to make it fit their existing business processes.

It's possible for either type of customer to get what they want.  I'll maintain that the former type gets more value from SaaS than the latter.  But, in the end, I suppose the choice of adapting to the new norm or attempting to salvage what you had before really depends on your perspective.

Welcome Back, My Friends!

Tue, 2017-03-07 13:02
Welcome back, my friends
To the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
                     -- From Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Karn Evil 9

Yup, it's true.  We're breathing new life into an old blog with the resurrection of ORCLville.

When I closed down ORCLville last year, it was over concerns regarding conflicts of interest over my employment with Oracle while serving as an impartial source of information.  Admittedly, that conflict still exists.

I also stepped away because I'm no longer a big fan of long form text.  Terse messages and visual presentations are more my speed these days.

So why am I bringing ORCLville back?  Because there are so many stories going untold: stories that involve Oracle Cloud products and the delivery of the services that go with those products.  In one way or another, I witness many Cloud challenges and victories every day.  And this seems like the best way to share and discuss those experiences...which, in turn, does us all a bit of good as we continue on this Cloud journey.

So we're up and running again, effective immediately.  Some disclaimers to share so you'll all be away and so I can sleep at night:

1.  I'm an Oracle employee.   And I love my job.  So don't look for any criticism or sharing of information that might mess up my gig.
2.  I also own Oracle stock.  It's a key component of my long-term savings program, so I'd like to see it do well.  It's not likely you'll see much here that might cause the stock to sink long-term.
3.  Items 1 & 2 above notwithstanding, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and no-one else's.  I'm also the final decision maker in terms of what we explore here - not Oracle, but me.
4.  I'm hoping we don't have a monologue, but a two-way conversation.  Your comments matter.  So comment early and often.

So we're back.   It's been tough being gone, so I'm really happy to be back again with the show that never ends!

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Tue, 2016-04-05 19:13
All good things must come to an end
           - Geoffrey Chaucer,  "Troilus and Criseyde", circa 1385

Time has proven repeatedly that Chaucer was right.  And, for this blog, the time has come to wrap it up and call it done.

When I decided to rejoin Oracle, I was well-aware of the risk that I might have to dial back or close down my professional presence on social media.  Oracle makes great effort to shape their messages, especially product-related messages, through all available channels...including social media.  And, for the most part, Oracle products are exactly what I've explored with my own social media accounts.

Over the eight months since I've rejoined Oracle, there have been times when the things I write here and on Twitter have "crossed wires" with Oracle's own messaging.  And it's now reached a point where it could distract from what we aiming to achieve as a team.  And we're talking about information related to Oracle's products and services.  Simply stated, as a member of the Oracle team, I adhere to the concept that Oracle has a right to control the messaging about Oracle's products and Oracle's services.

One more thing I'd like to clarify here in this last post:  there is nothing draconian working in the background here.  Nobody at Oracle has threatened my standing within the company if I fail to dial things back.  No slap on the wrist or anything like that.  Quite the opposite:  I'm a member of a team attempting to accomplish significant things, and my commentary on Oracle-related products and services is heading towards becoming a distraction...possibly even a detriment...to that effort.  So don't go there.  This is my decision and mine alone.

Now don't get the idea that I'm done blogging.  I still have some serious passion for user experience, business metrics, SaaS and smart approaches to software design & development.  So it's highly likely that you'll see me start something up on one or more of those subject.  It just won't have an Oracle-related context.  So I'm not done.  I'm just done with this.

So this is it for ORCLville.  This is also it for Oracle-related commentary on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.  It's been both an educational and a fun ride for me.  Hope y'all got something out of it too.  Keep an eye out on my Twitter account (fetter) - you'll see new things from me in the near future.

UPDATE:  Be sure to check out my new, technology-agnostic blog The Enterprise Software Puzzle!

