Monday, 1 February 2016

The Urban Myths of Oracle Cloud Implementations – Part I



For those that follow me on a regular basis you will know I don't use my posts to discuss Oracle Cloud directly as I would rather concentrate on the trials and tribulations of running a small medium business. But after listening to the many urban myths that seem to be miraculously circulating recently and seeing much misdirection I feel compelled to step up onto the soap box and set the record straight in a 2 part special expose!

Certus has been dedicated to working with Oracle Cloud since 2011 and I am proud to look back and say we were amongst the very first true pioneers that saw the potential of how Cloud would become the next paradigm shift in the Oracle technology landscape that would truly enable digital business transformation of the back office. Today this potential is a firm reality.

A Changing Landscape and Language
Language that entered the EMEA Oracle Sales team vocabulary in early 2012 like “customer journey” and “customer experience” was very much influenced and I would even go far as saying created by Certus in our early sales pitches. I have seen more of my presentations copied and manipulated over the years than ever before – as they say “plagiarism is the best form of flattery”. Our dedication, positive customer advocacy, and thought leadership has allowed us to develop close working relationships with the Oracle Cloud development teams where we constantly provide feedback as to how the Cloud is implemented and works in practice.

Over the past 5 years we have seen many organisations of all shapes and sizes across different industries be brave and become early adopters of the Cloud. Others are, understandably, still undecided – however with momentum of Cloud based products across the industry and all future commercial application development now being undertaken in the Cloud it really is only a case of when Organisations move and not if. However one has to acknowledge that each organisation has its own journey to make and consequently the route taken will be somewhat unique. Business after all is all about timing!

Certus is, and always will be, a customer focused delivery organisation with the  focus on ensuring a positive customer experience. Today we have over 20 Cloud Customers (some of the biggest brand names in the UK), 16 successful implementations live, 75+ Cloud modules implemented ranging from single pillar to multi-pillar Cloud implementations that are currently in progress. Many of these have been global in nature so I think we can make claim to say with some authority that we are one of the most experienced and leading active practising Oracle Cloud consultancies in the world today. (Note: There are not many of us, and one less after KBACE being acquired last week).

At Certus we believe firmly from the outset in establishing an honest open relationship with our customers. We want our customers for life and this can only be achieved by being transparent. Equally we have to combat the many detractors out there, who advise and talk with minimum to actually no experience of cloud implementations. Just because you spent the last 20 years implementing Oracle E-Business Suite or PeopleSoft does not make you a Cloud expert. This was something that even the Founders of Certus were faced with in 2011 when four of us got together in a hotel room for a week, with 100+ years of experience and come Friday we had retired to the pub knowing we were no further forward in working out how the Cloud could be implemented “better, cheaper, faster” than we were on the Monday morning when we started – Now that’s not a problem today, but it took us 3 years to learn our trade and as anyone will tell you the rate of Oracle innovation hits you so quickly staying on top of the product is a constant challenge.

So being a customer delivery focused organisation I find it very frustrating when the Oracle Cloud and the approach to delivery is questioned and challenged by those so “called advisors” who have very little knowledge, but unfortunately have significant influence on organisations decision making process. I want every implementation to be successful and customers of Oracle Cloud to be advocates of the product. Hence it’s now time to create some positive disruption and in the spirit of collaboration and knowledge sharing clear away the Cloud marketing and sales spin by dispelling some of the urban myths that have been built up by highlighting the reality.

So for all prospects and existing customers – enjoy! and hopefully you will take some insight away. Controversial – yes; but you wouldn’t really expect anything else from me.

10 Urban Myths, The Reality and the Challenges that should be laid down

#001 - The Oracle Cloud applications don’t work and aren’t ready
In 2011 this was true, Oracle was late to the Cloud, something they admit themselves today and the early versions of the product felt like they were rushed out. However this is NOT the case today.

Certus has personally implemented or is implementing the Oracle Cloud suite at Financial Services Organisations, Telecos, Utilities, Media, Sports Bodies, Local Government and most recently we have started at the Office National Statistics - the very “first UK Central Government implementation”. If it didn’t work we would know about it! So for those that say it doesn’t work – prove it! – My challenge is direct - how many Oracle Cloud implementations have you undertaken yourselves? where and when? Show us where is doesn’t work and demonstrate it.

Are there gaps in the product – yes there are? This is also true in competitors’ products and in Oracle's on-premise legacy products. Oracle are pumping $6 billion dollars a year into R&D and the gaps over time are being closed. For business processes that are so bespoke to an organisation, Oracle has Platform as a Service (PaaS); as set of tools that allows you to build and execute these processes, integrating them into the primary SaaS suite if you need to.

CHALLENGE: For those spreading doubt and misdirection I say to the decision makers of organisations to challenge, come and look at what we have done, and more importantly who we have done it with. Reach out and talk to Customers of the Oracle Cloud directly. No power-points or canned demo’s this is real! For Certus our Customers are our advocates not only of the product but also of us as an organisation. A partner that implements well and has a happy customer has nothing to hide.