Customer Service Thinking

Mon, 2016-03-28 11:28
My definition of good customer service is pretty simple:  deliver what you promise.  Period.  You can over-deliver and still make me happy.  But other than that, it's pretty simple.  Tell me what you promise you'll do.  If I sign up for the service, then delivery that service:  on-time, at the price you promised, and make it as easy for me as you promised.  That's it.

Earlier this week, I encountered back-to-back customer service failures with my preferred airline.  The first fail took place when winter weather struck on the runway...waited in the plane on the runway for two hours because the airline failed to have the wing de-icers ready to go.  The second failure occurred when the plane failed a brake inspection prior to boarding; lost two hours and rebooked a later flight.

In both cases, the airline did quite well in providing details for the cause of the delays and expressed profound apologies.  But here is a tip for the airline:  that is not customer service.  You blew it when you failed to deliver your service on-time at the price you promised.  Providing details and status is about mitigating the damages from your failure to provide customer service...it's not good customer service.  In fact, the line defining a customer service failure has already been crossed.

One more customer experience failure this week; I went to my favorite hardware store to shop for a few tools and place a larger order for some building materials (more house remodeling).  The tool shopping went well, but it took two hours to place the order for materials.  The cause of the delay?  Not one of the five service representatives knew how to enter the order into the store's order entry system.  An utter failure of customer service due to a lack of effective training for the team that works with customers.

Now you may be thinking that I've just had a crummy week and I'm using this forum to vent.  On the contrary, it was a good week...because this experience got me to thinking.

You see, Software-as-a-Service is not just about software hosted on a public cloud.  It's about delivering a service.  Telling customers what you promise to do.  Then delivering on that promise.  Including provisioning, implementing, and support...all the activities and exchanges that go into the "Service".

We see too many service fails in the SaaS world.  All the time.  Every day.  Regardless of software vendor.  The industry is still working through the transition from thinking about providing software applications to providing a service...a much, much wider scope of responsibility to our customers.  We need to up the standard - quickly!

Thoughts?  Find the comments.

Tools vs Products

Mon, 2016-03-21 12:17
I have a garage full of neat tools.  Drill press, miter saw, band saw, table saw, power sander, Dremel, several Milwaukee power drills and portable hand saws, gauges, clamps, vise grips...yeah, the works. But I've learned something over the years; other than other people with a shared interest in nifty tools, nobody cares about the tools I have.  What they care about is the speed, quality and cost involved in making things with those tools.  I can own the niftiest hammer on the face of the planet, but few people will care; they care about the house I build, regardless of the coolness of the hammer.

This concept is not limited to traditional shop and construction tools.  Pull out your smartphone.  Take a look at the apps.  Nobody cares about what tools were used to build the app if it misses the mark on quality, speed, ease of use, or cost.

The same holds true for SaaS applications.  Customers don't care about the underlying platform...nor should they, when the idea is to make all that complexity transparent to them.  Customers care about care about speed, ease of implementation and use, quality (including reliability, depth of features and security), how well the application will perform their business process, and the information the application will provide about those executed transactions.

So, to put it bluntly, SaaS is not about the platform nor the development tools.  It's about ease of use, quality, and cost.  Let's stop talking about the technology and start talking about the things that matter.

Knowing Your Cloud From Your SaaS

Mon, 2016-02-29 11:23
I have recently spent far too much time in far too many conversations in which the terms "cloud" and "SaaS" are used interchangeably.  Let's be clear:  the two terms are not interchangeable as they describe very different concepts.

Cloud.  There are many definitions out there.  Marketers and sales people.  Engineers.  Industry analysts. The National Institute of Standard and Technology.  Frankly, most of those definitions are either wrong, or they're technically accurate while thoroughly useless.  So let's go with a simple definition: a computer in a different physical location attached to a network.  It's about physical architecture.  Think about it.  Play with it.  Hit the comments if you have a better definition.