#002 - Oracle Cloud is Just as Expensive to Implement than On-Premise Solutions
False – Oracle Cloud is Faster and Cheaper to Implement than On-Premise Solutions. The caveat however is you need an implementation partner that knows what they are doing though!
From our experience Oracle Cloud is 40-50% cheaper in regard to Oracle legacy on-premise implementation costs. The primary reasons being that numerous best practice processes are already embedded in the Cloud product and gone are the days of writing many bespoke workflows for what amounts to standard functionality. As a consequence the Cloud can be implemented quicker than traditional Oracle legacy on-premise packages, thus it is cheaper.
Time to value is achieved faster, by adopting phased implementations – build and deliver your overall Cloud vision one step at a time. Remember your paying subscription charges as soon as you sign the Oracle Cloud Services agreement so it is in your interest to go-live as quickly as possible – however this must be realistic! You still have to configure, develop interfaces (if required), test and transition. Also you have to be aware of the upgrade cycle and where this falls. All of this impacts your deliver plan.

Equally the product has incredibly powerful embedded Management Information capability. No more 200 days of report writing effort, try 5-10 days of training instead ensuring that the customer is totally self-sufficient and understands that they are part of a wider community where they can share reports they build with others.

CHALLENGE: Beware of the Consultancy that’s puts forward an 18 month implementation plan for a single big bang approach, or wants to spend 12 months designing your Target Operating Model and mapping “as is” to “to be” business processes and wanting to use the legacy Oracle Application Implementation Methodology (AIM) to document requirements. You should be live with the core modules in and around 20 weeks maximum and your implementation partner should be standing YOUR system up within a week or two for you to move into prototyping! Also if they cannot articulate the upgrade process – you need to question why not? Its fundamental in relation to Oracle Cloud Operations.

#003: We Can Get You Live in 6 Weeks
Really??? I mean Really??? Unless you are running an operation that is so small, probably less than 100 people, in one county in one location, has no back office processes and you are not integrating into the payroll or anything else then yes it’s probably possible, if you also minimise your testing cycles down to nothing.

CHALLENGE: STOP and THINK! - “No one gets a gold medal for achieving an implementation that transforms your back office in ridiculous timescales”. Just what are you getting in 6 weeks? It may look cheap (and it will be!!!), but get ready for the Change Requests, especially if it’s Fixed Price, a lot pain and an upset user base. Remember hearts and minds need to be won over in any business change project. Cloud is an application “People Want to Use, Rather than Being Told to Use”, so don't get sold purely in regard to speed. Challenge what  you think you are really getting?

#004 - Ridiculous Low Cost Implementation Prices
If you bought an expensive car for £50K and then was told the servicing cost was £1 per year – wouldn’t you raise an eyebrow? What really happens when it breaks down? The questions you should be asking fundamentally is how is this possible? and even more importantly what exactly am I getting?

Oracle’s sales strategy is one of “buying” market share by offering heavily discounted prices, which as a customer you should take advantage of. However that doesn’t mean the implementation price should or will be any cheaper. Just because they have offered high discounted rates doesn’t mean the effort to implement got less overnight? In fact this type of cost cutting goes to such an extreme that if encouraged to ridiculous amounts by the customer, all they will be guaranteed is a poor implementation as the partner who wins the contract will want to be out as quickly as possible.

Any such Implementation Partner adopting such pricing tactics will obviously be using “cheap” offshore resource and all of us have seen functions being outsourced and moved to the location that facilitates the lowest cost delivery point. This is nothing new (Michael Porter – you’re still my hero!).

However where the customer gains on price, they will always lose on quality and also miss the opportunity that is afforded to them through leveraging the asset once implemented. Cloud isn’t a technical implementation, it is a business implementation and therefore this means the Consultants must be knowledge-able about the underlying business operations, whether they be Finance, Procurement, Supply Chain, HR or Payroll as well as the Cloud system (which is constantly changing and innovation is made available for every 6 months). If the Consultants don’t know the product – how can they consult on it? and how can they advise you the Customer on your journey?

CHALLENGE: So ask – What are you getting? Who you are getting? Where is it getting delivered? - keep in view the majority of security breaches around loss of customer data happen from the inside and not someone penetrating an Oracle Data Centre from the outside, so keep in view the risk of offshoring. What is the experience of the Consultants? – Remember from a market perspective this is still a new and rare skill, so don’t be paying for a Consultancy to learn on the job at your expense!

#005 – Anyone Can undertake an Oracle Cloud Implementation
If you believe this, you really are in trouble before you begin!
Cloud is not Oracle E-Business Suite, Peoplesoft or JD Edwards. Whilst IPR has been taken from these legacy products and re-engineered, with best practice processes included, we are talking a different product. Twenty years of implementing on-premise systems isn’t going to help you, whilst some of the activities are exactly the same, the approach to the build is completely different if done right. In addition we are talking about a service that due to the rate of Oracle’s constant innovation is constantly moving forward every 6 months. It only seems like yesterday we were just talking about R10, and now R11 is approaching and R12 by the end of the year.

Oracle invest heavily in their partner programme and are just about to announce new Cloud “statuses” to act as an even greater differentiator. Equally the investment required by Oracle partners is significant. Oracle partners have to constantly invest to maintain their status and capability. Look for it! It really does mean something when it comes to Cloud, above and beyond the marketing spin.

CHALLENGE: It’s not the size of a Consultancy, it is the number of trained Consultants you have on the ground that are actually doing implementations that matters. Also look for practices that have a greater employee base in terms of implementation team ratio and not just contractors. The rationale being to do Cloud properly the implementation partner has to constantly invest in its own people with new skills, implementation experience and certifications. Equally what is important are Consultants that can talk the language of business – Finance, HR, Payroll etc…and to do that you need onshore resources that can get close to the business and the customer. 

Good luck trying to do that from offshore and with a contract workforce that is constantly on the move.

…Part II to follow soon…