SaaS.  Acronym for "Software as a Service".  Same set of folks attempting to define this idea with the same set of sad results.  Try this on for size:  Applications accessed via a browser, licensed on a subscription basis and delivered via Cloud.

So it's very possible to have Cloud (think hosting operations) without having SaaS.  But there is no SaaS without Cloud.  SaaS is a subset of Cloud.

In "Oracle speak", Fusion Applications (including Taleo), are SaaS.  As a customer, I could also opt to have my licensed E-Business, PeopleSoft, or JD Edwards applications on the cloud...but that is not SaaS, as those applications are not offered on a subscription basis.

So there ya go.  Simple set of definitions.  Yes, there are more nuances if you dig into the subject.  But this is a simple foundation to start.  If nothing else, the next time you're involved in a conversation, you can use this to know your Cloud from your SaaS...which will put you way ahead of the curve ;)


What Is This COE Thing?

Wed, 2016-02-17 12:32
Since joining Oracle, I've heard this same question repeatedly:  "This Oracle HCM Cloud Center Of Excellence team you've joined...what do they do?"  So I thought I'd attempt to answer that question here in the hopes that people may get some benefit from it.

Be aware that you can search the web and find many definitions regarding a Center of Excellence is and what it does.  Forget that stuff, most of it does not apply here.  We're creating an entirely different model.

Our team does not create any of the core elements of the Cloud HCM product: the software nor the service.  We focus on making all aspects of the product better.  At the risk of using language that is already overused in enterprise software, we work to make the customer experience better.  And the work is a mix of strategic initiatives and responses to current issues.

Some of our typical activities include:

  • Providing internal tools and processes for improved delivery of software services
  • Serving as functional and technical experts for strategic customers with unique challenges
  • Creating aids and solutions to help customers move from subscription to Go Live better, faster and cheaper
  • Give feedback to Product Development on wide-spread product issues that may lead to solutions within Cloud HCM products
  • Guiding strategic partners about products, methodologies, and current issues through regularly scheduled "cadence calls".
The upshot is that our team is located at the intersection of product development, delivery, and service.  We're a team of experts in all aspects of Oracle Cloud HCM and we apply that expertise wherever it's needed: internal Oracle teams, strategic partners, and customers.

So there you have it.  That's what we do.  And we're ready for you when you need us. So question answered...I hope...you can let me know in the comments.

Pareto Rocks!

Mon, 2016-02-01 17:55
I'm a big fan of Vifredo Pareto's work.  He observed the world around him and developed some very simple concepts to explain what he observed.  Pareto was ahead of his time.

Some of Dr. Pareto's work is based on the Pareto Principle:  the idea that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes.  In the real world, we continually see examples of the Pareto Principle.

I've been conducting one of my informal surveys lately...talking to lots of partners, customers and industry analysts about their experiences in implementing SaaS and the way it fits their business.  And I've found that, almost unanimously, the experience falls in line with the Pareto Principle.  Some sources vary the numbers a bit, but it generally plays out as follows:

  • Using the same SaaS footprint, 60% of any SaaS configuration is the same across all industries.  The configuration values and the data values may be different, but the overall scheme is the same.
  • Add another 20% for SaaS customers within the same vertical (healthcare, retail, higher education, public sector, etc.)..
  • Only about 20% of the configuration, business processes, and reporting/business intelligence is unique for the same SaaS footprint in the same industry sector between one customer and another.
Many of the customers I've spoken to in this context immediately place the qualifier: "but our business is different."  And they're right. In fact, for the sake of profitability and survival, their business must be different.  Every business needs differentiators.  But it's different within the scope of that 20% mentioned above.  That other 80% is common with everyone in their business sector.  And, when questioned, most customers agree with that idea.

This is what makes the business processes baked into SaaS so important; any business wants to burn their calories of effort on the differentiators rather than the processes that simply represent "the cost of being in business."  SaaS offers the opportunity to standardize the common 80%, allowing customers to focus their efforts on the unique 20%.  Pareto had it right.






Happy New Year: The Zode In The Road

Wed, 2016-01-06 10:31
Happy New Year!  No predictions from me for 2016...we've all seen how poorly that works out.  No resolutions either (although I may open a fitness gym called "Resolutions"...the place converts into a bar at the end of January).   Instead, I simply leave you with the wisdom of Dr. Seuss; something to consider as you kick off the new year.

The Zode In The Road 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zode,
Who came to two signs at the fork in the road?
One said to Place One, and the other, Place Two.
So the Zode had to make up his mind what to do.
Well...the Zode scratched his chin, and his head, and his pants.
And he said to himself, "I'll be taking a chance
If I go to Place One.  Now that place may be hot!
And so how do I know if I'll like it or not?
On the other hand though, I'll be sort of a fool
If I go to Place Two and I find it too cool.
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue!
So, maybe Place One is the best, not Place Two,
But then again, what if Place One is too high?
I may catch a terrible earache and die.
So Place Two may be best.  On the other hand though...
What might happen to me if Place Two is too low?
I might get some very strange pain in my toe!
So Place One may be best", and he started to go.
Then he stopped, and he said, "On the other hand though... .
On the other hand... On the other hand... On the other hand though...
And for 36 hours and one half that poor Zode
Made starts and stops at the fork in the road
Saying "Don't take a chance! No! You may not be right."
Then he got an idea that was wonderfully bright!
"Play safe!" cried the Zode. "I'll play safe, I'm no dunce!
I'll simply start out for both places at once!"
And that's how the Zode who would not take a chance
Got no place at all with a split in his pants.

So make this the year you take a few chances...

More On Wearable Tech

Mon, 2015-12-14 14:04
I've been going through an amazing experience over the past month plus...purchased and began wearing an Apple iWatch.  Never really thought I would do so...kind of did it on the spur of the moment.  Plus a little push from my team lead at Oracle, who wears one and loves it.

Even after a month of wearing the iWatch, I can't really point at one particular feature that makes it worthwhile.  It's really more a collection of little things that add up to big value.

One example:  I have a reputation far and wide for being late for meetings (could be a Freudian thing, considering how much I detest meetings).  5 minutes before a meeting begins, my iWatch starts to vibrate on my wrist like a nano-jackhammer.  My punctuality for meetings is much improved now, much to the joy of my managers, peers and customers.

Another example:  I can take a phone call wherever I am, distraction free.  That's right, calling Dick Tracy.  Driving, taking a walk, whatever...we can talk now.

Notifications are wonderfully designed...much better than the iPhone or the iPad or the Mac or whatever.  I've actually turned on Notifications again, because they notify without being intrusive or distracting.

A few other dandies as well, like the idea of getting through the security line with the iWatch is a bit quicker than the iPhone or the much-improved implementation of Siri making voice-dictation for texting something I can now user reliably.

So its improved my productivity... not so much by hitting a home run in any particular area, but through lots of incremental little improvements.  Pretty cool wearable tech.

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Mon, 2015-11-23 19:36
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

                     -- From Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"


Spent some time with more really smart folks at Oracle last week.  Yeah, this people are really smart...I'm still wondering how they let me in the door.

During that time, I probably had three separate conversations with different people on how SaaS changes the consulting model.  Frankly, implementation is no longer a big money maker in the SaaS game.  The combination of reducing the technology overhead, reducing customizations, and a sharp focus on customer success is killing the IT consulting goose that lays the golden eggs:  application implementation.  You can see indications of it just in the average cycle times between subscription and go-live:  they're down to about 4.5 months and still on a down trend.  Bringing SaaS customers up in less than 30 days is something Oracle can see on the near horizon.  Unfortunately, as the cycle times for SaaS implementations shortens, it gets more difficult for an implementation partner to generate significant revenues and margins.  The entire model is built around 12-t0-24 month implementations - SaaS make those time frames a thing of the past.

So, if I were a SaaS implementation partner today, what would I do?  Frankly, I'd be switching to a relationship - retainer approach with my customers (not my idea...all those smart people I mentioned suggested it).  I'd dedicate teams that would implement SaaS, extend SaaS functionality, test new upgrades prior to rollout, and maintain your SaaS apps.  I'd build a relationship with those customers rather than simply attempt to sell implementation services.  The value to customers?  Your workforce focuses on the business rather than the software.  You need new reports or business intelligence?  Covered in our agreement.  Test this new release before we upgrade our production instance?  Covered in our agreement.  Some new fields on a user page or an add-on business process?  Covered in our agreement.  Something not working?  Let my team deal with Oracle Support...covered in our agreement.

Other ideas?  The comments await.

The times they are a-changin'...quickly.  Better start swimmin'.


Be Quick, But Don't Hurry

Tue, 2015-11-17 11:38
Over the month since I've joined Oracle, many people has asked about the work I'm doing here.  And, in all honesty, the work is so varied that I've had a difficult time describing it.

Yesterday, I was traveling from my home in Salt Lake to Oracle Corporate HQ in Redwood Shores.  Having landed in San Francisco, I was in a rush to get my rental car, make the drive to HQ, and get some productivity out of what was left of my day.

In San Francisco, you take a light rail to get from the airline terminals to the rental car building.  The rail lines run every 10 minutes.  As I was approaching the platform to pick up the light rail, one of those every-10-minute trains was just pulling into the station.  So I hefted my two carry-on bags and started a mad dash to the train.  And about four steps into that mad dash, I tripped and fell...luggaging flying, me on the ground, cussing up a storm.  Know why I tripped?  For the classic reason...my shoe lace was untied.

I was in such a hurry that I failed to check my shoelaces anywhere between leaving the plane and my failed attempt at breaking the Earth's gravitational pull.

My favorite basketball coach of all time, John Wooden, has a coach principle of "be quick, but don't hurry".  The idea was to have an efficient system and work with a sense of urgency within that system.  That's being quick.  When you step out of the boundaries to get something done as soon as possible, you're in a hurry...but at the risk of no longer being quick.  Your shoelaces come untied, you trip, and the mistake causes you to miss the light rail altogether.  You invest more time in waiting for the next opportunity...mission bjorked.

So one of the primary things I'm doing at Oracle?  Working on enabling those around me to be quick while discouraging them from being in a hurry.  That's a big chunk of what a good Center of Excellence does.

The SaaS Race

Mon, 2015-11-09 13:12
So I've been back at Oracle for about a month now.  I'd say the biggest change so far is my perspective on trends in SaaS and Cloud.  Prior to gaining that perspective from the inside, I really did not have a full appreciation for just how early in the game we are.  Not just Oracle, but everybody.

During my undergrad days, when remote learning was done with smoke signals (no Internet yet), I remember learning about Bruce Henderson's Growth-Share Matrix:

Cash Cows have high market share in a low growth industry.  Dogs have low market share in a slow-growth, mature industry.  Question Marks have low market share in a fast growing industry (this is where most companies start).  And Stars have high market share in a fast growing industry.

So apply those definitions in the SaaS market.  The market itself is fast-growing, so by definition we don't have any Cash Cows or Dogs.  But I'd also say that we don't have any SaaS providers with high market share yet...it's a pretty competitive market at the moment in terms of market share.  So, by process of elimination, all the providers are still Question Marks - relatively recent entries in a fast growing market, but none of those entries have achieved a dominant market share yet...mostly because the market itself is still now.

With that in mind, I read a lot of hooey in the press:  so-and-so will dominate/collapse/rise/die/excel/be eliminated...whatever the latest news cycle dictates.  Take all that stuff with a grain of salt...we're very, very early in what promises to be a very long race for market share with many players who have the resources to see the race through to the end.  We're just getting started.

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